At an RSPB conference today with my friend who is creating a community garden, I was (somewhat ironically) the ears of the operation.
I was there to listen, as much as anything. Some of it was very interesting, some of it wasn’t so interesting. I sifted through the information and noted down details which may be useful for the community garden project I’m helping with. The presentations lasted for several hours, but my Auditory Processing abilities were up to the task. I met some new people, saw some tanks of pond life and learned more about what we can do to encourage wildlife to thrive in urban areas. There was also the best free buffet lunch I have ever eaten.
On my way home from the local train station I was on my bike waiting for the lights to change at a Crossroads junction. The motorcyclist behind me kept revving his engine despite the red light, raring to go. That was worrying me a bit. When the light turned green I had to cycle uphill from a standing start, and it takes a few seconds to get momentum going. I heard the motorbike engine start and a voice behind me shout,
“You’ve got gears, you know!”
In the past, I would have never heard clearly enough to pick up all the words from a voice:
• Behind me
• Muffled by a motorcycle helmet
• Surrounded by traffic sounds
And I wouldn’t have had the quick processing and presence of mind to yell back, while cycling,
“You’ve got an engine! It’s alright for you!”
I spent another day working for the gardening company. Over the past few weeks I’ve been working a day or a few days a week for them.
Most of the today was clearing leaves in a community park into big dumping bags, then emptying the bags into the back of the tipper van, keeping track of the number I emptied so that the supervisor knew how much material was in the van. My bags only counted as half bags because I can’t lift a full one. For my size I’m reasonably strong, but a huge sack full of leaves can be surprisingly heavy. We weeded borders, forked over beds and edged the lawns.
At the end of the day, the boss came to check on us and took a minute to talk to me. He offered me a full-time job.
I couldn’t believe it. Last night I joined a band, today I was being offered a job.
What a great opportunity! But here was the dilemma…..How could I keep doing everything I do now, while working full-time?
I just joined a band, I run a small jewellery repair business, I’m writing a book about Auditory Processing Disorder, helping with a community garden project, I go to lip reading classes, a college night class and volunteer at a botanic garden.
A few years back, I could not have imagined myself doing any of this, or having enough energy to do more than one of these things. My life has improved so much since then.
What an amazing opportunity! And yet, I was so tired after the physically demanding work, and working full-time would mean giving up everything else I did during the week.
A few years ago I wouldn’t have had the clear thinking, presence of mind and confidence to thank my boss and then ask if I could have a day to think about it.
I think that Kevin might be dead. He’s lost another leg and is thin. When I carefully unhooked him from where he was hanging, he didn’t move, in a floppy way. I put him on some leaves and tried feeding him a piece of leaf sprayed with water, but he didn’t stir. I think his eyes were closed.
He may not be dead, and it’s always hard to tell with stick insects. He’s at the grand old age of a year and a few months. If a stick insect may be dead, I usually give them a week just to make sure.
Today felt like the most exciting day of my life so far. I’ve been practicing like mad to learn a song sent to me, by a band looking for a drummer. Their music is really good- if I heard that song on the radio, I would like it! I would love to play music with them.
I practiced, waited, and angsted. What if they didn’t want me if my playing was rubbish tonight? What if they were way beyond my level anyway? They might not like me! I smile too much to be edgy and cool! What if my Auditory Processing difficulties pick tonight to go nuts and I can’t hear them properly. Will they think I’m stupid or not interested in them? The list of worries and what ifs? went on and on.
I could have cycled to the train station, but I was so excited I thought I might get taken out by traffic. My mum gave me a lift to the station.
I had never been so excited about a musical event, ever.
After getting off the train and texting a description of myself (purple/pink jacket, green backpack, probably smiling), a car pulled up and two guys got out and waved, asking if I was Jenny.
In the car we chatted. They were really nice and told me not to be nervous. They were the bandleader/ lead guitarist, whose Gumtree advert I replied to, and the rhythm guitarist. The small studio they drove to was amazing. Posters of famous bands on the walls, a padded ceiling, sound-absorbing boards on the walls, a soundboard hanging on one wall, music equipment everywhere. And there was a drum kit. The cymbals and hi hats were beautiful. Shimmering sounds. The crash had some almost silvery white tones, which is unusual.
Altogether there were five of us, and I wasn’t the only girl there! They were all really fun, kind cheery people who made me feel welcome.
All set up, we started with the piece I’d learned by ear and they’d rehearsed previously. Having people to play with, and give a backing to was amazing. I loved being an important part of the music, keeping the beat and playing those pretty cymbals. The bass drum slid forward a bit on the rug, and the singer shoved it back for me in the middle of the song.
Hearing vocal cues was difficult. Hearing most of what they said was hard, with the background sounds of instruments and a brain only wanting to think about drumming. But I listened hard and picked up when I was meant to come in and the words relating to different parts of the song, something I could never have managed in the past.
Their music was even better than in the recording. They’re all really good musicians. I have never had so much fun playing music in my life, and just went for it.
The bandleader said I did brilliant! They played some other songs, both of which were really good, and I did my best with adding some drums. At the end, they gave me a lift home.
Dozing off in bed that night, I got a text with a picture of me and the bandleader in front of a Led Zeppelin poster at the studio, saying well done and see you next week. I’m in a band!
Getting to sleep was quite difficult.
This morning I started the process of applying for a student loan.
Putting in some fresh bramble leaves for the Sticks after cleaning their tanks, I realised that Kevin has lost a leg. It was at the bottom of the tank. Poor Kev. Wonder how that happened. I hope he didn’t have (and lose) and fight with his tank-mate, Sticky.
I have the best new toy in the world, and I’m not allowed to play with it.
This morning I got a lift from my mum to Glasgow centre to buy an electric drum kit. I’ve been saving for months to get one, painting walls, gardening, selling and repairing jewellery. With my new two days’ wages added to the pot, I finally had enough for the (within budget) electric kit of my dreams. I bought it and between us, we carried it back to where the car was parked. We must have looked a sight, carrying this huge box, the included seat in a bag in one of my hands. I had to walk backwards, and I was so tired from work and so happy with my big box of drums that I kept giggling and struggling to keep a hold on it.
Finally we got it into the car.
Getting it out of the car and up to the door was harder because I was laughing too hard to pick it up.
The idea is that when I’m banned from the noisy attic acoustic kit, I can practice on a quieter electric kit in my room. This means more happy tapping away, without disturbing everyone else too much.
Back home I put it together and started tapping away. Very soon, it seemed, there were complaints. The creaky floor of my room seemed to be an amplifier for the pedals, like a soundbox or echo chamber, driving anyone watching telly beneath me to distraction. Apparently, It’s louder downstairs than it is upstairs.
It can make all kinds of different sounds, from steel drums to disc squeaks. It may be the best thing I have ever bought.
I arrived a little early at the yard. In the yard was an office portacabin, a shipping container full of tools and machines, compost and waste bins at the back, and the vans.
Something I learned early on is that the gardeners and boss are all really nice people. Not sure what to do with myself, I put my backpack in the container and helped with loading the vans.
The boss gave me a van to go in. It’s quite fun sitting in a van. Three seats in the front, and a ton of gardening equipment in the back. Me, and supervisor and a cheerful Italian gardener.
Our supervisor’s blackberry kept beeping. He said that if he opened a window, we should grab it so he couldn’t throw it out. He hates his phone.
We sorted out someone’s lawn in my town, then did another lawn up some stairs at the back of some flats. I got to use a leaf-blower backpack. One of those Ghostbuster things. It’s fun, but feels really strange because the turbine makes it buzz against your back.
The last, and longest job was at a huge house in the countryside. We worked to tidy up, divide perennials and replant a huge garden. Luckily this was something I’ve done before at work experience.
The woman living in the house was really kind. She left the door open so that tea and coffee was available, and I could use her toilet. While we were working, her two huge dogs played around us, sometimes pestering us and wanting to play fetch and be petted.
We were there for several hours. I liked working with them. My new Italian friend whistled and sometimes sang in Italian as he worked, and our supervisor was really friendly and funny, just stressed out by his phone.
The lady in the house came back and gave us some cakes and tea for us to eat, not taking no for an answer.
By the time we got back to the yard it was after six. I decided to walk home rather than get the bus, which was a silly idea. After getting used to cycling, walking a mile or two feels like it takes forever, and I was really tired after a day of gardening.
My first day at work was quite a good day.