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So many things fall into the ‘before and after’ category it’s hard to know where to start, but this morning’s ride on my little trike (a Pashley Tri-1) seems as good an entry point as any. The Bear was tootling off on a bike ride with someone from his local bike group who happens to be deaf, so I wanted to tag along and meet him before waving them off (while I’d like to be more adventurous I need to get fitter first!) So we had a bit of a chat then off the two chaps went, heading for a pub in the next city . . .

After they’d gone I circumnavigated our village on the way home (via the local coffee shop of course, so much nicer than BigBucks or CostaLotta, where you get a chat and a home-made piece of chocolate cake – oh, OK, home-made chocolate cake doesn’t do much for my fitness, I will concede) and after staying on the path on the main road I took to the road itself at a point where there is far less traffic. Not much of an adventure to you, maybe, but not something I would ever have contemplated solo pre-implant. I was always reliant on the Bear to be my ears when we crossed or went onto roads, especially round bends. With my wing mirror and “new ear”, I felt confident that I would both see and hear approaching traffic and off I went: a small triumph.

As I went along I could hear an aircraft noise but it didn’t sound like an aeroplane, so when I finally stopped and managed to locate it, it turned out to be a helicopter. I’ve never forgotten the time when the Bear visited me at my flat in Pork Vale, as he calls the Valley-of-the-Pigs, on a sunny day like today. My old flat was in a group of modern purpose-built flats huddled together round a little green, at the rear of a former farm, screened by a small wood. I was waiting outside for him, sitting on the grass, reading my book, when he turned up from the North. Did I get a smile or a kiss? No! He bundled me inside and locked the door, and once locked, he enveloped me in a Bear hug, exclaiming “Thank God you’re safe!” As he’d drawn up, he’d heard a helicopter, and as he got out he could hear a loudhailer from the copter calling to some criminal on the loose: “We can see you: give yourself up now!” I’d been utterly oblivious and hadn’t even noticed any downdraught, since it was quite a breezy day anyway. Just think: I could have looked up, and seen, not a Bear, but the Big Bad Wolf out of the Woods . . .

Well, we’ve had triumph, and near-tragedy (!), how about a little comic relief? I love the sound of laughter, and it’s amazed me how individual laughter is too, from a little heh-heh-heh (people really do do this) to a high-pitched wheezing noise to rumbly chuckly sounds. Group laughter is fantastic – at family dos, in the pub, or at church on Easter day when we were sprinkled with water at the dawn service. My own laugh, like my speech, has apparently changed, a bit less of the creaking-door effect, so I’m told. As an aside, I have always wondered whether deafness affects other sounds we make: laughter, sneezing, coughing. Now the hay-fever season is upon us, I shall have to get folks to see if I sneeze differently now.

There was a milestone this week. A former colleague had a really loud and strange laugh which used to reverberate throughout the entire room (and it’s a big one, believe me). My then manager used to roll his eyes in a way that told me specifically that he could hear THAT laugh. It actually did have a visual impact on me: it used to look really irritating for the response to small talk or a mild joke to result in the head being thrown back in a way that I’ve never seen anyone else do, not even on a satirical programme – it was partly a nervous thing, I think, but it was so frequent and overdone I could understand why it became disruptive. Well, we were treated to a visit the other day: dah-dah-DAH-DAH-DAH-HAAAAHHHHOOOOOO unexpectedly drilled through my skull like the woodpecker I can hear when I walk round the corner.

“Was it all you hoped for, and more?” was the general enquiry afterwards, followed by all sorts of different wry chuckles.

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