“A lot of nothing,” used to be my dear mum’s most dismissive phrase when she didn’t think much of something. I’ve inherited – or rather, learnt – it from her. I’m not actually using it in a pejorative sense here, as you’ll see below, but it does seem the most apt form of words for all the little things, the little wins and victories, I’m going to talk about – “a lot of nothing”.
It’s funny, but I can actually hear her in my mind’s ear saying it. Not just her lips moving, but her actual voice replaying in my head – the voice I lost for over 30 years and now lost again for good, except in my head. That was one realisation I had this week in talking to my Dad. He mentioned that he could hear her reaction to something I’d said, and, do you know, so could I – no, we aren’t hearing things, but able to recall her voice and imagine her response.
So, even after two years, I’m still noticing subtle incremental changes in my brain and behaviour as well as in new sounds and how I perceive them. Dad and I had a smashing time, literally, going through old crockery: any chipped old plates Mum had kept for sentimental reasons simply had to go. Dad found an old padded cool bag to prevent collateral damage and chips flying everywhere, and we dropped the plates into it, one by one – I’ve heard crockery smashing before, but normally, when a hapless waiter drops something in a busy cafe, though it compels attention, it’s diluted by other sounds. At home with Dad, it was a sharp, pure, cathartic noise.
On Monday I was lucky enough to be working in London and able to take an extended lunch hour to cheer the Olympians and Paralympians in their parade. That was a huge, huge, event. I could hear them coming, even above the excitement of the crowd swirling around me – a huge roar rolled towards us as the first bus came into view further up before we could see it at Ludgate Circus. That happened with the torch relay too – that rolling roar of cheering, an audible sense of people coming together. And Dad texted me in the middle of it, asking where I was in the crowd, as he was looking for me on TV! It really struck me then how technology enables us to connect with one another and share moments across time and space, and it also struck me that for most of that crowd my sentiments would have not meant very much at all. For them it would have been unusual not to hear it, but to me it remains an extraordinary sensation.
Tuesday saw a training course in a small group of people. I was the only deaf person there but having made my needs known in advance the trainer accommodated them. The course was mostly interactive, in any case, but for me the most amazing part was being able to follow the whole day without requiring communication support. That would not be the case with every course, but given the structure, a very personable tutor with a clear voice and lip-patterns, and the limited numbers, it was possible on this occasion. The previous day’s meeting before the parade, by contrast, involved much-needed BSL interpretation with two very quiet presenters and many questions from the floor.
I think back to a wonderful course I went on several years ago with BSL communication support throughout, and feeling empowered because I could follow everything, plus going to the pub afterwards and following all the conversation (previously only possible with those hearing friends that really ‘got it’ or the Bear and a couple of other friends, for example). It’s a similar sense of empowerment, now, that I can tailor my communication support according to the circumstances.
Wednesday involved a visit to an old friend and hearing her cat licking its fur, a tiny little rasping sound. That might seem a funny thing to home in on after two years – but I don’t know many people with cats, actually.
Yesterday involved a visit to the new hairdressers in the next village and, wonderfully, being invited to sit and discuss my hair before having it washed. So with both my CI and my glasses on, I had every tool at my disposal to talk to the hairdresser. This was my most successful cut ever, and I’m sure it was down to being able to have that proper consultation first, not peering through a bedraggled fringe sans glasses. (And I can book appointments by e-mail too.) Talking of which, the next stop was the opticians and the news that I need varifocals. Hmm. I’m showing my age. Like the hairdressers, it was a new opticians – I decided to go to the people who’d made up my last new glasses for testing this time, as I’d been impressed with them. Again, I was perfectly able to converse with a stranger in the dark or behind the lens machine thingy.
Today involved the Sally Army, tambourines and swishing ribbons, bringing back memories of the annual visit to our road when I was younger. As a cul-de-sac it was a perfect stopping point for them, and hearing them today was a recovered memory. That was how it used to be, and you know, I do wish Mum was here to remember it with me.
This hasn’t really been “a lot of nothing”. It’s been a random collection of very minor stuff that adds up to a bigger picture of quite something. Even after two years. I suppose you could say that varifocals have been the theme of the week. As with my new glasses, I have lots of different perspectives going on.