This post is an antidote to one posted in May – the one called I Give Up. I Give Up was about deciding that some activity or other had passed beyond the realms of the possible. For the sake of your sanity it was best to give up on it and look for new things that you COULD do. The examples I gave were going to the theatre (I find captioned performances pointless because my hearing is now so poor that I have to watch the captions the whole time, completely missing the visual experience of the play) and attending events at a particular local venue. The post was re-posted by the Limping Chicken (thank you Limping Chicken) and elicited lots of responses on captioned performances. Some people had had the same experience as me and some urged me to try again. One comment mentioned a theatre group called Graeae, who produce theatre specifically for the deaf (both lip readers and British Sign Language users). Their performances somehow integrate captions into the performance itself (I don’t know how) as well as BSL. I looked them up and they are performing a play by Lorca at Manchester’s Royal Exchange in February, so a friend and I have booked. It sounds like an interesting experience, at the very least.
Then there was the certain local venue. I wrote in the previous post of the impossibility of understanding speakers in this vast hall, especially when (in the words of one friend) they are bearded archaeology chaps mumbling into the microphone. I love archaeology, but my experience of the annual events held at this venue had become too dispiriting for words. I was happy to give them up.
But then a few months ago another event was organised, at the same venue, about the impact of the Romans on this part of Britain. I wanted to go. I REALLY wanted to go – but I argued with myself about whether I should book. I remembered the time I had to leave at lunchtime, fed up and exhausted by struggling to hear and not being able to. However, cutting a long story short, I booked. I couldn’t resist it.
This time I knew the organiser – and he wears hearing aids. So I contacted him, saying that I needed the loop to be switched on (oh…..the venues where they think loops work by magic…..) but more importantly than that, I had to be able to see the face of the speaker even if/when the lights went out. A loop without lip reading is no good for me. I would bag a seat at the front and hope that a combination of everything would work. I also volunteered to make the tea/coffee, of which more in a minute.
On the day I turned up early to reserve my front row seat only to find that my friend Jill had got there even earlier and bagged three or four seats for us hearing-challenged people, virtually within touching distance of where the speakers would be. Then the organiser saw me, confirmed that he had personally tested the loop, and showed me a contraption he had rigged up whereby a light on the speakers’ podium lit their faces. Aren’t people wonderful? Thank you thank you.
I had a fantastic day, being able to follow almost all of the speakers really well, even when the lights went out. I’d taken the Roger pen as a back-up, but didn’t need it. I even heard well enough to remember afterwards what people had said. This may sound odd but it’s a well-known phenomenon that we deafies expend so much energy deciphering speech we retain much less of what we hear. Or as some would say – in one ear and out the other.
There WAS a problem, which was that the speakers said they were blinded by the light in their faces and couldn’t see the audience, which became an issue at question time. So if there is a next time the position of the light needs to be thought about – I don’t want to make life harder for others and I’m sure there’s a solution that would keep everyone happy.
Back to the tea and coffee making. I find the tea breaks at these events a trial. The incredible hubbub of a hundred or more people chatting away, greeting friends and making new ones, renders speech incomprehensible to me. And there’s a limit to the number of times you can drag someone away to a quieter spot where you can hear them. After all, they are ENJOYING themselves in that noise. So it can be miserable. Having something practical to do made all the difference, and “tea” or “coffee” are quite easy to tell apart on the lips. (“May I have a glass of cold water” was a bit more challenging). Seriously, it felt good to have a role and to be in the middle of things, rather than slinking off on my own.
Altogether the day was a big success. I still feel that it’s important to accept that there are things I can’t do any more, and to find new things that I CAN do, but I am also grateful for the feedback I received to the first post. People said, essentially, be careful not to give up too easily. So I stand by both posts and plough on, trying to find ways to make things possible.