Hear a grave joke;Talkback

12th February 1999 at 00:00
According to my family, I don't listen. But I'm hard of hearing, I reply. After a recent hearing test I discovered a notch in my hearing graph. There are certain frequencies - for example, those of light female voices - which I simply don't hear very well.

Especially on a Saturday morning when the tumble drier is emitting a sound at the low mumbling frequency I can hear well and which blots out instructions from my wife and daughters, such as take the bag in the hall round to Oxfam.

How come you're not so deaf at work my older daughter asks. I teach her. You even hear what Geoff (not his real name) says, and he mumbles.

Yes, but Geoff mumbles at the right kind of frequency. Geoff's voice sounds like knickers and socks going round in a tumble drier.

How is it, she pushes, you're different at work?

How?

Well you're not so miserable as you are at home. You're pleasant and you tell jokes.

You're even a bit funny.

That's because . . . and I have no answer.

I remember my own father. He was a quiet, rather miserable sort of chap. At least at home. At his funeral I learnt he could be different. He was a right laugh your dad at work, his colleagues told me. He cracked us up something chronic.

But he didn't crack us up at home, I wanted to tell them. I felt cheated. At least teaching my own daughter means she won't have to wait until my funeral to find I have a funny side. But I'll have to work on the home front.

Be more pleasant. Listen. Switch that tumble drier off for a start.

Richard Hoyes teaches at Farnham College, Surrey.

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