Monday 26 November 2018

Ask Me Anything (but I'm not an expert)

I am being described as a Cancer Expert which is a little embarrassing as I'm not sure I'm really anything close to an expert in anything, bar perhaps optimum washing machine temperatures for non-biological powders or coming up with the most compelling excuses to go out for a run when really I should be 'cracking on regardless' (the brain is so much more effective after exercise, I can plan a new writing exercise as I run, I'm nicer to everyone when I get some fresh air so it's a win-win - do you see what I mean?) 

However, I would admit that as 
my Five Year Cancerversary approaches in December, I have picked up quite a lot from the real coalface of living with cancer - not only from my own experience, but also from the extra research for Tea & Chemo and simply meeting so many wonderful people who have also had the misfortune to frequent Cancerville. Indeed, it's one of the many silver linings of cancer which I have spoken of before both here, in a post from the 'early days' and more recently, here: Tour de Friends 

And so it is that I find myself hugely honoured to be hosting the Live Better With's first Ask Me Anything (AMA) online Q and A event @ 7pm on Tuesday 4 December. 

A taste of Tea & Chemo at the launch of the
Live Better With store at Guys Hospital
And whilst Cancer Expert may be a bit of a stretch, what I have learnt since I first stepped into this new world is much more comforting than I ever could have envisaged in those terrifying first days after diagnosis. If I can lend a little of that to the discussion, then I'll be happy.

Questions can be posted now, right up to and during the event. Just click this link or enter via the website using the Forums & Info tab and then the drop down option of Community Forums.

You will have to register first with the site to take part and you can do this, here.

Please let me know if you've signed up and I'll look out for you 😊

A little about Live Better With:

With fellow writer, Lucy O'Donnell
Live Better With started life as an online retail company in 2015, focusing on useful and original gifts that might help and comfort people living with cancer, as well as their carers and loved ones. Following on from their online success, their physical shop, the Live Better With Boutique at Browns, was launched in November 2017, taking pride of place in Guy's Hospital Cancer Centre in London.

Through their FaceBook site and their own online community forums, Live Better With also provide a safe place for people to discuss anything and everything to do with dealing with cancer and its treatments. From there, the first AMA events have been launched and they can be found here in Discussions along with other cancer related topics.  

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Tour de Friends!

Deeply embedded in the world of Cancerville can be a whole heap of beautiful experiences, sprinkled with oodles of silver linings and unexpected relationships. Surprising, I know. But maybe that is good to know if you, or a loved one, have recently been diagnosed with what is also a horrible, spiteful, nasty little b**ger.

Why so? You may ask. What can possibly be good about having your mortality thrust so very cruelly and dramatically in front of your eyes? Love, that's what. I hear time and time again of people who've navigated the thorny path with the love of those close to them and have met great friends through the shared experience of having cancer, or caring for someone who has cancer. And I am a firm believer that positive relationships and our health are the only two things we really need in life to be happy. Yes, we need money as well to survive, but survival is a slightly different thing to what I'm talking about today, so please forgive me for parking that one just for now.

...with apologies to Steve, I'm not great at selfies
Louise Brownley is one of those people I never would have met if it wasn't for our cancer diagnosis. I am so sad to say that she has recently discovered she has secondary cancer and, well, it's not easy. Not that it's stopped Louise in her tracks, you understand, despite struggling with new treatments and the constant barrage of hospital appointments, not to mention holding down her full-time job, she is throwing herself into an enormous fundraising campaign. She, her equally adorable hubbie, and their team of firefighters and police officers will be cycling the 146 mile, rather hilly coast to coast from Whitehaven to Sunderland next year and they'd like to raise £5000 for Cancer Research.

You can read more about the Tour de Friends, their training and their trials and tribulations, here.

I have a post on the site too, with some questions I've never been asked before on everything from defining moments, to trainers and kettles (and a grass ring) to my new strategy of 'denial'.

I have only previously asked for sponsorship once via a blog post: Put on the Spot. It was fantastically successful and I was enormously grateful for, and touched by, all the donations. That said, I recognise there are so many demands on our funds and it's not fair to be constantly asking for people's support. But I hope you'll forgive me for asking you this time, and on behalf of this very special lady, whether you could spare a few pennies here.  

If you do feel able to sponsor Louise and the Tour de Friends riders, please let me know in the comments (or privately here if you prefer) I'll put your name in the hat and one winner will receive a signed copy of their choice of Tea & Chemo or Glass Houses. And if you're sick to death of those, I'll give you a big hug insteadπŸ˜‰

Monday 5 November 2018

Stuck in a Book

I'm not really here. 
I'm really here... 

...and much as I lament the distinct lack of blogging over the past few weeks, my stiff word with myself has been somewhat successful. The latest draft of the novel had an enormously out of shape middle and only two hours of strict writing a day - that isn't all I do, by the way, although, imagine, she says, drifting away for a few moments to the top of a fluffy cloud, the number nine fluffy cloud, with pen, paper, and tea on tap and not even a hint of a spreadsheet or PowerPoint and especially no slightly grimy bathroom as distraction - has managed to shrink and tighten it to a more acceptable shape for its first appearance in public. But there's still work to be done. We're not talking six-pack yet, more of a slight bulge where you could imagine there might be a six-pack lurking underneath. Meanwhile, my ever patient first beta readers await their copy of This Remarkable of Days and I feel the least I can do is get it to them before the first Christmas cards are dolefully staring upwards, expecting to be written.

And thus, I'm even more grateful to be appearing on the Greenacres Writers' 'A Conversation ...' this week. This fabulously successful and busy reader and writers' site was set up in 2009 by a group of writers based in Finchley and features book reviews and interviews with a whole host of fabulous writers, a whole heap more interesting than me. The questions were intriguing, thought-provoking and made me smile and I just hope I've done them justice. You can read the interview here.

Meanwhile, any ideas of what you'd take up to your Cloud Nine? I'd love to know! 

Saturday 8 September 2018

The Day Job

I haven’t written about cancer for a while. There are many reasons for this, none more so than the fact that I don’t have a lot to say, because I am *Stable Mable. I am a, ‘Strange Phenomenon’. I am an ‘Unusual Body,’ which, in this instance, is a good thing. I am, in short, insanely lucky.

And yet no one needs me to tell them that cancer is a heinous, unpredictable disease and there are many people who aren’t so lucky. Never have I been more acutely aware of this than this week, with the news that Radio Five Live journalist, Rachael Bland, has died of her cancer. Co-creator of the chart topping, hilarious, thoughtful, poignant, fantastically direct and gutsy podcast, You, Me and the Big C, Rachael, and her equally fabulous colleagues, Lauren Mahon and Deborah James, encouraged everybody to be upbeat and positive about her death.

But although I recognise that she has left behind the most powerful of legacies, I admit, the news has rocked me.

It's a reminder that we are so fallible, that cancer, in fact many diseases, are random and indiscriminate and that a treatment that's worked for one person, can be totally ineffectual for another. Cancer is not a 'battle' that can be won simply if we have the right ammunition. However, I do believe that there is nothing wrong with keeping that ammunition in a clean and nurtured environment, shined and polished so that if cancer comes calling or a rogue cell gets cocky, it's ready for it, ready to give its best shot at kicking it into touch.

We might miss, but I'd like to feel we tried. The ammunition I am most likely to pack in a corner, not pay it its due attention, is my immune system. Or rather, I'm forever tempted to deprive my immune system of sleep.

I’d been beavering away, life returning so very definitely back to a cracking paced normality after the knee buckling curve ball of April 2017, which I wrote about here

So cracking has been the pace that I admit to having taken my eye off the sleep monitor just a little.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am still a whole stratosphere away from my pre-December 2013 delinquency. Back then I prided myself - oh yes - on my ability to stay awake when all around were slumbering. It meant I could crack on in my study: just me the pc screen and a flood of ticks on the to-do list.  I’d finish with an indulgent hour of writing stories, followed by a languorous soak in the bath and the current book in favour, before dragging myself into a fulfilled and light-headed, 3am bedtime.

I felt lucky then, as well. My life was the next best thing to having magical 27 hour days and it meant I could have a lot of every bit of what I fancied because I had that extra tail end of the day that was denied to so many.

Post my primary cancer diagnosis on that fateful day at the end of 2013, my 27 hours had been concertinaed back into 24 and the extra hours of inertia the body's essential rehabilitation, came at a price.

I struggle to fit my own writing around the little cracks of time in the day that are left. Indeed, I struggle to fit the day job (oh, the irony)  into the cracks, and I do wonder if the added stress of never quite managing to achieve as much as I need to do to keep on top of everything, negates the benefit of the extra sleep.

Ridiculous, scoffs the hubbie. But he is a lark, a well-meaning, nothing is more important than keeping me alive, lark. Of course he doesn’t understand. Physically, he couldn’t do it. He is genetically programmed to stop work at 8pm at the latest and to fall into a deep and impenetrable sleep not long afterwards. To-do list or otherwise, larks sleep at night. That’s just how it is. If you want the lark in your family to catch a wild boar, you'll have to ask them to do it in the morning.

Ridiculous of course, but it’s not that easy is it? And it really isn't easy if you know you physically could stay up and answer the emails glowering from the inbox. None of us operate in a vacuum. One man’s, Sod It I’m Tired I’m Going To Bed, is someone else drumming their fingers, waiting for their reply, cursing the lack of response whilst muttering, 'Did they get it?' and 'Don’t they care?'. Or at least, that’s what I suppose.  

But Rachael Bland has given me a wake-up call, a kick up the bum, a reminder of my resolve. And so I have vowed that I will cover my ears and ignore the chimes to 'catch up'. I will shake away the image of steam puffing from people's ears as they spit and curse at my lack of response, and I will switch off, snuggle up, and get my sleep. After all, I owe it to those who aren't so lucky, to at least try my best.

Rest in peace, Rachael Bland, another brilliant person taken too soon.

*I stole that term from another fabulous Rachel, Rachel Ferry, currently NED, and she won't mind me saying, against all odds. 

Wednesday 9 May 2018

You Called It!

The results are in. A winner has been chosen and my next novel, until submission at least, has a title.

Thank you! I never envisaged I’d receive so many entries to my What Would You Call It? competition, nor that it would be so illuminating. Those little asides you sent explaining why you chose one title and not another? They were gold dust.

One title won by a fair few votes, one was 'Marmite', my original working title was more popular than I’d have thought it might be and none of the titles heralded no votes at all.

I suspect that, Her Place, which gained the fewest votes, was a little too vague, even obscure. Note to self: intriguing, perhaps; nebulous, no. I had a titter about my wild card: Meatballs. You certainly felt strongly for, or against, that one. I agree that it could be misleading, dangerously so, because no, this story isn’t a farce and I wouldn't want people thinking it was. Whilst there may be some farcical elements, laugh a minute it isn’t - I’m not that clever.

So, who won?

All the votes for the most popular title were put into a hat. Actually, strictly speaking, it isn’t a hat, it’s a laundry basket. It’s one of my household’s not infrequent, ‘internet fails’. We have a fair few of these. Next time I’ll post a pic of the ‘minute yellow trug’ and there’s also the doll’s house sized – it seemed such a bargain – bottle of Shiraz.  

So, the winner! My hubbie, to ensure absolute transparency, pulled out one name from the hat/laundry basket, and that name was: Liz Carr. Congratulations, Liz! If you could email me your contact details and choice of either Glass Houses or Tea and Chemo, I’ll get a signed copy to you forthwith. And please don’t forget to let me know to whom I should sign the book.

The winning title? This Remarkable of Days and I am absolutely thrilled with it. 

Although, as with many titles in my experience, it does have a question mark hanging over it: it’s knowingly grammatically incorrect. I would hope that people would assume this was deliberate (surely a mistake wouldn’t get all the way through to the title of a novel? But then, stranger things have happened...) and there is certainly a strong reason for this wording. However, some potential readers might be put off right there and then by the suspect grammar. Can I risk this? If not, I’d have to consider changing it to: This Most Remarkable of Days and whilst I’ve been spinning this around in my head, the more I think about it, the more I like the quirkiness of the winning title of this competition. For now, it stays and I’ll keep you posted on that. By the way, if you have a view on this dilemma, please do share!

Meanwhile, here’s to a version of This Remarkable of Days making it to a book shop near you some time before too very long and that, aided by a stellar cover, not only will you feel compelled to read the blurb and later the book, you’ll stick with it (almost) to the end, when you’ll see where I was coming from when I slipped Meatballs into the list 😊

Tuesday 1 May 2018

What Would You Call It?

This happened today. Two days ahead of schedule (oh yes) I scribbled the last note on the last page of the hard copy print out of the first draft of ‘In The Taxi’. This is the working title of my second novel but more on that in a moment. The fact that the pile of 260+ pages of typed copy has doubled in size under the weight of all those scribbled notes and tea cup stains, is an indication of how much work there still is to do – not least copying up this little lot. But that’s ok, because I can’t wait. I love every minute I get to spend on my own writing and I’m all-consumed with it at the moment. Ahem. Hence the reason I’ve been a little quiet of late...

But there’s a problem. My novel has a story now, but it doesn’t have a title.

I read of other writers’ euphoria at finding their title, and know of some who can’t write a word of the novel until they know what it will be called. And I understand that, because I can’t get going until I have an idea of my beginning and end. A title for some, the beginning and end for me, helps to guide the story in the right direction, to give it a focus, a string, to join up the words as they tumble from mind to paper. But the title is another thing altogether for me. I think I’ve got it, retitle every document, every note, every draft, with the new title amidst much excitement, announce it to the family, muse about it as I stuff washing frantically into the machine (so I can get back to writing) only to find that it doesn’t feel quite so perfect next time I switch on my pc.

So, can I tempt you *with a prize* to help me choose? I’ve listed, below, every title which has flown to mind over the past six months. They’re in alphabetical order so that I don’t subconsciously show a bias. I need you to choose a title which jumps out at you, which intrigues perhaps, and certainly would have you grabbing the book from the shelf, turning it over to read the blurb.

Because the title needs to stand on its own, I’m going to be really tight with the clues. I’ll simply say that I hope the story fits squarely in contemporary fiction with a ripple of humour and a smattering of tears. Four strangers, plus Paresh, the long-suffering driver who must be wondering if he’s ever going to see his home again, find themselves thrown together in a taxi only for the journey to take on a significance none of them ever envisaged. I’d better stop there.

A few provisos here. All the titles listed are ones I’d entertain so I will happily snap up the one the majority choose. However, I thought my original working title for Tea & Chemo of, ‘It Wasn’t All Bad’ was stellar: curiously inviting, not to mention doing exactly what it said on the tin. And oh, what a genius! I’d thought of it within five minutes of deciding I was going to try to write this book. Then my publisher saw it. And he laughed, very politely, and in a hugely empathetic fashion, but nonetheless telling me point blank that my book was not going to be called, ‘It Wasn’t All Bad’. Imagine googling it, he said. Ahhh. And I used to work in PR. Shame on Me! So, I’m afraid I can’t guarantee this will be the final title and, alas, I can’t even guarantee it will be accepted for publication, but here’s hoping. What I can promise is that I will log the most popular title, pick a name out of the hat from those people who chose it and one of them will get their choice of a signed copy of Glass Houses or Tea & Chemo for themselves or as a gift. To ensure no conferring, no cheating or influencing, and also because I know people have trouble commenting on here, I’m going to ask you to email me your choice via this link. The deadline is midnight on Bank Holiday Monday, 7th May.

Good luck! And thank you 😊

  • Her Place
  • In The Taxi
  • Marriage of Inconvenience
  • Meatballs
  • No Such Lonely Place
  • This Remarkable of Days

Friday 2 March 2018

Almost as Difficult as Football

I was checking my blog stats – AKA engaging in a most unbecoming form of Google Navel Gazing – and noticed that some kind soul had fallen upon a blog post from March 2015: Number One Career. I couldn’t remember anything about it so had a click myself. It's about being a writer and as I come across so many tweets and posts about competition wins, near misses and 'good' (loads of promise but I just don’t love it enough) and 'not so good' (please don't be disheartened, we receive three billion submissions a week and only take on two to three new writers a year) rejections, I thought I'd post this again here

It was written just before I announced my
two book deal
with Urbane Publications and hope it might serve as motivation to hang on in there if you're in that stage of high emotional swings, spending your days between clicking send/receive and trying not to. 

Or indeed, you're stuck in a gargantuan plot hole.

Keep going! If it was easy, they'd call it football πŸ˜‰*

*This is my daughter's quote from when she was ten. It always amused me because having played hockey and netball for my whole childhood and beyond, I played football once at school when I inadvertently broke my friend, captain, and absolute star of our hockey team's leg and a second time in the Women's Puma Four, when our team of four were forced to add football to three other disciplines we knew better and let's just say, our friend's husband, dragged in to give us a crash course of training, found it rather amusing that after five minutes, I mean, really, five minutes, of sprinting after a ball and generally not connecting with our feet - side of our feet, I learnt that bit - we were exhausted, I was reminded that football is actually, really extremely hard. But I hope you know what I mean…

Monday 19 February 2018

The Enormous Hearing Aid Dome

To understand my tale of unbridled joy achieved in the surgery of an ENT consultant, you should know that my hearing, or lack of it, is the bane of my life, and I suspect of the lives of many of those close to me, even though they're too nice to admit it. There's more about this in A Deaf Character.

It was January 2014 and a week after I'd been diagnosed with cancer, a week after that day on 27th December when I'd done a pretty comprehensive job of persuading myself I wasn't going to be told that news. No, I was going to be told that it was nothing more than a scare.

Yep, would you believe it? I heard it clear as a bell. Never for a moment did I think they'd said, 'You're a grade three dancer'. My second question – and every body's second question I suspect (after every body's first question: is it terminal?)  –  Do you know if it's spread? was met with one of the most difficult answers that those brilliant medical people have to give:

We Don't Know.

There was nothing to say that it had spread, but nobody could be sure at this stage. And then came the biggy: had I had any persistent pain anywhere else? We talked about my neck. Like every second person, it seems, I never learnt to sleep correctly as I have an ongoing, but pretty bearable, sore neck. But I'd had that forever, it couldn’t be related to cancer, surely?

He asked if it had been around for over a few months and I responded with a whoosh of relief that it been there for, oh, probably my entire adult life.

'But what about your earache?' Hubbie said.

You know, for the first time in three months, I hadn't noticed my earache. It took a cancer diagnosis to trump it, but for those glorious few moments, it had subsided.

Thankfully, very quickly, the consultant assured me as best he could that it would be extremely unusual for breast cancer to have travelled to my ear. 'However,' he said, as we hung in the air, waiting for the 'but', 'I really think we need to get to the bottom of this.' 

You see, I'd already had three separate lots of antibiotics as whenever anyone looked down my ear, they winced and said that there was a horrible infection in there. He didn’t want me fighting an infection when I was about to undergo an operation and then onto chemo. Thus I was referred to ENT.
I took solace in the breast cancer surgeon's optimism but the earache was unsolved and not reacting to antibiotics and it's hard when you're in bed at night, with only your tinnitus and the darkness, for your thoughts not to fly to secondary cancer in the brain.

The ENT specialist was lovely. I specifically remember him saying to me that he was going to do everything in his power to ensure I left his surgery with an answer because I had enough to worry about. I am a sucker for anybody taking responsibility away from me. I am the archetypal non-control freak. I like nothing better than somebody telling me I'm going to be alright. If they say that, I believe them.
He looked down my ear with a much more technical piece of apparatus than found at the GP surgery.

'Right,' he said. 'This might hurt.'

No problem. As far as I was concerned, nothing could hurt more than the current pain in my ears. Bring it on!

I can only describe the next few minutes as playing my own special role in the Enormous Turnip. The instrument inserted into my ear produced a sort of 'sucking' feeling. But as quickly as it started, this not entirely unpleasant sensation stopped.

'I'm changing to a smaller instrument,' he said. 'Are you aware you have very narrow ear canals?' I laughed. If I had a pound for every time anyone in the medical profession has told me about the diminutive nature of my ear canals, well, I wouldn't be an impoverished writer any more.

By the time we'd moved to the third reduced sized implement, the consultant had his foot wedged on my chair as the small but oh, so powerful instrument pulled and sucked at the inside of my very narrow ear canal. My head swayed. This was no longer pleasant. I thought I was going to be sick but every time he asked if I needed a break, I told him to carry on. There was clearly something in my ear and we needed to get it out. I started counting to ten and got to 73.

Just like the Enormous Turnip, it sprang out with a pop which literally – yep, literally - sent the consultant reeling backwards. 'Phew!' he said, in a delightfully understated fashion, 'That was a stubborn one.' He held up the offending item, a mixture of pride and mirth covering his perspiring face.

'Do you recognise this?' he asked, bearing the tip of my hearing aid, the 'dome' in the trade, the removable bit which covers the receptor and goes directly into the ear. I say, 'removable', but must clarify that it is only to be removed for cleaning once outside of the ear canal. 'It happens more often than you think,' he said, in a kind attempt to placate my embarrassed shame – I told you he was lovely – 'You don't remember it coming away in your ear, then?'

The thing is, I do remember the moment he was referring to. I remember sitting in front of my mirror looking at the dome-less hearing aid, convinced I'd already replaced the tip. I asked the hubbie to have a look down my ear using the torch on his iPhone (Love is…) But when he couldn't see anything, I put it down to the advancement of my years, replaced it with another from the box, and never gave it another thought.

Instantly, the hearing pain was gone. I had to do everything in my power not to jump up and hug and squeeze the audiologist with every ounce of my being, for removing the pain, but also the fear that my stage two and hopefully curable grade three, caught early, breast cancer could actually be the treatable, but currently not curable stage four.

The hubbie and I shared a bottle of champagne that night, and it will always make me smile that only seven days after diagnosis, waiting for my operation, waiting for chemo, we were celebrating with champagne. Such is the strange world of Cancerville. I also remember running out into the waiting room and throwing myself on my husband in the way I'd stopped myself doing to the fortunate consultant, as I told him as well as I could through hysterical laughter, that he'd never guess what it was but it wasn’t a brain tumour.

Thankfully, he has pretty goddamn perfect hearing so he knew what I meant. 

If you're interested in hearing loss, you may like to read: Run That By Me Again and The Bottom of the Swimming Pool. 

A Deaf Character

A man 'in his prime', as my mum would say, a retired, silver-haired lecturer, is not peering down the top of a woman two generations his junior for reasons of impropriety. This gentleman has a hearing problem. His head is bent in order to fix his ear as close to his interlocutor's mouth as is acceptable in public, to give him the best chance of working out what on earth she is saying. Such is the first scene in the amusing novel, Deaf Sentence by David Lodge which had me chortling, sighing and laughing out loud all the way through.

I'm somewhat surprised I enjoyed it so much because, try as I might, I'm afraid there is very little about hearing loss that I find amusing. It can be peaceful. I do appreciate taking out my hearing aids in a crowded coffee shop for a spot of indulgent, uninterrupted writing. And it's with great pride that I admit I'm the Miss Marple in our house who tends to work out complicated plots and this surely comes from having to focus so completely on the subtitles of the film in question. I do also feel lucky to live in a world where there is so much technology to help us. Without my incredibly techie hearing aids, I would barely be able to function in hearing society and certainly wouldn't be able to do the work I do. 

But generally, I find my ever worsening hearing increasingly sad and isolating and I can't pretend I laugh about the situation very often.

Witty people, for example. I love funny people. I love comedy clubs, stand-up, romcoms, even my father-in-law's ever rolling conveyor belt of punditry. But these days, I can't always tell that funny people are being funny and that's a shame because I think laughter makes the world brighter. It's just not the same when your brother-in-law, second only in volume of wit to said father-in-law, with a Dad Joke thrown in, oh, every two sentences, says: Ahh! Surely your appointment's not at the hairdresser at two thirty but at the dentist? - and as the rest of his audience either groans or rolls around like little Smash men, you're still wrestling with the potential humour in your appointment not being at the bear presser but at the atheist's.

Lodge's main character, Desmond, talks humorously about the blind/ deaf comparison and it resonated with me so loudly (hah! Chance would be a fine thing). It's the truism of counting our blessings that our disability is deafness as opposed to blindness which, surely, has to be more difficult to handle, but recognising that blindness invokes pity, awe and wonder, whereas deafness arouses only an array of reactions along the continuum between mild irritation and full-on screwed up, pained face disdain. It's true, I've never known anybody grab the chin of someone who's blind and say, Just look for goodness sake! Whereas the look of anguish and the shouted irritation in the converser's raised tones – even though we understand the frustration, believe me, we do – sounds like all the world as though you're doing it on purpose. Trust me, nobody would choose not to be able to keep up with the conversation, give the impression of being stupid, not be able to join in because they can't hear the instructions, not be able to get the joke quickly enough, wear themselves out with the sheer energy it takes to focus on every single sound that does make it through their 'cloth ears' to their dulled brain as it tries to piece them together all in a rush, for fun. There is very little fun in social interaction when you can't hear and to be honest, there is very little more depressing than to be shouted at when you can't catch what someone else is saying. It makes me just want to slink away, hide and then slip away home.

But it's good to remember that I'm surrounded by very patient people and that any situation can be amusing if you look for the funny side. Lodge's book reminded me of that and although I'm a little late to the party (it was first published in 2008) I thoroughly recommend it to readers both with, and without, five fully functioning senses.

The novel also plunged me back into the ENT consultant's chair where I'd been referred as an attempt to get to the bottom of my excruciating ear pain which had gone on for months – three months, to be precise, not that I was counting. I've written about that in The Enormous Hearing Aid Dome.

By the way, I was recommended Deaf Sentence by an unassuming, fiercely intelligent, older-than-my-father-and-totally-on-the-ball retired judge and fellow student in my weekly lipreading class. He also told me that the great thing about being deaf is that we will never get Alzheimer's, because our brains are in a continuous state of brain gym, hoola-hooping their way through the jumble of words we have to piece together all day, every day.

There are silver linings in everything, you just have to know where to look 😊