Looking And Listening

13 November 2020

As a youngster I was reminded that I have two eyes, two ears but one mouth. So I should look and listen twice as hard as I speak. Very young children naturally reach out and touch things as they see them, often wanting to put an item in their mouth. I had a set of small toy bricks which were painted either red, yellow, green or blue. I must have liked one of the blue-coloured ones as I wore much of the paint from it! But I learned that it was not a good idea to always touch things. At school I tried to sit near the front of a class, purely so I could see and hear all that was being taught. I wanted to learn and that has always been my way.

Sadly some things were not always explained to me in the way I would have wished, like I had a history teacher who undoubtedly knew her subject but didn’t teach it in a way that worked for me. When I asked questions I would almost be told to be quiet and learn! Why did we need to know when certain things occurred in the past? To know them and pass exams, so I could then get a better job to earn money to live and perhaps then provide for a wife and family, I learned that later. So as a result, in subjects where I was very well taught I did well at, but where I was not, I saw no point in learning. I was and probably still am too logical in my ways of thinking! Perhaps that is why I can work with computers!

Sadly I did not get on too well with one particular Maths and English teacher. I was away from school for a short while as I needed a hospital operation. When I returned to school this one particular Monday, the maths teacher gave us the homework on what she had taught the class during the previous week. So after class, I spoke to her and explained that I’d been away the previous week and couldn’t do the homework. Her reply was “that’s not my problem!”. So I went home and told my Dad, who himself was a teacher. He taught me all about this aspect of maths, then I did all the homework on my own. Dad did tell me afterwards that I’d got all the correct answers, I showed my working too. But when I handed the homework in, it was given back with the words ‘This is not the way I taught you!’ scrawled in red all over it. Unusually for him, my dear Dad decided to complain and he took this same teacher to task over this. I had not been in class so had missed the lesson through no fault of my own, I had done the homework, getting all the questions right and showing all my working! Then the following year I got a very different Maths & English teacher and my grades improved dramatically!

It proved to me then, as it still does now that we should always take the time to listen. I know a famous story which ends with “There are teachers and there are educators”. I like that, it is so very true. A few minutes taken to listen to another person can save a lot of disagreement. I am reminded of a sign I saw which read “This department requires no Physical Fitness programme. Everyone here gets enough exercise always jumping to conclusions, flying off the handle, dodging responsibility, pulling the strings, stretching the truth, bending the rules and pushing their luck!” We are all human (I think!) and therefore we make mistakes, we forget things. It is part of who we are. But I know of times when some people have been verbally abused abominably for simply forgetting an item.

Right now I am in a Care Home and I am being very well cared for, but yes, they sometimes do forget that I prefer one sugar in my tea but no milk. If they forget and put milk in though, I politely and calmly ask them for a replacement with no milk. My health has improved since cutting that out. But if they forget to put sugar in, it’s no big deal, I either drink it without or I put a bit of sugar of my own in as I now have a few sachets… But in the past I’ve had to turn my car around, drive home and get an item I needed. So, I’ve learned to reorganise things so that if there’s an item I need to take with me of a morning, I put it in a prominent place by the door the night before! I am very rarely at my best first thing in the morning… Let me have breakfast and a cuppa, then I might just about be able to converse with you!!!

I have mentioned before about my love of music, I am told that my dear mother was singing when she was carrying me inside her, she was so happy. Mind you, I also found out that after having two boys, they had hoped for a girl! Then I turned up… As well as singing in the church choir I was also in one at school. With my weak right hand there were a few musical instruments like the piano or the recorder that I could not manage but a harmonica I could. I tried a cornet and a trumpet, learned to play those as best I could – it looked awkward but the valves I managed to do left-handed. It meant that I joined a youth orchestra, I also joined the Nassington Brass Band for a while, but then they told me I had to give up my singing and concentrate solely on practicing with them, but that I could not do. I continued singing!

Singing in choirs as I did required much looking and listening. I could sight-read music, no problem, but I was invited to join a small choir in Peterborough that went round various cathedrals and sang as the leading choir in their Saturday as well as Sunday services. It has been my privilege to sing such services in several cathedrals in England, but during choir rehearsals if anyone made a mistake they were expected to raise their hand straight away. If necessary the individual then sang the part solo to ensure they had got it right! That was pressure, but for me it meant that I always tried my best to get it right.

As I grew up, I was taught to always tell the truth. So that is what I do. Though I am told the more one lies, apparently the easier it gets. In my case I have had enough trouble remembering even the truth at times! Though interestingly, I have found that with my epilepsy, the move to a different medication a few short years ago has not only controlled my epilepsy better, it has helped me to recall past memories. I even remember peoples names better now! Fascinating. But to know peoples names has meant looking and listening, even having something that links their name to a place or event. For example, I will go outside for a walk in the gardens which, because I use a walking frame at the moment, is an Extra-Vehicular Activity. Once out in the gardens I sometimes see a lady as she sits outside, smoking a cigarette. Her name is Eva. It coincides with my bit of a walk, or EVA. That’s her name easily remembered.

Sadly some people don’t bother to try and listen, I have met a few folk who do not  – all they do is want to have their say. It seems they have no interest in others, just in themselves. I recall having to ask a colleague in a church choir I was in to not talk to me one time when the priest had begun his sermon. I think the chap was a bit put out at this, but I wanted to listen to the priest! In fact many don’t bother to even look or perhaps care how others are. I wish some would take a look at themselves and their own behaviours, change may not always be easy but they would have a far better and happier life if they did. Looking and listening helps.

Last weeks writing was a bit short, this week I have gone on a bit more so I’ll stop at this point with what is an absolute favourite of mine.

“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home.” ~ Australian Aboriginal Proverb

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