Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Hearing is Believing

His temper, therefore, must be well observed:
Chide him for faults, and do it reverently,
When thou perceive his blood inclined to mirth;
But, being moody, give him line and scope,
Till that his passions, like a whale on ground,
Confound themselves with working.
William Shakespeare (Henry IV, Part 2. Act IV, Scene IV)

I RECALL LISTENING to the Beatles’ White Album with headphones, with the sound turned up just as high as I could take it, and it was very loud. I can still hear the echoes of the peculiar Revolution 9. Number nine. Number nine. Number nine. Of course, that track was not played often. I preferred Helter Skelter and While my Guitar Gently Weeps and Glass Onion. And I turned up the dial.

This afternoon I am listening, it happens, to the compilation of songs by John Lennon under the title Working Class Hero. Under the headphones. All louder than recommended. However, this late in the game, I’m rather deaf and I tend to crank up everything I can: the television, the radio, the stereo. In order not to bother my upstairs neighbours (who often disturb me), I will use headphones if I've heard footfalls overhead. If I’ve seen the car leave, the music rocks through the flat.

This morning I had the alarm set for 6.15, and it did wake me. I was well away in dreams involving my former boss at AIG. When he finally dies I'll tell everybody what a ridiculous fuck he was. These are reoccurring dreams, nightmares really, where I am in a panic trying to balance accounts. I was glad for the alarm.

I had to catch the 518 bus and the only one that that would get me to my appointment at the Hearing Clinic at the Alnwick Infirmary left the High Street at 7.52. I was not happy to discover a grey, rainy day. Stepping outside I discovered it was also rather cold. I stepped back inside and grabbed a coat, first time in a week. I’ve been spoiled.

The school children are on holiday this week, so the bus was very nearly empty. The driver exhibited all the signs of a stinking cold, or worse. I was glad to get past him. The bus’s windows were muddied and fogged up, the heating was not on. Not the nicest way to travel on a day like today. I’d guess there were four other passengers on the lower deck, and one more boarded the bus en route. She had a couple of dozen empty seats to sit on, but she sat next to me. Why in the world did she do that? She could have sat on double empty seats in front, directly behind and across from me, and elsewhere, and upstairs. She pushed up against me with her wet raincoat. I had to take my hands out of my pockets, where I was trying to warm them, to make room for the blasted woman.

Of course, the interloper got off at the same bus stop that I did. My first thought was that she might also be going to the Infirmary, which would have been more annoying. However, she wandered off in the rain in the opposite direction to the one I took. Good.

The Hearing Clinic is held from time to time in the Infirmary’s Outpatient Clinic. I was early, and sat alone in an unlit waiting room for 15 minutes. Then a half-dozen ladies in uniforms appeared and started making tea and coffee in their office area. One lady (was she a nurse?) climbed on a chair and took down the room’s clock which was stuck on two o’clock. She informed her colleagues that it might need a new battery, and was handed one. The clock started ticking and she set it to nine-thirteen. She’d asked for the correct time, and that was it, apparently. I checked my mobile and near as damnit.

A lady in civilian clothes appeared and went into an unmarked office. She was not offered coffee or tea, but someone looked in and asked her how she was feeling after so many weeks under the weather. Still not quite right. She telephoned someone and asked about her clients for the morning. Thirteen of them, and this did not make her too happy. She stepped out of her door and asked who I was. I was her first appointment. This was the Hearing Clinic person.

If I was running a hearing clinic, I’d be tempted to play tricks on my patients. Whispering, suddenly raising my voice, moving my lips but not saying anything aloud. You’d soon sort out the hard-of-hearing. The lady was very nice to me.

Questions included any family history of deafness, personal hearing problems (I have dreadful tinnitus), head injuries (none from the outside, though I’ve fed my brain a few noxious substances), and ear-damaging illnesses.

I then had to sit in a soundproof booth, wearing headphones, and I had a device on a cord to depress when I heard a sound (any sound) through first the right ear, then the left. A game we played for ten minutes.

The results were immediate: a graph for each side showing the points I could hear. The right ear, the lady told me, was in pretty good shape, slightly below par. The left ear, on the other hand (or more accurately the other side of my head), was wanting.

If I was interested, I could be fitted for a hearing aid for the left ear. I thought it not a bad idea. I’d be sent a letter with a further appointment with a technician.

And out into the chilly rain again. The 518 bus headed south was due, and I caught it.

There’s a great deal of General Election coverage on the telly and radio. I’ve stopped watching the news programmes and anything that might be interrupted by a party broadcast. I’ve been reading and reading and reading (three books, I match my mood) and watching DVDs. I’ve been listening to CDs as well. My post has included literature from the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal-Democrats, as well as UKIP. I know which candidate I’m voting for, so I chuck the flyers and promises in the recycle bin unread. I don’t suppose even the candidate I’m supporting will really do the things promised, or even attempt them.

The last General Election that got me excited was in 1997 when Tony Blair’s New Labour came to power, sweeping away the Conservatives. I was glad to see the back of John Major and the grey men left over from Mrs Thatcher’s regime. Tony Blair sounded like the real deal, things could only get better. Get up and dance. Hell, he was a war criminal! I think I hate Blair more than Thatcher. In my perfect world, they’d share a dungeon cell in the Tower of London. Bastards!

So, I’m hoping my hearing aid won’t be around till after 6 May and the Election. My eyesight is rubbish too. If I misplace my specs I can probably isolate myself even more from the letters and newspapers.

I’m concerned about a law here in Britain that, a fortnight or so ago, convicted a grandmother of selling a live goldfish to an under-age child. The granny was fined £1,000 and is now stuck at home with one of those monitoring anklets, unable to even step outside to put the rubbish in the bins.

When I was a child, an under-age child, one could go to a church fĂȘte, or other charitable events, as well as funfairs, and toss a ball at a coconut and if you knocked the coconut off its stand you’d be given a live goldfish in a plastic bag. The sixpence to play from a ten-years-old was just as good as that from a grown-up. I won a goldfish at the Gillingham Town Fair back in the day. We didn’t have a bowl, not a proper one, and the fish went in a jar. I don’t recall it having a long life, fish-food had not been part of the prize.

My sister had a goldfish that she named Goldie, which had a small rectangular tank with nothing in it but the fish (no castles, reefs, gravel), and on three sides of the tank she stuck photos of the Royal Family. That poor fish lived for 14 years. If it had been me, I’d have gone nuts in a day. But fishes are not exactly sentient beings, are they? If they are, not only should they only be sold to adults, but to caring people who will give them a shipwreck to swim through. Fish are just a spud away from fish and chips.

A friend of mine had a piranha called Eddie. Eddie’s diet was live goldfish. Every few days Eddie would get a nice orange chum to swim with. A short swim, a quick meal.

We have a country that worries about goldfish (and so many ridiculous Health and Safety issues) while fucking up the economy, destroying our culture, making war on the Afghanis and bickering about the payments to our mutilated soldiers return from the War, while the members of Parliament are permitted to be outright thieves. Perhaps worse, little children are dying at the hands of family members and social workers just haven’t noticed situations that are clearly dire.

And we throw back more fish caught thanks to EU quotas, fish that will die, than we bring back to Britain to feed our people.

I’d guess most members of the next House of Commons are going to be younger than I am. Whoever becomes our next Prime Minister will be younger than me. I’d like to slap that young man in the face with a fish. He might say: “What did you do that for?” And I’d pretend I didn’t hear him, and wander off.

One of the perks of being deaf.

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