Good ears - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Good ears

“You got your ears on good?”

Well, of course you have. They aren’t detachable.

I used to have good ones. I would go so far as to say great ones. Not in any aesthetic sense. I wouldn’t know as I can’t see my own any more than I can lick my own elbow.

But I can pick out any tune I hear on an instrument and can usually recognise accents quite well. I’ve even been told that when I speak French I do so with a Swiss accent, which, as Switzerland is where I have spoken most French, doesn’t surprise me. In the past I’ve even managed to identify previously unheard jazz tracks by their instrumentation. As if anyone could mistake Gene Krupa and Lionel Hampton playing with Benny Goodman anyway.

I tend not to listen to too much news. Certainly not daily. I’m not any kind of hermit or anchorite, I just grew tired of the daily death lottery numbers from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya,  and the incessant stories selected for their ability to promote fear, paranoia and general buttock clenching unpleasantness, and simply stopped listening as much as previously I had.

As such, I have become something of a “News eavesdropper,” tuning in to things which attract my brain and trap its attention. It’s a process similar to climbing over a barbed wire fence whilst attempting to ensure the continued comfort of your genitals (if you are of the gender with the external variety) something now and again snags you. For me recently it has been all the talk about Cony.

I had kept hearing the word filtering into my brain from a variety of sources, overheard conversations and news bulletins perceived with full Doppler effect as I walked from somewhere to somewhere else. As such it was floating there somewhere close at hand on the upper levels of my consciousness as would the thin layer of slimy grease be on top of the water you use when you wash your dishes.

There were also a few vague internet references that snuck in as well. But even after a couple of weeks not enough to cause me to have any opinion on the matter or even to formulate any kind of response ready in case of attack on the street by some crazed television crew in search of vox pops.

Instead I carried on with my own normal musings and concerns. Did the shopping, smoked some cigarettes, drank some coffee and moved my bowels. The latter I did by playing the later Beethoven piano sonatas which I always find comforting.

Nonetheless, I was tortoise slowly coming to the realisation that rather a lot of people seemed to be concerned about Cony, even to the extent of only using that one name rather than the full one, which for an Englishman born and bred on good grammar and manners I found rather vulgar.

People were seemingly horrified about the whole situation, which I couldn’t help thinking was an overreaction. I mean, things have changed for sure and not for the better. But to be so horrified? Well, it didn’t sit well with my legendary English reserve, sharpened as it has been by a decade of living in Scotland engaged in missionary work.

It was only when I realised that people were talking about the latest African dictator rather than the small former island off the coast of Brooklyn – home to the wonderous amusement park – that the penny dropped with the force of a manhole cover.


There was I prepared to lend my support to the inhabitants of that beleaguered holiday resort in its attempts to regenerate itself to the heights of its former glory, even to the extent of having dusted off my etymological anecdote about its name being the Dutch word for “rabbit” and what I had been doing was displaying blind ignorance about the latest internet meme. I felt quite proud for a moment, until I realised this meant that my hearing was not all it once had been.

My ears were now making spelling mistakes.

Of course, I had heard other people suffer from this before, but not me. I remembered being in Switzerland with my friend John Stano listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival playing “Up around the bend” when I informed him they were not singing, “Where the neon signs are wood” but “where the neon turns to wood” meaning the outskirts of town.

That was over a quarter of a century ago however, and time marches on, although whether I would hear it as marching or as thunder now worries me. I have even better examples of other people’s fallibility in this respect. The best being a schoolmate from the 1970’s  – not the sharpest knife in the box it must be said – who was certain, until convinced otherwise that The Tams hit of that era “Hey girl don’t bother me” was, in fact, called, “Edgar the Wallaby.”

I cannot put either of those things down to hearing problems though. In the case of the former there was usually some drink involved and in the latter some mental impairment was surely at work, probably manifesting itself in later life in some minor role in public office.

My problem seems to be one of hearing, and although I would love to be able to share more on this subject with you I must go. My wife has just called to me from downstairs to come and eat. Apparently Cher, Meatloaf and our neighbours are here for supper.



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