Friday, November 17, 2006

A Signed Funeral

This week has seen nothing out of the ordinary but has had a couple of very busy days. On one of these I had a funeral at the crematorium on the West Road in Newcastle which was different in that it required the services of person able to interpret the service into sign language for the deaf. Before the funeral I had a conversation with Christine, the signer. She asked me to speak slowly so she could interpret what I was going to say for the benefit of the small group of deaf people who were going to be there. A friend remarked that this would be a most unusual event since one of my faults is that I tend to speak too quickly especially when I am at all nervous. He had visions of the signer`s hands becoming a complete blur as she tried to keep up with the my delivery. I`ve no idea whether I managed to speak slowly enough as I didn`t get to talk to Christine afterwards but I did slow down considerably and to such an extent that I found it difficult to remember whether the end of a sentence had anything to with the beginning. While standing in the car park we spoke about signing and I was able to seek the answer to a problem that has concerned me of late. Recently I have been to a few productions by Opera North which have employed the services of a signer to interpret the opera for the deaf. Unfortunately I have usually found this extremely distracting as the signer is on stage for the whole opera and not only uses her hands but also her face to convey what is happening. I began to wonder how many deaf people are opera fans. Christine said that the problem was that if hearing people were going for a night out to the opera , deaf members of their family would feel excluded and that was why there was a signer. I mentioned that recently I was in Rome at a papal audience at which it was announced by a Monsignor who was responsible for the English version of what was going on that there was a group of hearing-impaired people from the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle in the square. I told Christine that I had asked the Monsignor whether it would not have been a good idea to have a signer at papal audiences and she was impressed that I had made the suggestion. I did manage to see the contingent of deaf people after the funeral and they were pleased with the service so I assume I had managed to speak at the required speed after all!

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