Thursday, 27 October 2011

Captions on plane flights

This morning I got up, got dressed and left my house 25 minutes earlier than usual simply because I neglected to look at my watch while getting ready.

Striding down my road – in the dark – it suddenly occurred to me that it was rather quiet… and dark, and sure enough the time was a good enough explanation for this.

To celebrate my stupidity, I treated myself to a cheese and Marmite panini in Starbucks and read my book. And now, I actually feel rested as I start my working day.

This week has been one of barely suppressed excitement, because next week I am going on holiday – and before any burglars get any ideas, I have a housesitter, a very marvellous one indeed.

In preparation for my holiday, which includes a long-haul flight, I emailed the airline – British Airways – to ask them about what provisions they made for deaf people with regards to in-flight entertainment.

I asked this because there is nothing worse than having a whole load of movies at your fingertips and not being able to watch them. And I know this because a few years ago, when flying to Istanbul, I watched a whole movie with the language channel on French and didn't notice.

So anyway, their customer services team got back to me incredibly quickly and informed me that the flight I was going on was a shared service with American Airlines. She also told me that  American Airlines have plug sockets – even in economy – so, as long as I bring an adaptor, I can take a portable DVD player with me and watch subtitled movies to my heart's content!

How about that?

I was also told that there has been a note added to my booking so that the crew will know that I can't hear.

I know that offering a plug socket  is not the same as offering accessible in-flight entertainment, but it's a start, isn't it?

But what I want to know, is why there isn't an accessible entertainment system available on planes. SouperLouper got in touch and told me that on a recent Malaysian Airline flight she took, all the films had English subtitles. And the few times I've flown with Turkish Airlines, there's always been some subtitled movies, too. But English-speaking airlines just don't seem to offer this.

Indeed, a guest blogger and Twitter mate, Caroline O'Neil also looked into this issue, and her experience can be found here.

Rather alarmingly, what she discovered was that air travel is exempt from the Equality Act 2010.

How the heck does that make sense?

A quick google reveals that Emirates is also now offering captioned films, so hopefully other airlines will soon follow. But in the meantime, I think the only solution is to travel on non-English speaking airlines. At least that way, SOMETHING will be subtitled other than the in-flight safety video, because as Caroline said in her post, watching that 109 times is not anyone's idea of fun!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Deafinitely Girly's broken her feeds

It would seem that I've somehow broken by feedburner  thingymagicwotsit... I have done my best to fix it, which means typing random things in random boxes and clicking yes and no indiscriminately and it seems to have worked... I THINK.

However, if you get my blog via a feedthingy, could you please let me know that you've got this so that I can stop stressing out about why I hardly get any hits on my blog at the mo and start blogging again.

Many thanks

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Deaf girly loves O2!

This week I have praise for O2!

I know, I was shocked to be writing that sentence, too, but after yet another hideous iPhone bill due to my ability to go over the 500 free text messages included in my plan, I decided enough was enough.

I had a look online at the upgrade/downgrade options and got completely confused before emailing O2 for advice. Somehow my email must have gone twice as one person contacted me and said pop into a store to discuss things, and the other person, despite my email explaining my deafness, suggested I call customer services.


So on Saturday I went to a central London O2 store and the god-of-reducing-your-phone-bill gave me Sam!

Now, I'm pretty sure my love for Sam is not mutual as I asked more questions in the 30 minutes I was there than he probably gets in a week, but he answered them all with charm and grace.

I explained to him my bill issue, and he saw it with his own shocked eyes when he called my details up. I then explained to him the 'dropping my phone down the loo' issue and that although I'm due an upgrade, my phone is not yet a year old so it would be a sheer indulgence to get another one – particularly having paid a £150 insurance excess on my first one.

Anyway, back to Sam. He was brilliant! He recommended I move to a rolling sim-only contract for just £10.50 with a data bolt on of £10 and the best thing? I get unlimited texts. I lamented about the lack of unlimited data but he showed me that this was something I actually didn't need and that if it was readily available to all O2 customers then everyone's network speed would be slower.

He also explained to me that as I am on a rolling contract, I can upgrade my phone any time to a shiny iPhone 4S but that this buys me some time to wear this phone out and for the newer model to go down in price.

I also cancelled my insurance (saving me another £15) because if I lose this phone, it will be cheaper to just upgrade than pay another £150 excess.

In all, the lovely Sam managed to shave £50 off my phone bill and while this isn't great news for O2 in terms of income in the short term, in the long term it has dramatically reduced the chances of me changing mobile providers.

What was even better was that Sam, noticing how slow my iPhone was showed me that if you double click the bottom button it brings up a base bar of all the apps that are open. I did not know about this. And that meant that my phone had all its apps open all the time – and had done for the last year.

I left that O2 shop very, very happy. Happy that the stress of the expense of my iPhone bill had been dramatically reduced. Happy that my faith in O2 had once again been restored, and happy that when I do decide to upgrade and get a calling plan to suit me, I know just the man to ask

Thanks O2. You did good!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

My bus journey of memories

Today, as I travelled through the crisp and bright London streets on my bus, I closed my eyes and conjured up memories from my past.

Memories that were formed in places that I pass by every day, but rarely stop to think about.

On my bus journey to work, there are many. And today, all the memories I'm seeing a specific to my fabulous London family. The first burger I had during a summer work placement in London at 15; the time we went rollerblading in Hyde Park and I 'accidentally' crashed into a gorgeous man; the dinner party behind Selfridges where we sat on upturned bins, and the tree planting there, too.

Thanks to my photographic memory, my eyes can put the people who are missing from the memory back in. My aural memory conjures up their laugh, and in a flash I can see a moment between us all, captured in time.

Back then, I took all that for granted. Now I don't. The memories you make today should last forever. More than 2,566 days have past since my last memory was made of my complete London family. Treasure your memories and keep them safe, because one day that is all you will have. And for me, these memories are what will keep me going today.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Not hearing at my gym

This morning I slept through three vibrating alarm calls. Three! Before waking up 10 minutes before I had to leave the house.

The shock of seeing the time on my watch saw me sit up in bed so quickly it actually fell off the wooden blocks that make it high enough to store my shoes underneath, before flying out of bed, tripping over my phone charger cable and face planting the carpet.

This is not a recommended way of starting the day.

I am now sat, wild haired and wild eyed on the bus, wearing the weirdest combination of clothes, including an angora sweater that I bought nearly a decade ago.

I have no idea what my fellow passengers must think, particularly as I am also eating bread straight from a bread bag – I only had two slices left and it seemed like a good plan at the time.

Anyway, this week is flying by – with a mix of work, gym and tap dancing classes, plus far too many dinners out for my waistline and bank balance.

But on the hearing front, I am struggling. First there was my spinning class with the big ginger gorilla. Normally I follow him OK as he doesn’t turn the lights out, but yesterday he did, and I had no clue what was going on. Then, yesterday evening in body conditioning class, my teacher conducted the most undeaf-friendly class ever – even though she knows I’m deaf.

There were noisy steps that drowned out her voice and a million exercises that saw me lying on my back with absolutely no clue what was going on. The Singing Swede tried to help, but even she – with hearing – found it difficult to follow.

What frustrates me about this is that I don’t feel like I can say anything. I mean, why should I expect these people to tailor their classes to suit me? Is that fair on the other 20 people in the class?

And the logical answer is no. But what also frustrates me is that these classes are the pick of the best. They’re the ones that I have gratefully found after trying a wealth of other classes that were even more undeaf-friendly.

But I am going to persevere – mainly because if I don’t then there will be nothing to balance out all the delicious food I’ve been consuming this week.

And in other news, it is nearly time for my holiday. I am flying with British Airways – does anyone know what provisions they have for deaf people in terms of in-flight entertainment?

If so, let me know!

Have a good day, peeps.



Friday, 14 October 2011

A big mishearing mishap

Today is Thankful Friday.

And I am thankful to Gym Buddy for making me laugh until I nearly fell off my chair last night.

We went for dinner in Covent Garden to a little Italian place with a very amorous waiter – I think he was flirting with me, but its been a while, so he could have just had something in his eye that caused him to wink at me constantly.

Anyway, inbetween the free drinks he was plying us with, we were chatting about Gym Buddys family when she told me about how her niece – aged 2 – has a massive crush on Mr Gym Buddy and that when hes in the room she's only interested in him. Then, one morning her niece had mistaken a bin bag for Gym Buddys husband and run towards it squealing his name.

I listened, a bit bemused that this could have happened – surely toddlers can tell the difference between bin bags and people? – but I laughed politely before finally asking, Wasnt he a bit upset about this? To which she replied, No, he thought it was hilarious.

Im not sure Id take being mistaken for a bin bag so well, was my response.




It turned out Gym Buddy had said Bin Man – one had been on the front drive emptying their bins at the time and her neice had spotted him through the window. But when when she said man, it lipread it the exact same as bag, and as my Ma had once mistaken a bin bag for my Pa but thats a whole other story – I guess I thought maybe mistaking people for bin bags was actually quite common.

Gym Buddy however, started to giggle hysterically, which set me off and very quickly we were both beyond help, unable to speak, breathe or sit up straight anymore.

I. WAS. MORTIFIED though and thanked my lucky stars that Gym Buddy also saw the funny side of me effectively comparing her husband to a bin bag.

And the dishy Italian waiter? Well, it turns out he was flirting with me. He made me promise to come back soon and winked so much I thought he was going to strain something.

But do you know what? Those two things combined left me with a much-needed grin on my face – and even today, its still there.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

When I could hear music…

Last night I went to see one of my favourite pianists perform at the Wigmore Hall – Cédric Tiberghien.

Playing an array of Debussy, he had the audience captivated throughout and on finishing provoked calls of ‘Bravo!’ from the many French people in attendance.

The review in its entirety will be in next month's Hearing Times, but what yesterday did resurface within me was all the memories of when I could hear a bit more than just one octave above middle C. In fact, if I'm honest, lately it's more like a fifth above middle C.

As a child, I was captivated by music, mainly by the emotions it could provoke within people. Unknowingly, I created a memory bank of sounds and melodies that even today I can call up at a moments notice.

For instance, one of my favorite things as a very small kid was playing the piano with my arms spread as far as possible so I was hitting the very high and very low notes. Those high ones, with their tinny resonance, are still there in my head even now.

I also remember my violin – I was going to be a concert violinist don't you know – and how, as I shot up the grades, harmonics became one of my favorite things. That ethereal sound you could create with the lightest touch of your finger on the string, and the vibration coursing down your fingertip. Of course as I went deafer, the vibration became the most important aspect of this. And as feeling vibrations in my fingers wasn't the reason I took up the violin, I sadly gave it up.

And then there's my flute. I have an excellent memory bank of its sound as luckily I'd reached a good grade before my hearing plummeted. I remember the amazing sound that came flying out, how a subtle change in fingers and diaphragm tension could send the pitch rocketing, and I remember thinking, 'That's me doing that'.

Once that sound had gone from my reach, the memory bank did sustain my flute playing. High pieces were played an octave or two lower initially so I knew how they sounded, and my teacher taught me to visualise the sound. 'If you see it, it will come,' he used to say like some kind of wise guru. And he was right.

But it wasn't enough. It was like being in madly in love with someone but only having a photograph to look at – never the real thing. I began to feel sad when I played my flute, and this emotion was only really useful when playing Reinecke's Sonata Undine, which is about a stroppy mermaid.

Sometimes I feel as though my deafness has sucked the joy out of music, but yesterday I was reminded that it's simply killed the joy in me making music. But not in me watching others make music.

As I watched Tiberghien from my seat, chosen especially so I could finger-read the high bits, I felt the familiar buzz I get from amazing music – from seeing someone else create that amazing music. And I pushed that incredible longing for it to be me making the amazing music to one side and just enjoyed it for what it was.

You see, wondering what could have been won't really get you anywhere. If I hadn't have gone deaf, I might not have been such a geek at school and therefore music wouldn't have been cool. I might have achieved even less musically, whereas instead I can be proud that I got my Grade 8 flute just two years after my hearing plummeted.

And today? Well I'm conjuring up my sound memories to hear the Reinecke once again. Though there are recordings of me playing it, they are of no use to me. It's in my head, every cadenza, wave crash, heartbreak and trill. They're all there. And as I sit here on the bus, it’s like I'm not deaf anymore...

…just for a little while anyway.