family


I think most people who read/have read here know that I am deaf; and I have explored some of my feelings about this before. Tonight a TV programme was shown, exploring some of what it feels like to be Deaf, rather than deaf.

Before you all think I’ve completely lost the plot, I should explain: for the Deaf community, there is a key difference between Deaf and deaf. Deaf means linguistically deaf, sign language deaf, culturally deaf. You may have grown up being deaf, learned sign language from your parents, but if not them, from your classmates, your deaf friends, at a deaf school, or later, at a deaf club. Friends are deaf, jokes are done in sign language, gossip in sign language, sorrow in sign language. It is a hidden community, almost, because a Deaf person, in isolation, on the street, looks no different to a hearing person: the linguistic differences are not visible until communication begins. Some of the Deaf may be almost militantly deaf, speak of deaf pride, proud of their language, their culture, their history, fight against things that they see as taking away from their community, such as Cochlear Implants. They celebrate when their children are deaf, as it means they’ll be like them. They see themselves as a linguistic minority, rather than a disabled one, and reject overwhelmingly the medical model, the idea of deafness as a loss. Its not hearing loss, hearing impaired. They reject disability negative language, and focus on pride. They are DEAF. In sign language, it is emphatically signed with two fingers held out from the hand, the rest closed in, and strongly, firmly, proudly placed on the ear, blocking the sound. There is no mistaking it.

This is all in opposition to the deaf, those who see themselves as having a hearing loss, perhaps going deaf as they get older, who wouldn’t dream of doing that funny handwaving in the air and making a spectacle of themselves, who prefer to quietly wear in the ear, invisible hearing aids, who might go to the lengths of attending a class on lipreading, but who would never dream of hiring a lipspeaker to interpret at important events. They focus on being as normal as possible, just a little bit deaf, they can talk and understand what’s going on and they absolutely are not DIFFERENT. They’re not DISABLED. They’re not like those poor mites who can’t talk. Just a bit… you know… hard of hearing. They won’t understand the Deaf community, any more than a hearing person who has had no contact with a Deaf person would; and will almost certainly emphatically reject any kind of association with Deafness.

These are two extremes, and I have deliberately polarised them from each other, almost as a caricature so, in order to demonstrate the differences between them. Its important to realise that Deaf/deafness is a spectrum, and that there are many people at many points along that spectrum, and that each person’s position on the spectrum is right for them: in other words, I’m trying not to criticise anyone for choosing where they lie along this spectrum, to criticise them for the choices they make in their self-identity. I am explaining this purely in order to explain some of the language I use in the rest of this blog post.

What has prompted this post is the programme I saw tonight. Grayson Perry, the artist, has made a series of programmes and artworks exploring the central question of identity, “who are you?” [4 On Demand has the programme here, but this will NOT be available after 4th December 2014, nor if you are outside of the UK]. He explored this through three groups tonight; the others were Northern Irish Loyalists, exploring their attachment to and celebration of Britain, of a Britishness that most people living in Britain today would struggle to recognise, and a group of BBWs (Big Beautiful Women), who are on the same path towards acceptance and equality that – as Perry said – gayness was a decade ago, that women were a century ago. And then there were the Deaf. He interviewed a family; Tomato and Paula, both in their late thirties, from North London, both … many might describe them as being militantly deaf. They have two daughters, both of whom are deaf, but the film showed Perry going with them to the audiologist when their youngest daughter’s hearing was checked over. Perry asked a key question: “how do you feel about the audiology exam, the language that the audiologist has used”, as the audiologist was saying that it was good that their daughter’s hearing had not deteriorated any more. Tomato explained that he felt it was almost abusive, because he remembered his own childhood, of similar exams, of watching his parents anxiously watching him, praying that there had been some improvement in his hearing, and wanting so much to please his parents, reading their body language and the audiologist’s to give a false reading, and the … joy of his parents, reinforcing the message that was given to him: your deafness is bad, a horrible thing. It brought memories back of my own in the same situation: of watching the back of the audiologist’s hand, of wanting so badly to be normal and to make my parents happy and the deep fear and sorrow when I felt that I had let them down.

Later, Tomato showed Perry the home made punk style hearing aid covers from his youth. These, simple metal covers designed to fit over a hearing aid, with a row of spikes protruding from them, like a row of mohican spikes, spoke eloquently to Perry, and to me, for quite different reasons. Tomato, evidently, had chosen to celebrate his deafness in his youth, to play up his hearing aids, to be, almost, ‘in-your-face’ about his deafness and his hearing aids. It spoke eloquently of a pride and a confidence that I could only watch, enviously. I think back to my own formative years, and while I was never into the punk movement, so would never have reached out for the same kind of imagery, I also cannot find an example of any way that I was similarly celebratory about my deafness.

Quite the opposite in fact.

I experienced my deafness through the prism of school. I mixed with other deaf people in deaf clubs for a very short while after leaving school, for perhaps a year or two, and then for around 5 years with people who were more like me – who spoke, who might know sign language but who came from hearing families and sort of straddled both worlds, the hearing and the deaf. And then I left it totally and had no deaf friends at all, no deaf contact. These days, when I think of my experiences with the Deaf, I think of school. And since I had a bad time at school, my thoughts about the Deaf, about the Deaf community, are pretty negative.

But what I was seeing with Tomato and Paula showed me, clearly, that they didn’t see it that way. And I thought about a conversation I had recently with someone who was hearing, but who had Deaf parents, and who had grown up in the Deaf community. I had talked to her about why I chose not to be involved in the Deaf community, about my negative experiences of it. I found it cliqueish, closed minded, unaccepting of anything different from the mainstream (ironically so). I detested that, so I left it. She simply said at the time that she didn’t see it that way, which I accepted – perhaps she instinctively understood that I wasn’t ready to see her world the way she saw it, I don’t know.

But now, having watched that programme, I wonder: have I, in rejecting the Deaf community so wholeheartedly, condemning them all for the actions of a few, dismissing them as being cliqueish, narrowminded, have I done damage to myself?

I don’t mean here, in terms of what I’m potentially missing out on, although that’s an element too. [I certainly know that Deaf Culture can be expressively beautiful and joyous.] I mean: in relating the term DEAF with something so overwhelmingly negative, what message am I sending to myself, about myself? Am I hating on myself, to use the American term, in a way that is doing overwhelming damage to myself? And even more key: if I hate, and am ashamed, and embarrassed about, and feel I have to excuse and make up for my own deafness…. how the hell can I ever expect anyone else not to? How can I expect, demand even, that other people step up to the plate and make the amendments that they SHOULD make, on the basis of equality? And in having such a negative image of the Deaf, am I setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy for when I do encounter Deaf people?

Again, this goes to the heart of a conversation I have had with one of my interpreters, who is turning into a good friend but who is also, slowly (bless her heart), helping me to see that the Deaf world does not have to be the overwhelmingly negative one that I was subjected to for so long. And I suppose tonight is the nex step along the path she’s been dragging me along for the last 3 years: that deaf people are people, that they behave both well and badly, that there are people who are good for you and bad for you, and that to reject someone on the basis of their chosen linguistic style and choice of culture/community, even by dint of just choosing not to interact with that culture even when multiple opportunities are laid in front of you, is wrong. It is disabilist in the worst way. And that’s something I need to stop doing if I am to develop a sense of pride in who I am, deafness, warts n all. If I am going to demand that people accept me as I am, deafness, warts and all. If I am going to demand that people give me the access to make the most of myself, deafness, warts n all.

I’m not sure where I’m going to go from here. But I think even just writing this, realising this, is quite a breakthrough. Perhaps the next step is to stop resisting joining the Deaf community, to reach out, see who’s out there, and to form some healthy, positive friendships with people who are good for me, and where I am good for them. Perhaps from that a new, positive sense of deaf self-identity can grow within me, and merge to join the rest of my identity, to form the whole that is me.

Few links to photo sets, and an update of our summer….

In June we drove to Germany to stay with Michiel’s parents for a couple of weeks. We daringly decided to drive, having just bought a car a few months beforehand. Michiel was a little apprehensive about the idea of me driving on the “wrong” side (as was I, if I’m honest) but in the even it went swimmingly, and I only had a couple of problems. Unfortunately when we were returning from a visit to the Netherlands to visit with his family a small deer ran out in front of us and I was unable to stop or swerve to avoid it. It was killed on impact, fortunately (and not running around the woods in pain). Fortunately there was very little damage done to the car, just a bit of dented bodywork – and a rather shaken me! We also visited Osnabruck, to look at the Cathedral and the Liturgical Museum which was amazing, had BBQs and went strawberry picking under a blazing blue sky. We had a fantastic time, having the car made a lot of difference to our freedom while there, and next year we plan to drive to the south of France to stay with his parents there (they have a caravan down there).

Holiday Photos

In July my mother’s church hosted a 24 hour “entertainathon”. I offered to make some cakes/buns for this, and we went down to help. I got roped in doing flowers for the church, doing an arrangement I was very pleased with, and I was pretty pleased with the varieties of cupcakes that I produced too! Took the opportunity to take photos of the fields surrounding Mom’s church, as well as photos of the event but I can’t post those on a public forum, alas.

Entertainathon Photos

In August Mom visited for her birthday and we went to Donington-le-Heath Manor house, near Coalville. The friends of Donington were hosting a “Donington at the home front” day, with lots of demonstrations of crafts and a live fire exercise from the home guard! Mum and I had a lovely afternoon wandering around the gardens and house, and jumping at the bangs coming from the demonstration, and talking to the various volunteers.

Donington-le-Heath

Just a couple days ago I visited St. Mary in Arden, a ruined church in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. its very picturesque and well worth a visit. I returned a couple days later with the camera, and these are some of the results. I’ve visited other properties but i keep forgetting to take the camera, so this is all the photos there are! I also visited St. Dionysus (the main church in Market Harborough) but the photos of that visit were hurried and not so good.

St. Mary in Arden

A mini update: In terms of my uni studies last year, I’m pleased with the vast majority of my work. I just missed out on a first across the whole year, but that doesn’t affect my final degree grade – all that is required from the first year is to pass (40% or above). Full details, as ever, are on the education page. With regard to my health and diabetes, my weight has been steadily creeping up again, and my blood sugar with it, so I have to make an effort to get that under control again. Jess is fine. Another dog attacked her earlier this summer, cutting the skin around her eye quite badly and shaking all three of us up and necessitating a trip to the emergency vets. But with antibiotics and lots of TLC she was soon back to normal. She’s getting old and slowing down, sleeping a great deal, but otherwise, is fine. Like many of Britains cats and dogs she contracted fleas this summer, so we had to deal with that too. She definitely didn’t like the scratching! The house is good as well. we settled in very quickly and have loved this summer, being able to sit outside in peace and quiet. I developed a little garden in the yard, out of a series of pots, which has been lovely to watch and potter around in over the summer as well.

Garden Photos

So on that note I’ll leave you to enjoy my garden photographs… till the next update!!!

 

 

Every now and then a date comes by where you stop, sometimes just for a moment, sometimes for longer, and just think about where you are, where you’ve come from, where you want to go. We all do it, different dates for each of us, although some of us have dates in common, such as 9/11. Some dates are more personal. For Michiel and me, its today.

9 years ago today I stepped into his arms and whispered to him to never let me go. He never has. That sounds terribly romantic, but its not the sop to cupid that it sounds. That never letting go has meant heartache and pain and growth and love for us both. Somehow, we’ve clung on together, while the waves and tides of our lives have dashed us around, sometimes near the rocks, sometimes out to sea, sometimes into calmer waters, but always, always, we’ve managed to cling to each other, one of us always holding on even when, temporarily, driven to the brink by the pain of the moment, one wanted to let go.

We don’t stop, I think, he and I, to consider the beauty of that, or to honour and reflect on the strength and determination that has allowed us to maintain that grip on each other.

But today I want to change that. Yesterday, I stopped outside a lecture theatre and reflected on where I was 9 years ago – then, I was attending a friend’s wedding with Mom and Dad. It was a period of my life that heralded great changes: I’d just ended one relationship in very very upsetting and painful circumstances. I had to close down the home I was then living in, and I had no job, no future. Everything I had depended on up until about 4 weeks before that point had vanished, except my family and friends. I remember Dad driving us home that night and looking up at the moon and wondering where my life would go, reflecting on the changes that were to come. I suppose I could have been excited by the chance to change where I thought my life was going up to that point, but I don’t remember thinking that way. I think I was still too wounded at that point for that.

I’d met Michiel online a few weeks before we met in person. It was a friendship that grew into something more, although we both agree now that it was too soon, for me, especially. But despite the problems that came afterwards, in that moment when we met for the first time, a connection was forged that has withstood everything that’s been thrown at it for the last nine years.

In those nine years we’ve withstood a breakdown (mine), depression, unemployment, illness, antisocial behaviour from so-called neighbours that drove us both almost to the wall. We’ve withstood family problems, deaths (from my dad and grandmothers to his grandfather, to friends, who died far far too young), a cross-country move and the beginning of my studies. In that time we’ve both changed a great deal. I can only speak for myself here; but I’ve grown as a person and now bear little resemblance to the wounded individual I was nine years ago.

And its that connection, in many ways, that has enabled that growth to happen.

Thank you, Michiel, for never letting go. I love you.

it feels like only yesterday that it was September and we were moving into our new house – yes, you can see the theme here. Where DOES the time go?!!! Seriously though, I promised Stoney an update a while back, and someone else some photos of our new home, so I’m combining all this and a year review in one blog post. And then I shall probably go silent again till I get another break at Easter…!

Anyway. Be warned. This is a VERY photo heavy post, which is why they’re all behind the cut. the page will take a while to load…

First of all, though, an update. The last three months have been very sad ones, as well as busy. University studies have taken most of my time, and are mostly going well – you can look at the Education page to view marks for specific assignments. But outside of studies, they’ve been sad because I lost both my grandmothers: my paternal grandmother at the end of October, and my maternal one just 2 weeks before christmas. Both had been ill towards the end; Nannie (Paternal grandmother) had broken her other hip and was in a great deal of pain, Grannie (Maternal grandmother) had had a spell in hospital a few weeks before but had just given up, mentally. For both, death was a release, a blessing, so to speak, but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that this year has been a very bad one for our family, especially as I lost my father in January 2011. I just hope 2012 will be substantially less painful.

Dad, in one of his favorite places in the world, Scotland.

Christmas was especially painful – not just because of Grannie’s funeral, just a few days before Christmas, but because, as a cousin of mine put it, “there were too many empty chairs”. I know exactly what she meant. It will take a while to get over this. I was far closer to Grannie than to Nannie – Grannie was the lady who owned Stoneheads house, the inspiration for this blog, and a woman who was also directly responsible for my childhood love of history and who never stopped encouraging me to learn, to develop, to make the most of myself. I shall miss her greatly.

(more…)

… apologies to ol’ Rod for the bastardisation of his song, but yes, we’re moving house!

We finally got the news earlier today, and the deposit has been paid, so its all official – at least, until the day of the move and we get down there to sign the tenancy agreement! We’re moving in on 27th September, with this flat being packed up and closed on 26th September (we’re staying at Mom’s overnight).

Its a nice, 3 bedroomed semi-detached house in a nice part of Leicester. Not the best, but we can’t afford the best. Its better than where we live now, so this represents a step up in so many ways. The spare bedroom means that Mum can come to stay with us on a regular basis, as often as she wants to, (as well as anyone else, like Michiel’s parents) and I get a study of my very own for all my university studies. We have a week to get the house sorted, then I start at Uni on 3rd October.

Gosh.

Thankfully, we’d already found a removals firm and established a relationship with them, so all they needed was an address and a date. They’re packing for us, which also reduces a lot of stress, but there is still an awful lot to do in the next two weeks. But we’ll get there – we have a lot of motivation and a lot of help and support from people that count (such as our families).

But for now, for today, we’ve handed in our notice on this flat, we’ve agreed things with the removal firm, things are slowly starting to grind towards the chaos that is moving day, and … well. we’re happy. We have hope. And that’s the important part. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve been reading through my grandmother’s journals, the last couple of days. These are journals from about 20-30 years ago, that she wrote every night. She’s not very well these days – she has memory problems and often struggles to remember who important people in her life are, which is a great shame, as she was a very intelligent and talented lady. Her journals are very interesting: full of little nuggets about village life, the interactions between people and I long to turn these into proper books. But the latest journals were written in 1990, and concern events that would still upset the individuals involved, who are undoubtedly still alive today, so publication, as it is, cannot happen – unless I change all details to protect people’s privacy.

She writes a great deal about the village ins n outs, as I have said, but also observations on her family (including events I honestly do not remember about myself, and other ones I do, and one I have very cherished memories of, so it was lovely to read her side of the experience as well), notations on the weather (as a keen gardener, always a priority!) and observations on international politics. She had quite a unique take on international events, including once referring to Noregia as “a bad boy”! But best of all, she’s brought my grandfather alive again, and brought the grandmother that I knew when I was young back, in a way that I cherish very much. My mother is under strict orders not to dispose of these – when Grannie is gone, I’m going to find these a deep comfort, I think. I may well share more nuggets from these in the future. but for now, in re-reading the first in the set last night, I ran across two entries which I want to share here, which are safe to share here, and which I think are very timely, given what is about to occur on Friday…

‘Thursday November 5th, 1981

…We heard on the news tonight that the Princess of Wales is to have a baby in June next year. I remember the day Prince Charles was born, so well. Mickey (my grandfather) brought my morning tea, and said “Princess Elizabeth has got a son!”

Monday June 20th, 1982

Tonight we had the news that all the nation has been awaiting with pleasurable anticipation – the Princess of Wales has given birth to the long awaited baby – and it is a boy, 7 lbs and a little bit, with fair hair and blue eyes. The poor girl was in labour for 15 hours, and Prince Charles was at the birth. He was interviewed afterwards as he left the hospital and said amongst other things that “it makes you grow up”. We are both very happy for them, and delighted that it is a boy. I wonder what he will be called? There is a bet on, apparently, that he will be called ‘George’. I hope not – it is not a pretty name and I hope they go for something more English-sounding – Edward would be much better, I think, if they have to choose a family name. But I think a John, a Robert or a David would be nice, and all suitably ‘connected’. But I think I’d choose Richard, as the best of all, if I had a say.

Tuesday June 21st, 1982

On the T.V. news today, we saw the first picture of the new baby prince – or rather, of the top of his head, as his mother and father brought him home from the nursing home. It seems incredible that they get mothers up and about so early these days. Both parents looked proud and delighted, but I expect all they want now is to be left alone to enjoy their baby and each other….’

She never does say what she thinks of William as a name, but I find it interesting that she likes Edward, John and Richard – all names with less than ideal connections, Edward (as in Edward VIII, he of the Duke of Windsor, and Wallis Simpson) would have made William Edward IX instead, John, of course, from Prince John, Robin Hood fame, and Richard – well, we all know what happened to Richard III! It surprises me as she was something of a historian – it is from her that I get my love of history.

I wonder, when will we see the next generation?

well… the news is in. and I guess I know now where I’m heading to in September: Leicester University. I had applied to Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, which is a mature women’s only college, and one I was very impressed with. I will admit to being a tad disappointed that they didn’t make me an offer, but I’m not entirely surprised: I didn’t acquit myself terribly well in the exam, I think, although I did my best at the time I panicked a little and made some poor choices, and I burst into tears in one of the interviews: never a good thing, I know, but I was talking about the effect of Dad’s death and it just grabbed me, unexpectedly. I was absolutely mortified, but they were very kind. The college itself has a very supportive atmosphere and if I can, I would love to go there as a postgrad, to do my Masters, but we’ll see. That’s a fair way off, and I still have to get at least a 2:1 for that!

In some ways I’m relieved, though. I was concerned about keeping up with all the work and the other students: I do feel I can relax more at Leicester. Still, I feel fairly confident that I can finish this course and get the required distinctions, so come October, we should be in a new home and I’ll be starting at a new uni. its all exciting and nervewracking and there’s so much to sort out. I just hope I can do it all.

We’re currently in Ludlow for Easter, visiting with Mum. She’s in the middle of having the house redecorated so its not as quiet as we would normally expect, but the weather is sooo delightful, its quiet in the garden, except for the noisy sheep in the field next door! still, it makes a change from listening to loud music and the thump of a football we usually get. I went bike riding yesterday on Mum’s bike with Michiel, and we’re investigating the uninvestigated Roman Villa I stumbled across in my research into Wroxeter – no digging, but we are going to look at the site and maybe fieldwalk it, if we can get permission from the Landowner. We went for drinks with one of Mum’s friends last night, who is just as interested in the Roman villa as we are, and she introduced me to Pimms and Lemonade. YUM!

View (and the noisy sheep) over the back of the Hedge at the end of Mum's garden....

Tomorrow we’re heading to my Grandmother’s house to help pack stuff up and clear it out – it and the contents are being sold, as she’ll never go back to living on her own. Sunday the same Grandmother is coming here for lunch, and I’ll probably go to church with Mum – its Easter Sunday, and it feels right to do that. Monday we’re driving across to my other Grandmother, and Tuesday, we’re probably going to Acton Scott to have a look round there. Then Wednesday, home again, and back to work – although I’ll be taking Friday morning off to watch history being made… of course!

In terms of college work: I was working on my Independent Research Project before I came down here (having a break this week), which is researching the Disabled in Ancient Greece. Its interesting but I’ve already written too much and am half way through, so when I return I have to whittle it down and clean it up some. I’ve also got to do a presentation to the class on this, so that should be fun too, and a diary for the project, as well as a bunch of other paperwork that has to be submitted as part of the whole course.

Also to do: an essay on the differences between wet and dry preservation in the Mesolithic Period, and revision for two exams: one on the New Kingdom of Egypt (a choice of three questions, either Hatshepsut/Thutmosis III, Akhenaten and the Amarna period or Rameses II) and one on the fall of the Roman Republic (a choice of various figures from that period, including Julius Caesar). We’ve also got a group presentation on the Jugarthine War, me and two others – although the rest of the class is also doing presentations, their subject are different. We’re getting towards the end of the course now, starting AngloSaxon England next in Archaeology, Augustus in Ancient History, and the Bronze Age Collapse in Near Eastern Archaeology. All are fairly short modules and, certainly the last two are examination assessed, although I’m not sure about the AngloSaxon England one. Still a lot to do. But the end is in sight.

There’s a lot to do with other things too. I have to confirm my uni choices with UCAS, get my student finance sorted, and apply for Disabled Students Allowance. I have to find somewhere to live and sort out a whole bunch of other stuff to do with moving, not least, finding a man with a van.

but for now… the sun is shining, and I think I’m going to go enjoy a bike ride with Michiel. I’ve pictures to post – some posted already, and I’m sure I’ll have more at a later date… ๐Ÿ™‚

* title of blog .. thanks to Robbie Williams, from “Lazy Days

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