Friday, 21 May 2010

Say It Loud

I am fully recovered from my visit to planet Noro I am pleased to say. Thank you for all the messages of sympathy and I'm sorry if you have suffered similarly.

Yesterday Nina, the speech and communication specialist, came for another visit. During our conversation last week I had mentioned that I often have difficulty making myself heard in noisy environments because I am unable to project my voice loudly enough. Nina was excited because she had a solution to this problem and this week she had brought with her a plastic case containing a voice amplifier. The device was about the size of an old fashioned Sony Walkman and came with a transdermal (throat) microphone. The EchoVoice has a built in speaker, an on/off switch and a volume control and that's pretty much it. The idea is that you can speak at a low volume and the device amplifies the voice through the speaker. Simple.

Unfortunately not only is the device the size of a Sony Walkman it also looks like it was designed by Amstrad and built in the 1980s being made primarily of beige plastic and with a speaker that wouldn't have been out of place in a transistor radio. As soon as I turned the volume up to a useful level my voice distorted as if it were being fed through a guitar fuzz box. It would be perfect if I wanted to announce the 2.37 from Paddington and not want anyone to understand but not so good for a chat in the school playground. Nina, who had tested the EchoVoice in her office, was disappointed by the reality in the field. I sounded like a rather breathy Dalek. Unfortunately not a very loud one.

Nina left to see if she would have more luck finding something to speed up my typing. I'll let you know how we get on.

Until next time...

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Sick And Tired

If you are unfamiliar with the term Norovirus you are exceedingly fortunate. I mention this because I am now on more than nodding terms with the little packets of DNA and RNA wrapped in protein. The last few days have not been particularly pleasant. I admit that I am self-diagnosing here, and I may be infected with a distant cousin of Noro but since my carers inform me that another of their clients has had the virus I think I'm justified at pointing the finger at the micro-parcel of misery.

Sickness and wheelchairs are not an ideal combination in anyone's book. I'm fortunate that I've had only a relatively mild case but it has still been distinctly grim. I'm over the worse but still feel a little delicate.

Today I had a visit from a Speech and Communications specialist called Nina who came to assess me. You will be surprised to hear that I do, in fact, have the ability to communicate but Nina plans to help me do it better. She is looking into technology that might help speed up my typing and also a system that could help me communicate in noisy environments. We will be meeting again next week. I will, of course, let you know how it goes.

Until next time.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Birthday Boy and Quiz Night

Saturday was Sam's sixth birthday. We have been counting down to the day for months. It is beyond my abilities as a writer to communicate just how vibratingly excited my second born has been in anticipation of the day. His maths has improved no end as he's mastered subtraction and the day has been built up in his mind to a day of birthday perfection. No pressure then. At six o'clock am precisely our bedroom door flew open and our newly minted six-year-old burst in followed seconds later by a slightly blurry-eyed older brother.

Amidst the mass of wrapping paper covered presents was a blue camera from his great aunt Megan. From then on it was like being in bed with a Paparazzi, a blinding flash going off time and time again. Fortunately he was eventually distracted by a game for the Wii which required a retreat to the living room, although every step of the way was photographed and recorded for prosperity. All the time he was clutching a yellow furry thing called a Puffle which Matty had given him.

Later that morning we found ourselves at Kidspace in Croyden, one of those indoor maze of climbing, rope, plastic and tunnels in garish colours that children vanish into to scream and chase and perform death-defying slides in foam encased safety. Eight of Sam's friends, plus Matty were in attendance for this much anticipated party. We had booked the party months ago and all we had to do was turn up with some children and a cake. The cake, Sam had specified, was to be in the form of a caterpillar with each segment a different colour and with each child's name written upon it. The staff at Kidspace were taking care of the rest, including the food, in the exclusive birthday party orientated Orange Pod. You will be unsurprised to know that I managed to find a table and a cup of coffee to retreat to.

That evening we left the happily exhausted birthday boy in the loving care of Pam, his grandmother, and attended a quiz night at the school. As previously mentioned in these pages, I love quizzes and become insufferably competitive when partaking in one. For years I have competed in the school quiz and for years my team has come second. This year, unlike last, I was not suffering Oxygen deprivation and a lifetime of accumulated trivia came to the fore. Yes I knew what Dane Godtfred Kirk Christiansen gave the world in 1958. Where was the Magna Carta signed? Easy. Ha! Who was Queen Elizabeth II first prime-minister? Ask me something challenging. The chemical symbol for Potassium? Okay. Fortunately I was a member of a team who knew such things. They also knew such useful things as the number of dominoes in a set. By the time of the final round, general knowledge, it was neck and neck Which superhero's secret identity is Steve Rogers? If my facial muscles were capable of it a huge grin would has spread across my overly smug face. We had that round nailed.

The final scores were totalled up and we, by the massive margin of 1 point, had snatched victory. At last my awesome talent had been recognised. As Polly and I wandered home, our victory bottles of wine clinking together, we considered that, all in all, it had been a pretty good day.

Until next time. . .

Answers – Lego. Runnymede. Winston Churchill. K. 28. Captain America.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Can He Talk?

I took the boys to their trampoline lesson last Friday at our local leisure centre. The lesson is held in a vast, echoing hall with four trampolines in one corner and a couple of badminton courts scattered around. While the children await their turn for their one-to-one coaching they tend to run around the hall chasing a ball or playing tag, shrieking at a pitch that seems to resonate with the with the natural frequency of the hall and at a volume to make your ears bleed.

In the course of this running around between bouncing Matty collided with another child and I looked up from my book to see him sitting on the floor nursing his left leg. A group of children had gathered round and one of the mothers had come over to check that there was not too much damage done. I put down my book and took up my parental responsibility and wheeled across the cavernous hall towards the group. As I approached I could see that Matty was going to live and I cancelled the explanation I'd mentally started rehearsing for Polly about how my eye had never left him. The mother looked up to assure me that there was no serious damage done. Just then a little boy said loudly and clearly, “ Mum, mum, I think that man wants something.” The mother replied “ Yes, he's come to check that Matty is okay.” The boy looked puzzled. “Why would he do that? “ The mother flashed me an apologetic smile. “Because he's Matty's daddy.” “Is he? What really?” The boy looked at me with open curiosity and then checked with his mother. “Are you sure?” “Yes,” hissed his mother looking at me and mouthing “Sorry.” The boy continued to look me over. “Can he talk?” I fixed him in the eye and said firmly, “Yes, he can.” “Oh,” said the boy, “that's all right then.” He then wandered off to play. His mother, obviously wishing the polished floor would open up beneath her, could only mouth “Sorry” again.

Until next time.