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The classic view of Durham Cathedral from Prebends Bridge.

I spent the weekend with my closest friend – whom I haven’t seen since I was activated as we live so far apart – and besides having lots of laughs and fun (and a drinkie or two) it was an incredible experience all round. For the first time ever I was able to hear her, her husband, and children. We’ve known each other for a quarter of a century, since uni, and I HAVE NEVER HEARD HER BEFORE!!!

As if that wasn’t enough to make me squeal with excitement I was able to talk more to her children, and even tell their voices apart. I’ve always found it quite difficult to follow young children in general as their mouths don’t form words in the same way as adults’ do, and they find the whole looking at the person thing difficult to keep up, because their attention is naturally caught by other things. My friend’s children are better than most as mummy is also deaf, but inevitably I didn’t always catch the beginning of what they were saying, so I could at times struggle to keep up. Now I can chat much more happily to my goddaughters and give them more back. I could also listen out for her dog, whose clinking tag gave away her movements around the house, and who made little huffy-puffy half-growly noises when I played with her, something I largely missed out on with my own dog (since I went completely deaf shortly after getting her many years ago). I also think she was well impressed at the rapidity of my response when she called me and I came trotting upstairs.

The children get a bedtime story each in the living room every night from their dad, so I was able to listen in, in a new form of rehab, to Five Go Adventuring Again and to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I did quite well with following those familiar stories dredged up from memory. Who’d have thought Enid Blyton would make good grown-up rehab?! But yeah, the five of us plus the dog had a grand time.

The thing is, those who know us well are incredibly perceptive, and sometimes know us better than we know ourselves. In conversation it turned out that she had felt that lipreading was making me more and more tired, and that my speech had been going down a little prior to my CI. In fact, frightened as I was of having a CI in my pre-implant days, I was starting to feel that it was taking an increasing effort to understand and be understood: my lipreading and speech skills have always been good, but after thirty years of total silence it was a battle that I was beginning to lose as my auditory memories were understandably fading away. The Thirty Years’ War, if you like.

It was a weekend of firsts. On the way up, I actually got a random announcement on the train, not one of the usual “We are now arriving at London Paddington” variety. The disembodied voice informed us that we were now 16 minutes late departing Birmingham New Street. I’ve been associated with Durham Cathedral for as long as I’ve known my friend, for the university we were at together was Durham, but until now I’ve never been able to hear the wonderful acoustics of the Cathedral for myself. Sitting at the front and hearing the voices soaring up towards the tower, neither drowning out the organ nor being drowned out by it, I made a great leap forward. Since switch-on I’ve been able to hear the words of music – though not necessarily understand them – and a general sort of up-and-down-ness, but melody just hasn’t happened for me until now. Rhythm I got immediately – it was all I was able to get previously when I could only feel music – and I knew I was getting more, but not understanding it, when the beat through my fingertips and everything else crammed into my ear seemed like two different pieces of music. Finally, listening to Palestrina’s setting, it all married up together.

You know, I was married there. I missed all that. I’m holding out for doing it again – with sound effects this time *grins*.