Monaural

Lucky me

When you’re told, age nine, how lucky you are, you accept it.

When you question your “luck”, age 50, you feel ungrateful.

When you see an Ear, Nose and Throat consultant for a nosebleed, age 59, and he says he’ll investigate your unilateral hearing loss, you are shocked.

This is the first time in 45 years that a medic has shown any interest.

All that remains in my medical records – all that remains of the hearing tests, appointments with specialists, trips to hospital that took me out of school – is a letter signing me off.

We can’t help. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Well I wasn’t lucky.

Overnight I lost all hearing in my left ear. It never came back. My life has been adversely affected by monaural hearing. I’m not lucky.

Every day, every minute, I mitigate for my loss of hearing. Let me show you.

You go out with friends for a meal. It’s a rectangular table with ten chairs, five on each side. Where do you sit?

Beside your partner? Opposite your closest friend? Near someone you feel sorry for? Or simply the seat to which you’re directed? It’s your choice.

At that same table, there are only two chairs I can sit at.

I have never heard stereo.

My world is in mono.

You go to the cinema or theatre. You choose a good seat with the best view.

I choose the seat farthest to the left hand side of the room, whether or not I can see.

You’re outside, someone calls your name. You turn towards their voice and wave.

Wherever a person is shouting from, they’re at my right shoulder. The only way to find the voice is to turn on the spot, round in a circle, till I see them.

Don’t shout me. I’ve no idea where you are.

Stop, look, listen.

I’ll stop and I’ll look. No point listening, as all traffic noise comes from my right hand side. Better that I look again – and again, just in case.

In a new workplace you spend the first few days getting used to the layout and your colleagues.

In addition I have to learn the acoustics of the building, where I hear best, where it’s impossible to listen to speech.

You know that look on a person’s face when you misheard them, and answered the “wrong” question?

That’s me every day. Someone looking at me, judging me for not listening.

I was trying my best. I’ve been trying my best for decades. I’m so exhausted, trying my best.

“What’s your right side?”, people who know of my hearing loss ask. They know I can’t hear as we walk unless they’re on my “good” side.

But no-one ever remembers. Never since age nine has anyone remembered which side to walk at. Yes, on a familiar road, because a habit is formed. Not in a different environment. Because I’m lucky. I can still hear. Because it can’t be that bad, otherwise something would have been done about it.

The truly annoying comments – Oh I know exactly how you feel. My ears often block when I get a cold.

You have absolutely no idea how it feels to have permanent unilateral hearing loss. But hey, I’ll smile as usual and you can feel good about your empathy.

And by the way, my sudden hearing loss was probably caused by measles or mumps. No vaccine back then. We had to catch those diseases.

And some of us were lucky. It could have been so much worse.

Lifelong monaural hearing loss

Lawn

Mowed Lawn

Barbara, my mother told me years later, never had new clothes. Her skirts, blouses and jackets were patched and mended.

I hadn’t noticed.

As a little girl I saw a glamorous, friendly woman with lovely dark hair.

Barbara lived in a small house with a large garden, at the end of our road. She and her husband had two young sons. My parents were quite friendly with them.

We walked past their house on our way to school. Often my mother would say, “He’s cutting his grass again“.

Barbara’s husband mowed and watered his lawn every morning before driving to the school where he taught. My parents found it funny. But my mother had noticed what was going on.

Barbara’s husband wore smart suits and drove a nice car. As a 1960s family, they were quite well off.

Listening to BBC Radio 4, Woman’s Hour this morning, I could see that lawn. I couldn’t see the mended clothes.

Waterloo Sunset, 2021

Waterloo Sunset

I had heard it too often.

Last week as Waterloo Sunset ended a show on Radio Scotland, you could almost hear me scream “I never want to hear that song again!”

Today, Suggs was on BBC Radio 4, talking about London’s docklands.

I laughed at his sea shanty – so 2021. Then as the programme came to its end, guess what he sang?

Waterloo Sunset, of course.

Well if you’d ever wanted to hear the sound of a woman eating her words, while doing a handbrake turn in reverse gear… that was me today.

I was fed up with a classic; thought it needed binned.

In fact it needed laundered.

Now it’s as good as new.

The Watch

Hallowe’en, 2020

Hallowe’en

A full moon at Hallowe’en is most auspicious. Will it bring evil or good?

And how will people know it’s Hallowe’en? The clock is stuck at midnight.

They’ll look at their telephones. Or in the watchmaker’s window. People are not allowed out anyway. Witches and ghosts are less worrying than the 2020 pandemic.

It’s been broken for months.

Since Lockdown, I think.

Not as long as that. But it’s the longest the clock has ever been broken. It was running two minutes slow for years. I definitely couldn’t set my watch by it.

My dear, no-one wears a watch now. Do you still have yours?

Indeed. The pin is broken, so I keep it in my pocket. I’m too old fashioned!

We’ve experienced so much. Things change.

I must say, if people are unafraid of spirits I would not have guessed. There are lanterns and charms in every street.

They chase evil spirits from their doors, even though they don’t believe. They don’t know true darkness. We remember when night was lit by dim lamps, and the moon.

The boundary between life and death was more apparent. We could see it and feel it.

Since you have your watch, how long till midnight?

Only three minutes. The moon is so bright.


The clock is stuck at midnight

Mummy, look!

What is it, Derri? Have you found something?

It’s a tiny wee clock, Mummy. Can I keep it?

Let me see…

Oh, that looks old. We need to find out who it belongs to. It’s a watch. An old fashioned watch. Ladies used to pin them to their dresses. The fastening’s broken. It must’ve fallen off.


104 Year Old Watch Found

On Sunday 1st of November, seven year old Derri found what she thought was a small clock. It was actually a very old watch.

This paper has investigated and we’ve found it’s owner.

But solving one mystery has led us to another, even stranger puzzle.

The watch belonged to Agnes Sharp.

Agnes was born in 1895, and died of Spanish Flu in 1919.

Agnes’ parents gave her the watch as a 21st birthday gift.

Agnes and her husband were two of the millions of Spanish Flu victims. The pandemic swept across the world after World War One. Our current pandemic makes this local discovery even more affecting and poignant.

If you can help this newspaper trace Agnes’ descendants, please email us.