Thursday, 31 July 2008

I have a drinking problem

Remember that movie Airplane! where the main character, Ted Striker, says, ‘It was then I discovered my drinking problem,’ and throws his drink down his face?
Well, recently I have been doing a fantastic impression of that, most memorably in a swish Moroccan restaurant last Saturday.

There I was with NikNak and The Writer, genteelly sipping my mint tea and nibbling on baklava – it was quite delicious. The ambience however, didn’t lend itself to efficient lipreading as it resembled a sort dark cavern with lanterns for mood lighting. The music was also rather loud. This meant that in order to follow what was going on I had to keep my eyes on NikNak and The Writer at all times.

Cue my drinking problem – first I missed my mouth with the mint tea and sent it down my dress and then, I tipped it too far and got a rather large piece of mint – sprig, stem, the lot – the kind you see garnishing very large cakes, wedged in my throat.

*rasp

With visions of the Heimlich manoeuvre flashing through my mind, I tried desperately to will it to go up, or down – I didn’t really care which way it went but halfway, like that rhyme with the Duke of York isn’t really very productive.

*wheeze

Eventually I resorted to a large mouthful of baklava to help it on its way and thankfully it worked but it left me a bit shaken and wondering about all the other times I have found myself doing similar things.

Lipreading instead of focusing on the task in hand has got me into all sorts of strife in the past. Last year at work, I was bouncing around the office like an excitable puppy, as Lovely Housemate and I were due to fly to Istanbul the next day. My Boss gave me a simple job of cutting out photographs using a craft knife and as I did so, I chatted to a colleague about my impending trip looking up to lipread her rather than down at what I was doing.

And then, suddenly, I was aware that the last slice I did felt like I was cutting through butter rather than paper and then I felt pain.

*owwwwwwwwwwwww

There on the cutting board was the side of my fingertip and where it used to be attached, was rather a lot of blood.

*sniff

Now, I pride myself on not being that squeamish but this was grim – the blood just kept coming – and I was soon slumped in the nearest chair asking dumbly if it was possible to stick my finger back together.

It wasn’t – but I got it patched up for my holiday and was ordered to hold it up as much as possible. Easier said than done when lugging heavy luggage to a different continent.

But that trip was amazing, and when the blood started to drip through the bandage, Lovely Housemate and her ma took me to this fantastic hospital under a mosque where a nice Turkish doctor redressed it for me. This was incredibly painful and made me say a very rude word as the last bandage had fused itself to my finger. (It clearly was a universally rude word by the look of shock on his face).

*blush

I never bothered to develop any photographs from that trip though. You see, my finger continued to bleed for the next three days, so as instructed, I continued to hold it up – so in every single flipping photograph I’m there with my gigantically bandaged finger pointing at sod all!

Classy.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

I blurry love you

Phew, I woke up this morning and thought it was Saturday, then Friday and then

*sniff

I realised that it was only Wednesday. This week has been a hectic one to say the least and I think I am bit tired. One of the first things to go when I am tired is my hearing… swiftly followed by my speech.

But lets start with the hearing. Last night I was on the phone to my Pa who was visiting my Gma – I can hear my rents surprisingly well on the phone normally, which I love.

My Gma is cool – she’s an octogenarian who moves with the times. She writes texts in txt spk and goes on computer courses so she can whiz around the wireless internet on her speedy laptop.

Her latest move-with-the-times thing is a brand-spanking-new kitchen – all beech and modern and last night my Pa informed me that she had chosen a black door. ‘Where?’ I said as my Gma has three doors in her kitchen and I was struggling to work out why she’d want any of them to be black. ‘The door is black,’ my Pa said. ‘I know,’ I replied, ‘but there are three, which one?’
‘Three?’ my Pa said.

There was a pause and then he clicked…

‘F-L-O-O-R!’ he said to me very slowly and then I clicked. A black floor made much more sense – how trendy my Gma is! She’s got a fancy oven and black granite work surfaces too, apparently!

Oooh that reminds me, this morning the subtitles supporting the BBC weather presenter informed deaf readers of the following, ‘If you are expecting sunny weather, URINE for a shock!’ and yes – if I was expecting sun and I got a golden shower instead, it would be shocking.

But enough deviating from the point of today’s post and onto the speech…

I was once on a date with a boy who was more like Austin Powers than I should have found attractive and he asked me if I was drunk as I appeared to be slurring my voice. Once I had got over the surprise of him asking me that, particularly as I was sat behind the wheel of my car at the time, I replied that no, I wasn’t drunk, I was deaf and tired. Which I guess makes a change from sick and tired.

It’s quite a nice statement to come out with actually – I am deaf and tired of this week/programme/date/boy*

*delete where applicable.

But it’s true nonetheless that when I am tired my speech goes a bit funny. This morning it took me three attempts to say a word coherently to Lovely Freelancer. She was very patient but I did feel a bit silly.

In order to speak the way I normally do, I have to concentrate quite hard on getting the letters out properly, sounding out the ones I don’t hear anymore and finishing words properly. When I am tired, this goes, I no longer concentrate and so quite often sentences come out in a slurring jumble.

But perhaps the weirdest thing is that when I am actually drunk the opposite happens – I suddenly have the intonation of a newsreader and instead of slurring, ‘I blurry love you,’ to everyone in sight, it’s far more likely that I will come out with, ‘I say, I love you ever such an awful lot.’

OK, OK the last bit is a slight exaggeration – but next time I’m out with you, buy me and rum and coke and then you can see for yourself.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Sounding out

This morning I got woken up by the bin men – they were very loud, and my window was open as it was slightly tropical in London last night.

Most of the rubbish in the two big wheelie bins is Lovely Housemate’s and mine as, in preparation for her departure, we have been having a bit of clearout. The ill-fated and downright-annoying pedometer/rape alarm was in today’s consignment and I was quite happy to see the back of it.

Once up, I went into the kitchen to burn my toast and make tea and was rummaging in a drawer when I came across this strange piece of black cord with a pin on the end…

A pin… a pin…

*Exasperated squeak

I had – 48 hours too late – discovered the silencer for the rape alarm that had almost ruined the Saturday of everyone within a 3-mile radius of my flat. Bizarrely I wondered if it was too late to catch the bin men, but what was I going to do, hurl myself into the lorry to find the bits of the offending noise-maker? Not very dignified and I would probably end up a bit smelly.

*Sigh

To be honest, I am not sure carrying a rape alarm is a good idea for me as if it was in my bag and there was other noise going on I am not convinced I would hear it going off. Actually I have to confess, I am actually speaking from *blush personal experience.

When I first moved to London, my Ma bought me a black rape alarm to keep in my bag, which was lovely of her. And, keep it in my bag I did. Then one day I thought I was having one of those self-conscious episodes where everyone seemed to be staring at me, so I checked my pants were not showing, concealer was rubbed in and hair was in place – and it all was so I decided I was being paranoid.

Once at work I was aware of an unrest in the office but as I don’t hear general chatter I didn’t take much notice. Until Boss-At-That-Time suddenly said to me, ‘WHAT IS THAT NOISE?’
‘What noise?’ I replied, wondering what she was on about.
‘It’s sort of going nnnneeeeeergh, neeeeerrgh,’ she replied.

Like a dog with a bone she combed the area until she was finally holding my handbag aloft as the offending item. So I went through it until I finally found my rape alarm, pin missing. Luckily on this occasion, the pin was also in my bag and the two were reunited and silent again.

But, the fact that it was going nnnneeeeeergh, neeeeerrgh would imply it had been going for quite some time and the batteries were going flat. This meant that there was a distinct possibility that I had gone all the way to work with a people deterrent in my handbag – no wonder I had sat alone on the bus and people had been staring. But why hadn’t anyone told me?

I never understand this in London – no one communicates. The other day my bus terminated and I only knew from the flashing lights on the upper deck but the tourists did not. Everyone filed past them and not one person told them… so I did. It took 30 seconds of my time…

So please, if you ever see me walking down the street, my bag emitting a high-pitched screech or some other random sound, tap me on the shoulder and help me track down the offending item – you will make my day!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Saturday fun

This weekend was a weekend of unexpected learning, exploration and discovery!

I woke up on Saturday looking forward to a work out at my gym and then an amble round the shops before a leisurely chat with Big-Words-Friend. The perfect Saturday in my book.

Instead I ended up with mopping up a flooded kitchen, dismantling a washing machine and sitting on a 15 cushions and an activated rape alarm (that even I could hear) for 15 minutes while my whole neighbourhood went cra-azy.

But let’s start at the very beginning – so Saturday morning after yet another load of washing emerged soaking wet even after the fastest spin cycle, I decided something needed to be done. So I rolled up my sleeves and began taking bits of the machine off to see if they were blocked. I also thought a good rinse through would help so put it on a hot wash.

So far, so good. Except while I was cleaning the powder tray that was thick with grime and mould in the sink, I was suddenly aware of the kind of sloshing you feel around your feet when you are paddling in the sea.

*Squeak!

Looking down I realised the whole kitchen was rapidly flooding but I wasn’t quite sure where the water was coming from. To counteract this I used every tea towel in existence in my little flat to mop up the water and switched the washing machine to drain, which it did – all over the floor. And so I repeated the tea towel episode with bath towels.

While recovering from the ‘wax on, wax off’ exertion that drying a kitchen floor requires I thought hard about what the problem could be and decided to tackle the filter. Bravely I went where no one had clearly been before and unscrewed the little white disc at the base of the machine – but it got stuck and I couldn’t tighten it back up, so guess what? I flooded the kitchen… again.

*Sigh

Once I had mopped up the water for the third time I used a bit of brute force and left some skin behind as I prised the white disc out and what a sight greeted me. The filter was rammed… with some extremely suspect looking items and about 90p worth of small change. It was vile and my breakfast nearly joined the contents of the filter in the double-layered black sack I was emptying it in to.

*Bleurgh

Giving up hope of ever making it to the gym, I put the washing machine back together again and put it on for another test run and decided not to leave the house just in case flooding number 4 occurred. Instead I sorted the lounge for the arrival of New Housemate.

Cue exploration – where I found a pedometer/rape alarm that I got given free from work one day. I had never used it but The Writer has got me walking lots recently so I thought it might be useful.

Cue discovery – I can hear rape alarms!

*Argh

As it was new, it had a piece of paper stopping the battery from connecting so I pulled it out eager to start counting my steps… and then, I fell over.
Seriously, this rape alarm was the loudest thing I have heard in quite some time, which is saying something. I frantically prodded all buttons but nothing worked, still it went on and on and on. Frantically scrabbling for the instructions, I located the what to do if rape alarm is activated…

‘Replace Pin’

Pin? What pin? There was no flipping pin. It also said it would ring for 15 minutes before the batteries ran out!

*Squeak

By this time I was running around the flat like a headless chicken and suddenly had the bright idea of lobbing it out of the window but on arriving at the window I was greeted by the site of the neighbours in the garden looking around wondering what the racket was.

So I stuffed it under every cushion in my living room, which is quite a few, and sat on it while I tried to think. My first idea was hope that the batteries would run out after 15 minutes, but this time came and went and it showed no sign of abating. So I stamped on it, I hit it with a rubber mallet and I tried to ignore the crowds of people all checking their car alarms and trying to locate the mystery noise.

Eventually I found a screwdriver and took the whole thing apart and only when I removed the very last battery did it stop. And then, there was silence – and I have never been so grateful to hear absolutely nothing as I was then.

And so I sat there, in shock and silence for a good half an hour, wondering if I had burnt as many calories cleaning up flood water and running around with a rape alarm as I would have done at the gym.

I decided, yes… and went and had a nap instead.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Hurrah, it's Friday!

This morning I woke up at 6am bright eyed with a spring in my step happy that after today, it’s the weekend and I can relax.

Today I am thankful for many things. Firstly, that this is the third consecutively warm and sunny day we have had – which is something of a 2008 record I think. This means that I can finally wear my white jeans without worrying that some stupid white van driver is going to speed through a puddle and cover me in London drainwater.

Which brings me on to the second thing I am thankful for – and that is, that I am not the woman who was five metres ahead of me on the pavement this morning. Actually I may have to add some sub-thanks to this – I am also thankful I am not her because she had the most bizarre hair and also because her trousers were so tight she was at risk of squeezing her vital organs up through her chest cavity and out of her mouth.

*Meow

But cattiness aside (I obviously have more similarities with the cat from Shrek than just my eyes) I am mostly thankful that I am not her because if I was, I would be unconscious on the pavement right now with a very sore head.

There I was walking to my office down quite a narrow street, marvelling at how this lady had apparently got dressed in the dark and not passed any mirrors on her way out the door when I heard a low roar. Then I saw her duck like a mad woman as if sniper fire was coming our way and after this I realised that there may have been a beep.

And then, *whoosh, a white van tore past us, his large black, sticky-outy wing mirror missing her mad frizzy hair with millimetres to spare.

*phew

She was obviously not deaf, her reactions were amazingly quick, which was just as well as the white van man was not for slowing down.

Now, thinking about this, if that had been me, this is what would have happened: I’d have been happily striding down the street feeling clean and shiny in my white jeans, heard a roar, all too late distinguished a beep, turned around and then

*Thwack…

a wing mirror would have smacked me in the face. Now, I was smacked in the face last weekend by a foot and it was incredibly painful (but kind of funny, too – you had to be there I guess)… so imagine a smack from a van!

By this point I would probably be on the floor, nose resembling my Pa’s after his adventure in Clogland at Big Bro’s wedding and white jeans ruined.

Happily this little scenario did not happen and I am now safely ensconced in my office but, when I go out for lunch today, I think I am going to pick a pedestrianised route… just in case.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Hear no good, see no good, speak no good

I was able to catch up with School-Best-Friend last night, which was lovely. She recently went to a wedding of someone from school and it got us reminiscing about the olden days in the Wild West… um Country.

When I was doing my A-levels, I hung out with three people, School-Best-Friend, Friend-Who-Knows-Big-Words and Beebop. We all had mostly the same classes except for FWKBW – who was doing things like French, Politics and Spanish – so we spent most of our time together.

This involved stalking boys in the library of the adjacent grammar school, eating Bounty bars and KitKats until we felt sick, and going to the pub for chips and mayonnaise instead of RE – oh, what healthy lives we led in those days.

Every morning we would converge in the portacabin – also known as our common room – and catch up before registration. This usually involved me antagonising Beebop, who was not a morning person, until she flipped.

On this particular occasion I can’t recall exactly what I was doing, but she was getting close to breaking point. Unbeknown to me, our fierce head of year had arrived in the common room and wanted silence. I didn’t hear her and Beebop was a bit too engrossed in trying to finish her RE essay.

Eventually Beebop broke, turned to me and screamed, ‘Shuuuut uuup!’ Except she didn’t scream it at me – she screamed it at our fierce head of year who had put her head between us to tell us to be quiet.

Ever had one of those moments where everything becomes slow motion and you feel like the whole world is looking at you? I think Beebop had one of them, while I was frantically cramming my jumper into my mouth to try and contain my hysterics.

I had one of those moments several years later at midnight mass. Every Christmas Eve the four of us used to gather at my rents’ house, eat, drink and be merry and then go to church.

Now, School-Best-Friend and Beebop both go to church regularly but Friend-Who-Knows-Big-Words and I do not. But it was a tradition so off we popped to SBF’s church in my little green mini Jennifer.

So there we were, with me struggling to hear, when Beebop suddenly said, ‘I forgot my glasses, I can’t read a thing.’ Big-Word-Friend then piped up, ‘What is going on? I don’t get any of this.’ We were like a religious version of the Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil monkeys – much to School-Best-Friend’s exasperation. In the end, we had to leave as none of us had a clue what was going on.

And, as if things couldn’t get any worse, I suffered Deaf Tourettes at top volume upon leaving the church and may have said a very rude word while falling down the steps.

Then there was definitely silence, definitely shock and I was most definitely aware of 40 pairs of pensioners’ beedy eyes starting at me agog.

*Eek

For this reason and the Tabasco sauce incident – which really deserves a whole post of it’s own – I don’t go back to that village much anymore…

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Subtitled travel

Last night I was sat on the bus with NikNak trying to ignore two people in front of us who were actually in advanced stages of foreplay. As a result of them, we were looking anywhere other than directly ahead and it was because of this that we noticed that the bus is now subtitled! At each stop, the name came up and a woman’s voice said, ‘Phna nana naa’ – well that’s what I heard anyway!

I was very impressed with this – although it would be great if they could subtitle the driver announcements as well. Trains often have subtitles now too – I went on one recently that appeared to subtitle every single announcement. It was great – I was able to sit back, relax and enjoy my journey instead of wondering what the muffled tinny voice was saying.

The tube is getting there slowly, or so I am told, as I rarely venture on to it. The District line will now tell you in scrolling red writing what destination you are going to but again, if you’re stuck in a tunnel and the driver is announcing that you should make yourself a bed for the night, shouldn’t they subtitle this, too?

I was once on the Northern line between Angel and Kings Cross when the train stopped suddenly. It was quite late at night and there were three other people in the carriage. Ten minutes later I still didn’t know what was going on and I was starting to feel a teensy bit panicked – actually, to be truthful, my eyes were so wide that I resembled the cat from Shrek. But I stuck it out.

Ten minutes after that however, still with no clue what was going on, I asked the people opposite me what the driver announcements were. And, after a few confused looks, it transpired that they were Greek and didn’t speak a word of English. Luckily my hearing aids were in my make-up bag so they knew I was deaf not bonkers.

But by this time, my Shrek-cat eyes were starting to spout tears and the tourists looked a bit alarmed. So what they decided to do was to phonetically repeat every single word the driver said and gradually we pieced together what was going on. They were amazing and I could have kissed them all.

Perhaps the form of transport most behind in the subtitled stakes is the plane. Very little is subtitled on them, although Turkish Airlines do have a signing person on the screen for the safety announcement. But what I really want is subtitled movies – I want to be able to watch more than just the pictures and get all the jokes – not accidentally watch American movies all the way through in French without realising.

It would also be great if they could subtitle the captain’s announcements, too. You see, when I can make out a voice but not what is being said, my imagination runs wild. And, depending on my frame of mind, this can be a good or bad thing.

A few years ago, I was flying from London to Amsterdam to see Big Bro and the turbulence was chronic. Suddenly, halfway through the flight, the captain started talking and went on and on and on. I desperately tried to make out words, as I was a teeny bit scared by the bouncing. But all my brain could hear was, ‘And, the plane is crashing and we’re all going to die.’

Irrational? Totally, but it’s kind of hard to be rational 33,000 feet up and fear is your dominant emotion. Nowadays though, used to prattling captains and their endless pointless spiel, I just look at the other passengers’ faces and if they look calm, I stay calm.
If they look panicked however…

Actually, let’s not even go there!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

What Bridge?

Everyone has their little rituals in the morning, don’t they? Some people lay out their clothes the night before so that they need to do as little as possible before scooting to work – some people may even sleep in their clothes. Lovely Housemate is one of the few people I know who can go from fast asleep to being dressed, fully made-up with fantastic hair in 15 minutes flat – it’s a strange phenomenon I will never master.

At uni, my morning ritual was tea and cereal in front of Trisha with Housemate-From-Penthouse-Flat – I only had two hours of lectures a week, on a Thursday afternoon I think, so there was very little need to rush in those days!

These days, my morning ritual is burnt toast and peanut butter, a cup of green tea and BBC Breakfast News. It was London Aunt who introduced me to the delights of this programme when I stayed with her in her flat in Notting Hill and did work experience for Reuters in my school holidays.

And now, it’s imperative that I watch it every day – I need to know how the tubes are running – even though I don’t take the tube, what the weather will be like – even though it’s all lies, and what Declan thinks about the FTSE thingmajib, even though footsie to me is something to be done under the table at a boring dinner party.

This morning I was in a rush – I was trying to achieve Lovely Housemate’s 15-minute record, so had one eye on the news and was forgoing my usual tea and toast for a packet of oatcakes, which I munched on the bus to work. In between hair brushing and outfit picking I absentmindedly read the subtitles, which were telling my about a guy who takes photos of Black Fry Ass Bridge.

*Eh?

Intrigued, I paused for a moment and carried on reading and there, sure enough were the words Black Fry Ass Bridge over and over again. Black Fry Ass Bridge…

Blackfryass Bridge…

Aaaaaah get it?

*teehee

I guess that the BBC have a voice-activated subtitling machine, at least I hope they do – otherwise it would appear they have employed a Teletubby to ensure that morning news is subtitled um… wrongly.

It’s worrying though isn’t it that there are over 8 million deaf or hard of hearing people in the UK (just to warn you, I got this statistic from the BBC) and that when they tune into BBC Breakfast they get to read about something completely different to what hearing people are getting.

What if there was something important we needed to know about – if it was serious, the whole of the UK would be panicking and 8 million deaf or hard of hearing people would be wandering about quite calmly, oblivious to the fact that the apocalypse was just around the corner. Although I would like to hope the BBC would have a ‘breaking news’ banner at the bottom of the screen for this type of calamity.

Of course I am over-reacting about this and it’s quite fun to tell you the truth – but really it does make me quite cross that technology is so advanced in some ways and so crappy in others. I tuned in to a programme on Channel 4 the other day and there were subtitles to a completely different programme on. Channel 5 doesn’t even bother to subtitle half it’s programmes.

Perhaps I should write a book – the kind you get for your brother for Christmas that they sell by the tills in HMV – you know the sort: ‘The Little Book of TXT Love’, ‘101 Ways To Kill A Bunny’ etc etc. Mine will be called ‘Subtitles – What’s Really Going On In The World’ and will document all the wrong subtitles I can possible find – how great is that? Maybe the BBC will help me make my fortune after all!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Deafinitely deafer?

Apologies for the late post – it appears I am now so deaf that I am capable of sleeping through my vibrating alarm clock. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! It meant that I woke late and couldn’t get in early to write.

So here I am chowing down Pret soup in my lunch hour and wondering what else I can’t hear anymore that I used to be able to.

Take yesterday for example – I didn’t hear the announcement at the climbing wall that said it was closing – I don’t normally ‘hear’ it but I can normally hear a muffled ‘phnea fghha-wall is pnew clfining’ type thing – but yesterday I didn’t even get that.

*sniff

When I get this kind of realisation that something’s changed I normally spend lots of time working out what’s changed – but seeing as work is quite busy at the moment I will have to be content with writing a list and referring to it when I get the chance.

So, as we already know number 1 on the list I can’t hear – my vibrating alarm clock – I know I should be able to feel this too, but it was by my feet this morning for some reason! Then there’s number 2 – the climbing wall announcement.

Next to check should be the volume of the radio in my car I think – it’s usually ridiculously loud, which means when I am at traffic lights I always turn it down really quickly so people can’t hear the classic beats of um… Steps and *cringe Take That coming out of my car, boy-racer stylee!

I guess when I go home to the rents, I will have to hold the cats up to my ears to see if I can still hear them purring (the meowing went years ago). Having said that, this may not work as Merlin is afraid of heights and none of them likes being picked up that much, so I doubt they’ll be purring. They will probably scratch my eyes out too, and then this blog will have to be renamed Deafinitely Blind Girly!

The final test I should do is my flute. Last time I checked I could hear it up to an octave and a half above middle C – the lowest note on the flute. So tonight, I will go home and ramble up and down the scales and see what I can hear – this will technically be practise, too – so I will be multi-tasking.

*hurrah

If I can hear less, I won’t be sad – I will adapt. I will go to the zoo and try and get the lions to purr and I will look into getting an industrial alarm clock and a bass flute…

After all, a girl, deafinitely or not, has got to move with the times.

Friday, 18 July 2008

The phone ain't listening

Lovely Housemate walked into the kitchen last night to find me holding a pair of giant red lips against my ear.

Hmmm… wait, let’s try that sentence again. Lovely Housemate walked into the kitchen last night to find me holding our entire telephone against my ear – which happens to be in the shape of a pair of giant red lips.

I got it free from work.

The reason for this was the rents were phoning from France, where they are staying with French Aunt, and it’s free to call my landline but not my mobile. The only problem is, I can’t hear the phone ring – hell, I can hardly hear the phone fullstop – but if I pressed the base of it against my skull, just behind my ear, I could feel the vibrations, so knew when it was ringing and therefore, when to pick up.

It’s weird how I can talk to my rents on the phone more easily than everyone else. I sometimes wonder if I’ve got some sort of audio memory because the more time I spend listening to someone, the better I start to hear them. And, seeing as I have been listening to the rents for nearly 28 years, I pretty much know every lilt, quirk and sentence that they’re likely to say.

Sure, it’s a lot of guess work, too and I don’t always get it right. New Housemate called me last night and seeing as I haven’t really explained my deafness as yet, I had to pick up. I know there was talk of a meeting tonight, I know NH had had a good day at work but there’s a big blank bit in the middle where for all I know, NH could have been saying, ‘Thanks but I’ve changed my mind.’ With me going, ‘’Yaaas, great, great, OK, well I’ll see you tomorrow then.’

When I was younger, I met a boy on the beach in Fiji – he was from London and had a kind of hybrid Aussie/Kent accent that I couldn’t understand for the life of me. But I thought he was great. And being 14 it was so cool that when we got back from holiday he used to call me. I used to sit there eyes shut, phone pressed right up against my ear willing myself to hear at least one sentence of what he was saying. But I rarely did. Instead I would say lots of hmmmmms and aaaaahs and vague responses that I thought matched the tone of his voice and, after 10 minutes he would hang up.
‘How’s Fiji Boy?’ my Ma used to ask.
‘No idea,’ I’d reply.

And do you know, he kept calling me for nearly 10 years!

That’s the weird thing about the phone… to look at there’s nothing intimate about it – it’s a piece of plastic, which according to the BBC has more germs on it than your toilet seat. And yet, people who use it can achieve amazing levels of intimacy with the people at the other end.

For me, that all has to happen in person, or by text message because if you start whispering sweet nothings down the phone at me, it will fall on deaf ears.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

I'm deaf, please speak slowly

In my experience of being deaf, (hahahaha, ahem sorry but I just mistyped that as ‘dead’), you come across several species of people and often, right from the start, it’s easy to work out what breed a person is.

First, there’s the ‘Ears’. Lovely Housemate is one of these, as is School-Best-Friend-and-Head-Girl and NikNak. These wonderful people don’t think twice about making phone calls for me, queuing up in shops and listening for the all important bag question and generally hearing out for everything that I don’t.

Then, there’s the ‘proactive doers’. These people want to fix situations for me that I find difficult, don’t like seeing me upset about being deaf, and often appear to move heaven and earth to make life easier. Not surprisingly my parents are the King and Queen of this category… long may they reign.

In third place, there are the non-believers. They’re a rare species and have the endearing qualities of a female praying mantis right after she’s mated. I have encountered quite a few of these in my lifetime, including the Special Needs person at my uni, which was incredibly frustrating as she wouldn’t sort out any support for me as she thought I was faking it. I actually can’t remember her name, but I can remember her face – think of the ugliest character ever created by Roald Dahl and times it by 10 and you’re halfway there.

Then, there’s the really special species, pungent, disgusting and rarer than the likelihood of Jesus being born in Stonehouse. Luckily, I have met very few of these, but unfortunately I had the misfortune of coming across one when I was just 16 and my hearing was on its way out.

There I was at a line dancing evening with Friend-Who-Outed-Me-As-Deaf, Jen, (no laughing about the line dancing – I defy you to try it and not like it) and I had bought a raffle ticket. At the end of the night, the compère started to call the winners… and I was one, except I didn’t hear him call my number.

Jen finally nudged me to let me know I’d won and I went up to collect my prize. The guy, clearly frustrated by my slow reactions asked me, using the microphone if I was stupid, and I whispered to him that I was deaf, as I was quite shy about it in those days. The next thing I heard was his voice booming down the mic saying, ‘so you are stupid then.’

To this day I still wonder how long the surgery would have taken to remove the microphone from his small intestine and I guess, if I ever meet him again, I’ll be able to let you know.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Deaf awareness…

It’s lovely when you come across a friend who is so deaf aware that they see problems coming before you do.

Housemate-From-Penthouse-Flat is like that –she’s bloody brilliant in fact!

I went to stay with her last weekend and we went to Party In The Park – a scaled-down West Country version of its Hyde Park namesake. There was mud, there were burgers and there was very, very loud music. So loud in fact that she kept checking that I was able to remain standing… I was and, at the time I was more concerned about my very wet foot.

It would seem that No More Nails is not quite what I needed to mend my boots with and in spite of my attempts they were rapidly falling apart. No More Nails also doesn’t stop leaks in bathroom ceilings – and I guess when you think about it, why would it – it’s not like nails stop leaks in ceilings either.

But enough about that…

Anyway, later that night we went back to her rents house where about half of her family were – there are lots of them – she’s one of six and they’ve all got children! While there, she constantly made sure it was light enough for me to hear and translated the babble of her over-excited nephew Alfie – who, in his hurry to get his sentences out, sometimes didn’t get the words in the right order.

The next day, due to exhaustion and in her husband’s case, a hangover, we were all chilling out in her living room. Husband was captivated by a political programme (he’s a politician, you see) and had his back to HFPF while she was talking to him.

Suddenly she said a little bit crossly, ‘Turn and look at me when I am talking so I know you can hear me!’ at which, both him and I looked at her rather oddly! Bless her, she’d been so conscious of the fact that I needed to see her face that she thought everyone did!

*teehee

It got me thinking about deaf awareness and on Sunday, while round at Fab Friend’s house having tea, we looked up a cassette from the 70s that was called ‘Now Hear This’. In its time, it was the height of technology in explaining to hearing people what deaf people heard. I’d never come across it before but FF said they played it at her school once. And, would you believe it appears that this is still the only Deaf Awareness tape of its kind. So we ordered it – and had a good chuckle about the online order form asking us where we had heard about Forest Books, which is a deaf publisher. Wonder how many of their customers do ‘hear’ about them.

I am quite excited about this tape and am secretly hoping that it will provide me with a way of explaining how I can hear the sound of the TV in the flat downstairs but need subtitles to understand my own. Perhaps it will, perhaps it won’t… but it’s worth a try, surely!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Deafinitely duvet day

Today I am on holiday... a nice day off to break up the week and it's lovely!

One of the reasons I did this is because Boo, my little black Peugeot is due her first MOT. Lovely Housemate booked her in for this on the phone, which I am very grateful for - shepherds pie will be cooked as a thank you - but I thought it would be easier to take the day off rather than faff about with phone calls to and from the garage all day about the state of my little car. Housemate is a Very-Important-Money-Bod don't you know, so I don't like to ask her very often to make calls for me, even though I know she wouldn't mind at all.

I have left Boo in the capable hands of Merlin and he assures me that she will be fine. And, what's even better is that when she's ready he's going to call my mobile and leave a message and, thanks to a great mobile phone service called Spinvox, I will understand it.

Spinvox is great - it converts speach into text and just a few minutes after a phone call, I get a lovely text message with the number the call came from, the time, and their voice mail all typed out for me.

I only discovered this service a couple of months ago - it was a necessity after a crazy scottish woman kept phoning me and leaving me voicemails that even my hearing friends couldn't understand. Rather bizarrely, after I had got the service, she never called again, and to this day I still don't know what she wanted... I wonder if it was to tell me I had won £1,000,000 or a holiday in the Caribbean?

*sniff

Right, I'm off to the gym now as the sunny day the BBC promised has, as yet, failed to materialise.

*mental note to self - must try and stop slagging off the BBC

Monday, 14 July 2008

Where do I begin…

It’s taken me much of the day to calm down enough to write this post in a way that is coherent, not a series of indignant squeaks… And what is on my chest today? The BBC’s latest programme – Britain’s Missing Top Model.

One day the BBC are going to tie their Politically Correct bloomers in an incredible knot and trip themselves up and I sincerely hope I am there to watch them do it. If I were director general of the BBC, I would have pulled this embarrassing farce of a programme off the schedule and headed down the pub for a swift half, in disguise, for fear of a deaf person kicking me on the shins.

The last episode saw a rather beautiful deaf girl get selected for a fashion show and a girl in a wheelchair, called Sophie, rant because deafness wasn’t a visible disability so it was unfair. What they failed to tell Sophie was that she had zero charisma at the casting regardless of the fact she was in a wheelchair and the deaf girl was brilliant.

This ‘poor me’ mentality drives me nuts – why should people who are crap at modelling get the chance to become models just because they’re disabled… ugly able-bodied people don’t get that chance? It has to be said that the two deaf girls are very pretty and yet they seem to be constantly discriminated against for not having a ‘real’ disability.

But this week really took the gold award for insensitivity. Sophie moaned non-stop about the deaf girls so much that the makers had the great idea of taking away their interpreter… because they wouldn’t always have access to one in the modelling world and foreign models cope so why can’t they?

*squeak of rage

This resulted in both the girls nearly missing a casting much to the joy of Sophie… but lets be honest here – would she have been smiling if she’d had to get by without her wheelchair and a taxi?

I very much doubt it.

If I wanted to become a model it would be tough – I wouldn’t hear the photographer shouting instructions, I couldn’t phone my agency every day about castings and this would be a disability. OK, it wouldn’t show in the pictures, but if the BBC wanted disabilities to show in pictures, they should have had a bigger think about who they put in this programme.

But the point is – I can’t become a model – I am too short, too wide and this is OK. I accept this. I am not deluded in thinking I can blame everything I can’t have in life on my disability. If I wasn’t deaf, I still couldn’t be a model. I couldn’t be an astrophysicist, a doctor, an acrobat or a ballet dancer either,
but that’s life – that’s not disability discrimination and it’s certainly not something that can be fixed with a crass, insensitive TV show.

For the sake of what dwindling sanity I have left, I am boycotting Britain’s Missing Top Model – otherwise I fear my flat screen TV may have a rather large platform trainer-shaped hole right in the middle of it.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Deafinitely driving

As you know, I am off to see Housemate-From-Penthouse-Flat this weekend and I am sad because whenever I see her, I always see Very-First-Uni-Friend, too. This time around however, she can’t make it.
*sniff

VFUF is a Mini fan like me and used to bomb about in a red one when I had Jennifer. We used to spend hours lamenting about the rusty sills that were sure to cause our cars to fail their MOTs, and swap tips on traffic jam overheating problems – we shared an invaluable knowledge on our little cars.

Now she has a posh new BMW Mini that’s rather nippy and when we’re together, this is our chosen mode of transport. Both HFPF and VFUF are incredibly thoughtful when it comes to car travel. At 8 month’s pregnant, HFPF insisted on levering herself into the back bucket seats of VFUF’s Mini so that I could sit in the front and hear them both. Had she gone into labour, we would have been screwed and VFUF’s seats would have been a bit ruined.

We made the mistake once, however, of taking my car, Boo, out shopping. This meant that I had to lipread VFUF in the rear-view mirror and look at HFPF when she spoke, which was a rather large recipe for disaster. Thankfully however, HFPF wasn’t pregnant at the time or I would almost certainly have caused her to go into premature labour – luckily I am an expert on such things!

On one roundabout VFUF’s eyes were open so wide with fear, that her eyeballs almost fell out. Once we arrived home, and HFPF had downed a strong cup of tea, she sat me down and explained that speed bumps are not the car-equivalent to skateboard ramps and that I really should slow down for them. Do I have to stop at stop signs, too?

It’s not that I don’t know how to drive – I passed first time with an instructor who spent the majority of each lesson asleep in the passenger seat. It’s just I guess that along the way, you pick up habits – and, after going over a speed bump with my Pa recently, I know where that habit came from!

Perhaps it’s time to refamiliarise myself with The Highway Code. Did you know, just the other day, The Writer asked me if I knew the old-fashioned way of indicating – before the days of orange blinkers? Rather randomly, I did… but that’s not enough. So at lunchtime, I am going to Waterstones to buy the original copy of The Highway Code that I spotted there the other day – it has a wonderfully dog-eared cover and a picture of a dashing man – and I plan to study everything in it and adhere to every road rule religiously. I wonder if the modern version has any rules about lipreading while driving? In the era of disability discrimination, surely there must be something!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Hearing aid day

As I was getting ready for work this morning, I noticed my hearing aids sat on my bedside table… with flat batteries and looking distinctly neglected.

Feeling in the mood for a challenge I decided to give them brush down, a new set of batteries and pop them in my ears. And I have now been wearing them for three whole hours.

So far a dustbin lorry has nearly given me a heart attack, a man coughing almost caused me to fall of my bus seat, and a police car came close to becoming my nemesis as it left me staggering about like a drunk on roller-skates.

But I am going to persevere… I want to see if it will help me pick up office gossip. So far it hasn’t, but it does make the radio a bit louder and I can also hear the alarming whirring noise that my MAC seems to be making.

I guess my hearing aids are a bit like that dress you keep at the back of your cupboard with no clear reason of why you bought it. You love it, it looks quite nice on but something is not quite right about it and yet you can’t bring yourself to throw it away. So instead it sits there and every so often you get it out, try it on, think for a moment, take it off and put it back in the wardrobe.

I know that at the end of the day, this is what I will do with my hearing aids – if not before actually. I wonder if I will lose it with them at lunchtime as I peruse the shops, or during a meeting later on this afternoon? Whenever it happens, you can be sure that before nightfall they will have been removed until such time as I feel the need to try them out again.

And, you can also be sure that this will happen because I never learn. I will always remain slightly optimistic that my hearing aids will someday miraculously help me do something more constructive than fall over when I hear a loud noise. I will always have a place in my heart for them because they are, after all, only trying to help me.

I’m not sure I will ever be able to shake off this strange affection for my hearing aids. When I was 10, I named my first pair Percy and Perdita and they lived in my pencil case at school and frequently got covered in ink or Tippex. Not a lot has changed except the new ones, which shall remain nameless as I am practically a grown-up, now live in my make-up bag, at the mercy of loose eye shadow and perfume. And this is a good thing as it means that they always have a sparkly sheen to them and smell lovely!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

It's raining, it's pouring

This morning, I was up a ladder with some filler desperately praying for the rain to stop both in my bathroom and out – and I don’t think somehow that my prayers have been answered. What I am hoping, however, is that my paltry DIY attempts will be enough to stem the Niagra Falls inside my flat even if they continue outside.

Being deaf in this case is great because it means that I don’t hear the drip, drop, drip, drop of the water hitting the lino. I don’t even hear the splish, splosh, splish, splosh as the drips start to hit the growing puddle on the floor. There is a bucket there now, so I am sure that there will soon be a plip, plop, plip, plop to be heard instead.

But enough about the acoustics properties of my bathroom, and on to more important things. This weekend I will be taking a trip to the Wild West… um Country! There I will see the wonderful Housemate-From-Penthouse-Flat – good job I got the word ‘flat’ in there or you’d all be thinking quite different things about her. We lived together at university in the most fabulous flat with the most idiotic boys and the most wonderful view of the sea. The idiotic boys thankfully moved on to be idiotic elsewhere but our friendship remains!

She is quite wonderful and has given me one of the best jobs on earth – I am a godmother! Which means I get keep a watchful eye on her daughter, Daisy, and spoil her rotten! HFPF was clever about her choices of godmother and also selected Very-First-Uni-Housemate and one of her Pompey friends as well – they are going to teach Daisy about the responsible things in life, at least until I am a grown-up.

Very-First-Uni-Housemate is ultra responsible! She was on my course and became my notetaker when things got tough. She went to every lecture for me, took notes and typed them up for me so I could teach myself the finer points of Shakespeare, Hardy and Machiavelli. The difference she made was incredible and I went from getting thirds in my literature essays to getting firsts. And, while VFUH was being studious, HFPF and I could often be found sipping hot chocolate with cream in Costa Coffee on the High Street before perusing the delights of Top Shop. And, we did this for three whole years.

Come to think of it, 6 years later, not a lot has changed. When we are together and even apart, we will still automatically gravitate to Costa for hot chocolate and Top Shop for retail therapy. Cereal will still be eaten in our pyjamas with cups of tea and morning chat shows for company. Except she is now a mum of two, and I am a godmother. I wonder when she is old and deaf and I am old and deafer, if anything will have changed?

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Ear, ear

I was watching QI last night – it’s a fabulous opportunity to absorb random facts and figures and a great source of revision for future pub quizzes.
It was during this programme that I discovered that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, claims his left ear is there for purely decorative purposes. I guess meaning that he is deaf in that ear – but what a brilliant way of describing it.

Following this train of thought, I suppose in a way it means that both my ears are there for decorative purposes, too. That, and holding my glasses up I guess. But do I really give them enough attention – should I ensure that they are always looking their best – I mean how much do people notice each other’s ears?

My Pa likes his ears – one has a frilly edge from where my Great Aunt Wanda Nut accidentally trimmed it when she was meant to be cutting his hair when he was a child. She also once nearly gassed him with a lamp (does this give away his age?) but that’s a whole other story.

I guess, aesthetically, I have been quite fortunate with my ears – they are not too big or too small, they each have a nice little lobe for hanging earrings from, and they certainly don’t stick out. But I guess I don’t really relate the deafness part of me to the two bits of cartilage sitting at the top of my jawbone. To me, they are something attached to my head. My hearing, on the other hand, is something inside my head that no one can fix, get to, or apparently it seems, even really explain very well.

When Eldest-London-Cousin was very little she had an extremely quiet voice and if I was looking after her and couldn’t hear her very well, I used to tell her that my ears were poorly. She would then spend the next 10 minutes examining them, staring at them and trying to work out what on earth I meant.

Deafness is not a visible disability. In most cases the ears give very little away about the hearing prowess of their owner… people will jug-shaped ears are not likely to hear better than people with little ones tucked in so neatly they barely show.

Should I be thankful for this? Absolutely! Although, this morning when I was sat on the bus, engrossed in a Freya North book it would have been beneficial for the person who, by the look of disbelief and desperation on their face, had been asking for me to move and let them out of their seat for quite some time, to know that I was not rude but aurally challenged. And, in the meantime, I am going to make my ears as decorative as possible… therefore all diamond earrings will be gratefully received…

Monday, 7 July 2008

Things I know now…

I learnt two things at the weekend: I can lipread birds – well a certain African bird anyway, and I like pub quizzes… and if that’s not a fulfilling learning curve for the weekend, what is?

So let’s start with the pub quiz. I’m not usually a fan as I find them hard to follow and by the time someone has relayed the question to me, someone else has usually got the answer. But last night, while sipping water – I had already had a caipirinha that day with some chocolate raisins, and one drink is my limit on a Sunday after Saturday drinking – I finally got what it’s all about.

You see, Friend-Who-Knows-Big-Words’ housemate was there and she very kindly offered to scribble down the question at breakneck speed for me to read and wow, she is one fast writer. This meant I could participate the same way as everyone else – and between us we did quite well… in rounds 1 and 2 at least.

I was thankful for my strange interest in bizarre, little-known communities which led me to recognise the flag of The Pitcairn Islands. My current interest is the independent state of Frestonia but alas, there were no questions on this. We were all a little stumped on the tube stations question and none of us realised that a ‘Spicy Wag’ was in fact Victoria station and we also did not realise that triangulated is an anagram of adulterating… clever huh!

Such a fan I became of this certain pub quiz that I spoke to the guy afterwards to see if there was an easier way for me to follow it without causing RSI in FWKBW’s housemate’s hand. He was lovely and said yes of course, he would simply reserve the best table in the house for us so I could see him and lipread him, which won him considerable brownie points.

Now for the bird – I met him at London Zoo and he was rather cute – but then apart from some vultures, I thought absolutely everything I saw, and met, that day was cute or gorgeous. You should go and check this bird out, he had a bedhead kind of style going on with his feathers and a very endearing face. I watched him for a while and all of sudden he opened his beak and apparently made a noise… which to me looked like it should be low and throaty. And what do you know, it was!

Then there were the gibbons – how I loved those. Until now, I had never felt much affection for gibbons on account of my first hearing specialist having that name and me having strong feelings of dislike towards him. But these guys were amazing – they flew through the air with the greatest of ease and I was actually a little bit jealous – I mean imagine if I could do that at the climbing wall.

Did you know that Gibbons sing? I didn’t either and was dying to see if I could lipread them, too – but apparently they mostly do it in the morning – so if anyone fancies a pre-work trip to London Zoo to hear the gibbons sing, let me know…

Friday, 4 July 2008

4th July

One of the things that I have been blessed with as a result of being deaf is a photographic memory. Now just as I said yesterday, lots of things in life have pros and cons but, in this instance, I find the former by far outweighs the latter.

So lets start with the shorter list of the two: the cons. Well, for a start, it makes me a bit rubbish at watching horror movies as I remember them forever. When I was about 12 I watched Carrie, Steven King’s horror movie with French subtitles with French Cousins one Christmas. The beginning of this movie was quite happy go lucky and I was lured into a false sense of security that might be a nice American teen flick.

Then came the pigs blood and SMASH, a teacher gets crushed by swinging beam in the gym and then BOOM a car blows up. Then, ARRRRGH a hand comes out of the ground. I can still see the expression on that teachers face when I close my eyes, and it isn’t pretty that’s for sure.

*gulp

Moving swiftly on to the pros: Well, I remember people, places and faces really well. I remember outfits people were wearing when I met them 15 years ago – for example – Best-Friend-From-School was wearing black leggings and a maroon Fruits of the Loom jumper when I first got to know her properly during activities week at the end of the summer term.

I am an elephant, albeit thinner and with smaller ears and softer skin, but I never forget. I remember my mother picking me up from school when I was 4 years old and only doing half days. She was wearing a blue shirt-dress with yellow piping and she took me to Bhs for lunch where I had sausages, beans and chips and jelly and cream for pudding. She stole my cream, which made me laugh and I can remember my legs swinging from the seat of the metal chair, blue bar shoes, red school dress. It could honestly be yesterday.

And that’s great, for today 10 years ago, on Independence Day 1998, I watched the two most independent people I have ever met marry each other. It was an amazing day – I remember French Aunt’s blue hat, London Aunt’s HUGE hat and the insane grin London Uncle had on his face all day. I even remember the ravioli with the red pepper sauce we had for starter, getting drunk on champagne with youngest French Cousin and a crazy lady getting up and singing halfway through dinner.

It was by far one of the best weddings I have ever been to and closing my eyes I am back there, in my pink silk dress and matching jacket, playing the flute in the church with Pa, reading the price tag on the bottom of London Aunt’s Manolos… and realising that shoes were very expensive in London.

And, while memories of today are somewhat bittersweet, I wouldn’t change having them for the world.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Things that go bump in the night…

On a recent trip to Istanbul, I was chatting to The Writer about sleep and her lack of it. You see, she suffers from Insomnia – or as another friend once called in Amnesia… hmmmmm!

Anyway, for The Writer it really is a big problem and the more it worries her, the worse it becomes. I, on the other hand, can sleep most places (nowhere dodgy Pa, I promise) and it never worries me about how much sleep I am getting as I know I can survive on very little.

But what did worry me slightly in our conversation was her comment that she is often awoken at night by noises and that she thought this was the only reason for waking up at night…

If this is the case, what does this mean for me?

I too, often wake in the night, look at my clock, rejoice that I still have lots more time in bed and then roll over and fall fast asleep again. But if her theory of waking to noises is right, what on earth am I hearing? And if it’s something important I have subconsciously heard… what happens if I go back to sleep and ignore it?

And another thing, does this mean I hear better in my sleep than when I am awake? In which case, perhaps I should be asleep more often. And perhaps that’s why, despite sleeping through most of my A-Level RE classes… no wait – that’s where the theory ends as I didn’t do that well in RE – but then you try describing the taste of a pineapple in relation to the existence of God.

There was a time though, when I used to hear better in my sleep and I proved it by coming top of my class at the end of term. You see, when I was about 8 years old, I used to be a big fan of story tapes. Every night, I would listen to The Secret Seven. Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, The Famous Five and various other wholesome stories and what use to amazing me was the speed at which I memorised them.

So I tried putting my exam notes on tape – and what do you know, it worked. Once in bed, I would listen to the history of the Romans, Latin verbs or French vocab, and sure enough, when the exams came along I always did well – with very little paper revision. Except in Maths – where I actually once got 5% in an exam… ho hum.

However, this revision method failed abysmally once I started losing lots of my hearing. When I was about 13, I recorded a whole collection of physics formula onto cassette and listened to it religiously in my sleep… and got 3 out of 23. Time for plan B.

There’s one noise I know I can’t hear in my flat – the fire alarm, but rather than worry about it, I am going to keep The Writer’s theory in mind and hope that if it ever does go off, I will wake up… and smell smoke and be rescued by a fireman.
There’s a pro and con to everything you see!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The year of magical thinking…

Someone asked me the other day, after reading Deafinitely Girly, if deafness was an all-consuming part of my life because I wrote about it every day. I thought for a while and realised that the only answer is ‘no, it isn’t.’ It’s my specialist subject.

Jeremy Clarkson’s specialist subject is cars and moaning, AA Gil knows considerable amounts about criticizing restaurants, but that doesn’t mean to say that every morning while brushing their teeth, that’s all those two ever think about.

When I was at university and struggling to get the plot right for my novella, my lecturer gave me some excellent advice, ‘Write about what you know, write from the heart,’ she encouraged, wafting around the lecture theatre, which made lip reading quite difficult as she ducked and dived and I tried to follow her.

Being deaf is something that I know quite well and it’s also entwined within my heart. In order to accept being deaf all those years ago, I had to love it, get to know it, make it work for me – just as Jeremy Clarkson loves cars, gets to know them and makes the whole thing work for him.

So, while I may write about being deaf day in, day out, I don’t think about being deaf day in, day out. While I might moan about services available that perhaps could be fixed far more easily than I let on, I don’t think about moaning all the time.

Which reminds me, no moaning this morning, for last night I went to see The Year Of Magical Thinking at The National Theatre, with subtitles! And, it was amazing! The play is a monologue and Vanessa Redgrave played Joan Didion, a woman whose husband dropped dead over dinner one night. Her presence was such that I could see her in my mind even when I was reading the subtitles, not looking at the stage.

Joan Didion’s specialist subject is, by no choice of her own, grief – she lost her husband and her daughter in the same year – she thought magical thinking would bring the former back to her, she promised the latter that everything would be okay. Perhaps it was cathartic to let it all out, perhaps that’s why I got to relive it last night, portrayed through Vanessa Redgrave.

While what I write about is in no way comparable to Joan Didion, I think it is therapeutic to let your specialist subject out, to release it so you can get on with other stuff. Which is why I’m writing and I hope you’re reading.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Things can only get better…

I went to Gordon Ramsey’s gastro pub the other day for dinner with London Aunt and friends and it was delicious. There was soda bread, pea soup of the most fantastic colour, and a caramalised onion tart that seemed to last forever. There was champagne too, which is never a bad thing.

While there, and in between mouthfuls of the tastiest asparagus ever, I told London Aunt that I still hadn’t found a subtitled copy of Withnail and I for us to watch. Her response was lovely – she simply pointed out that while this was still missing from my life experience, now is a much better time to be deaf than say 20 years ago, because the technology is so much more advanced.

And, how totally right she is. You see, I remember going deaf, I remember watching Drop Dead Fred and The Goonies at girlie sleepovers and having absolutely no clue what was going on. The late 80s and early 90s were not a good time to be deaf – but being younger made it easier. I didn’t have boys to chase, we’d only just got a TV and I wasn’t that bothered about it either to be honest.

By the time boys came into the picture properly, I had a mobile and could so we could text in those first awkward weeks when I wasn’t familiar with the tone and mannerisms of their voice.

But that’s not all – now I know that nearly every programme I watch on TV, there will subtitles – not great ones always – but a gist is better than nothing. This list could go on forever: the voice to text service on my phone so I never miss a voicemail; the subtitled announcements on Virgin and Midlands trains – must convince the service to my parents’ house to sort that out – I nearly had to jump out of a window the other day as the train was too long for the platform and I couldn’t get out – there had apparently been announcements...
Instead I managed to run the length of four carriages at breakneck speed and hurl myself out the door with such force that my arm nearly came off when the momentum caused my suitcase to keep going long after I had tried to stop.

Then, there’s the theatre. Tonight I am going to see a subtitled play for the first time in my life and I am really excited. Usually if I go I take a small torch and the script and read along, which is not quite the same. I can’t wait to watch a play with ease and enjoy it, instead of getting bored and falling asleep because I can’t hear a thing.

But perhaps my favourite thing that exists now that didn’t exist then is email. I’m looking for a housemate at the moment and trying to sort the whole thing out on the phone would be a nightmare. But as it is, I get all these lovely messages delivered to my inbox, name there, details there, request there – absolutely nothing to mishear or muck up.

And, what excites me the most is that, imagine what life will be like in another 20 years – hopefully there will be some amazing hearing aids that work like glasses and everything will be crystal clear. Best of all though, if the hearing aids aren't quite there yet, I am hoping that somebody will have thought to add subtitles to Withnail and I.

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...