I found a space for my huge second-hand ride cymbal. It has a beautiful, dark gold, metallic, sparkling sound. The noise kind of spreads in a circular wave from a spark in the place I hit it. Cymbals are some of the few musical instruments that sound a bit like how they look. My teacher said ride cymbals are the most important cymbal after the crash. It kind of blocks access to the printer and the attic computer’s disc drive, unless you have unusually long and bendy arms, but it had to go somewhere. Music sounds better with more cymbals.
I had my first lesson with a real live drum teacher. Until now I’ve been watching web tutorials, which are great, but no match for the real thing.
It was the best music lessons I’d had in years. My teacher is a friendly, talented drummer about my age. It was fun and there’s no pressure. Yeah, I’m going to get a grade book to learn from, but that doesn’t mean I’ll have to sit an exam. There’s no music courses I’m going to be reluctantly packed off to, enforced practice time, or pressure on my teacher to turn me into a musician worthy of the funding they receive for training me.
I’m having fun learning an instrument again, just for the joy of playing music.
Today I have a job interview at the local pet shop. I’m feeling more excited than nervous. Here’s hoping my brain, ears and mouth are in a cooperating mood. I could use the money, and I miss having some small furries to care for. I love animals, and mostly, they seem to like me too.
Just in case I misheard the time of my interview when they called me last week, I phoned the shop to confirm the time. In 45 mins I’ll be leaving to go to my first job interview.
It went really well I think, although since there are also vet school candidates applying, that will lower my chances of a job.
My hearing was great, I felt relaxed, my brain was working with me, and I answered the questions as best I could.
I mentioned my hearing, and how I go to lip reading and British Sign Language classes, when asked about what I’m studying. I said that my hearing is almost as good as anyone’s nowadays thanks to therapy, but I think that my listening skills spoke for themselves today.
Even if I don’t get a job, I feel like I’ve passed a new milestone of being able to talk confidently and fluently to people, while feeling a little under pressure.
So far, most people are in favour of the project, but on the way to my friend’s house, I got stopped for half an hour by a couple who were against it. I went over the plans with them and we discussed how if the project went ahead despite their feelings, things could be done differently to make them as comfortable as possible. Their house looks onto the plot of land and they say they paid extra for the view. Fair enough. They weren’t angry with me, and I didn’t give them any reason to be. It’s hard to be angry with someone who’s smiling and quite happy to talk to you, and as I pointed out, I’m just a gardener. With any luck I will be working on the project, but it’s my friend who’s the boss and who does all the paperwork. I’m a minion, and not in charge of anything. I assured them I’d tell my friend all their concerns and ask her to email them. I showed them a plan of the area from my backpack so they could see what the garden might look like.
We spent a few hours going around houses and flats asking people what they thought about the planned community garden.
Every door we knocked on was different. There was a boy in a dressing-gown looking poorly whose parents were out and he didn’t want to talk to us. Someone ranted passionately for twenty minutes against putting a fence around the site, so we decided not to have a fence. A woman kindly invited us into the warmth of her flat to sit on her couch and discuss the plan. Her huge St. Bernard dog gazed into my face with big soulful eyes, while he sat on my friend’s foot. Another woman invited us in to see the lovely flat she’d just redecorated. And a man stuck his head and bare shoulders around the door, and said “This is not a good time”.
Talking to the public was not as scary as I thought. Although working in a pair helped me feel more confident, my hearing wasn’t too much of an issue.
I didn’t know what to expect when I went to meet my friend in town. She has a project for her charity organization: to create a community garden in an unused piece of land which everyone in the nearby area can enjoy and learn about plants, vegetable growing and healthy living. As a gardener-in-training, I’m excited to be helping with her project.
We walked up to the plot to take a look at it. Her plan is to leave two thirds of it more or less as it is, as a wildlife area. The other part will be raised vegetable beds, with a polytunnel and picnic area.
In a local cafe she generously bought me a cup of tea and we discussed what to tell people about the project. English is her second language. She speaks it very fluently, but since it’s my first language I was useful for making sure it sounded like plain English.
We both have Auditory Processing Difficulties and it amazes me how she copes with talking in a different language from her own. She told me once, that (like I used to) sometimes she just pretends to understand what people say. In the cafe, there was distracting music. We both had some hearing misunderstandings, but we got there. Once we had something written down, she suggested we talk to people in the local area today, as part of a Community Consultation. We rehearsed on the way to the plot, concentrating so hard on remembering that we accidentally walked down the wrong road.
We decided to talk to people together, for solidarity and because two pairs of slightly troublesome ears are better than one.
We were walking up the start of one woman’s driveway when we got nervous and decided to practice again. Back down at the gate, we heard the front door open, and realised that our first person was watching us through a hole in the hedge. That kicked off our first, slightly awkward try at Community Consulting. After a few houses, it got easier.
I did a lot of the talking. The novelty of being able to chat to people thanks to my improved hearing hasn’t worn off yet, and I enjoyed explaining about the project and asking them what they thought about it. People were friendly and happy to discuss plans for the project. Almost everyone seemed to like the idea of the patch of land being turned into a community vegetable garden.
We went around maybe 20 houses, writing down names, addresses and Yes or No. There was a very reassuring amount of Yesses.
By the end of the afternoon I was glad to be going home to get out of the winter cold, but I felt very happy to have achieved something I could never have managed before.
Checking my emails, I found the first ever post in the Forum page, which just made my week!
Also, I have an interview on Sunday for a job at the local pet shop.
Tomorrow is my first exam in British Sign Language Level 1.
Life is exciting.
Kevin the Stick Insect has eaten all his leaves. He’s stretched vertically between the tops of twigs from the water pot and the tank ceiling. In his entire lifespan, this is probably the closest Kevin has ever got to being a stick. His greatest achievement. Congratulations, Kevin.
Four years ago, I was selling jewellery at my this Christmas Craft fair, when I realised that Christmas Carols have actual words. Today was my sixth year selling there.
I could hear the Christmas music in the Town Hall even better than I could last year, but mostly tuned it out.
This year was more profitable than the last. Mainly because of the polymer clay dragons, a Loch Ness monster and something like a pink pom-pom with sharp teeth and wings, that I’d made. I was a little disappointed about how many people thought I was trying to sell them dinosaurs. Most dinosaurs didn’t have wings. Luckily the kids understood, and bought most of the cheap, miniature dragons at the front of my stall.
One of my friends from Lip Reading came to see me, despite her bad hip. That brightened up my night. As well as a pair of earrings, she bought a dragon with a last-puppy-in-the-shop expression and colourful wings. I love my friends from Lip Reading. Sometimes I feel like I have lots of caring grandparents. Of course she got a discount.
In the noisy hall, hearing customers was no problem. Unfortunately, maths was, but that’s what calculators were invented for.
My room is a lonely place without Pumpkin and for some reason I’ve been hiccupping all day.
In the morning we buried Pumpkin. She was wrapped up in her nest, still looking like she was sound asleep. I put her and her nest in a cardboard box crammed full of hamster food, treats, the Pumpkin seeds she liked to eat that I got from our Halloween lanterns, and some sparkly sequins. The box was heavy with snacks, because like how people prefer to be buried in their best clothes, any self-respecting hamster would want a big food hoard for the next life. I miss her.
On the subject of hearing, and my still-developing social skills, my mum said that she’s noticed something new about how I talk. I’ve started to use a new tone of voice : Wheedling.
A Wheedling tone of voice is required when you want another hour of drum practice, but your family really don’t. So far, as long as everyone’s in a fairly good mood and I have a suitably hangdog expression, Wheedling seems to be pretty effective.
Tones of voice are only something you can learn when you actually hear them. Otherwise anger, sarcasm, fear, happiness, friendliness and loathing all sound kind of the same. In other words, before Johansen IAS and, sadly, during most of my time at school, I had all the social graces of a brick.
The first thing I did when I woke up was check on Pumpkin, remembering how strangely quiet last night had been. Normally there’s chewing, rustling, food-munching noises, her water bottle clicking, the swishing noise of Emily’s old rat wheel and the pitter-patter of tiny feet as she potters and stomps around all night, doing hamster things. Rustling her food bag and gently tugging on the edge of her nest normally wakes her, but there was no response.
Snuggled up in her nest, under layers of kitchen paper, Pumpkin looked like she was asleep. But she felt cold and stiff. In case she was hibernating, I wrapped her in the bottom of my t-shirt, but she didn’t stir. She was stiff and didn’t warm up, still frozen curled up in an adorable sleeping position when I turned her over. My hands glowed bright turquoise, but she only had the faintest traces of grey and yellow. Her colours were gone.
There was a little blood on her nose and a spot on her fur, so she must have had a bleed and died in her sleep. I’m happy that she had a good life and a peaceful death in her sleep and never had to see a vet. I’m sad for myself because I’ll miss her. I miss her fluffy warmness and feeding her with her front paws resting on one of my fingers while she picked around whatever treats were on my hand, fussily choosing her favourites and pouching them.
I grabbed my backpack, a box of cupcakes I made last night for tea-break at Lip Reading, my BLS notes for college tonight, and my iPod (stuck halfway through the appropriately sad song, “I’m Lost Without You”), then headed for the bus stop.
I’m glad it was only the mock BSL exam tonight, because if it was the real thing, I would have failed. I sat in front of my teacher, brain going blank apart from Pumpkin. She tried to prompt me, but it didn’t work.
On the train home I met some old friends from school. One of them was getting off at my stop. I mentioned my BSL and Lip Reading classes when she asked what I was doing next year and told her (kind of nervously) about my hearing. I explained how I didn’t really hear anything people said at school. Most of the time I just smiled and nodded. If she thought that I was quiet, confused or distant, that was why.
What she said was that it must have been really hard for me. How did I cope at school? She would have cried. This put things in a new perspective for me.
Every time I tell someone about my APD, I get a little less nervous about it. Generally, people are accepting, instead of wanting to avoid me. They suddenly know what was different about me. I didn’t talk to them not because I was rude, quiet or just uninterested in them. I couldn’t hear properly. Now that I can hear properly after Johansen IAS therapy, what a conversation we can have! I finally had a chance to talk to her, and she wanted to talk to me too.
I got to know her better in ten minutes of chatting as we walked home, than in two whole years of school. For the first time ever, we had a proper conversation. I feel like I’ve made a great new friend, despite officially already knowing her.
With my new hearing, it sometimes feels like I’m doing everything for the first time again. It’s not as if I’ve been given a second chance at life, it’s more like I’ve been given an entire second life. And this time, the odds aren’t so stacked against me.
Back home I adjusted the ladder in Pumpkin’s cage which she always pulls to one side, then remembered that she wouldn’t have a problem getting down it anymore.
I couldn’t sleep for ages because it was so quiet without her. For over two years I’ve gone to sleep with a cacophony of busy hamster noises in my room. Tonight I realised how silent it was. I got Emily (the first hamster) just as my hearing was starting to improve. All the loud sounds that I used to hear (the fridge downstairs, creaks, electric squeaks, my family’s breathing, the pipes, distant traffic as loud as planes, sometimes even my heartbeat) before noisy hamsters drowned them out, were no longer there. It was weird. And kind of peaceful.