Thursday, 22 November 2012


Badger Bill, c.1979
Last week I was struck down by seasonal change. Temperatures falling, then rising; rising then falling. In a state of flux like the season. Muffled hearing, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, sniffling, one evening of aching and shivering. My joints creaking, crying out to be oiled like well-used hinges, and my body leaking from its orifices. None of the symptoms occurring together, but acting independently. A reversed variation of flu as the aches and pains commenced towards the end and not at the beginning. I snuffled my way through interviews, straining my weak voice and struggling to make sense of what people were saying. Confused, yet I needed to appear comprehensive. I'm listening, I'm taking it in, I'm with you. But really I'm not. Words coming out in a rush, none of them planned or expected. My brain was cocooned in a thick fog. This pilot had lost control and was caught in an Bermuda Triangle induced by illness.
Generally I cope with the usual coughs and colds pretty well, but this new sense was frankly baffling. The world smothered, a cloudy view with muffled sounds. Without headphones on, I'd tuned in to a muted frequency. All that remained was the occasional whoosh like the sound of air travelling fast or the tide going back and forth languidly. A shell was being permanently held to my ear, “I can hear the sea! I can hear the sea!” I exclaimed to anybody excitedly. Marooned on British Isles with imaginary sounds and inaudible people.
Pedestrians and vehicles were miming acts I had to decipher. Flapping gums and mumbled tones. Wheels spinning, exhausts sputtering. Closely observing all activity with nothing to alert me. Noise drowned out by the wind and sea. Whoosh, whoosh. I'm trapped in an sound-proofed construction. Interferences bouncing off the glass before they can reach me. The dull wham, wham as people knock into its walls and disoriented, walk in the opposite direction. The world I knew had been temporarily turned upside down and vigorously shaken.
Back at home, this silence was blissful. A flat calm. No hum from the refrigerator. I couldn't hear the kettle click, the microwave ping, or the phone ring. I allowed vast pillows of cloud to engulf me. Let the auto-pilot take control so I could recover.
I awake still blanketed by fog and venture again into the blankness. Wait, I stand on the pavement outside my flat, something is changing. The whooshing is getting faster, louder. Mayday! Mayday! The auto-pilot must have pushed the eject button. I'm being catapulted back to earth without a parachute to slow me. Terrifying surround sound ricochets off my eardrums. “Arrgghhh make it stop! Make it stop!” With my hands instinctively clapped over my ears I run back inside and bolt the door behind me. A huge sigh escapes from my lips, aaahhh muffled bliss once more.