What hearing aids can – and can’t – do

There’s misconceptions floating around regarding hearing aids, so let’s take a look…

It’s not surprising that people who don’t wear hearing aids, and don’t have experience of them, can make assumptions about them. You won’t know otherwise unless you start wearing them yourself, or someone a friend, colleague or family member does. But it takes time to get know what they do based on experience – so to give you a head-start, based on my experience, here’s what hearing aids can and can’t do.

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Are deaf writers disabled writers?

After being diagnosed, I had to come to terms with the fact that I really couldn’t be in a band anymore, playing guitar and bass and programming drum machines, and writing songs. I just don’t have the hearing to do it anymore, plus there’s the risk of loud noises further damaging my hearing.

But what I can do is write. It doesn’t require any hearing. I just sit down and type, or hold a pen and scratch away at a notepad (and, quite often, end up with the pen leaking all over me).

I joined a group for disabled writers, as I’m a writer, and I’m disabled, but after reading about the experiences of other disabled writers, I really have been scratching my head. Can I call myself a disabled writer when my disability doesn’t get in the way of the act of writing?

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“Eh? What? Pardon?”

I haven’t updated this blog for an extremely long time as I’ve been working on other projects (check out Curzon/Harkstead), but here I am. As I wrote a long time ago, I’ve been diagnosed with hearing loss – a rare genetic condition called Cookie Bite Hearing Loss. I’m sure it must have a more scientific-sounding name than that, but if it does, I have no idea what it is. Oh, and I have a thoroughly unwelcome side order of tinnitus, too.

Living with hearing loss is a right old pest sometimes, so I’m going to post on this ‘ere blog about my disability. Partly because it helps people without hearing loss to gain an insight into what it’s like, but mainly because I’m not the only person who has hearing issues, and sometimes it helps if you can read about how someone else deals with their disability.

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Fearful and Wonderful – in Bury St Edmunds

Earlier in October, an auction was held at Lacy Scott & Knight auctioneers in Bury St Edmunds. A descendant of Alfred Swaine Taylor’s passed away at the end of last year and in the attics and cupboards of their home was found Taylor’s papers, diaries, books, letters, photographs, salt prints, and even Taylor’s microscope. In the introduction to Fatal Evidence, I said that no letters and diaries of Taylor’s had survived – little did I know they were in a house in Suffolk! It’s a shame I didn’t have these materials to hand when I wrote the book, but I would’ve struggled to fit it all in – and my book was used by the auctioneers to work their way through the amazing hoard.

I wrote a preface for the auction catalogue, which you can read online, and I gave a talk on Taylor a couple of days before the auction. It was great meeting another packed room of people who wanted to hear about Taylor, and it really nice to be able to do that standing beside a huge portrait of him, while his microscope was in a glass cabinet right next to me.

I was allowed to have a look at the lots before the auction, and photographed a lot of the letters which were in the auction. You might see my transcriptions online at some point – I’m currently working through the letters between Taylor and his wife Caroline just before they got married. They’re a lovely mixture of adorable (“I cannot tell you with what pleasure I saw the postman with his scarlet jacket, come into our gate, because I flattered myself he was the Bearer of a letter from you.”), cheeky (“I find he is one of those who talk less in company than when tete a tete or as it would be with him nez a nez.”) and practical (“I have seen Mr Horne the person who altered what is to be your wardrobe, & asked him what would be the expense of some bookshelves.”).

So here’s some photos of my talk, some of the auction’s lots, and me wandering about Bury St Edmund’s. Many thanks to everyone at LSK, and to Alex at Moyse’s Hall. And to everyone who came along to the talk.

(Click on a photo to see it – click again to see a big version!)

The Back Doors to Death – at Highgate Cemetery

I was so pleased to be asked to give a talk on Alfred Swaine Taylor and nineteenth-century forensic science at the legendary Highgate Cemetery. It’s where he and his wife Caroline were buried – as well as people Taylor knew. Faraday, who he corresponded with about photography, and even Thomas Hopley, the headmaster who killed Taylor’s nephew.

The chapel is a gorgeous venue, and the audience were great! I’m pleased to say too that the guides who were at the talk were really excited about Taylor and if you go on a tour of the western side of the cemetery, you may well get to see where Taylor and his wife were buried.

The Back Doors to Death: Alfred Swaine Taylor talk at Highgate Cemetery – Thursday 20th September

Alfred Swaine Taylor, one of the most famous forensic scientists of his day, was laid to rest at Highgate Cemetery in north London in 1880.

At my talk, find out more about Taylor – his well-known and obscure cases, and his sidelines in photography and geology. Discover his impact on crime fiction and find out why Golden Age detective fiction author Dorothy L Sayers called his books “The Back Doors to Death.”

Tickets are on sale now at just £8 each (£6 for Highgate Cemetery volunteers).  Doors 7pm. Thursday 20th September 2018.

The Guardian’s Best summer books 2018, as picked by writers

I had absolutely no idea at first that Fatal Evidence appeared in the Guardian’s Best summer books, as picked by writers. I noticed I had a new follower on Twitter, had quick glance on their timeline and saw my name plus a link to the Guardian. Thinking I was either 1. dreaming or 2. misreading something crucial, I followed the link and discovered I wasn’t imagining it after all – there’s Jess Kidd, author of Himself and The Hoarder, recommending my book!

Screencap from the online article. The text on the screencap reads: Jess Kidd. I am rollicking through Pretend I’m Dead by Jen Beagin, which is one of the funniest, most twisted and freshest things I’ve read in a long time. It follows the fortunes of Mona, who cleans houses and falls for a man she calls Mr Disgusting. Beagin combines deep compassion and irreverent humour to create characters with nasty, wonderful, human flaws. Helen Barrell’s Fatal Evidence, Professor Alfred Swaine Taylor and the Dawn of Forensic Science is an engrossing read. It follows the career of Taylor, a remarkable scientist who gave evidence at the trial of William Palmer, “The Rugeley Poisoner”, pioneered the study of forensic medicine and let Charles Dickens nose around his laboratory. Barrell explores Taylor’s (occassionally bizarre) cases, his public and private persona and his wide-ranging interests, which included geology and photography. Her description of the ways in which forensic experiments evolved is as fascinating as the courtroom dramas they accompanied.

At the risk of this turning into a nauseating #humblebrag, this was such a surprise, and it was a real treat to see Fatal Evidence in a national newspaper. Writing for an independent publisher, national newspapers seem like an impenetrable citadel. And it’s really lovely that another writer appreciated my work.

So thank you, Jess, and thank you, the Guardian.

And bravo all the other authors who got a mention too! My to read pile is now tottering in dangerous fashion.

Interview: Jonathan Goodwin from Don’t Go Into The Cellar! Theatre Company

I’ve been lucky enough to catch Jonathan Goodwin’s one-person shows Murder by Gaslight and Ghost Stories for Christmas. Soon, I’m off to see his show The Singular Exploits of Sherlock Holmes. In Murder by Gaslight, he brought William Palmer (one of Alfred Swaine Taylor’s least favourite murderers) to terrifying, arrogant life, then in the second act transformed into the meak Dr Crippen. It was an incredible performance. So I’m really pleased to bring you an interview with Jonathan to find out more about his work.

Welcome to my blog, Jonathan!

Jonathan Goodwin as Sherlock Holmes, in smoking jacket.
Jonathan Goodwin as Sherlock Holmes

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