Talk to The Hand

We’re going away this weekend with a group of friends that we see a couple of times each year in person, and regularly online. We are the good side of meeting those weirdos that spend hours playing computer games – we are those weirdos.

Each time I see them a little bit of me has dipped. It’s like a health version of those growth charts where you measure the child & mark it on a door frame. The last time we all met up was last September & I was coping well – my rosacea was trying to eat my face, but I was cosplaying in a mask so it was fine. Since then, my neck has got worse and causes much more frequent blinding migraines without warning, and my hearing has got worse.

The first is unpredictable, but I can throw drugs at it & they’re used to me being gently massaged back into place by Mr Geek as we carry on our game. There’s a neck brace, but that’s to keep my skull from sinking & re-enacting scenes from GoT. Like the other braces, largely ignore it. The second is constant and more of an issue – I can’t hear you.

So this post is more of a pre-holiday Deaf Friend 101 for my friends of stuff I’ve learnt works & ideas to nake everyone a bit more comfortable. It also includes a few signs so you know why I’m flapping my arms about.

I Can’t Hear You (properly)

Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. It’s got worse since the migraines stepped up a gear and if you call my name, I’m going to hear (maybe) the vowels – if there’s other people talking, you’ve no chance. To get an idea, imagine being in a really noisy club (yes, I know we don’t do social) and trying to have a chat. Their voice melts into all the other noises & you haven’t a fucking clue what they’re saying. Now put noise cancelling headphones on that play a hugh pitched ringing, and you’re almost there in my head.

My hearing aids amplify everything, not just your voices. It’s sensory overload – whilst it makes everything clearer, listening to crisp packets open in HD all day gives me a massice headache – I prefer my quiet dentist drill head.

How to help:

  • If I’m not looking at you, tap my shoulder (it’s not rude) or wave
  • If lots of people are talking, make eye contact & still wave
  • Talk normally, shouting distorts your mouth
  • Please don’t cover your mouth (if you have a beard expect a fair bit of guess work on my part)

Want a quick answer? Try a sign:


(For help you, just switch the direction)

Playing Games

Board games are great because they have visual clues to what’s going on. Except we play arsehole games where we switch rules & co-op (badly). These are confusing anyway, but I am channelling my World of Warcraft character here – I’m on /follow and wondering why you guys are yelling.

This does not mean that I don’t want to play! I have some serious FOMO right now. I shall go to the ball & laugh inappropriately because I misread what was going on.

Ooh look! More videos – because every day is a school day 🙂

Win!:

Lose!:

Fire Alarms & Such

Being practical, you stick nine nerds in a cottage one of is going to set the fire alarm off. I do hear alarms, but duller (is that a word?) so they invoke less of a reaction. In an emergency, just point to the door – I’ll get it & as we’re on the ground floor gettig out on wheels shouldn’t be an issue.

For less desperate stuff…

Need:

Doctor:

Tired (not big boobs):

Bed:

And finally, because they’re a staple at every meetup & I want to see you sign this without laughing (icepop):

Finally finally, yay for the weekend & Superbowl Sunday with awesome people 🏈

All of the sign videos are from the BSL Dictionary.

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Escapism

So here’s the thing. I make a lot of jokes about goofing off & not trying too hard – all of these things are basically pure fantasy. I love my job. Teaching is in my bones and I find it nigh on impossible to switch off.

I work “part time” now, by which I mean I am contracted to work 4 days each week, spend my day off marking & prepping, and tutor 4 evenings & Saturday mornings. Part time = 45+ hours each week. When I’m not working, I’m mulling something over about work. So I needed a distraction that wasn’t generalized ranting on Twitter.

I’ve blogged a lot before about the need for pacing and work/life balance, but I just suck at it. Take right now as an example – it’s past midnight & I have a meeting tomorrow (today) with someone who I really want to approve of me as a teacher (fuck. I’m 38 & have been doing this a decade. Why am I still seeking approval like a puppy?!). Ok, I’m mainly awake because my knee dislocated, it’s swollen like a balloon, and liquid morphine keeps me awake.

So yeah, here I am at peak anxiety with pain levels that are piercing through the usual drugs & a top up of 20ml morphine. Anxiety does not help with pain, so I learnt to meditate.

I ought to mention that I’m equally shit at meditating because my brain gets bored. I sit here & do a “body check”. Breathe in……. Breathe out….. Breathe in…… Toes…um… Shit. I can’t feel my toes! …. Calm down dickhead, we haven’t felt our toes in years. Oh yeah…… Breathe out…..

I place myself somewhere calm….. here I am dancing gazelle-like through the fields of my mind… getting to know my new roleplaying character…. Clear your mind…. Nope…. And relaaaax…. Nope.

Because actually where I get to relax is inside my head creating stuff. As a weird only child, I spent ages in my room building home made maps & villages where the stories I told to the people in my head took place. I was generally far happier chatting to made up people than real ones. Mr Geek shares my love of sitting quietly with little plastic figures & watches from his office as I bring my imaginary friends out to play with others.

It’s been decades since I created something more personal than cool learning resources. I’ve sunk all of my creativity into developing CSI style codebreaking resources, Elma the Elephant hexadecimal colouring, Game of Prolog, Revision Twister… But over the past few months the games have crept back in. First came Warhammer, then Bloodbowl (if you suck at meditating, try painting teeny little orcs for weeks on end), then over the past few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to join some roleplaying games online and have just started a weekly campaign.

Before you back away from the nerd, hear me out.

Today was Game Zero – working out who we are, our back stories, the world around us & how we gel as a team. What I remember from teenage games was us as kids picking the warrior woman with the massive tits and distracting guards with nipples (and frankly nearly killing our shy DM who barely looked at women let alone knew what a real boob looked like). Instead, what we got was a game that lets us test out our psyche.

“What do you want from this character?” Holy crap, that’s a deep question. By this point I was already invested so just went with it.

In a group of just four, one is seeing what it’s like to have real faith, one is living knowing that they will die, one is merging being a young soldier with hidden disabilities, and another a manchild rebelling against caring parents for the greater good of those around him. This is heavy stuff – not your average elven archer skipping through the forest in suggestively shiney tights. I have to hand it to Blood – she unpicked our characters until they were real. We all know at some point a specific character is going to die, and yet we’re going to willingly get attached. Self-preservation mode has pressed the eject button & has shot itself through the ceiling.

So here we are, instead of meditating and clearing my mind to reduce pain, I’ve created Pip (Lady Philippa Billingworth), a genetically modified soldier with the anger issues of an orphaned teenage girl, topped with a mutation causted by the faulty collagen gene already in her body allowing her to bend & break her body seemingly at will. She’s the angry, frustrated internal me, albeit with a 7ft much more functional body and weapons. That can’t be a good idea…

To see what we’re up to & some of the other weird and wonderful activities from the guys, check out these links:

You can find me on Twitter at @I_Am_Spanners

Please do check out the Bloodthirsty puppets at either their website or Twitch (where you’ll get points for watching which you can use to mess with the game play!)

www.bloodthirstypuppets.co.uk

Bloodthirsty Puppets Twitch Channel – Regular games of various fun. Catch me every Monday at 7.30pm GMT, and watch along with me on Friday Night Spiced at 8pm GMT (unsurprisingly on Fridays), plus plenty of others.

And of course, I can’t do an intro to me being allowed to play with tese guys witbout mentioning ‘the hot one’

Skaggeth Twitch Channel – this guy is an absolute dude.

My Stupid Stories

When I glance over my blogs and photos of myself and Sherlock between the years ’04 and ’15, I am faced by so many which present strange and interesting features that it is no easy matter to know which to choose and which to leave. Some have previously seen light in my blogging, and others would not be deemed suitable for the musings about my dear friend, whilst a few would identify her kindly nature that betrays the aloof and analytical body that she wishes to portray to the world. This particular story will do just this.

The year ’15 had furnished us with a multitude of work, resulting in her resettlement in Ireland and my fast decline in health and the resultant confinement to this wretched perambulation contraption; these two facts bear no correlation, but remain noteworthy for the purposes of the scene. Sherlock had since purchased a substantial property, acquired some Strange objects to fascinate her and begun a collection of historical automobiles which in some otherworldly fashion crossed to the other side once in her possession. All these I may sketch out at some future date, but none of them present such singular features as the strange train of circumstances which I have now taken up my pen to describe.

It was New Years Day of ’16, and as a coincidence also my 36th birthday. All day the wind had screamed and the rain had beaten against the windows, so that even here in the sheltered Downs of the South we were forced to raise our minds for the instant from the routine of life and to recognise the presence of those great elemental forces which shriek at mankind through the bars of his civilisation, like untamed beasts in a cage. My mood had reflected that of the weather, having been detained from my bed by our guests the night previous to celebrate the appearance of the New Year. With much fuss and confusion, I agreed to join my gathered family members that morning and acknowledge the passing of another year on this earth. I was presented with a most unusual gift by Mr Geek containing a cryptic message within the intricate silver workings of a beautiful necklace. I identified the chemical composition as dopamine with haste and assumed that this was a reference to my current use of the painkilling substance morphine, to which dopamine is so closely linked. This necklace offered me a clue to things which I had not the presence of mind to see.

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As evening drew in, the storm grew higher and louder, and the wind cried and sobbed like a child in the chimney. I received a message from my dear absent friend wishing me well with a “I hope you have a happy birthday Sherlock”, supposedly alluding to the evenings entertainment as well as our pen names for each other. Perhaps it was my contrary mood, but with I as Watson, this was not wholly accurate. Being aware of the imminent requirement to leave my residence in order to attend a social event some miles away at the theatre, I was very much inclined to cry like the child in the chimney myself.

Looking directly at Mr Geek who was busying himself readying my clothes for the evening, I said “I am tired my dear. Do you think it wise to go out this evening?”.

“Watson! We have made fast plans and we will not dissapoint the others” He scolded, and continued to help me dress. I determined that I would wear both my new necklace and bracelet which was half of a whole that I had shared with Sherlock the Christmas hence. On affixing my necklace, I discovered that my bracelet had vanished from my bedside cabinet and was nowhere to be seen.

It was with a heavy heart, and an empty wrist that we departed for the theatre at which we were to watch the annual Moffat production which I had previously enjoyed each year with Sherlock. The loss of this simple silver piece ignited a sense of loss that had previously been well hidden.

The collection of my sister-in-law and her good man served to lighten my spirits as we travelled to our destination. “Will there be additional content, do you think?” Suggested Ms Bouffet.

“I would believe so.”

“I hope” she said, “that the content may be earlier than that for the general populous. Or at the least with additional detail.”

“The timing would indeed suggest so”

My conversation was lacking and as such was noted by my travelling companions who asked after my health. I was indeed in a substantial volume of discomfort and explained that my demeanour was due to the ineffectual medication. I did not allude to my earlier emotional state over a simple bracelet as this would have made me appear quite unhinged.

Upon our arrival at our destination, I spent some considerable time talking with Ms Bouffet’s good gentleman, discussing several shared interests and his plans for future detective work. Engrossed in this most fascinating of conversations, I was to be surprised my a pair of hands appearing over my eyes!

Initially fearful as my vision was robbed from me, my emotions were quick to change upon hearing a familiar voice from behind asking “Did you miss me?”.

Refusing to believe my own senses, I turned my chair around and discovered that trusting my reactions was a fruitful venture. “Sherlock!” Cried I.

“Hello Watson.”

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My beloved Sherlock had flown hundreds of miles over the New Year festivities at at the behest of Mr Geek to surprise me at my own birthday gathering. I could not have been happier.

The group, Sherlock & I located our seats at the first opportunity laden with a sugar coated feast that would see us through several performances and settled on to thoroughly enjoy the visual and cerebral on screen delights bestowed upon us by Moffat & Gatis. We were not to be dissapointed and whilst I may not be physically able to move to the edge of my seat anymore, nonetheless there I remained.

As the evening drew to its inevitable end, the mood remained high. It would seem that all were aware of this plan and had played their own parts, sending messages wishing a Happy New Year “from afar” and leaving discreet clues.
I had been the only one not to put each of the pieces together and deduce their plan.

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“And necklace with dopamine.” Explained Mr Geek, “So you will always be happy.”

Sherlock looked at me with her eyes as sharp as ever. “Elementary, my dear Watson”.

Footnote:

My Dearest Sherlock,

Thank you for flying all the way here just to see me on my birthday. I couldn’t have asked for a better present and seeing you utterly made my day. Extra points for spending the following day in ridiculous onsies and making plans to take over the world.

I also owe thanks to Messrs Geeks for buying tickets, looking after children & keeping such an enormous secret. I will be over to see you soon larger & hairier Geek and will give you such a hug! I miss you just as much xx

Putting several hundred miles and a sea between us doesn’t stop the four of us being the best of friends.

Yours as ever & without condition.

Watson.

For authenticity, and a particularly nerdy reference to the episode, some snippets were taken and adapted from The Five Orange Pips from the original Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle