Tuesday 29 November 2011

The hear-changing iPad

Ah what a lovely weekend I had at home with the Rents, doing a spot of Christmas shopping, catching up and giving them iLessons, which were necessary after they became the proud owners of an iPhone and iPad!

It all started when Pa decided he wanted an upgrade on his Nokia, so we popped into their local O2 store.

There, he chose a free iPhone 3GS with 300 minutes, unlimited texts and 100mb data for just £18.50 a month.

While the data is not much, the Rents live in the middle of nowhere – luckily with WiFi – so the chances of him actually being able to get reception enough to use any data when out and about is highly unlikely. Plus, if you go over your data allowance with O2, all that simply happens is they slow it down.

Then there was Ma, who's been hankering after an iPad since she could say iPad. But then came the hunt for the one she wanted in white.

Eventually we tracked one down, and reserved it via my iPhone, in Argos and headed there to pick it up.

Ma completely exhausted from all this running around promptly fell asleep on the sofa after arriving home, so I took the iPad, installed the new iTunes on their computer and set it all up for her so when she woke up, she had a fully functioning iPad, complete with a home screen link to this very blog.

But this wasn't really what Ma wanted the iPad for...

Regular readers will know my lovely Ma is going deaf and this has been incredibly hard for her, especially when it comes to keeping in contact with Big Bro in Clogland.

But then on Sunday morning her iPad pinged as she was reading the news on it in bed.

It was FaceTime, and there on the screen was Big Bro and MicroClog wanting to say hello.

Ma was ecstatic at being able to chat to them with such ease.

Then, that evening, the iPad went off again and this time it was MiniClog wanting to say goodnight to Ma.

Then, two minutes later she was Skyping French Cousin 3 and yakking away to him.

When Pa bought Ma this iPad as an early Christmas present, I don't think he realised that what he was actually doing was giving her back a part of her life her deafness had taken away.

The iPad means she can have easy and regular contact with Big Bro and his family again without the struggle of wondering what's being said.

By just having that little bit of a visual clue to help her decipher the words, Ma can hear so much more than if she was on the phone alone. And even better still? It's free.

So what about me? Has this tempted me to get internet at home and buy an iPad?

Honestly? Yes.

Although I would need people to speak quite slowly on Skype or FaceTime so that the lips synced with the voice and I could follow the conversation.

What it has give me though is confidence for the future. Confidence that this way of communicating is only going to get better. That video calls will be the norm and that soon the internet will be so fast, there will be no lipreading delay.

The future is there if you're willing to spend a little bit of extra money.

Thank goodness for MasterCard!

Wednesday 23 November 2011

An iPhone noise alert

Yesterday I bought an app called Tap Tap, which alleges to notify you when sounds occur which you cannot hear.

Guess what?

It's rubbish!

I thought it would be a bit of a long shot but seriously it even goes off when I breathe, and even I draw the line about being notified about this.

Take yesterday evening when I tried it out with my microwave timer. It went off every 5 seconds, despite the fact I changed the sensitivity to low, and at one point it even refused to stop vibrating.

My poor iPhone battery didn't know what had hit it.

But wouldn't it be amazing if there was an iPhone app that would notify you of things? Even pre selected things that you could sound record into it so when they went off it recognised it.

I would choose my door buzzer, cooker alarm and carbon monoxide alarm.

To know for sure that these were going off in the form of a little pop up message would be amazing.

I mean, I know you can get pager systems that do this but to have it in the convenience of your phone would be amazing.

Is it possible?

If anyone knows, please let me know.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Deaf Girl learns to tap

Last week I missed my tap class. 

It was too cold, I was too tired, I had stuff to do.

The reality is that all of the above were just excuses as I'm actually finding tap quite hard now I'm six lessons in.

While this may be because I have the coordination of a drunk newborn foal, last night I went along to check, and actually it's not that.

During the class, I looked at what I was struggling at and what I could do. Anything with just toes was fine but whenever any heel tapping occurred I got hopelessly lost, despite the fact I was watching my teacher's feet like a hawk.

So then instead of staring at her feet, I decided to stare at her face so I might grasp what she was saying. Of course, to do this means I couldn't dance at the same time, but what I realised is that she's calling out a drill while our feet going. She's saying 'toe, heel, swish, heel, toe, heel, toe stamp' or whatever and so people are listening to that while copying her feet.

I can only have one or the other.

It was so frustrating. However, I persevered through the wanting-to-cry part and tried my hardest to be upbeat about the whole thing, and it kind of worked.

By pushing through the fug of failure, I realised that I will grasp it – but to do so, I will just have to learn what the teacher is saying so that while I'm looking at her feet, I can be saying it to myself in my head.

Even better, I've made a new friend – yes I'm 5 – and she's going to buy the biggest bit of wood she can find for her kitchen and we are going to practise together.

I won't give this up, because you see, if I can work out the method to learning tap when you're deaf, it will give me a valuable skill that I can apply to learning other kinds of dance, too.

The world will be my dance floor.

Well, let's take it one tap at a time, eh?

Monday 21 November 2011

Deafinitly Girly and the Boris Bike

Wow! What a brilliant weekend I had with SouperLouper when she came to visit from the Wild West erm... Country.

On Saturday we woke to bright blue sky and sunshine so jumped on a bus to the nearest Boris Bike station and hired bikes. Having never done this before, it's surprisingly easy to work out what to do and soon we were pedalling through the streets of London bound for nowhere in particular.

This nowhere-in-particular route took us through Marylebone, up into Fitzrovia, across to Holborn, Farringdon, up to the Barbican and around to St Pauls where we stopped for lunch and a look at the Occupy London protest.

We then headed down the river bank to Blackfriars, along to Embankment and Westminster, up past Downing Street, waving at Nelson at Trafalgar Square before turning left up the Mall. There we cycled past the front of Buckingham Palace, up Constitution Hill, through Hyde park Corner and into Hyde Park.

This led us to the Albert Hall into High Street Kensington, up past the Palace, and around Notting Hill to a docking station by Portobello Road.

It was marvellous. I loved every minute of it, which surprised me because I've always been a bit nervous about cycling in London due to not being able to hear what's going on. However, throughout the day I just reminded myself to think like a car and not cycle in the gutter. And it seemed to work. 

Sure I experienced first hand the impatience of London drivers and their need to over take bikes even when it's not physically possible, and sure there were some scary white van man occurrences but on the whole I was complete inspired by the idea of cycling in London and due to the fact that I know all the quieter back roads, I'm actually thinking about cycling to work.

All I need is a nice bright fluorescent jacket to make me stand out as I go on my way – anyone know if they do these in pink?

Friday 18 November 2011

Hearing at the opera

Today is Thankful Friday and my first post in a while.

I've been rather busy you see with my day job, with seeing Roxette in concert, with getting my Christmas copy into Hearing Times and reading books on my Kindle, and this means I've forgotten to blog.

However, I do have lots of things to be thankful for today, and one of the best is that SouperLouper is coming to stay this weekend. I'm so looking forward to seeing her – it's been 5 months – and we're going to explore the city on Boris bikes and take in an evening of opera.

Can't wait.

I'm especially excited about the opera, which I have decided is definitely the most accessible form of entertainment out there for deaf people like me, as it's almost always subtitled! Recently, I went to see an opera about the holocaust, and while the music was not really my cup of tea, it was marvellous to know what was going on. The only time I got lost was when I fell asleep – much to Jenny M's embarrassment.

I sometimes to marvel at my ability to fall asleep in the most unlikely places. It seems whenever there is loud ongoing noise, I want to sleep. I once fell asleep in the nightclub Bungalow 8 while being chatted up by a Spaniard, and then there was the time I actually kipped right through a Tangerine Dream concert.

To be fair though, apart from Pa – who was loving the whole electronic spectacle complete with a projection of the silent movie Dante's Inferno – I think a lot of the people at that Tangerine Dream concert would have loved to have my ability to sleep in noisy places...

So tomorrow, I am going to do everything possible not to fall asleep. I am going to take sugary sweets to give me a boost, a drink of water to keep me hydrated and matchsticks for my eyelids.

I will be cultured...
I will be cultured...
I will be cultured...

Have a lovely weekend peeps.


Wednesday 9 November 2011

Eating out in New York

One of the things I loved about New York was the vast array of places you could choose to eat in each day.

And, although we did indeed eat in a different place for every meal, I felt as though we barely scratched the surface of the culinary delights on offer.

One of my biggest fears was ending up in the US equivalent of an Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse so Godmother, who met us in NY from Syracuse, gave us a great tip – ask the concierges and staff in shops where they'd recommend.

This method really works. It meant we had a delicious dinner at the Rock Centre Café overlooking the ice rink at the Rockerfeller Centre in what should have been, but wasn't, a touristy restaurant.

Our fabulous waiter brought me birthday apple pie, complete with candle, plus a delicious espresso martini, and the food was gorgeous.

The next night, by recommendation, we ended up at PJ Clarke's, an amazing burger bar on the corner of 55th and 3rd. With a queue out the door, a bar so narrow I got a bottle of beer knocked down my top and then napkin offers from an array of attentive men, and a buzzing post-work atmosphere, this place was a hit from the start. And the food was excellent, too, with burgers, string onions and skinny fries...

Then there were all the daytime places – the Starbucks in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria, where we grabbed our coffee before going in search of breakfast. The Pershing Square Café opposite Grand Central Station, which served portions so big that breakfast on my first day lasted me ALL day. Then there was Blooms – an amazing bustling diner which served everything from gigantic hash browns to pancakes and maple syrup.

One place I loved for the atmosphere was Viand on Madison Avenue. This long, skinny restaurant with a seated bar and tables for two opposite had a kind of shut-up-and-eat atmosphere about it. Coffee was stronger than Popeye and food was cooked right there in front of you before being served up by gruff Italians.


For afternoon coffee, the Financier, just of 3rd Avenue and 59th st offered the best Florentines, while Starbucks in Union Square's Barnes & Noble provided a welcome respite from rush-hour madness.

Snacks came from Duane Reade pharmacies – a place that seemed to be more bad for your health than good and I may have consumed more than a couple of peanut butter m&ms.

And the weirdest thing? I lost 4lb during my trip to the Big Apple! All that walking and assuming that just because I could see the Chrysler Building from where I was meant it wasn't that far, cause me to walk off the bagels I ate that were as big as my head and the amazing burgers of PJ Clarke's.

In fact, next time I want to go on a diet, I'm off to New York...

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Deaf girly and the flashing fire alarm

I don't know about you, but sometimes the whole 'staying in hotels and wondering if I will hear the fire alarm thing' stresses me out.

But then I am a natural worrier. I don't get on a boat without first wondering where the lifeboats are, a plane without counting my seats to the emergency exit, and car without first making sure the driver isn't a complete nutter…

Anyway, back the the hotel thing… on the rare occasions that a flashing light alarm is available I still wonder whether this method will wake me in the event of an emergency, so as a result remain nervous.

Twenty-five floors up the Waldorf Astoria I was more than a little nervous , but the excitement of the view and the promise of a fun day ahead meant, on our first night in the city, I went off to sleep with ease until..


*flash, flash, flash, flash

I woke up at 1am with my room being turned into a disco. The strobe light was going, the table lamps had come on and the fire alarm, which was low and loud enough for my ears to pick up was going off.

And so, no longer worried about whether the fire alarm would wake me, I instead to begin wonder how long it would take to get down 25 flights of stairs in a hurry if the building really is on fire? Particularly as I'd already seen the average age in the Waldorf Astoria was not all that spritely.

But I needn't have worried because soon, amid the still flashing strobe – yes, by this point it was causing me to see stars, too – a voice came over a tannoy and said something... And after a quick translation from my Rents, it was established that the whole thing was a false alarm and we could all go back to sleep.

As I lay there, the flashing of the strobe light indelibly imprinted on my now-shut eyelids, adrenalin coursing through my weary traveller body, I couldn't help grinning to myself.

I'd been woken by a flashing fire alarm. These things actually work for me.

And at least if mine ever goes off at home, I will have fewer stairs to head down – just several bikes to dodge and some flammable materials I hope don't explode in my neighbour's hallway.

Hmmm, I think I'll move back to the Waldorf Astoria.

Monday 7 November 2011

Flying to New York

I had a very legitimate reason for not blogging last week, and here it is;

I was in New York!


I've never been to the Big Apple before and having only seen it in the movies and of course Sex & the City, I didn't really know what I would make of it.

So let's start at the very beginning of the adventure shall we? In a week of NYC blogs.

So, it really started the day before we left when I tried to check us in to our flight, which we booked through BA but that was code shared with American Airlines. With BA you can log in and choose seats 24 hours before your flight. With AA, the seats are given over to the airport 24 hours in advance, and the gods of bad plane seating had allocated us seats at the back in the middle of a row of five.

Frustrated and slightly worried about how Pa and his new hip would cope being shoehorned into a tiny row, I rang the airline, armed with a list of yes/no questions so it didn't matter if I didn't hear. And they were very helpful.

Could I do anything about our allocated seating? Yes

Could they do anything about it? No

Would I have to fix it at the airport? Yes

Would this mean getting there early? Yes

And so we did. Embarrassingly early. But it worked. We were allocated bulkhead seats at the front of cattle class with room for Pa and also good for me as when the flight attendants spoke to me, they could crouch down to my level and make it easier to lipread.

What was even better is that even in economy there were plug sockets, so I was able to plug in my DVD player and watch subtitled movies the whole way. Subtitled New York-themed movies!

The service on the flight was also excellent. Our flight attendant was amazing. I explained to him I was deaf and every announcement that was made he came to check I knew what was going on. He even attempted to make me laugh right after he told me the flight crew were being seated 45 minutes early because it was going to be a very bumpy and snowy landing.

Not being a massive fan of turbulence, I ended up being brilliantly distracted by the Fab Family sat to our right.

The lovely guy told me all about the places where I should eat in New York, he explained why it was more bumpy at some times than others, and he told me how much he loved New York City.

It was amazing. I forgot about the turbulence and the fact that I had an amazing city to discover began to sink in.

We bade them farewell at JFK and hopped in a yellow taxi in the snow storm.

Three days later by the restrooms in the basement of Century 21 (which is basically TK Maxx on acid) I looked up to see the Fab Family right there in front of me.

On the big island that is Manhattan, I had bumped into the only people I knew of in the city, in the shadow of the former World Trade Centre. What a bizarre coincidence?

It was fabulous to see them again and share my experience of New York – although I never did get to go to the Brandy Library…  but there is always next time…

But what I did do was walk for miles and miles and miles and miles… but I will tell you all about that tomorrow.

DeafGirly: How I feel about being deaf at work

It's been a whole year since I posted a blog on here. Life's been happening. And I guess I am no longer 'deaf in the city and ha...