Learning the Language of the Deaf

Learning

After university I was left with no employment and so wanted to fill my days as best I could. Voluntary work was fantastic but, after so many years of exams and essays, I missed the challenging learning environment.

I decided I needed to get back in there, and so took up a course in something that had always fascinated me.

Sign Language

Although expensive, I began a British Sign Language Course.

I’ve always been fairly confident when it comes to going to places and doing things on my own, because, of course, for someone with restrictive disabilities and lack of social life, it is inevitable.

It began brilliantly…

I pushed the doorbell and waited. No one came to the door. I am obsessively early for everything and so had time to check that I was in the right place, at the right time. I was.

Then the door opened and an incredibly enthusiastic woman opened the door. I started apologising for being early, and although her lip reading ability was fantastic, she still had to stop me in order to point of the fact she was deaf. I felt so embarrassed. I had been hammering at this woman’s door, peeking through her windows and tapping on the glass. Being uselessly loud.

She invited me in and through the garden where a small and very well equipped building, that was now the classroom, waited. Inside stood the teacher, also deaf.

And so now I’m stood, the too-early-bird, looking at two deaf people who are happily signing to each other, having a full conversation whilst I’m stood in between the pair of them watching… and waiting for someone else to turn up, anyone really.

And then they did.

They say the pupils make the classroom.

I got on well with two individuals, as well as the teacher who turned out to be very funny.

One of the two was a middle aged gentleman with a young deaf daughter. He was taking the course out of desperation, desperation to communicate with his daughter. He was originally from Slovakia and still held the accent quite heavily. He laughed at my ‘Queen’s English’ accent. Even surrounded at home by the traditional East London twang, I still spoke unintentionally like part of the monarchy. And I laughed at the Slovakian spelling of almost everything.

We both found the other’s sarcasm funny, which was a requirement in a signing partner. In fact after all my cynical sarcasm, he turned up one week with a Slovakian/English Translation Dictionary, and three of us started giggling like school children as I tried to pronounce the words he pointing out. Impossible.

The third in our group was another middle aged man, who, although not quite as sarcastic as myself, was polite in a friendly way, non-confrontational, able to laugh at himself and just easy to be around. Another good choice for a signing partner when the teacher separated us up to practice.

Back to prompt in hand – Learning.

I did pass the course and did gain a Level One Qualification in BSL. But it was one of the only courses that, when awaiting the exam results, I genuinely thought to myself ‘I’m not going to pass this’. It was genuinely difficult. Worse than my ‘Olde English’ modules at University. Not even just remembering the hand movements, but also what order to use them in.

To be honest I was shocked I passed. Proud of myself, but shocked nonetheless.

 

Ceramic Canvas #1

As Brian the Snail is finished and done – seemingly the shortest blog project in history – I’ve decided to move on to the next.

This is a Ceramic Canvas that I intend to make as a present for my friend’s new born baby. Or at least the nursery. I’ve realised over the last couple of weeks that any gift intended for the baby isn’t really for the baby. Just as this ceramic canvas block is for my friend and the nursery wall, not for her daughter.

So, instead of something baby related to hang in the nursery, I’m focusing on two things that will probably already be present in the nursery in different forms.

Fairies and the Colour Purple.

This is the beginning. As you can see I’ve gone for the Flower Fairy theme, and after drawing it about a million times have finally drawn it on to the ceramic canvas block with the intention of using liner before painting.

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This is how it looked after I’d lined the basic picture, and I hated it. The left side of the block, that was supposed to represent a tree with a small door looks horrendous. It is far to busy to the point that it no longer looks like a door, and instead seems like a big mass of lines in the middle of the tree. Rubbish. I’m also not keen on the white outlines that I put around the small fairy. I can cope with them, as it might look different with some paint on it. However, the door I cannot stand to look at.

So I changed it.

I know that because of the thickness and purpose of the liner, the patch which once represented a door may well arise again. However, I’d rather have tried, instead of leaving it as a disaster. I spoke to the ladies I paint with each week to see the benefits of picking and washing the liner off, and although the guarantee of it remaining washed off isn’t exactly one hundred percent, the fact that it is a tree and will be painted an array of browns, including a dark brown, works in it’s favour.

Fingers Crossed.

Brian’s Home #5

Brian finally came out of the kiln in one piece… well two pieces.

snail

Although he doesn’t have the block coloured cartoon Brian appearance, I think he looks like a snail you’d be happy to have sat in the garden, a snail that wouldn’t look so terrible in the rain or slightly muddy.

Brian the Garden Snail.

Anger at Parental Silence

Angry

Parents make me angry.

I have organised two outings for the girls in the Kid’s Group that I run. One as a treat in two weeks and a themed party on Saturday.

I began posting information about these events a full month ago, feeling as though by giving the parents such a thorough level of information that far in advance, I was giving them enough time to make up their minds, check their diaries and get back to me.

I was wrong. I heard nothing.

Instead I carried on posting information on the Private Facebook page, at least once a week. Repeating the dates, times, and events over and over. Two out of the twenty replied.

Then a week ago I decided it was getting desperate. Instead I printed out twenty letters about each trip. One even had a named confirmation slip attached. All I needed was a signature. Not only this, but listed on both letters were five ways in which the parents could get back to me. Nothing.

I have to book these trips, select the venues, buy the food, prepare the crafts and other activities. But now I have to do it without any concrete numbers. So I’ve paid it all out, and as everybody knows, everything costs.

So now three days before, feeling a bit more desperate I put a slight threat up on the page, saying that if we don’t hear back and don’t have at least ten then the entire day will be cancelled. Literally within an hour I had nine replies. Was it that difficult??

I understand that non-school related trips and activities often get pushed to the bottom of the pile, that they lose rank in terms of importance. I also understand that these parents and their daughters have other commitments, that they go to other clubs and groups. That they may be taking part in a School Street Parade, be part of a Church Group or have a Dance show – however as a parent you would know about these events at least a week in advance. That would be all I needed. A single week.

So now I’m angry.

I’ve given all these parents equal opportunity to get back to me in a number of different ways, and yet I hear nothing. It seems only when threats of cancellation come out that I suddenly get replies. However, now it seems for the Saturday Party, it will be too little too late.

Now I may have to cancel it and upset the girls who wanted to come. This will be viewed by those parents as my own fault. It is not. It is the parents who don’t get back to me until the last possible second. It is their lack of confirmation that causes the other girls to be upset.

It makes me angry.

I think to myself, imagine if you are throwing your daughter a birthday party, and the other parents weren’t confirming whether or not they could come until the day before.

Imagine how frustrated you’d be. Imagine how angry you’d get.

The Mistaken Kindness of a Stranger

The Kindness of Strangers

Epilepsy means bruises. A seizure involves an inevitable fall. Sometimes those falls are on to another person, making the bruises appear like finger prints. Other times hard surfaces are given the opportunity to paint my skin with an array of colours.

Once I was sat in a Coffee Shop waiting for a friend to turn up, late as always, when a complete stranger came and sat in the seat directly opposite me.

“You don’t have to live with it”

I had absolutely no idea what this woman was talking about. I began to scan her face, hoping that I would recognise her in some way.

“There are people that can help you”

Her kind caring eyes were piercing into mine as I desperately tried to string two words together. I was beginning to wonder whether she’d mistaken me for someone else, but there was such confidence along with the compassion in her voice that I dismissed this as a possibility.

It was at this point that she reached out her hand and rested it on the top of mine. This was getting uncomfortable. I was in a state of complete confusion looking at this woman’s hand and trying to process the sentences she was approaching me with.

“This type of relationship isn’t healthy for you”

My eyes lifted from her hand to her face.

“No one should do that to you. You don’t deserve it”

And suddenly it clicked. The Bruises. I had a particularly violent array of bruises on my arms, chin and cheekbone from a harsh unlucky encounter with a concrete step during a seizure. She had looked at these purple, brown and black patches and assumed that I was in a violent relationship.

I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. But she didn’t give me a chance, instead she started rummaging around in the bag she had brought over with her.

“Listen to me, you don’t need to live like this”

By this time she had retrieved a pen from her bag and had begun to scribble on the napkin on the table between us.

“I know you probably don’t want to talk about it here with me, but call this number. People can help you through this. Remember you don’t deserve it”

She handed me the napkin, now covered in digits, left the table, left the empty coffee mug from which she had been drinking and walked out of the café.

This woman, a complete stranger to me, looked at the marks on my face and felt as though she could help me. She tried to help me.

This compassionate, caring stranger still has no idea that I am epileptic. She must still assume that I am or was in an abusive relationship.

But nevertheless, without any confirmation, this stranger came up and cared.

The phone number was a helpline for Victims of Domestic Abuse.

If I was one of those unfortunate individuals suffering at the hand of another, maybe she would have helped. Maybe she would have made the difference.

Mistaken in her conclusion, but still encouraged by pure kindness.

Youth throws the Greatest Curve Balls

Curve Balls

So often I am surrounded by girls aged between five and ten. Constantly individuals say things or ask questions that widen my eyes in surprise. I have been a volunteer within these groups for around five years, and yet still I am so regularly surprised by the words that emerge from such young mouths.

After all these years I have come up with two potential reactions to such questions or words;

  1. The casual reply of nothingness, playing down whatever shocking thing that has just come out of their mouth, instead of emphasising it.
  2. The simple, yet occasionally necessary question of “Where did you hear that?”

Once a five year old girl came up to me with innocent eyes, and asked this question simply and plainly;

“Ladybird, what’s a Spinster?”

The confidence in the question highlighted to me that this was a genuine. Now that is quite outdated archaic terminology, and so not something she would have readily come across in her Primary School Syllabus.

Choice – Option two

However I did get an unexpected and unknowingly harsh reply –

“Because my mummy said you’re going to be one”.

It always seems to be a solitary word that shocks.

Another example would be one girl’s response to two others hugging.

“They are like Lesbians”

It was shocking that at seven she was able to both understand the term to some degree as well as put it in to a relevant context.

Choice – Option One.

Though one of my favourites still to this day is a picture. Simply because of the innocent ignorance that inspired the piece of artwork, compared to the deeper meaning visible to the group of fellow volunteers around me.

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“Ladybird, would you like some men?”

Yes, I am single.