All these memories of things I’ve heard are starting to float to the surface. They’ve been sunk for a long time: the sands covering the wreckage of my hearing are starting to shift, dislodging all sorts of things. Stuff like the last thing I ever heard, really, was a noisy classroom where my ineffectual, fresh-out-of-college, ladylike teacher was unable to keep order when faced with a comprehensive class full of boys who wanted to show off physically, mixed with boys and girls who had dominant personalities and wanted to show off academically and socially. (She moved to a girls’ school within a year, but, poor unfortunate, she took us for RE, English, and Drama, so she was nominally in charge of us rather too much of the time for her own well-being.) It was an overcrowded class of probably 40 12-year-olds, easily, and the tinnitus I got after I went deaf sounded just like the hubbub of that disruptive class. I really resented them then, actually. I hated that noise being the last thing I heard, but I’d forgotten that for 30 years.

By contrast, the French teacher I had expected me to keep on top of things. He wouldn’t EVER allow my attention to wander or to daydream, as I did so easily when the class read out a sentence each from the story in the book. I used to work out which sentence was going to be mine and wait for the girl next to me to nudge me, and immerse myself in the written French. He’d make us try and guess whether he was saying the third person singular or third person plural of a new irregular verb, and would always pounce on me, and make me guess it by lipreading. I got quite good at looking for the slightly different patterns on the lips, but I found it really hard sometimes. He had a slightly off-the-wall sense of humour, an extremely sarcastic and exacting personality, but was completely fair and stood no nonsense. Best of all, he didn’t make me wear the dreaded radio aid!

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