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BSL & Music

Sign language and music. Not the most obvious of bedfellows, I grant you, but when it’s done well, it works. Whether by sign singing (translating mainstream songs to BSL to the music – a la Fletch@) or original work (SignMark and Sean Forbes, step forward please) it can and does work, and is enjoyed by hearing and deaf alike.

Tonight, I am going to perform poetry and sign songs at a BSL music gig in Bath, only the second time I’ve ever done sign songs in public. Belting out 9 to 5 in front of the mirror doesn’t count. Hoping it goes well! I’m confident of my timings, my worst nightmare now is that the music is so loud it overloads my hearing aids and I lose my place – but the vibrations should keep me on track – or I totally forget the words and stand there like a lemon. Probably quite common stage worries, but anxiety-inducing all the same. Am still looking forward to it though – should be a laugh!

Yes, I like music. Yes, I understand music. Most deaf people do at least understand the concept, despite what some hearing people may think. I’m reminded of an incident back in Uni, When a poster in the Deaf Studies dept advertising a similar BSL / music gig was defaced by someone who had written something to the effect of:

“What’s the point? Deaf people and music? How do they hear it?”

This is the scribbled conversation that followed over the next couple of days, as far as my memory allows:

“We feel the vibrations!”

“Yeah sure but you can’t hear the words, what’s the point?”

“That’s what the BSL is for”

And then, below that:

“Look up and to your right :)”

Sure enough, when I looked up and to my right, I saw the CCTV camera, little red light winking at me. I couldn’t help but laugh that the idiot would have looked up and realised their ignorance was being recorded for all to see. I don’t know if anyone ever caught up with them, but I hope the moment of realisation that they were being taped and sniggered at had a lasting effect. At the very least, it put an end to the conversation.

I feel the vibrations, when the beat is clear. When the words are clear, I hear them. If there’s no distinguishable beat or words, I’m lost. This may be why I struggle with Amy Winehouse and many, many other so-called musicians – slurring your words into a microphone and yelling indiscriminately over a crashing guitar and an apparently drunk drummer does not help. Is it too much to ask that music sounds and feels like, well, music?

I should have no such issues tonight, the interpreters are booked, so bring it on!

Yes indeedy

The medical was indeed cancelled. An attentive reader has noticed what ATOS didn’t – that the medical was pointless, timewasting and unnecessary. The DWP certainly thought so, and said they were going to send a note to ATOS to that effect. Me being the paranoid soul that I am, or rather the cynical personality that I have had to adopt in the face of years of bureaucratic wrangling – I once had an argument with the DWP that lasted for a year, going through several appeals, before ending up at tribunal. I won. But I digress.

Being the paranoid / cynical / jaded / battle-scarred soul that I am, I rang the ATOS assessment centre in the morning on wednesday just to make sure we were all on the same page.

We weren’t.

They said the medical was still going ahead. I asked if they’d received anything from the DWP. They said no. I said the DWP had said it was cancelled. They said that if I couldn’t attend, then I would have to fill out an ‘unable to attend’ form and cite the DWP. I got a little bit upset, said that it wasn’t a matter of me being unable to attend, it was the DWP telling me one thing, and why should I fill out a form making it sound like it’s my fault I can’t come and if the DWP deny everything, where would that leave me? It was an outburst that was a long time in coming in dealing ATOS.

They said they didn’t know, they were alone in the office, and they didn’t have the time to explain it to me via text relay, and hung up.

Leaving me stewing and with little option but to go to the medical, if only to cover my back. Luckily though, when I got there, the interpreter turned out to fully qualified, from an agency that I knew of, knew several people that I know, and produced their accreditation without a word of protest. They were if anything, sympathetic.

At the end of it, I picked up a comments / feedback / complaints form. I said that my complaint was going to go for several pages (using this blog as an aid to memory) and asked if they had any more. The woman on reception looked slightly uncertain, but helpfully provided me with a freepost envelope so that I could write as many pages as I like and send them, along with thr form to ATOS. Heaven forbid that it should get ‘lost in the post’ so I’ll be sending it by recorded delivery.

And the final kicker of the day was… The interpreter feedback form. The interpreter started to give it to me, as it had a section clearly marked “to be completed by service user” but the reception woman stopped them, saying they (ATOS) were going to fill it out. The interpreter – quite rightly – pointed out that they, ATOS, the reception woman, the assessor, don’t understand sign language. The woman chuckled, as if it was somehow amusing, but didn’t really have a reply.

Get that. The interpreter has a feedback form, and who’s going to fill it out? ATOS.

So that is how I came to be at a medical that I was told was cancelled. No doubt I’ll get the cancellation letter sometime next week, and the ‘medical’ decision the week after that.

Adventures in Audiology

A friend of mine was due to attend an audiology appointment. On arriving, she discovered that she had been branded a ‘troublemaker’ for making some comments on her last visit, and for asking the audiologist questions about how much they knew about the deaf community. As predicted, she had a great time arguing with the nurses over the audiology department’s access for deaf people. As amusing as reading her facebook updates were, it put me in mind of some of my own previous adventures…

I arrive at audiology reception. the receptionist barely looks at me, and addresses the computer. Eventually, I remind her that I’m deaf and I have to lipread. She looks at me blankly as if seeing me for the first time and asks me to take a seat.

A young, fresh-out-of-the-stables audiologist has to take a mould of my ear for a new earmould. The process basically involves putting a small sponge on a thread in my ear, right next to the eardrum, and filling my ear with putty. The polite thing to do with the sponge is push it gently down the ear canal with the little ear torch thing, in one smooth flowing movement, stopping when it meets slight resistance – the eardrum. The thread is then arranged just so and the putty stuffed in. What does this one do? She jabs the sponge in, millimetre by millimetre like a little woodpecker – jabjabjabjab and just as I’m about to mention that I think she’s getting near the end and could she take it easy, she suddenly, apparently thinking she’s clearly not doing this fast enough, does a slightly bigger jab – and hits the eardrum. Owwwwwww! For the love of…

And last, but certainly not least, I’m at the audiology drop-in to have a problem with my hearing-aid sorted out. I’m sitting telling the nurse how the hearing-aid is misbehaving, and I’m not sure if it’s me or the hearing-aid. She says ‘All right then, let’s have a look’ and just like that, reaches out and tries to grab my hearing-aid off my ear.

I jerk back in surprise, but too late, she’s already got a grip on it, and ends up pulling the hearing-aid and tubing off, leaving her holding a whistling, protesting hearing-aid and me with the earmould still in my ear. I looked at her in shock for a moment, and she actually seemed surprised at my reaction. I calmly explained that usually, people let me take own hearing-aids off and “seriously, it’s like taking someone’s glasses off”. I’m not sure she really understood the severity of what she’d just done, but accepted that I hadn’t liked it, for whatever reason. The reason is this – those hearing-aids are mine. They’re as much a part of my personal space as my glasses. If you want to look at the damn things, ask me first, and I’ll take them off. Simple as. DON’T GRAB THEM!

This is just a small sample of my experiences with audiology departments, and frankly I think I’m going to have to stop here ’cause I’m getting flashbacks.

Do they not train these people?

SO unfair.

I am a sci-fi nut. I love Doctor Who, Firefly, Star Trek, Supernatural, X Files, Stargate, Babylon 5, Space Precinct, and I don’t care who knows it. I am geek. A new series that I took an instant shine to is Sanctuary, from Canada, an innnovative show shot mostly on green screen, simply because of all the effects, but they have good stories too.

Recently I gave into temptation from Amazon and purchased Season 1, as there were a few episodes I missed, and I wanted to catch up, right from the beginning. It arrived yesterday, I got back late in the evening and immediately put disc 1 in, eager to watch the pilot episode in all its glory.

Wait… Where are the subtitles? I frantically searched through set-up, episode selection, even scene selection, desperately looking for that magic word “captions”. Then I examined the box minutely for any possible clues. In the end I was forced to accept that there were no subtitles.

It was at this point that I realised I’m spoilt. This DVD was released last year, in 2009. Silly me, I had assumed that a popular sci-fi / fantasy show, produced in the 21st century, the lead actress and executive producer of which, one Amanda Tapping, is a patron of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People (no, seriously, she is) would be released on DVD with subtitles.

Duh. How stupid do I feel now? And now, I discover, after some online research, that the Region 1 DVDs of Sanctuary are subtitled, but region 2 is not. What? That is so unfair. I mean, why? Why release one region with subtitles and one without? What, are deaf people who happen to live in region 2 not worthy of captions?

Now I’ve found a possibility, a non-region specific subtitled DVD set – from Australia. I’m stalking it on ebay and considering how far I will go in order to get subtitles. The answer is: a long way, and possibly as far as $50 AUS, which is what it will cost to buy and ship it to the UK. In the meantime, I’m going to try and recoup my costs on ebay – Sanctuary season 1 for £15, anyone? – and look for the official Sanctuary website / email address so I can complain. I mean, why? Why subtitle region 1 and not region 2?

SO unfair.

Carny Ville!

Carny Ville is a whacked-out, Victorian-themed, 18+ rated extravaganza held over a weekend at the The Island, a former cop shop in Bristol with a beautiful courtyard and surrounding buildings. Hosted by the Invisible Circus and Artspace Lifespace, it’s a brilliant way to spend a night, with amazing performances, mad ‘stalls’ (such as the Pawnbrokers, prop. C. U. Cummings), ‘ladies of the night’ that barrack the crowd from above the stalls at street level, Victorian lamps that spew flame, street performers that mingle with the crowd and stay completely in character even as they’re being ‘arrested’ by the bobbies with flashing helmets, the swing band decked out in pink, the traditional circus acts held in the Carny Grand, it was all a great atmosphere and brilliant fun.

The idea of this blog however, is to to give my ‘deaf perspective’ on the world, and from this perspective, Carny Ville was fantastic. Example; on entering the venue we were given fake money – “five nicker: no gods we trust” – and a clue card, in my case “ask the pawnbrokers about the old times at the Carny Grand”. So I eventually made my way over to that stall, where they were in the middle of a staged confrontation with one of the fake bobbies and waited patiently until they’d finished, signing away with my friend. Bobby left, my turn, I waved hello and showed them the clue card. They’d clearly picked up on all the signals that I and my friend were deaf and proceeded to wave their hands about, pretending to carouse wildly, pretending to get in a fight and hit each other with things, basically doing a very good, very funny mime act of a wild night out, victorian style. Suitably amused and impressed, I moved on, when I was accosted by one of the street performers. Tried to wave him away, but he wasn’t put off and opened his coat to reveal watches and plastic jewellery and mimed offering me these riches. We mimed our way through a transaction and I came away with a plastic ring that he’d placed on my hand himself.

We got accosted by yet another street performer who began by trying to shout at us over the crowd noise. We indicated we were deaf, and far from putting them off, they began to sign at us! Basic level signing, sure, but good enough to tell us there was a knees up at the barn dance and invite us to join them later. It didn’t seem to matter who accosted us or who we interacted with – Carny Ville depends a lot on crowd participation and interaction with most of the acts – once whoever it was realised we were deaf, they immediately adapted, miming or pointing or gesturing to get their act across.

I loved Carny Ville for that.

That and the incredible finale in the courtyard which had fireworks, plumes of flame, two abseiling dancers that twirled around each other and occasionally danced in tandem, a wire act, a dozen fire twirlers dotted around the buildings’ balconies and stonking music.

Carny Ville finishes in Bristol this weekend, then it’s going on tour. I heartily recommend it to anyone who wants a great night out – hearing or deaf!

Rock on Carny Ville!