Hey all.

So here’s a thing. It’s been hard work this last few years, for various reasons. Too many serious health issues for people I love, too many funerals, that sort of thing. All you can do is hunker down and endure, so we’ve been doing that for a while.

The thing is, you’ve got to be bit careful about that sort of thing: too much watching your footing and you forget there is a whole sky full of stars above you.

I forgot, certainly. We took the least exhausting way of getting through the day, and even the bright parts were dimmed by stress and tiredness. I felt old and drab, and my life got awfully normal. Like – mundane, commonplace normal. Not used to that, and did not appreciate it. All the sparkle seemed to have died out.

I was mucking about on Pinterest one night. Should have been in bed but I was too tired to get off the sofa and was procrastinating via the medium of looking at Avengers outtakes when I came across a quote. Can’t find it now but it suggested that each of us has our own brand of madness, and it’s important to work to maintain that spark that is uniquely our own. It made me think.

I had put the apparent attack of mundanity in my life down to being middle-aged and tired, but was it really? Or was it just that I had lost the knack of it, lost my mischief and that spark of randomness that had always kept me bobbing along? And, more importantly, did that mean it was recoverable?

Time to find out.

I decided to make time for some cool stuff that will recharge the batteries a bit. But what?

I love my writing but right now it’s in hard work mode, not exhilarating mode. I love music and singing but don’t feel I can really afford to commit more than an evening a week, which means no am dram, musicals or concerts. I’m too far out of the habit of going clubbing and haven’t that sort of energy to spend just yet. In fact, I realised, it will take a while before I stop defaulting to full recluse mode, and I’m not going to push that just yet. Burnout is a real thing for me.

However, one of the things that I’ve always wanted to do, ever since I was a kid, was learn sign language. At the time (before the Internet was widespread, I am that old!!) it wasn’t particularly easy to find information about it. These days you can find textbooks on Amazon and courses all over the place.

So, time to start learning British Sign Language (BSL).

I found a Sign Club in central London that’s open to people at all levels, so I went along. Now, having learnt a couple of other languages–I lived in Italy for a year and before that, was moderately good at German at one point–I know full well that the first thing that happens when faced with native speakers (or in this case signers) is that your brain goes completely blank and you gape like a guppy. It wears off eventually of course, but the first few times can be embarrassing!

In an effort to counteract this, I spent a fair amount of time going through my apps and textbooks. In the cafe beforehand I went through my fingerspelling till it was slick, and all the usual low level questions that you never actually use in real life.

I went into the place and various people came over to say hello. I was managing to spell my own name right four times in five, so was pretty pleased with that. A lovely girl I later realised was called Elise started signing her name to me and as I watched her fingerspelling, tremendously slowly, my brain went completely blank and translated it as “finger, finger, finger, finger, finger”.

Unhelpful, brain.

I clearly looked baffled so she tried again. This time was better: “E, L, finger, finger, finger…..hat?!” (Turned out that was the sign for crown -she was saying “like the queen”!). Fortunately at that point a girl I had spoken to on the way in told her it was my first time there, . (Of course, I could have tried just speaking – Elise would have been perfectly able to lip read me, but brainstall did now allow me to think of that till halfway home!)

Many of the hearing people there were studying the BSL courses at Level 2 or 3, and there were a couple on Level 1. In a flash of inspiration I signed “I only know a tiny bit of sign. Level zero.” They laughed and I was quite pleased about that until it occurred to me that while I probably had said Level Zero, it was equally possible I had just told them I had a flat arsehole. I did look this up when I got home but my dictionary is oddly silent on swear words, so it remains to be seen….

In fact, my friend who was there had just as little knowledge as I. We ended up practicing low level vocab between ourselves for most of it. We did watch the conversations flying for a short while and it was exciting and exhilarating- but it felt a bit like eavesdropping, and we didn’t want to be rude so we signed to each other a bit instead.

In any case, it was less of a car crash than expected given the inevitable stage fright, and having that feeling of absolutely not knowing how to communicate makes the point that that’s why I’m learning. Everyone should be able to be understood, at least to a small extent, in their own country.

So I’m thinking now that I might alternate visits to Sign club with weeks where I just concentrate on learning as much as possible While I’m waiting for the next course to start. In the meantime there may be room on the alternate weeks for a dance class, and I have ideas on that front too. 🙂

So although it’s only been one week, I do genuinely feel a bit reinvigorated, just from doing something a little bit extraordinary. Hurrah!

Still need to get on with editing Holly 4, as the next few stories are written and stacked ready for publication, but you never know. This might just be the year where things get simpler. Who knows?

🙂

In the meantime, if British Sign Language is something that you’d like to know more about, you can find out about it here:

https://bda.org.uk/help-resources/

Watch some signed tv here:

https://www.bslzone.co.uk/watch/

Any questions, feel free to ask!

Take care, and catch you soon:

JAC.

Advertisements