Friday 26 June 2015

Deaf Girly and Royal Opera House Access Card

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

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

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

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

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


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

Amazing huh?

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Friday peeps!


Tuesday 23 June 2015

Deaf Girly's open letter to Odeon

Picture the scene:

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

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

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

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


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

The film continued rolling. FJM ate his stale popcorn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I refuse to accept your incompetence, Odeon.

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

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

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

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

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

I will not be going.

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

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

Happy Tuesday Odeon.

Happy sodding Tuesday.


Tuesday 16 June 2015

Deaf Girly and Spotify subtitles

I'm one of those people who takes advantage of Spotify's free service. The one where you watch an advert for 30 seconds to get 30 minutes of ad-free music. It's not really a hardship. And it has running music.

So far however, my usage of Spotify has been limited to the gym on my phone. Music to run to. Music to stretch to. Zen music for lying on the mat in the stretching area with my eyes closed while pretending I'm actually doing something.

But today, bored of my iTunes selection – I've had the Tangled soundtrack on repeat since I sat down this morning – I decided to try Spotify on my laptop. 

And, since I don't listen to the radio and have no idea what the latest music is, I clicked on the top UK songs that are in the Charts right now. I've never heard many of them before. It's a new experience.

But imagine my surprise when browsing on the Spotify app on my Mac when I saw a little option in the bottom left corner that said 'LYRICS'.

My first thought was – it's a trick. It won't work. It'll get my hopes up and I'll click on it and get a message about lyrics not being available at this time. I mean, you learn to live with these constant disappointments. Like the fact that I have yet to find a subtitled evening showing of the new Jurassic Park movie to take FJM to. *sniff* Or the fact that there is still UNSUBTITLED content on the iPlayer – I really did want to watch that documentary on The Trellick Building and I CAN'T.

Anyway, with my expectations lower than a primary school sports day high jump, I clicked the lyrics button and OH MY GOODNESS...


Gosh I am shouty today.

Not only are the lyrics there but they give you the lyrics as they are happening, which means I am less likely to be singing the lyrics out of time. This happens a lot. I'm singing away and realise I'm in a completely different place to the actual singer. Bet you're glad you don't live near me eh? *closes windows*

Ooh as I write this Bruno Mars has just come on... *taps foot*

'I'm too hot (hot damn)'

Who knew these were such inspired lyrics *raises eyebrows*

'Uptown funk you up' eh?

But seriously, this is amazing. Amazing. There are lyrics. And as far as I can see, this is better than SoundHound on my iPhone, which regularly tells me it's sorry it cannot find the lyrics to something.

This week, with my mended hearing aids, FaceTime and now lyrics on Spotify I've been feeling amazing impressed with technology and how it makes my life bloody amazing. That and the fact I've downloaded a new HIT exercise class from iTunes that has subtitles and has rendered me unable to move today.

It's all marvellous.

Completely marvellous.

Happy Tuesday peeps


Tuesday 2 June 2015

Deaf Girly's hearing aid-free week

I have just put my hearing aids in after a week of not wearing them.

Everything is so loud. I can hear the washing machine on its spin cycle, I'm aware that I haven't turned the extractor fan off above the hob, the gates next door have just clanged open and someone is hammering in the garden outside.

It wasn't a deliberate decision to leave my hearing aids out. More that I ran out of batteries and went away for a week. And I think also because during that week, I was with people who've known me most of my life. People like SuperCathyFragileMystic, Jenny M and The Rents. And FJM, who while I haven't known my whole life, is pretty darn good at making sure I know what's going on.

Out of the hustle and bustle of London, I felt a lot less deaf. I went everywhere by car so didn't need to struggle with finding out about public transport announcements. I didn't really go in many shops so there was no having to listen for the 'Would you like a bag' question or the various other things I have trouble hearing. And I ate out less so didn't need to hear in noisy restaurants. I noticed my deafness less.

When I got my hearing aids nearly three years ago, one of the things I was most worried about was that I wouldn't be able to switch between my old world and my new world without noticing the difference in a bad way. With previous hearing aids, I was almost left panicky on taking them out at night. Claustrophobic in the silence of my own head. The relief I feel at this not being the case with these hearing aids is off the scale.

They have changed my life beyond believe in ways I never thought possible. They continue to add a third dimension of sound that I didn't know existed. When using the t-loop hook headphones with my phone and FaceTime, they provide an added clarity of sound to assist lipreading and best of all, they continue to remain optional if I want to go back to my old sound.

My week off from my hearing aids was great. But now I'm back in London, the hearing aids are back in. Busy restaurants, busy streets, busy offices and busy public transport make my hearing aids a necessity and that's OK.

But if I ever do move to the country, I think I might go hearing aid free a lot more.

Happy Tuesday peeps


Monday 1 June 2015

Deaf Girly does a subtitled exercise class

Regular readers will know that I have a love/hate relationship with exercise classes at gyms and on DVD. I love the idea of them but find it quite hard to follow what's going on, especially in the Downward Dog position or while doing a press up on a power plate.

In classes I usually take reinforcements in the form of friends. From the Singing Swede in spinning who used to tell me which way to turn the resistance thingumajig to HannahBanana who got me through some baffling power plate classes, this method usually works, even if it means I am a few steps behind everyone else.

Then there was that time I went to a spinning class alone – DG and the spinning class – or the time I almost fell through the studio floor at a step aerobics class – DG and the step class.

Recently however,  I've been working from home a lot more and rather than heading off to the gym in my lunch hour,  I've been cracking out my vintage workout DVDs. And I'm talking vintage. Think Callan Pinckney's Callanetics or Rosemary Conley's cheesy pop-filled delights, the latter is quite good fun to dance around to while chucking on a neon pink Primark sweatband for good measure, while the former causes immense pain to your inner thighs and may see you flickflacking down an entire staircase after you lose the ability to bend your legs the next day (yes, this actually happened to me once).

However, after roping in SuperCathyFragileMystic into joining me for Rosemary's promise of a 7-day slim down, I realised just how much I was missing. SCFM proceeded to recount everything that Rosemary was saying and do you know what I didn't have a clue just how much that lady can talk. From the breathing and the posture to the success stories and the countdown on sit ups, I was missing it all.

And that got me thinking – with iTunes getting better at adding more movies with captions, I wondered whether they now offered workout videos, too.

And guess what? They do.

So DG went shopping, from the comfort of her sofa, while wearing her neon pink Primark workout gear – trust me, sports kit is one thing from Primark that I without fail always love – and bought the following:

As they downloaded I was nervous that I'd just spent more than £10 on something that actually wouldn't be subtitled. That there would be a glitch in iTunes and I'd be left trying to lipread instructors in my usual fashion while bobbing around attempting to be coordinated. But guess what? They really are subtitled. Properly subtitled!!

I tried the Step Up one first, pulling my hair into a high ponytail and adjusting my sweatband for good measure. But within five minutes, I discovered something – having subtitles doesn't make me any more coordinated. I am still just as rubbish as I was before. But at least now I know that I am being rubbish like normal hearing people.

It was a sad realisation that it's not my deafness that makes me a terrible dancer. I've got no excuses now. And so, after half an hour of feeling like a total lemon, I confined the Step Up workout to the dusty shelves of my iTunes library.

But Mari Winsor was a whole other story. I LOVE this workout. The subtitles are excellent because they give you all the information about posture and breathing that is important about pilates. 

They give you Mari's chitchat about stuff and let you know that the pain-inducing position you're in only has a bit longer left before you can breath a sigh of relief and have a cup of tea.

I would highly recommend it.

Do I have abs of steel yet? Well no, because this weekend I sat on the sofa, watched tennis and ate Tunnocks Caramel wafers but if Mari and her subtitled pilates classes have any say in the matter, I may well have soon.

And on that note, I think it's time for another Tunnocks Caramel Wafer. Mari, I will see you later.


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