The end of the month of January means different things to different people. For me, it is the demise of the first "dark month", dark months being January and February, and being the longer of the two, a positive signal that we are over halfway through the misery. I do not suffer from SAD, or at least have never been diagnosed as such, but I really do not like the dark and cold of the first two months of the year. For my parents, the end of January is the end of the shooting season. My father spends most of the winter standing in the freezing cold, blatting away at passing pheasants while busily melting my inheritance fund! My mother is supportive of his passion by running two gundogs which retrieve aforementioned pheasant in the unlucky and seemingly rare occasion that Pa ever hits anything. This year in order to further compound the dwindling funds, they have finished their expensive hobby and to thaw out have jetted off to Africa for a well-earned break. Tough life being retired! The gundogs, which in reality are glorified pets with a hereditary instinct to pick up anything and everything, have been placed in my care while the old folk are away, so I am briefly up to three dogs.
Hobbes, Bethan's Springer Spaniel of high breeding but often low behaviour, normally comes to into the office but he is home based at the moment as three dogs in the office is encouraging chaos. To introduce the other two, they are Winnie and Jez, both black Labradors, quite similar but Jez is rather more successful in scrounging, a respected pastime amongst this breed, and hence marginally broader in the beam.
Every evening, I walk the two Black Labs, before they are confined to the kitchen for the night. Hobbes, is not allowed to come as he is "off games" with an injured cruciate ligament. Last night the borough of Micheldever was cloaked in thick fog and when I stepped out into the night, the blanket of gloom quickly swallowed the miserable glow from my torch. I twiddled the top end and the torch focused into a thin beam which when reflected against the moisture-laden air became my own personal light sabre. What fun! With a few swooshes, I fought the dark forces lurking within the Micheldever hedgerows. I was Stuart HedgeStroller. Apologies to George Lucas. Further apologies to those who have never seen Star Wars and now think I am totally mad.
The downside of my battle with the Dark Side was that while tooling around I managed to lose both dogs. The scenario is now that I am looking for black dogs, on a black night, in thick fog, armed only with a torch that has a six foot beam. Being trained gundogs they responded with total antipathy to my increasingly enraged calls. Every so often the torch reflected off a pair of eyes but there was not sufficient definition to ascertain which badly behaved mongrel was within shouting range. It was as if they knew that while I could see roughly where they were, I could not make out which one they were. They were protected by anonymity through similarity, so I did the only fair thing and berated them both when I did finally round them up.
It occurred to me that I was visually disabled by a combination fog and night to a very similar extent to many people who lose their sight. It is the same with hearing, most of our customers can hear, indeed in the right environment of minimal background noise with clear speech, they can hear quite well. People around them often struggle to understand this and perceive their hearing as variable, which indeed it is but based upon surroundings rather than attitude! We tried to educate those with good hearing by building a hearing loss simulator showing what hearing loss sounds like. This page on the website is an attempt to illustrate this loss and hopefully also stress that the use of hearing aids is a good start to improve the situation but is not an instant cure or a magic fix. Some environments are difficult to hear in regardless of your hearing loss. So, I would urge those who live with someone unfortunate enough to suffer from a hearing impairment to be tolerant and understanding, as I will try to be on future dark nights with badly behaved black dogs. If you do this, I will promise to suppress my urge to spray at least one of them with fluorescent paint.