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.

Slow Bread

Slow risen bread

Less rush, better flavour

Life can be all Rush! Hurry! Quick! How lovely it is to be slow. Making slow bread forces me to calm down, step out of the moment, take my time.

It also tastes particularly good.

Bread in a flowerpot

I baked my first loaf when I was seventeen. It probably wasn’t very good.

I had a big, thick, general cookbook – I wish I still had it! Purnell’s Complete Cookery.

I loved my first big cookbook

I really wanted to learn to cook. I genuinely didn’t have a clue. Someday I’ll tell you that story. Why I became interested in the bread chapter, I do not know. It jumped out at me so I gave it a go.

Now these were ancient times, also known as the late 1970s. Possibly dried yeast was available in specialist shops on fancy city streets. Not in the industrial West of Scotland. So I did as my book instructed. I went to the bakery.

That’s the actual bakery. Not the shop where I bought German Biscuits and Sugared Rolls. No, round the back where the bread and rolls were baked.

A block of yeast in a twist of greaseproof paper cost pennies. I became a regular customer at the bakery close to my work.

I have no idea where I bought bread flour. Strange to think how unusual such a product was. There was a Fine Fare near my office. (That was a supermarket) Since Fine Fare was the first place I ever saw aubergines, courgettes, peppers, maybe they had bread flour.

Anyway, home I went to bake my bread.

I liked the sound of a brown loaf that included treacle.

From the start I thought it couldn’t be right. Quite a few tablespoons of treacle. The dough was dark, dark brown and very sticky. Having no experience of bread making, I followed the recipe nonetheless. It baked into a nice little loaf, but so very sweet and dense. More like a cake.

I made the same loaf many times with only a little treacle!

Very soon I had bought more cookbooks and tried many recipes. Then a new book was published.

My Elizabeth David bread book

English Bread and Yeast Cookery by Elizabeth David

My education in bread making began the day I bought it.

It’s beside my bed now, as I wanted to re read it before baking bread to sell.

Bread needn’t be quick

And this is what I learned from Elizabeth David: slow bread can be the best bread. Less yeast is required, and you get such good results.

It’s a lesson I have to re learn periodically. Many times I have rushed home from work, mixed the ingredients and left my dough to rise. As I grow more and more tired, I get angry at the dough for not rising quickly. I’ll be up all night! I must add more yeast! The bowl is going on the radiator!

When I get annoyed with a bowl of bread dough, I remind myself that the best place for it to rise is the fridge; and the best time for it to be baked is the following day. Perhaps the following evening!

Third rise

There’s a time and place for speedy cooking and baking. But it’s not compulsory.

Slow bread is flavoursome bread.

Two loaves of my “slow” bread

Thank you for reading my blog. Please comment, especially if you have a bread making story.

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Jane Eyre

Lockdown Memory 2️⃣

I lost interest after the interrupted wedding.

Everything up till then, captivating. Then downhill all the way. Including “Reader, I married him.” I didn’t even notice the iconic ending when I was twelve. My memory of Jane Eyre is much darker.

The Aunt; the school; the Red Room.

Mainly the Red Room.

Oh, and I adored Blanche. I wanted to be Blanche.

Anyway, the Red Room. I’ve seen films and television adaptations of Jane Eyre. They must’ve depicted it. But the most horrific, the darkest, most troubling Red Room was in my mind.

The Aunt made me angry; the school made my spine tense. But nothing came close to the horror of the Red Room.

Blanche was perfect. I didn’t read the book in the way I would later, as an adult. I read it in pure black and white, as children do. I didn’t see Blanche as opportunistic; I didn’t realise her dislike of Jane came about because she was beggin’ of her, please don’t steal my man.

Blanche was beautiful, as were her clothes. Abusive partner Mr R was used to telling pretty women what to do. We found out what happened to his previous partner once she ceased to be Eye Candy.

The wedding, the brother in law (an actual hero, sticking up for his sister) interested me. Tense and excruciating. Then Jane ran away, and the story ended.

Except it didn’t.

Jane found a family, inherited money, and returned to her abusive boyfriend. Nah! It didn’t work for twelve year old me.

Jane Eyre affected me. I only loved half of it, but that half is perfect.

Thank you for reading my blog. You’ll probably enjoy my Musical Lockdown Memory.

Please leave a comment.

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I Am A Rock

Lockdown memory?
I haven’t a clue what’s on my face!

Lockdown Memory 1️⃣

Imagine a nine year old’s birthday party in the late sixties. What comes to mind?

Jelly and ice cream? Party games? New toys? Sweets? A Paul Simon album?

What did you just read? A Paul Simon album? That doesn’t seem right.

But the nine year old was me, and The Paul Simon Songbook was the soundtrack of my childhood.

“Was it your parents’ album, Anne?”

It’s a reasonable question, and the answer is Partly, yes. They had borrowed it from a friend, and taped it onto our family’s reel to reel recorder. Thereafter it was mine.

So after school I walked home with some friends. It was late November and I was having a birthday party. They weren’t organised, expensive celebrations back then. Basically, school friends came to your house, ate whatever food your mum gave them, played with your toys then went home.

It’s worth mentioning here that I didn’t like many of those “school friends”. I preferred the girls who lived in our street. But the unwritten rule was, invite children who score roughly the same marks in exams as yourself.

So we ate our food, then my school friends wanted my toys. I had a better idea. I fetched the reel to reel tape recorder and played The Paul Simon Songbook.

Probably several times.

My school friends found my toys. They ignored me; I ignored them. Bliss.

The Paul Simon Songbook

This week I heard someone on the radio asking what songs are helping us through lockdown. I’m a cynical woman, so I rolled my eyes.

Later that day while walking Flynn, my Border Terrier, a song was going round and round my head.

“Hiding in my room, safe within my womb, I touch no-one and no-one touches me”

A hundred and one memories of playing my favourite childhood song, “I Am A Rock”, from my favourite childhood album, “The Paul Simon Songbook“, flooded my mind. It was part of me, a little girl who liked her own company, had no confidence, but loved music and lyrics so much.

Years later the album was rereleased as a CD. I bought it.

It’s 2020, we’re in lockdown due to COVID19, and Paul Simon’s youthful lyrics feel meaningful once again.

I might just put it on tomorrow.

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Music Time

15 Year Anniversary

Music Time – Wrist Bells

Fifteen years ago I brought together a group of children and parents, and we sang. I had never put myself in such a scary position in my life. I was prepared to dash home and cry if it went badly.

In my loft I still have the first song sheet notes. Should I fetch them down?

I worked in a playgroup and had observed that every child, whatever their other preferences, loved song time. I had an idea to form a separate group for music.

I bought books about teaching music to under fives, and was really lucky to attend a session organised by the National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCoS)

Musical instruments for children

The day came, I opened the door, families poured in. We sang, we banged tambourines and shook maracas. It was amazing.

Two months later, rather than finishing as I had expected, I made plans to restart after the summer.

It has been like this for fifteen years. Every June I ask myself, Will anyone come back after the holidays? You always do. It amazes me.

Andy & William love Music Time!

April 2020 was to be a month of celebrating our group’s 15th birthday. Instead it has been a month of sadness and worry because of COVID19. Celebrating has been far from my mind.

Whether Music Time ever starts up again is impossible to guess. Maybe it consisted of a beautifully formed, fifteen year project. Maybe we’ll take up where we left off.

If you have ever been part of the group, I would so love to hear from you in the comments.

If you’re as happy as you can be in current circumstances…

CLAP YOUR HANDS!

Lockdown as a teenager (Q&A)

An Inter-Generational Conversation

Teenager in Lockdown – art therapy

Anne: Are there aspects of the lockdown that are better than you thought?

Isla: This whole situation we are in is so strange and as a teenager myself I am finding it hard.

Are there aspects that are worse than you thought?

It’s a shock from being able to go out with your friends and be free to have fun, to be in what feels like prison.

When lockdown first was put in place, I did panic and worried about what I would do with all this time, but now more so about my exams.

Do you organise your day, or just deal with what turns up?

After a few days I started to relax as it’s out of my control on what’s happening. But I was still finding it hard to keep busy as there was little to do.

About a week in I decided to try and get back into art, so I designed my own unique pair of jeans and then tried some painting designs that I had never done before.

Art is helping through the Lockdown

Do you feel more or less anxious than you did when the lockdown started?

At the current moment in time I am actually okay, obviously I’m bored but its manageable. There are some downsides though, for example siblings.

Being stuck with a 6 year old 24/7 really gets to you. Currently we can’t seem to last more than 20 minutes together without arguing.

Have some of your friends lost their jobs?

It’s also very annoying that for many adults there are aspects of work they can do from home, but for most teenagers they can’t do that and many have lost thier jobs as businesses can’t now afford young, less experienced people to be working for them.

All age groups are rediscovering their creativity

Thanks Isla. I’m always interested in your point of view. It helps to see things from a totally different angle.

Making Coffee

My Easy Enamelware Pot Method

Making coffee in an enamelware pot is easy

Self catering holidays when my children were young could have been seriously exhausting. To see me through a fortnight of family life up close, I always took my Enamelware Coffee Pot.

Since we have become so used to filter machines, drip pots, espresso makers and French presses, have we forgotten the simplest method? A jug. So simple you can make coffee anywhere. Even by a campfire.

I love enamelware. I’ve been making coffee in enamelware pots since I was a teenager. It’s so easy, and you need no specialist equipment. If you have ground coffee, boiling water, a pot, and a little bit of patience, you can make delicious coffee any place, any time.

You don’t even need an enamelware pot. An old teapot, a charity shop china coffee pot, even a saucepan with a lid will do. But I’ll always opt for an enamel pot.

Enamelware coffee pot from Prague

Here’s my infallible method:

Step 1

Put the kettle on to boil. To warm the pot, put a little hot water in it, or run it under the hot tap. At very least don’t use it stone cold. Enamelware will lose heat, so there’s no point in being part of the problem.

Step 2

Put ground coffee in the pot. Any grind will do. No need to worry – use what you have. Even if it’s very fine or course, we’ll make it work in your pot. If you grind your own coffee, or have the choice when buying it, take a medium grind. The amount of coffee is up to you. First time you make it use the recommended measure. Next time you can add more or less.

Three Hills Coffee, roasted in the Scottish Borders

Step 3

Pour almost boiling water over the coffee, but only to just below the spout. Don’t be tempted to add more at this stage. You’ll need space for Step 5. The water should be “off the boil”, that’s to say, not bubbling. So boil the kettle as you gather together what you need. It will be perfect when you use it.

Enamelware coffee pots from Turkey

Step 4

Put the lid on, cover the pot with a tea cosy or a folded tea towel (that’s what I use) and leave for about 5 minutes. Don’t cheat. Listen to a couple of songs, read a short article, chop some vegetables. If you think you’ll get distracted, set a timer. More than five minutes is fine, but if you completely forget about the coffee it will go cold.

Step 5

Now you have to do some work.
You’ll need more boiling water soon, so have that ready.
Stir the coffee for a full 2 minutes. It will seem like a long time but keep going. It’s worth the effort. You will see and feel the grains sinking, and the liquid will begin to look clearer.
When you’ve stirred all you can, fill the pot to the brim with boiling water, put the lid on, cover, and leave for a few minutes.

Step 6

Take the lid off and stir again, briefly. Cover and leave for a few more minutes. If you have stirred as instructed, you won’t even need to strain the coffee. Handy if you can’t find that strainer you thought was at the back of a drawer! However if you don’t want to risk the occasional piece of ground coffee sneaking into your cup, strain.

A perfect cup of black coffee

Do you take milk or sugar? I take my coffee black.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog, and drinking your coffee.

You may also enjoy my Instagram

Please let me know if you try my easy method for making coffee.

Dog Hair Care

By Flynn and Doris

Flynn’s POV –

Flynn’s Dog Hairstyle

I’m seeing more of my human family than usual – they call it Lockdown. Thank goodness they’re leaving my hair alone!

My favourite thing ever is sitting outdoors in a breeze. I love to feel the wind in my hair. Don’t humans know that cutting my hair = ruining my life? They have zero empathy. I tell them clearly to leave me alone, but do they listen?

Let me keep my fuzzy ears and crinkly beard forever.

Border Terriers: born to have wild hair.

River Walk

With Flynn, Border Terrier

Languid river walk

To keep my head above water at this unsettling time I take Flynn, my Border Terrier, on a river walk.

The River Tweed, as it flows through Kelso, is captivating in any weather.

If you visit Kelso, definitely take a river walk.

Flynn loves the River

Stay home for now.