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It’s been a very exciting week or two in one way or another, so here’s a wee post just to say what I’ve been up to and to let you know something concrete of my progress in various fields.

Last week we went to London to see a captioned performance of The Railway Children which was completely fabulous in every sense – brilliant acting with a lot of audience participation, imaginative and clever stage sets, making use of the defunct Eurostar platform at Waterloo, excellent captioning – and I loved being able to hear all the sound effects. Previously I would certainly have felt the train “thundering” past, but to hear it, and all the other effects, was amazing. Indeed, being able to hear the cast added a new dimension in itself.

The next day I went for listening therapy or “rehab” which always makes me think that I’m some sleb checking into the Priory. We did some pairs work first: pairs of words which sound similar, e.g. the beginning of the word can be easily confused with another sound. The therapist reads out two similar words then will randomly repeat one or the other to see how well I can tell which one she’s saying, e.g. cheers or jeers. I normally do quite well with this task, as I can usually hear how the initial letter modifies the vowels trotting after, however subtle the difference might be. It’s one respect in which my lipreading skills are standing me in good stead: no, I’m not cheating or peeking, but because I could see that difference on the lips before, it makes it easier to hear now.

Early this week I added a completely unexpected new sound to my repertoire. It sounded like a very deep and very loud rasping breath being exhaled but very sudden and very sharp. I was reading in bed with my CI still on, though the Bear was already asleep. The noise startled me, especially as I couldn’t place it, but as Bear didn’t stir, I thought nothing more of it and a few minutes later snuggled down. I was just drifting off when I was prodded awake again. “I’ve heard something odd. I’m going down to take a look.”

Well, I had twin thoughts prompting me to pop my ear back on: to keep myself out of danger and make myself more useful to Bear. Down we went expecting to confront an intruder. No-one lurking, so we opened the front door and – FREEEEAAAKKKKKKK – a car was blocking the way out, having demolished our porch. I’m not totally sure what it was I heard but probably the sound of the airbags inflating on the impact (the impact itself was considerably softened by our poor dead and uprooted shrubs). It’s not a sound you expect to hear and it was unlike anything I’ve heard up to now, so it’s not really surprising that I didn’t know what it was. Had it been a loud BANG then both of us would have been bolt upright, I’m sure.

Actually, I added another sound to my repertoire afterwards – the noise of the recovery vehicle which nearly deafened me again after its arrival at 3am. Sorry to all our neighbours!!!

On a much happier note, we attended a wedding at a Baptist church yesterday. I had no difficulty at all in understanding the service itself, and probably got about 70% of the address, which clearly involved a much more ‘open’ and less predictable set of words including the Hebrew and Greek words for ‘love’. In fact, it was interesting, well-informed, to the point, and brief (we once went to a Midnight Mass where the vicar expounded a lengthy sermon: an object lesson in how NOT to meet the needs of your audience.) The wedding hymns were modern, and sung with rather more gusto than is usual in an Anglican environment, where congregational participation tends generally to be polite and restrained, though I should qualify that by saying that acoustics, architecture, musicianship , the type of service, and the height up the candle* also play their part. In the singing every word had its full expressive value, and I could actually pick out the voices of the two young ladies who were sitting at the end of our row, giving the music the full gospel treatment. That’s progress!

* height up the candle: measure of how ‘high’ or ‘low’ a church is, usually, but not necessarily confined to, within the C of E. Using the same script, but with different stage directions, is a good way of putting it, and the higher up the candle the more ‘smells and bells’. Actually, church is rather a good form of rehab. The words are familiar, but the context differs from church to church, perhaps sung rather than said, or with a bit of tinntinnabulation here and there if the service is a little higher up the candle than most. The readings and sermons are of course different each time, and introduce a greater level of unpredictability, with different speakers and different themes, though the readings should be on the pew sheet: the dreaded microphone hiss is occasionally in evidence, fragmenting the spoken word round the edges into sibilant noise. The readings often present unfamiliar and challenging words (though I don’t think I’ve had Nebuchadnezzar yet). One of the best readers I’ve heard was a theatre chaplain. And, of course, there is the live music element, at its best in a cathedral setting. To be able to follow, and to join in independently, rather than relying on Bear’s index finger, makes me feel part of what’s going on. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

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