Friday 21 October 2016

Deaf Girly and the Hearing Dog

Meet Hebe – my dog daughter!
On this very Thankful Friday, I'd like to introduce you to Hebe – a Hearing-Dog-in-training – who I have sponsored with Hearing Times in return for writing my column for them. You can read all about that here

Sponsoring a Hearing Dog is very easy – you have several options: a monthly payment of £3, £5, or £10 a month or a one-off donation. The charity is very clear about how your donations are spent – examples include £10 paying for a selection of training aids and £30 being the amount needed to provide a Hearing Dog with its distinctive jacket and lead slip.

But that's not all. Here are five reasons why sponsoring a Hearing Dog is so great...

1. You get to be a fairy dogmother or dogfather

Since I met Hebe, I've been showing photos of her on my phone to anyone I meet at every opportunity. I would have put her on Facebook but I don't really use Facebook, but I get to boast that this gorgeous pooch is being trained to do something amazing and I'm helping! 

2. Get to tell chuggers very smugly that you already donate to a charity
I don't like chuggers and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People is very clear that it doesn't use them to raise money. In London, I get stopped every day by someone with a new pitch about why I should give them money. I don't like walking past and ignoring them – they are people after all – but I usually just say that I am already donating to my favourite charity and walk on. One time a chugger replied that I was clearly donating to the wrong charity and I put him straight and left him quietly contemplating his words.

3. You will change someone's life in a way you never imagined possible
When I went on the Hearing Dogs' tour of The Grange last week, I met people whose lives have been completely transformed by their partnership with a Hearing Dog. One lady had had four hearing dogs with her latest about to retire. She spoke about each one with such love and confidence, I actually had a little cry. 

4. You get to be a great present giver
Did you know that you can sponsor a Hearing Dog as a present for someone? That someone who always says, "Oh, I don't need anything..." and you're left panic buying them something on Christmas Eve in your local supermarket. This gift is brilliant – sponsors of Hearing Dogs get access to exclusive content, updates on their puppy and all sorts of other great things. You get to see your puppy grow up and get ready to change someone's life. I know I keep banging on about it being life changing, but it really is.

5. It's not all about sponsorship
Of course, I know that committing to a monthly sponsorship is not for everyone, but there are tonnes of other ways you can support Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. You can collect your stamps, which they then sell to raise money, you can share this blog, ask for a dog sponsorship for Christmas and tell everyone you meet about Hearing Dogs... 
My very lovely Ma does this at every opportunity – since we found out I was deaf aged 10, she's been a huge supporter of this charity. In her excitement she once called them Deaf Dogs for the Blind, but that's a whole other story!

My amazing dogdaughter Hebe who is learning to be a Hearing Dog

*Hearing Dogs did not ask or pay me to write this post. Due to the fact I am sponsoring Hebe with Hearing Times, they invited me to meet and see the amazing work they do. And it is amazing and I will happily shout about it all day long! 

Thursday 20 October 2016

Always love on this day

Today I'm sat at my desk. I am at work.

On this day for too many years, I can remember exactly where I've been. The day, all those years ago, I remember the clearest.

Today is about remembering the person who taught me along side one my favourite people in the whole world to love the big scary world that is London. The guy who watched episode after episode of Grand Designs with me while drinking beer, who never criticised my inability to time cooking new potatoes with pie, meaning one was burnt if the others were edible, or the potatoes were more like weapons of mass destruction.

This is a person who watched Flashdance with me and remarked it was basically porn but still busted out some moves while making the best Thai green curry ever. A person who on his wedding day grinned so hard I thought his face might fall off – and as he was marrying one of the best people in the whole wide world, who could blame him.

He taught me how to buy a travel card when they still came in paper form, how to change platforms at Earls Court without asking for help, how to become a devotee to BBC Breakfast London Travel bulletins so that your entire morning wasn't ruined by a signal failure.

He taught me that sometimes when you pick up children, you drop them. That rice really does need to be soaked for longer than you think, so start cooking before you get hungry. That there is a limit of how many Krispy Kreme donuts a four-year-old child can eat and that yes, if you go over that, it ends up in a big big mess.

He also – and he never knew this – invented a new verb... "to Pret".

And so today, on this day, I am most definitely going "to Pret" and send all my love to wherever you are.


Wednesday 19 October 2016

10 things my deafness makes me better at

The other day I was thinking about what I might be like if I wasn't deaf. Firstly, I wouldn't be here as Deafinitely Girly. I'd probably be blogging about other things though... but this wouldn't include defending myself against a coat stand with a hot water bottle and many of the other scrapes I've found myself in as a result of not hearing much.

But what about the other things that I think my deafness enhances. The things I've become better at, quicker at, more efficient at. Here's my round-up of the 10 things I think I do better than I would if I was hearing:

1. Form filling

Who doesn't love a form eh? Especially those ones with the boxes where you have to get your letters just inside and hope your email address isn't too long to fit. In my life I have filled in countless forms to do with my deafness – from Freedom passes and my recent application for a Hearing Dog (YAY!) to complaints online about subtitles, service and applications for various things to help. You name it, I've filled it in. I love forms! 

2. Planning ahead

I wonder if I'd be quite so organised if I wasn't deaf. If I'd be more laissez-faire, leave things to the last minute, and fret less? Maybe not, but I do know that being deaf means I consider all options, all scenarios and all possible outcomes when planning, organising and booking things. This means I can request pre-boarding on planes, seats at the front of talks, or tweet the relevant people my questions and worries and ensure that at no point is my deafness going to trip me up. Of course it invariably does, but I'm still on a quest to plan ahead to the point that it doesn't.

3. Finding out names

I am terrible with names. I never hear them and then am too embarrassed to ask someone to repeat their name. But this means I have a stealth-like skill at finding out people's name and NEVER forgetting them ever again. When starting in a new office, I always draw a floor plan in the back of my notebook and then find a friendly face to help me fill it in. I will hit up linked in and match faces to names, whatever it takes. 
Of course, I could simply admit that I hadn't heard their name three weeks ago when I first met them, which is why for the first two weeks at one of my recent jobs I called a guy Tom and not Adam, before LinkedIn told me otherwise… but that would be too simple wouldn't it?

4. Understanding ignorance

Do you know I once pointed an empty seat on the tube out to a blind person by saying 'There's a seat over there'? It was one of the most embarrassing disability unaware things I have ever done. But it made me realise that when people ask you odd things about your deafness – 'Can you drive?' being one of the most asked and ridiculous ones – I don't get so riled anymore. After all, if I can forget that pointing to an empty seat is really not helpful to a blind person, then hearing people with little knowledge of deafness deserve a break.

5. Sleeping with the light on

I can sleep pretty much anywhere – planes, trains and automobiles and even trendy nightclubs... actually especially trendy nightclubs. One of the reasons for this is that I've spent much of my life sleeping with lights on – I hate darkness you see, it feels like I have no senses left and it's very isolating. As a child, my parents used to leave the hall cupboard light on, when I lived alone I left my hall light on, and in my current flat, if FJM is away, lights galore provide me with the visual reassurance that all is OK. My light resilience is very useful when it comes to needing naps in non-nap friendly places.

6. Making up stories

Before I knew I was deaf, I spent much of my life guessing what was going on. After I knew I was deaf, I continued to do this as well. Things like Chinese whispers at sleepovers – I always made my own ones up as never heard the whisper. Or Dictation at school, which I treated like a creative writing exercise. Or basically any conversation I ever had was pieced together with lipreading and a good amount of guessing what was going on. I've now written a book. A whole book. And I love making up stories.

7. Having a specific morning and evening routine

Every morning and every night I have the same routine. It's meticulous. It works. I could do it with my eyes closed. I could do it drunk. Why? Well it's all about my hearing aids and making sure I don't get halfway to work and wonder why I can feel cold air in my ears and then realise in a panic my hearing aids are somewhere they shouldn't be, not right beside my glasses on my dressing table ready to go in straight after I've finished putting on my make up. OK, so it's vaguely OCD, but it works. In the five years I've had hearing aids, I've forgotten them three times.

8. Bagging benefits

I don't mean the DLA variety. But in life, there are many benefits available to deaf people and I make sure I boldly ask for them all. Things like friends going in free as carers to museums, country houses, zoos and art galleries. Getting pre-board on planes so that you can be the first on, not miss your row being called and let the crew know that you can't hear announcements. Or asking for discounted tickets at the theatre if a subtitled show isn't available – I've done this and taken a script for things I really want to see. The Barbican has an access card, which gets me all kinds of benefits and I could write a whole blog about what else is available. My deafness means I am never afraid to ask – nicely, in a non-demanding but totally, hard-to-say-no-to way.

9. Laughing at myself

Deafness can be embarrassing sometimes – like the time I leant my head out a changing room to lipread my mum, tripped, pulled the whole curtain rail down and found myself flat on my back and naked in the middle of a shop. In those times, you've just got to laugh… and drink gin.

10. Being determined

This is perhaps my favourite thing. I wonder if I'd give up more easily if I had hearing. If I'd take things for granted, be less bothered about things. When I look back at what I've achieved and what I want. At the forecasts from teachers or even my own worst fears, I can see that I somehow found a bloody-minded determination to go after what I want. Of course it wavers in the same way it does for everyone else, but for me, there's always the nagging in the back of my mind that I need to do this, and my deafness isn't going to stop me.

Happy Wednesday peeps! Hurrah – it's Bake Off Semi Final night!

DG x

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