Tuesday, July 15, 2008

From Bosnia With Cheese

The Eurovision Song Contest is something of an institution in the Bogsey household. Like watching England football matches, you know it's going to be painful but there's a certain attraction in putting yourself through it again. so, the new musical show "Eurobeat - almost Eurovision" was a must see event. Besides which, having two kids, Mrs B. and I had a valid excuse for going.

No sooner had we entered the lobby when we were allocated our adopted countries for the evening and, armed with flags, clackers and hooters, we entered the auditorium feeling that this was going to be a different theatre experience, and we were not disappointed!

Having whipped up a frenzied sense of anticipation, the ridiculous Bosnian hosts, Boika and Serge, introduced the ten entries with more ham than a Tesco meat counter. What followed was a wonderful collection of the bizarre, the camp, the kitsch and the very funny, all done with superb singing and dancing that the real Eurovision would be delighted with. All of which had me hooting my horn in a way that I haven’t done for many a year.

The night's winning entry was a Russian boy-band, “The K.G. Boys”, whose slick dance routine and tight white trousers certainly scored douze points with the ladies. Mrs B. nearly choked on her ice cream at the sight of the fifth member of the four-piece group thrusting in her direction. I'm all for European co-operation but sitting in Newcastle, cheering for Germany, in a contest in Sarajevo, watching a Russian with a Pole down his jocks was admittedly taking it a bit far.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Rowing takes the biscuit (just)

I’m sure he meant no harm by his words. After all, he’s a nice chap, and I had just about forgiven him for his earlier misdemeanour…the one where he had spoiled the little mental game I play with myself whilst on the dreaded rowing machine. The one where, after about two minutes, I pretend that I’ve only done a minute, in the desperate hope that when my five minutes are done it’ll come as a nice surprise. Being told that I’d done 3 minutes, when I was busy telling myself I was approaching 2 minutes, was upsetting, but nothing compared to what was to come.

The words slipped out so easily – an afterthought – an ‘oh, by the way.’ – he told me my five minutes were up and then he just said it. “You rowed 1,084 metre’ which I was quite happy with, followed by ‘you used up 61 calories’. 61? Never has 61 felt like such a pitiful number.

I knew, from recent attempts at ‘watching what I eat’ that 61 bloody calories equates to about what you get from one very low fat biscuit, or about half a pot of low fat yoghurt. I couldn’t believe that I’d spent five minutes on what can only be described as a torture machine that left me sweating, weak and breathless, to lose such a pathetic amount of calories.

So, I’ve just checked what else I could have done to use up 61 calories. And guess what, I could have had an hour’s sleep and used up the same amount of energy! Now that is something worth remembering. Apparently I could have had a 15-minute shower, or spent half an hour arguing on the phone! I could even have had about 40 minutes of ‘sexual intimacy’!! 40 minutes! Mmm…perhaps the rowing machine suits me after all.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Eyes Have It

Research has shown that around 70% of the meaning we convey when we talk to others is actually transmitted by our body language. Our posture, gestures, facial expression and our eyes reveal so much more about what we say than the words themselves. Being oblivious to these critical signals is therefore one of the most disabling aspects of my visual impairment.

The inability to make eye contact is one of the most difficult things I have learned to live with. Our eyes are so demonstrative, so individual and so meaningful. They are windows into our minds that tell people our state of consciousness, our mood, our level of fear, excitement, interest or honesty. Being visually-impaired is like having a curtain drawn over those windows which not only stops others looking in, but stops me peering into theirs for those vital clues that give that extra dimension to our daily communication.

I suppose, over the years I must have developed alternative strategies. I probably listen more carefully for auditory clues, like someone’s tone of voice or the rate of their speech. The sound of snoring is usually a good clue that I’ve lost the listener’s attention.
Cultural conventions demand that we maintain a typically British amount of personal space, so standing very close so that I can see a little more tends only to be possible with my immediate family, an even then it depends what I’ve been eating.

The two types of situation when it bothers me most are quite different. At work, I can find myself talking to a group of colleagues when it dawns omni that I have no idea whether they are listening intently or shooting bored glances at each other. Suddenly, I feel like I’m talking to an empty room and feel desperate for someone to jump in and set off a discussion – clearly, my deep psychological need for feedback cannot go denied for more than a few seconds. My other nightmare scenario is the social gathering where mixing and mingling is the order of the night. All too often for my liking I find myself caught between conversations, unable to read the visual clues that allow a timely contribution. Anxiety creeps in and, wanting to avoid the risk of the person disappearing and leaving me talking to thin air, it’s not uncommon for me to lean forward attentively and head butt them instead.

I wonder if this type of problem is as great in countries like India, where I’m told the culture encourages avoiding eye-contact, as a sign of respect. I could be so respectful in a place like that.