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Things You’re Unlikely To See #6

spectacle wearer of the year 2015


Q. What’s the difference between hearing aids and glasses?

A. Aside from approx £3,500 per pair, nobody ever says “I like your new hearing aids” when you walk into a room.

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Specsavers recently announced the winner of their Spectacle Wearer of the Year competition, but potential Hearing Aid Wearers of the Year are still waiting for their invitation to step forward. Go on, Specsavers, I’d love a holiday in the Bahamas and £10,000 to buy a pair of hearing aids that work…


Like mother, like daughter…

The other day, while I was listening to Mama’s light hearted chat about various aspects of her ongoing corporeal decay, she suddenly broke off and assumed an alarming air of gravity.

“Now tell me,” she said, fixing me with a steely gaze and causing me to brace myself for something potentially worrying. Fortunately, her question was quite harmless and I was able to unbrace myself and finish swallowing my mouthful of tea immediately. “How did you get your, your…er, your hearing aids?” she said. “Are they from the NHS?”

I thought she was taking an interest in my hearing, but it turned out that she thought she might need hearing aids herself and wanted to know how to go about getting them. I was delighted to have an opportunity to share my comprehensive knowledge of NHS audiology referral procedures, but wasn’t sure whether it would be needed. Knowing Mama’s lifelong propensity for poking cotton buds into her ear canals, the description of her current hearing loss sounded rather more like a bad case of earwax, so I advised her to get her ears checked by her GP. While I was talking, I noticed her leaning worryingly from side to side in her notoriously unstable motorised armchair, and I wondered what she was doing.

“Have you got two? Have you got them in just now?” she said, squinting unsuccessfully at each side of my distant head, before correcting herself. “Oh, silly me!” she tutted,  “Of course you’ve got them on, you’d need to be wearing them to get the cheap train ticket.”

I marvelled at the pensioner logic that stated I had hearing aids for the purpose of getting a discount on the train, rather than to hear things, and noted that here was yet another great thing about hearing loss I’d overlooked. I could even extend Mama’s logic to reassert my superiority when licking my wounds in bad hearing situations. The next time someone annoyed me by saying, “It’s really noisy in here, you’re lucky you can take your hearing aids out!”, I could say “Lucky I can take them out? Lucky? Pah! That’s absolutely nothing compared to the 1/3 off discount on the train for hearing aid users! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, if you think hearing loss is some kind of disadvantage!”

Mama was already in possession of a pensioner railcard, therefore didn’t need a visible pair of hearing aids to get a discount on the train.

“If it was me, I’d want the tiny wee ones that go right inside your ears”, she announced, doing an unconscious mime of how she imagined putting them in would go. She missed out the bit where you drop them on the floor several times, before treading on them by accident. Having witnessed her arthritic dexterity when narrowly avoiding slicing through the power supply cable of the electric carving knife she was using to attack a tomato at lunchtime, I decided I had to convince her that microscopic hearing aids might not be the best idea.

“You know,” I said, assuming an air of great authority, “behind the ear ones are much easier to handle if you’re ol…” I noticed a white eyebrow raise, and changed tack by adding, “personally, I don’t give a stuff about what they look like any more.”

“I can see that”, said Mama, making sure I wasn’t getting too big for my daughterly boots. She had another quick glance at my head before adding for good measure, “it’s probably a good thing you’re only able to see them from the front.”

It’s An Ill Wind

It’s 2012, and if the recent apocalyptic weather conditions in Scotland are anything to go by, I’m starting to wonder if the Mayans might have had it right with their predictions after all.

New Year Resolution No. 1: Go for early morning run round park, has already been thwarted by the sudden appearance of a river where the concrete path used to be.

Phew, thank goodness for that.

Wedding Woes

I am going to a wedding in two weeks time, and the sartorial requirements of a special occasion are causing me a great amount of anxiety. My usual drab black clothes and bunion-friendly men’s hiking boots do not lend themselves to the celebratory nature of a wedding, so I was forced to venture to the shops today in search of a suitable alternative.

I decided to ease the trauma of the clothes shopping experience slightly, by doing a little bit of internet research first. I needed to find the best shape of dress to suit my womanly curves, so I did a search for “Flattering dress suggestions for mature woman with huge knockers, no waist and a prominent stomach”. To my delight, hundreds of lovely frocks came up. Since nearly all of them were on shapely size zero models with perfect little poached-egg bosoms and washboard stomachs, they were very flattering indeed, and I felt glad that I now knew what to look for.

Three hours later, if the shop assistant in the Debenhams changing room wondered what the strange grunting and ripping noises coming from cubicle No.3 were, or what the hastily retrieved beige projectile that skittered under the curtain was, she politely never let on.

I am now in happy possession of a suitably stretchy wedding outfit, and all I need to find now is some men’s high heeled shoes.

Pigeons In The Park

The spouse and I whiled away a couple of pleasant hours in the sun filled Jephson Gardens in Leamington Spa yesterday, as we waited to catch our train back home to Glasgow.

The spouse was happily caught up in the Guardian TV Guide, while I listened to the cooing and clucking pigeons clustered near the fountains and realised I had forgotten they made that noise. As I admired their slender pink legs, something else seemed a bit strange, and then it struck me that I had never seen so many pigeons with intact feet before. Most of the Glasgow ones make do with a couple of toes on one foot and a stump on the other. Not only that, the Leamington Spa pigeons had all their feathers. Amazing. I noted how much healthier they are in Leamington Spa than Glasgow, and wondered if pigeon mortality rates tallied with human mortality rates by city in the national league tables. Just as I was about to share this important observation with the spouse, a man on a mobility scooter trundled slowly past. All of a sudden, there was a massive flurry of wings as the entire flock of pigeons took to the air and besieged the unfortunate man as he made his way to the duck pond.

“Oh my god, they’re attacking him!” I said in horror, wondering if this was the dark side of Leamington Spa pigeons. A small child fled in terror from the scene but, strangely, the man seemed totally unperturbed. As we watched in amazement, he stopped his scooter and became transformed into a latter day St Francis of Assissi. He fed his feathered friends lovingly by hand and they rewarded him by covering him in droppings for good luck and plucking loose threads from his jumper. They took it in turns to perch on his head and shoulders and tickled his ears with their wings. Once his bag of seed had been emptied, he trundled happily away.

“Good thing he was wearing his cap”, said the spouse pragmatically.

A Visit From The Tooth Fairy

It’s been horribly busy at work lately, and the last thing I needed was the mysterious arrival of a pulsating hard lump on the roof of my mouth. I’m generally rather slow in getting round to making dentist and doctor’s  appointments, but I make an exception for anything which has developed its own pulse.

After a pleading phone call to my dentist brother, I was in his surgery the next evening. I was half an hour early, as always, and my extreme punctuality combined with some ill-judged fake nodding and smiling to the receptionist in response to something inaudible, caused a brief case of mistaken identity in the waiting room. Fortunately, the person who actually did have an appointment at 5:10 finally got it and I amused myself in the meantime with the atrocious ‘Britain’s Got talent’ on the flatscreen telly.

A little while later, the singing chihuahuas in a shopping basket being booed off the stage were a memory, and I was prostrate in the dentist’s chair, being probed in the palate by a succession of ever longer pointy instruments. Strangely, I couldn’t feel any of them.

“Ah, yes,” announced big bruv triumphantly, “I think we’ve got an ‘unerupted 5’ here…”

My heart began beating visibly in my chest, and I wished I’d never furtively read all of big bruv’s dental textbooks when he was a student. I sat up in horror.

“What! I’ve got a tooth coming down through the roof of my mouth? At 45? Oh my god…”

I went a little faint as my over-active imagination instantly fashioned a David Cronenberg extraction scene in horrible close-up. It was a hideously creative mashup of the Tooth Gun sequence in Existenz merged with some graphic bone chiselling scenes from the fascinating ‘Children’s Cranio-facial Surgery’ documentary I’d watched on BBC2 the other week while the spouse was out. To add to my rapidly increasing anxiety, a dentist’s drill started up somewhere along the corridor, lending some unwanted real sound effects to my already vivid mental picture.

An x-ray was done, and as I waited for bruv to re-appear with the results, I squirmed at the ever louder high-pitched drilling going on along the corridor. I couldn’t hear any screams, but with my auditory track record that didn’t really mean anything. When the door finally opened, I was relieved to see that the drilling noise was actually the cleaning lady hoovering the carpet because everyone else had now gone home.

“Hmmmm…” said big bruv as he peered at the x-ray. “Strange. It’s not an unerupted 5 after all. Don’t know what it is… think this needs a second opinion.”

I was elated that the horror extraction through the roof of the mouth was off, but dismayed that a second opinion was required since in my experience, they’re usually far less cheerful than the first one. My white-knuckle grip on the neckline of my cardigan tightened as dentist No. 2 deliberated over some extremely faint hairlines on the x-ray. The second opinion was, that a piece of root left behind from an extraction 35 years ago might be lurking invisibly and causing the abscess. A series of x-rays from increasingly bizarre angles followed, but revealed nothing conclusive, other than that it’s a good idea to take your hearing aid off before having an x-ray, so it’s a case of taking some antibiotics and waiting to see what happens next.

Nothing like a nice bit of suspense now and then…

‘Snot Mine

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s litter dropped in the street. So when I noticed I’d inadvertently dropped one of my numerous paper hankies on the station platform after wrestling the i-Pod from my handbag the other morning, I immediately picked it up before it blew away.

On closer inspection, however, I wasn’t entirely convinced it was mine after all, and only the station security camera knew the truth. Dilemma: be seen to drop litter, or put what might be someone else’s snotty hanky in my handbag. You’ll be relieved to know I opted for the former.


Home Alone

It has been very quiet at Cookie Bite HQ this week since the spouse went away to London for a few days. It has been very tough making my own coffee in the morning, and even tougher re-acquainting myself with the cooker, since I am married to that rare species: a Domestic God who likes cooking. In his absence, my lone evening meals have been constructed not from a nutritional point of view, but on the basis of what combination of week-old leftovers will lead to the least washing up, when cooked in the least amount of time.

Monday night’s poached eggs on toast required a slight bit of pre-preparation in the form of testing the slightly past their sell-by date eggs in a bowl of water, and carefully trimming the two least mouldy slices of bread, but the extra effort was worthwhile.

Tuesday night was Burns Night and, unable to find a freak leftover haggis in the fridge, I toyed with having mashed potato and neeps on their own. After earnestly carving the selected potato to the size of a chickpea trying to find a non-green bit, I plumped for macaroni cheese instead. It was made with the 62g of broken macaroni left in the bottom of the bag, and a skilfully reconditioned heel of sweaty cheddar.

Last night found me tucking into a microwaved baked potato garnished with a delicious coleslaw made from a slightly limp carrot and the last scrapings of mayonnaise from the bottom of an empty jar, while I watched ‘Will My Crash Diet Kill Me’ on Channel 5.

Although I shall be delighted to be reunited with the spouse tonight, there has been one unexpected benefit to my sole occupancy of the house. The toilet seat is always down.

Back to Work

It was time to go back to work yesterday, and I wasn’t in the mood. Not even the exciting prospect of giving the hearing aid a nice new tube  to celebrate its first birthday could bring cheer to my miserable features.

After dragging myself into the bathroom, I lingered in the shower a little longer than usual in the hope that it might turn into a magical portal to a utopian world where everyone was on permanent holiday, and an envelope of money was dropped through the letterbox at the end of every month. When this failed to materialise, I emerged reluctantly from the soothing hot water and set about the complicated task of selecting an outfit to disguise my post-Christmas stomach bulge. Several bad tempered costume changes later, I remembered the sage advice in ‘Dressing Thin’ and settled for a Lycra-free t shirt and long cardigan, the perfect blend of camouflage and comfort.

An hour later, I was back in the bosom of The Institute of Artistic Endeavour, and very glad of my decision not to go for long sleeves. When I unlocked the office door, I was hit by a rush of escaping heat similar to that which burnt my eyebrows off in 1974 when I was playing with the gas oven at home while my mother was out. I pushed the office door open wide with my foot to let the heat out, pausing to remove my now out of date Miniature Holy Family Nativity Set from their perch in the pane of glass above the door handle. As I looked around, the sad sight of some very brown and very dead plants met my eyes and a faint whiff of cheese from the forgotten pre-Christmas leftover milk on the tea tray met my nostrils.

Sadly, the office thermometer was no use in establishing whether this was a record high temperature for the notoriously out of control heating system, because it had exploded at some point during the Christmas break, leaving a blood-like stain and some tiny shards of broken glass in my tea cup. Whether it exploded because of the extreme heat when the heating went back on, or the extreme cold while it was switched off will remain a tantalising mystery.

Frosty the Snowman

As the spouse and I head off on our annual road trip to Ayrshire with a dead turkey, a Christmas pudding and a snow shovel in the back of the car, the sun is shining and it’s a modest minus 7 degrees outside. I leave you with this fine example of a snowman found in the park.

Merry Christmas!



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