Friday, June 02, 2006

Bodily functions that get old and leathery

My eyesight was once so good that my parents would call me to ask whether or not there was someone standing at the so-called middle gate to our tenant farmhouse. The post and milk would be left there, about 100 metres from the house, which was built in a fenced-off compound in the middle of a field of grazing cows.

Milkmen tend to avoid free roaming cows, ironically enough. Postmen do too. So my father fixed a recycled metal electricity meter box to a pole and we'd quite literally meet them halfway. The cavernous box would contain either milk bottles or post or bottles of milk, depending on the time of day.

The fact that the lane it lived in was haunted by one of the several spirits that lived in or near the house didn't help, because it tended to form into a man shape and trick the eye. So I'd be called in to settle the argument. Was that a man? If so, trundle down and get the mail or the milk. If not, back to playing Begger My Neighbour by the fire.

By the 1980s, I was fairly blind. Not in a clinical sense, I suppose, but my myopia meant that I could only tell the number on a bus at about fifty feet. People would think I was being standoffish when while passing on the other side of the road I wouldn't even say hello. Truth was, I couldn't see them well enough to recognise them.

My father, in his old age, was and is quite hard of hearing, like his mother before him. I persuaded him once that he could get a hearing aid on the Social Welfare and he did so, because the thing was for free.

"It's not that you're deaf," the sour nurse in the clinic shouted at him. "It's because people don't speak properly, isn't it?"

My father agreed as if someone finally understood. Of course, he hadn't worked out that the cow was taking the piss out of him. People like that shouldn't work in professions. I've had a lifetime of smarmy teachers and bastards with a little power over a queue of people. Fuckers.

Anyhow, now that I can see again (provided I wear the specs, which I do, rather than fall into unseen holes in the ground, etc), I've tried to make use of my father's aural experience with my artificially-enhanced eyesight, with mixed results. Take lip-reading, for instance. I can make out a few syllables if I try, and presumably that's how lip-reading is learned anyhow. Watch the lips and make out what's being said.

On the 75 bus the other day, our African driver was a little over-enthusiastic at the Tallaght Hospital roundabout and cut off a car driver who was exiting towards the Whitestown direction. I had a clear view through the car driver's windscreen as he braked, leaned heavily on the car horn and shouted something. To my shaky lip-reading it looked like:

"Black mustard."

When the first batteries wore out in my father's hearing aid, he put the thing away as a bad job. We were back to loud televisions and shouting at him.

Maybe he was right. It's not a great idea to expect too much.

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