Spouse’s words may fall on ‘deaf ears’

Whenever I get together for coffee and a natter with my girlfriends, the most frequently uttered complaint about their husbands or partners is that they “don’t listen”.

This leads to huge frustration as messages such as “don’t forget the kids” or “switch off the oven in 10 minutes” are ignored though bellowed from the front door to the spouse in the kitchen.

The truth, as a local audiologist explained to me recently, is not that men don’t listen. They don’t hear. As they get older, they have increasing difficulty hearing the piping treble voices of women but may have no problem with the baritone speech of Bob or Peter when they pop round to watch a rugby match.

Happily there is quite a lot that women can do to avoid the irritation about missed messages, forgotten children and burnt scones. It involves retraining the way we communicate with each other and being aware of how and where we speak. I’ve been given an amusing bookmark making light of the seven steps to follow when talking to anyone whose hearing is not as sharp as it once was.
Don’t shout. Get their attention before speaking. Face them. Don’t speak too quickly. Don’t turn away while talking (that’s very common). Don’t cover your mouth. And particularly relevant in my case, because I’m prone to add a lot of unnecessary detail, “Come to the point”.

And how do we know if our own hearing is failing? A simple way, suggested by our pharmacist, is simply to rub your thumb and index finger together near your ear. If you can’t hear that soft rustle in both ears, it’s best to seek an audiologist for a proper test.

The comforting thing is that hearing aids have come a long way from the trumpet which Old Uncle Jim used to use about a century ago. They are tiny, discreet, highly sophisticated and with constantly improving technology can be adjusted to the specific needs of each user. The modern aids don’t just amplify sound, they are designed to help the wearer identify the sounds of speech.

Talented but shy

Johan Botha may be an internationally-known tenor but he’s also quite shy and modest. So it came as a surprise to those at the Mount Nelson’s Green Park Room on Thursday when he opened up about his career.

After being officially appointed Honorary Patron to Cape Town Opera in recognition for all he has done for opera, Johan sat down
to chat to CTO’s MD Michael Williams. He talked freely and amusingly about his step-by-step progress up the ladder from 1988.

Two essentials for hopefuls wanting to make a singing career in Europe: “Speak the language of the country…and be flexible.” Seems you never know what a quirky director might throw at you during an audition. It could be “Sing the sextet” when you had come prepared with an aria. Or “Take off your clothes.…”

If you didn’t do either, it’s a case of “Next please”…
Johan undertook to learn German in three months – and did. Even tougher was landing the role in Madama Butterfly provided he learnt by heart the entire opera in Italian in three days. He did that too.

On the home front he’d like to see the spoken parts of operas translated into Xhosa and Afrikaans to broaden the interest in opera, but recognised that might not happen yet….

For the record

I’d like to set the record straight about a recent column headed “Fynbos overrated as bee forage.”

I wrote that 15 hives next to the fynbos in Lower Tokai had produced less honey “since the pines had been replaced by fynbos”.

It was not the pines but the gum trees within the pine forest that enabled the bees to make more honey than they currently do in the fynbos. Hope that’s clear now.

Sadly not only the gums were cut but some handsome old yellowwoods were felled because they were not indigenous to the area. Madness. When the pines are felled we will have no shade trees.

Age and youth

We went to the Waterfront’s Nu Metro to see Youth, an unusual and beautifully filmed movie about age, and youth set in the Swiss Alps. It stars Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and an unrecognisable Jane Fonda as an arrogant over-the-hill superstar in a cameo role which some predict might bring her her first Academy Award nomination in 30 years.

Caine’s movie career spans 52 years and thanks to the DVD of Zulu which remains in circulation we can see him when first “introduced” to film audiences in 1964 as a blond young British soldier in the famous story of the resistance by a handful of Welshmen against the mighty Zulus at Rorke’s
Drift.

Ironically in Youth he appears as a serious and taciturn 82-year-old, but with the same working class cockney accent which he has kept all his life.
Born in London in 1933, he was named Maurice Joseph Micklewhite after his father who was a fish-market porter, while his mother was a cook and charwoman. However, when Caine was knighted in 2 000 he used his birth name saying he had loved his father and had kept his real name “because I am a very private and family orientated person”.

A blonde moment

The blonde model was at a photo shoot in a derelict house and asked where the toilet was.

An assistant said, “Upstairs… but be careful there’s no door.”
The blonde model replied,

“So how am I supposed to get
in?”

fionachisholm@iafrica.com