Audible (15 Jan 2018)

The quality of my vision means that it is difficult for me now to pick up a book. Whereas I could once take in a line at a time, I now have to concentrate on individual words and letters, the pace is slower, and ultimately this reduction in fluency has left me disappointed.

I have tried Kindle, and this is an improvement.

However I am becoming a fan of my new audiobook subscription, which I’ve now had for a couple of months.

The subscription is with Audible, who are owned by Amazon. I don’t like Amazon much – they’re far too big and they don’t pay their fair share toward society – and so while I’ve known about Audible for a while, I have refrained. The type of books that I read (I never really bothered with fiction, instead preferring to read biographies of unknown authors who had experienced exceptional events) means that I would expect to run out of interesting material at some point, but at just a few months in, it hasn’t happened yet. I’m also interested in reading some classics to make myself better-read. Some of these I like, some I know I don’t like (for example I never got on with Dickens), but it would be usedul to know the plotline of Shakespeare’s plays, for example.

Anyway, to give a more solid idea of my tastes, here is what is currently in my “library”. Bear in mind, I have olny been at this a few months.

Books I have listened to so far:

  •  Cousin Bette (Balzac),
  • Adults in the Room (Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek Finance Minister, this one about his encounters with the EU. it is well worth the “read”, but draw your own conclusions.)
  • Treasure Island
  • a lecture by journalist Robert Fisk – I don’t see this guy as particularly political, but he’s an expert on the Middle East and is very good at pointing out consequences of countries’ policies, not least the UK and USA. He understands a history that many of us in the UK have forgotten.
  • Talking to my Daughter – a Brief History of Capitalism (Varoufakis once again. I quite like this guy’s politics, although this book was more about economics. I was able to follow it but bear in mind that it was written with people like me as an audience. Doubtless the real world would be more complicated.)

Books I have bought, in preparation:

  • The Book Thief (the film came on TV, and I thought that the book is always better, so I stopped the film and bought the book instead)
  • The Infinite Monkey Cage (Brian Cox, the astrophysicist. This was my subject, all those years ago, still interests me now)
  • a Karen Carpenter bio
  • And the Weak suffer what they must? (Varoufakis)

But then you must know already from this blog that my tastes are……

Star Wars

Oops, I appear to have upset some other stroke survivors.

I was looking at Facebook, at my news feed, and I saw a post by a charity that I follow. Their post highlighted a stroke survivor’s blog entry, comparing the effects of a stroke to some of the subplots from Star Wars. It make me chuckle, I thought this (to make the comparison) was quite an amusing thing to do, a kind of pointless exercise, so I posted a “laugh” reaction, and made a comment to the effect that maybe the blog’s author had too much time on their hands.

By this I meant that, way back all those years ago, there was absolutely no way George Lucas could have realised that his film franchise would become such a behemoth, it was just A.N. Other film, so for us to now interpret pieces of its script as deep and meaningful mantras is probably somewhat misplaced. I think there’s a danger of attaching far too much significance to these things…. But of course this is lighthearted stuff, both the comparison itself and my comment – none of this is going to change the world.

However, a couple of people seized on the “time on their hands” phrase and said that yes, a disabled person would have a lot of time on their hands. Clearly my remark had been received by some as far more serious than it was intended. I wasn’t really concerned that some of the commenters hadn’t understood my attempt at a joke (it falls kind of flat now in any case as I sit here and dissect it), but one person who commented was the author of the blog, who said that the post had taken some considerable effort, given how his stroke had left him, and so I felt obliged to explain my remark and apologise.

But that small incident has consequences. First, it highlights how there is a fine line between ribbing someone about something, and causing them offence. Second, I think I need to stop commenting on such posts and keep my thoughts to myself, especially with the posts of a stroke charity, where other followers might get upset. The last thing I’d want to do is to upset someone over something this trivial. And if I feel if I shouldn’t comment, it’s probably safer just not to subscribe to the content in the first place, just to keep out of temptation’s way.

If my reaction seems a bit irrational, maybe it was brought on by the stroke? Or, maybe I’d have had the same reaction even if I hadn’t had one? Who’s to say?

Disclosure

I don’t particularly like telling people up-front that I’ve had a stroke. Of course, if someone were to see me walking they would probably guess that something wasn’t quite right, although I’m not sure they’d pinpoint a stroke. But if I wasn’t walking…. Or if I were sitting sipping a coffee , it’s probably unlikely that anyone would notice that I’m only using one hand. Plus, of course, there are things like writing blog entries, which appear to the reader no different whether someone is disabled or not.

I found out a long time ago that these tiny printed cards exist, business-card-sized, which explained that the bearer had suffered a stroke. They’re mainly designed for people with communication difficulties – I didn’t really have any of these (it’s a sliding scale – I notice I’m not quite as good with words, but you wouldn’t) so consequently was never particularly interested in the cards. In my mind, using one of these cards is tantamount to saying to someone, “look, this conversation is going to be a bit rubbish, but I’ve had a stroke so please cut me some slack”. I don’t like it when people have to cut me slack. In the very early days, I strove hard to regain the communication ability I had from before – this can backfire a little these days because disabled people don’t realise that I’m disabled too. They’ll start telling me of some of the implications of their disability, and I’m just left thinking “don’t I know it”.

Another area where I’d feel uncomfortable is when interviewing for work. I wouldn’t particularly mind talking about my stroke to explain my career break – I’m not ashamed of it, it happened, period – but equally it isn’t my defining characteristic. Not in an interview, in any case (it’s a dit different on here, but this is a stroke-themed blog.) I have a friend, a kind-hearted chap, who said to me that why would I not talk about the stroke? Because in his eyes, it doesn’t matter. He chats to me, we have the same intelligent (or silly!) chats we always used to have, I’m certainly not unemployable. But equally I was told by a call-centre worker that, upon her return to work, she was asked to sit in an office on her own, lest any of the other employees “caught” her stroke! Britain, 2018, I’m not making this up! So ultimately I think I have a responsibility, not to conceal my stroke, but to get myself to a recovery stage where it is less of a focal point.

I think this is just human nature. In the schoolyard, children will torment anybody who appears different. I think grown-ups are basically the same, but they learn to be far more subtle.

I’ve noticed that a lot of stroke survivors will fall back on saying they’ve had a stroke up-front. Instead, I tend to judge a conversation (and, sometimes, a person) based on whether I need to tell them that I’ve had a stroke. I mean, sometimes it is unavoidable – for example telling my doctor’s receptionist that I can’t use the surgery’s blood pressure machine because I only have one functioning arm, but really, most of the conversations we have shouldn’t require this level of personal detail. The other person has a responsibility for the quality of the conversation, too.