Wednesday, July 16, 2008


What’s your earliest memory? I was a forces child and can frame early memories in terms of the houses we lived in at different times. I have a block of abstract, unconnected recollections dating from the house we lived in between the ages of two and six - I presume most of them come from the tail end of that period but maybe my parents will enlighten me (I know you read this so here is your big invitation to reveal yourself and comment!).

So, as my inexorably slow train journey home dwindles on (a door problem at Market Harborough – lots of increasingly tense commuters unable to get off) here are my memories from that early period:

  • Learning to ride without stabilisers – taken to the top of a hill and just let go
  • Falling in a dry river bed, dissolving in snot and tears and being helped home by a ‘big boy’
  • Purple walls in the lounge
  • My mother picking me up from nursery in a red plastic rain hat
  • Telling people I didn’t eat eggs because they made me throw up (I don’t remember the puking but I do remember telling people all about it)
  • A homemade cheesecake with a base so thick that it needed industrial tools to cut it
  • Sitting on the (black leather?) sofa with my dad trying to teach me to breath without opening my mouth

Some, or all, of these stories may well have been embellished with retelling over the years although I’ve tried to pick the ‘genuine’ ones (Lil, Pete it’s over to you). You know how it is though, family legends build up over time and I can no longer be sure which is which.

It has got me round to pondering on what Tom will remember of this period. In a few weeks he’ll be four (cripes, where did that come from); slap bang in the middle of the period I’ve been recalling and around the age at which ‘earliest memories’ are stored away for later recall and, well, his short life has been pretty eventful. Does that make it more likely to stick in his head?

In a few short days we will, finally, be in Edinburgh (yes, it has taken a frustratingly long time) so what will Tom recall about our house and life here in Ruddington? The garden? His room? Joe-the-boy-next-door? Hopefully that friendship will endure and we will see them all again. Tanya, his wonderful Teacher of the Deaf who we are already missing enormously? Mrs. Henson and the teachers at his first school?

Tom already surprises us with random recollections from months gone by so who knows what will stick and what will drift away into the ether. Undoubtedly it will be things we least expect, matters car-related and, equally certainly, we will reinforce the events that stick out for us – the things that make it a happy place in our collective past rather than the dark periods that we try to forget. One of those happened last weekend and will be drilled into Tom in the same way as my dubious victory in a Blue Peter competition (some time in the '72-'78 period for those who know their Blue Peter) has gathered an undeserved magnitude in my story.

Last Saturday, minor local celebrity that he is, Tom opened a fete. He cut the ribbon and everything. How cool is that? Opening fetes before you’re four? Now there’s one to tell the grandchildren.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Thank heaven for little boys.

Back in April Tom took part in a study at the University of York. The study, being carried out by Rosie Lovett under the direction of Professor Quentin Summerfield, is assessing the spatial listening skills of children with cochlear implants. Rosie is clever - it says so here. This is a formal take on Rosie's study and here is a short ramble about Tom's small part in it.

Rosie and the Mufessor sent us the results of Tom's assessments and they demonstrate just what a marvellous creation cochlear implants are, how justified we were in pushing for bilaterals and what powers of concentration Tom has developed. This last one is a surprising but not unwelcome byproduct of the long hours of therapy, mapping and assessment Tom has endured over the past couple of years. The study in York took three hours, interspersed with three breaks, and our wee man powered through - engaged and compliant throughout.

In terms of the results - they quantified what we see every day. Tom is performing incredibly well in terms of left-right discrimination and, while nowhere close to normal hearing children, he can discern speech through quite a significant level of noise - the benefits of bilateral implantation that we were so keen on him acquiring.

When Rosie's study is complete, I fully expect it to join this recently published paper (abstract here) in the growing pile of evidence that demonstrates the bleedin' obvious - two ears are significantly (QALY and scientifically speaking) better than one.

At the end of our day out in York back in April, Rosie took a picture of Tom in the hallway outside the 'ring of sound' room - we were in an ajoining room getting our stuff together. We kept hearing Rosie giggling, with Tom joining in as is his wont.

'Tom... could you take your hands out of your trousers for this picture?'...

Rosie sent a lovely 'Junior Investigator' certificate with the report; glossy with a portrait of Tom at its centre. Mercifully, it has been cropped at the waist but, given the angle of the arms, its quite clear where his hands are.

Thank heaven for little boys.