Vaccinations and My Life Being Deaf

Isn’t it fantastic that the UK is doing better than the rest of the world for once – apart from Israel and the Arab Emirates. The government may have been too slow with addressing dire issues caused by the pandemic a year ago. Then the early opening of previous lockdowns did not help matters and the “Eat Out To Help Out” scheme turned out to be a bad idea. It was a good idea in principle in order to help certain areas of the hospitality trade to re-invent themselves after being closed for months on end. But too many people took advantage of it all and flocked the restaurants. And despite social distancing measures the virus took off again which contributed towards the autumn and winter surges and new mutations etc.  Also there should have been better planning for online education in universities and secondary schools. Then new virus outbreaks that occurred in September could have been avoided in those places when all students returned to their studies after their summer holidays.

When Matt Hancock announced the billions of pounds he was throwing towards the production of new vaccines against the virus here in the UK, I had every confidence it would all work to our advantage bringing the UK up to the top for once. At least we achieved that with something. Owing to the fact that Astra Zeneca had been working on a new vaccine for years, they were able to pull this one out of the bag with some quick modifications and it was wonderful to receive the good news on 30th December that the MHRA had approved for it to be rolled out as soon as possible. And we have been going great guns with it all ever since. It is very impressive with the current daily vaccination figures and they intend to ramp it all up more. The programme is currently on my age group. All of my friends and relations were already vaccinated within 3 days of the second phase starting. My husband and I appear to be left behind because we won’t get ours for another 4 days (for me) and 7 days (for him). We happen to live in an area that is behind with it all. The largest mass vaccination site to us is Debenhams in Folkestone. Had we booked to go there then we may have been vaccinated by now. But the problem with that site, there is nowhere nearby to park. So everyone is choosing a venue at New Romney (including us) hence a much longer and very impatient wait. How I look forward to the feeling of 94% security once my Covid immunity has built up by the middle of March.

I put up a post on Facebook, eagerly telling my friends the day of my booking. Most were happy for me. Including one friend who rejected it. Another friend who rejected the vaccine when it was offered to her is “sad” I am having mine done! A question came to mind… “How on earth does she expect us to get out of this crisis? If it wasn’t for the vaccination programme and the testing and tracing (another thing she opposes) we would be in a terrible situation. (Worse than it is at the moment).  If there was no progress with either effort then the NHS would be destroyed and hundreds upon thousands of people would be catching Covid and dying at home in front of loved ones. And yet this lady in particular would be ready to start going to the pub the exact minute they open those doors to their customers. The friend who was happy for me to have my jab and did not want it for herself told me a friend of hers died of Covid over the weekend. I replied to her saying how sorry I was and I urged her to get her jab as soon as possible as I did not want her to be at risk of catching it and not pulling through. And the good news is, she told me she is now considering it and will be contacting her GP.

It is also great to see the daily cases rates dropping so dramatically. Here is hoping we will be able to look forward to a half decent summer at least. I agree we cannot emerge from the lockdown in a rush. We need this to be the last lockdown if at all possible. It is only 4 days away when we will find out what Boris Johnson’s road map will look like for exiting the lockdown. I won’t be at home to see his Downing Street briefing as that clashes with my vaccination appointment. I did read however that we may be able to reclaim some freedom once the daily case rates are below 1,000. 

I was also given the idea to speak about my deafness during this blog. I am fully deaf in one ear and partly deaf in the other. That is due to missing nerves on one side of my face. I am lucky I am not blind in that eye although movement of that eye is very limited. I was spurned on about writing about this because I often get the feeling exclusion from certain activities and often put it down to not being able to hear very well. My close family have said I have not allowed my deafness to stop me from doing what I wanted through my life. But saying that – I never found the confidence of learning to drive. With limited hearing and impaired vision on my right side left me feeling that I may be a danger to others on the roads even though I think I may very well have proved to be a good driver none-the-less. For that reason, I’ve had a lifetime on relying upon others to ferry me around. It has been a life-long struggle for me generally in my daily life. It has always been hard to prove my intelligence as many people associate deafness with stupidity or daftness, of which I am neither.

 I didn’t know I was deaf until I had my first school medical at the age of 5. I was always aware of one ear being “quiet” and the other ear was “noisy” but it did not occur to me to tell my mother. I thought everyone was the same. I always responded well to both of my parents when they spoke and the fact I had no siblings until I was nearly 9 was another reason why my disability remained unnoticed well during my early years. My Auntie Gloria noticed it when I was 3. She was ill in bed following a miscarriage and my Mum was out doing her food shopping. My cousins and I were playing on her bedroom floor. Gloria then called out to the three of us saying she had some sweets for us. Philip and Clifford eagerly rushed over to her and I remained on the floor playing with my back towards her and she thought then how strange for a child to not come running when sweets were on offer.

Then when I started school, my teacher noticed something amiss. She told my mother that I never answered her when she spoke to me and she had a feeling I was not rude. But the school medical confirmed my deafness.  Fast forward by four years when it was decided for me to have regular check ups at the local hospital. The ear consultant was rather a stern elderly man called Doctor Guild. He was a nasty piece of work. Mum and I were terrified of him and he often had both of us in tears. But I do remember when I had to repeat words he said as he walked away from me and that his favourite catch phrase was “Fish and Chips”. The situation became worse and finally my Dad had to take time off work to take me there in Mum’s place. Dad sat in the consultation room and angrily glared at Dr Guild in a threatening way and the fact he weighed 16 stones – the tables turned and Doctor Guild became a trembling quivering wreck showing he was terrified of Dad. He was trying to appease and please Dad – almost falling over himself in the process and he was extremely pleasant towards me for once in an overboard sickly sweet type of way and that was through not wanting to get on Dad’s wrong side. That was my last appointment there. It was during that particular school year when I could not make any progress with my school-work. I had a teacher called Mrs G who wanted us to sit in girl and boy pairs. (Did she want to marry us off or something?). I was placed towards the back of the room next to a boy called Clive. Mrs G stood at the front of the classroom and whispered her way through the lessons. I could not hear a thing. I would raise my hand to tell her, but she always flapped at me to put my hand down. I tried to explain to her after lesson time that I was deaf and she did not listen. Finally, I told my Mum and she went to see Mrs G to explain about my deafness with a request for me to be placed at the front of the room. I was relieved that Mrs G listened to Mum when she placed me in the second to front row next to a boy called Duncan. I was so pleased about the prospect of being able to hear the lessons. But that was not to be. From that day onwards Mrs G stood at the back of the room and whispered all the lessons from there. Talk about sheer pig headedness. So the standard of my work plummeted and I took an end of year report home full of grade Ds. Luckily we had an excellent teacher the following year called Miss Hudson and I was able to catch up with my school work properly since I was initially declared as grammar school standard when I was only 6.

I went onto a comprehensive school in 1967. My school year was the first experimental year who did not take an 11 + exam. So we had to go with the flow and attend the local secondary modern school. My parents detested the one in the area where we lived until I was 11. So they did one better. They decorated and sold our house in favour of buying a detached bungalow in the country so I could attend another school. It was hard going there not knowing many of the other children plus the fact I was armed with a radio type hearing aid perched in the pocket of my blazer so I could hear better. The other children used to turn up the volume and yell down the speaker “What’s on ITV Lynne?”. I always had to make sure I was placed at the front of the classrooms there so I could hear the lessons clearly and I used to suffer the ignorant comments from the teachers. One told the class, “I know someone who is deaf in one ear and daft in the other”. And that highlighted the everlasting problem I found – that people associate deafness with daftness and stupidity. All through my life I have had to go the extra mile to prove my intelligence. The purchase of the bungalow and the move to the country proved to be pointless because it was in 1969 when I was part of the 25% of Secondary school pupils in my year who were selected to go to one of the four grammar schools in the area. And that is where I met two girls I had previously been with at primary school. I had a bit of a struggle there generally but I did OK. I was provided with a small national health hearing aid when I was 15 but found that to be no good at all. It picked up noises from outside which blocked out indoor noises so I was not able to wear that very much. Our headmistress was deaf too and even though she was a bit of a battle-axe, she understood my problems and she gave me advice from her life-time experiences with it all and how she addressed her daily problems. I had to continue with a medical each term for hearing tests. The deputy headmistress kindly gave up her office for me so I could have these meetings in private. I found them quite insulting. As I grew older I thought they were ridiculous and pointless. The man called Mr F used to talk to me as though I was two years old. He would ask me to repeat words after him. He would say in infantile tones using simple one syllable words for my hearing tests – “Say the word Dog”. “Say the word Cat”. There I was during my final term there with my 19th birthday only 7 weeks away  thinking it was so futile being treated like a baby at an age when my mother gave birth to me. And after I left school I was dismayed to see that Mr F had moved into a bungalow 5 places down from me. And I had to endure these childish conversations on buses and trains if we bumped into each other – which we often did.    

I went forward with a working life that spanned the next 40 years or so and I was very unhappy most of the time. People did not want to carry me when I could not hear very well. I was shown the door too many times with jobs.  People gave other excuses as to why I was being shown the door – but my sixth sense told me they did not want a deaf person working with them. The risk assessment that surrounded my employment terms were too high for quote “ The sake of the company” As this happened all too often and Kevin found I was home a few hours early – I didn’t have to say what happened. He knew and used to ask “How much is this lot paying you off with?” They had to reimburse me because I never did commit any sackable offences and the standard of my work was always very good. I had to suffer sexual harassment in some of my jobs and was once called a slut when I turned up to work one day wearing smart tailored trousers. 

I lasted for 3 years at Fyffes Bananas in London.  I was intensely hated by the other girl in my office. She loathed the sound of my voice and did everything she could to make my life miserable. One day it reached the point where her attitude interfered with the work and our relationship with customers. One had called her and she put him on to me (having wound him up and infuriated him for some considerable length of time). He was well tanked up with anger when I picked up my phone and he refused to tell me who he was and why he called. I was forced to ask the man for those details again because I knew there was no way the other girl would give me his details – not even written down on a piece of paper.  He told me nastily that he was not going to be tied up in our office politics. He had a point, I could not disagree with that and I was made to appear extremely unprofessional. I then politely apologised to him, saying I could not help him. I put the phone down and spoke to my boss telling him what happened and the problems the other girl created which got well in the way of the work and that just could not continue and I threatened to leave if he was not going to fire her. He told me to take an early lunch and I met my friend Jackie in the near-by pub. And golly did I need a stiff drink then! It turned out my boss was planning to fire the other girl over the way she behaved towards me. She got wind of that anyway within the next few days and she found another job fairly quickly and she left Fyffes. I remember on her final day when she brought some cakes in for everyone and she offered me the very last one. (I previously refused to donate money towards her leaving present and I was forced to sign her card under much duress and only wrote my name without wishing her Good Luck). I refused her last cake telling her I was on a diet. I should have told her the truth that I would never accept anything from her. After that I took a Mars bar out of my bag and ate in front of her. How we whopped with joy when she walked out of the building for the last time two hours later. It turned out everyone disliked her.  I had a great time there after that until the company was bought out by the McCann brothers from Dublin. (Not the actors we see in films and on TV). They wanted to replace the entire workforce with their own people. So I left Fyffes at the end of 1988.

I started my next main job at Brinks a few months later and I was there for nearly 6 years. Taking me up to 1995.  Again I got on well and made a few friends. History repeated itself there – the company was bought out and everyone had to leave because the new management had their own people to fill our seats. However – I was bullied there for the first three years by my office manager who also thought it was great fun to whisper messages into my deaf ear. He was fired for treating me badly. It turned out he had mental health issues.    

I flitted about for 15 years after that going from one job to another. I landed a long term position at Medway Council and appeared to get on extremely well there at first. Then I sensed an undercurrent. No one would speak to me. I called the agency concerned and they told me that no one liked the sound of my voice owing to my deafness and the job finished that same day. Then I worked at Mid Kent Water and found the same problem there. After that I worked at Bomag the steam roller firm. I was hated there, so I left. Then I worked at an insurance company and I was bullied there to the highest degree. I had to leave after 18 months. My mother pointed out that I was heading for a nervous breakdown. The bully I worked with is a person I have referred to in private then and ever since as THE COW. I never ever wish to refer to her by her name.  I collect dolls so there is no way any would be given THE COW’S name. (Apart from a voodoo doll maybe). She was so evil and awful. She turned everyone against me. She belittled me from the moment I sat at my desk until the moment I left to go home – every single day. It was during my final week there that another lady from a lower floor told me she observed how I was being treated and how evil and nasty she thought THE COW was. THE COW had top bosses bowing to her command while she strutted about as though she owned the place. In short everyone was terrified of her. And I found out she bullied and worked her way through 13 of my predecessors. Then I worked for a friend and that job did not last. I was blamed for being outrageously rude to a customer saying something my loved ones declare I would never say – and I know full well I did not say what I was accused of.  I felt betrayed. I reckon I was being framed. I knew that lady through The Bachelors – to cut a long story short with that it was good they gave me their support on this issue.  

 I was in and out of so many more jobs after that. I had a wonderful 14 months at Jobcentre Plus where the people were fantastic. They were sympathetic towards my disability. The staff there were trained to accept everyone no matter of age, sex, nationality and disability.  It was while I was there when I finally received my first  modern supersonic hearing aid provided by Hearbase a Kent based NHS supported hearing aid firm. They are programmed to adapt to every situation I enter. I’ve had a few more ever since as they get renewed every three years and I get to keep the old ones. Technology in that respect has improved 100-fold since I had my first hearing aid in 1968. I cannot live without those now.

The job at Jobcentre Plus was only temporary. I went from there to my last full-time position which was with a local carpentry firm in 2010. The boss there was pure evil. He played the part of Mr Old School Nice Guy at the interview so I was shocked to find out from day one at the job how awful he was. He is the worst person I have ever met – so much that he is one who should have been strangled at birth. He refused to repeat himself when I could not hear him. And he belittled and bullied me constantly. I went home in tears nearly every day. How I wished for Kevin to turn up at his premises to punch him in the face for treating me so badly. He used to throw things across the office, narrowly missing me. He was always dressed smartly and he used to F and blind much of the time. Everyone else who came into contact with him loathed him.  I lasted there for just 11 months. He went through several bookkeepers before I joined his company and he has been through a few more since I left. I was heading for another nervous breakdown. Something had to give before I became too ill. My great nephew was born on 14th May 2011 and I decided on that day as we had a new life in the family and the start of a new generation, I was going to renew my life. I decided I was going to leave that terrible job with no prior notice given and I would re-invent myself as a freelance bookkeeper. I waited until the evil boss was on holiday and I made sure the work I did was complete and hunky dory and at home-time on the final day, I left a letter on his desk informing him I was leaving with immediate effect. And I hid at my mother’s house for a week in case he was to come knocking on my door. It was reported back to me since that I was his best bookkeeper. He was almost in tears when he found out I was gone and never to return. I took six months off sick as my doctor agreed that I was suffering from deep depression. And I took that time to attend network meetings and I slowly built up a client base from there officially starting with the bookkeeping from November 2011.

By that time I had what I thought was another 5 years of working life left. A year later I found out – as many other women of my age did too, that we all had to work an further 6 years until our 66th birthdays before we could retire and claim state pension, I did extremely well for about 7 years. I gained a lot of clients and I had no hassle with being bullied or put down because of my deafness. The only problem I had was trying to get people to pay me. Then Making Tax Digital came into effect which gave clients the extra facility to do their own bookkeeping putting many bookkeepers out of work, so I lost a few of them for that reason. Some were corrupt so I had to stop working for them, and latterly the pandemic has seen away others as their businesses failed the test of time with the lockdowns. I am now left with 3 clients. Just had news one is going to jack in his business and become a Tesco’s delivery driver. So – I will be down to 2 clients soon.  It is just 7 months less two days from today when I will be 66 and can start claiming state pension and I will be happy to retire and not worry about working.

The only other problem on a personal level, I married a man who speaks like Grandad Hillbilly Bear. Typical isn’t it? And after nearly 44 years of marriage, he STILL has not learned how to speak up so I can hear him. And the wearing of masks now through the pandemic restrictions put me at a further disadvantage because it is so hard to know what people say to me. I reply upon lipreading. So I have to guess what people say to me. I cannot even wear my hearing aid when I go out from fear of losing it. Hearbase told me scores of deaf people have lost their hearing aids out in the street whilst wearing masks. My husband has to take calls on my behalf as he did just half an hour ago because I struggle with broad accents and most people fail to speak directly into the mouthpieces making the lines sound very faint and bad. I also found through my life I could rarely mix with others that well, through social functions with colleagues. I found I often sat on the edge of those activities.

Now onto Con and Dec’s wonderful Zoom meetings. As we are in another long term lockdown they decided to treat us to weekly meetings. They decided to make the first one of each month into the hour-long sessions as they were before but to make those from weeks 2, 3, 4 and 5 (if there is a week 5) into half hour meetings, But we found that time whizzes by so fast. Con and Dec have tremendous fun entertaining us that the half hour sessions become 45 minutes long or even an hour long. They declared that as being OK as they are Irish after all. An English hour must be an Irish half hour. And being in lockdown, no one is going anywhere so what does it matter if the meetings go on a bit longer. Us fans certainly are not complaining. And they are great. They spend time during the week putting videos together of songs they wish to sing to us – or any that we may request as they always ask for new ideas. Dec is such a fantastic technical, whiz with the way he puts everything together. We are often delighted to see a few Cons and a few Decs on the videos as they sing away to us. Now that is a treat!  Not many men of Dec’s age would be bothered to achieve the high standard videos Dec puts together in such a technical and colourful way.  His early training as a design engineer has put him in good stead for all of that as it is basically built from artistic design as well as the sound effect. Con chats away conversationally with us while Dec is pressing keys and sorting out the next thing to show us. Many of the extra tasks he puts towards it all are what he has taught himself gradually over the years since we all started using home computers. Dec has all the supersonic and advanced state of the art equipment enabling him to achieve such a high standard for the videos he produces. His video design skills are beyond first class standard and they are absolutely brilliant. He often shows parts of their monthly review videos which they did for a number of years right up until the pandemic started. They reserve part of the meetings for question time or discussions about current life subjects. Their meetings are the ultimate highlight of a Bachelors fan’s week. This last meeting was so fabulous. In fact they get better and better each week if that is at all possible to be better than each last one. Dec sang a song called “Stay” that he wrote this Sunday just gone. It is a fantastic song which I think he should have received more recognition for. He is an excellent songwriter and sadly did not write enough of his own material over the years. We heard another song recently called “A Man Like Me” that he co-wrote with a song writer called John Dartnell who looks like a Harry Potter wizard with his long grey beard. Con sang a St Valentine’s Day tribute last Sunday to his late wife “I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen” as her name was Kathleen. She was known to everyone as Kay with the exception of her father who insisted upon calling her Kathleen. This coming Sunday will be something for me to look forward to. They are going to sing “Sometimes When We Touch” dedicated to little old me. Dec asked why I chose that song as a request. I told him it brings back wonderful memories from when I saw their shows through the 1980s.

So we will gather more lovely memories from future shows over the coming weeks and months. I will be back next month with my next blog – hopefully when I am built with extra immunity against Covid from my jab and we will all have some idea upon what our lives will look like through the summer. Part of it I hope will be weekly Bachelors shows. We will have to wait and see. 

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