Secret Cave has been a quiet dwelling since the turn of New Year. Indeed, only seven days into it, time taken off in this period is somewhat natural and understandable. It’s been the case for the two Bens after all, both of whom have had swathes of personal and professional flotsam to attend to. As a freer agent however, I would usually have posted a couple of things up by now. Truth is, something terrifying has reared its head; something I didn’t expect until at least my fifties. For the past week, I have been suffering immense hearing damage.
I’m going to try and use this as a jumping off point for talking about a few things. First, a bit of background is probably prudent. Hearing damage, or loss, is a tragic and alienating event for anybody. I claim no greater pain for the skills I own, but it’s worthy of mention that i’m primarily a musician. A part of my deepest inceptions, and shared with my immediate family, musicianship and a focused adoration for music has been a core element of my entire life. I don’t want to consider my plight worse than anyone else’s but, without the ability to clearly hear, my career will be impossible to sustain.
Fortunately, what I’ve been experiencing is probably not permanent. I’ve had the cold to end all colds, to be honest. It seems that this is what’s been the catalyst for my problems, but I can safely say that symptoms like this are new to me. I’ve had blockages in my ear before, and I already have mild tinnitus. Beyond that I consider my hearing fairly sharp, and quite attuned after years of musical study and production work. That’s why it’s so scary to be left with only 15% of what I knew.
That’s not even close to the worst thing about it, irritatingly enough. One of my ears hears things at a detuned pitch. It’s not quite a semitone out-of-tune, even, which has the effect of rendering all music unlistenable. Bass notes are indiscernible, mids sit as a ghostly whisper and the higher frequencies are consigned to a cutting, robotic buzz. I don’t think I’ve ever gone a week without music before, now unable to listen to it. After this, I never want to again. The world feels colder and lonelier somehow, as if living life in a bubble.
This effect extends far beyond music too. Now, for the first time, I’ve had to rely on Netflix subtitles with the audio on mute (for me to be able to hear it would require a ludicrous volume). People need to speak directly into my ear for me to comprehend. I had to stand close by my Brother on a shopping trip, feeling oddly lost despite perfect vision to compensate. While all will likely float back to normality after a fortnight’s detox, there’s been a lot of salient fear and harsh epiphany.
What it makes you consider is really quite trite, or at least so I thought. The old adage of “don’t take anything for granted” is tired and useless to the unclogged ears of the fresh-faced. That perception changes when something in your life proves it demonstrably true. It’s a realisation we all have to go through at some time or another. The only real advice I can give to those who haven’t reached it yet is: don’t underestimate the power of it. I’m very fortunate that my recent illness leans towards the temporary, but the taste of self-reflection has been alarmingly strong.
This leads me to one of the other things my hearing damage has highlighted. I can attribute all my conclusions and assumptions about my situation to the amateur knowledge of a very close friend of mine. In many ways, I’ve had to. At first I called the doctors, I called the hospital; hell, i’m not ashamed to admit I called my Mum. I wanted any reassurance I could get that the hearing damage was a paper tiger. The trouble is, that reassurance is harder to come by in Britain than our NHS would have you believe.
You’d think it would be a simple task. Sit me down in front of someone with the skills, maybe shove a bright light in my lug, and explain what’s going on. With my career resting on it, I feel that’s not too much to ask. Unreasonable waiting lists are, instead, the only consolation. Half-trained, first-aid darlings man the phones and provide you unsympathetic barbs, made all the worse by a searingly patronising tine. If you take their word for it, not only are you a twat for daring to be unwell but you’re also a complete fool for harbouring fears.
Now. I love the NHS. Welfare is a beautiful construct. I couldn’t sit so firmly on the left and disparage the idea of free healthcare, funded primarily by taxes. What does eat at me, like a rat lodged in my colon, is its implementation. I could go on a rant about who’s to blame for that but that’s not the point. In the most frightening time of my life so far, when medical assistance is clearly required, I’ve been denied help wholesale. I haven’t been a particular drain on their resources in my twenty-six years of life either. I’ve had my tonsils out and my knob chopped at a little (no comment), and that’s it. This is why I’ve been left badgering my good friend at 1 am for titbits of his self-acquired knowledge.
They’ve been the only understanding and expertise I can get, despite living in a country with free healthcare. For me this is just another example of our society’s Kafka-esque tinge. The inhumanity can be staggering at times, especially when put alongside the opposing reality of our life’s minutia. We’re all left butting our heads against stoic walls, wondering when the revolution is going to come and put nasty people up against it instead. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe it’s far around the corner. As sentient beings we simply don’t want this. Recent political rumblings have made that all the more undeniable as entire generations feel swamped by elusive bureaucracy. 2017 will bring with it a lot of rabid intrigue.
These personal updates and thoughts aside however, the coming year should be a good one for Secret Cave. While it’s true that my post count has dried up, and tumbleweeds have been apathetically rolling through our servers, plans are greatly afoot. Thanks to my ears, I alone have around six articles on the backbench. Even that’s the tip of the iceberg, since I probably have about eight games backed up to stream, review and publish. This place certainly won’t be quiet much longer, and I hope to see many of you along for the ride.
What has me most excited is the future of our podcast. I’ve had a lot of time to think, leading to a lot of ideas and inspiration. While our listenership was low for our first season, that was never our goal anyway. Some of the feedback I’ve heard has really spurned me on, and I know the two Bens are fully on board for our upcoming direction. We have a lot of brainstorming left to do, but know that Season Two will be a far more coherent beast. Hopefully it’ll have a few more interactive elements too, so watch this space for a way to get involved! Happy New Year from all of us at Secret Cave. We look forward to a good, strong run of journalism, analysis, blogs and bollocks. That is if i’m not deaf by the end of it…