Friday, May 28, 2010

Seeing things

Impaired vision by Pants

Today I became a volunteer. I have finally accepted that I'm not ever likely to 'work' again in the traditional sense. I have also ruled out the idea of attempting to 'monetise' any of my many and varied prattlings and doodlings. Amazingly this has been suggested to me by several people. And, although it is nice to think that joy has resulted from something I have done, I am not a salesperson and don't necessarily think that any and everything one produces is a commodity. In fact when the 'monetise' option first appeared on blogger, I wondered if I was simply being invited to render That's So Pants in a more impressionistic form. I do not rule out unexpected and unsolicited twists of fate intervening. I'm prepared rather than expectant.

If anything I have become even more anti-commercial in the last year. I am still spitting out the bad taste in my mouth that has been there since that awful experience at art school with teachers who cajoled and flattered indiscriminately. I think they really believe dispensing encouragement is their only pedagogic obligation. If they knew something about aesthetics, they certainly weren't going to share it with us. There was very much a sense that worth is calculated in the cost of raw materials and not the quality of ideas.

Sorry, digression. I am not ambitious in any sense and I certainly don't measure myself by imagined aspirations. If I did that, this post would be coming to you from the afterlife. I am fortunate in that I have no debt to service and I have reached an age grand enough for the government to not expect much from me. In other words, if I do some voluntary work, it will ensure I don't starve. Seems like a fair exchange to me.

I have to say that finding appropriate voluntary work is not as easy as it should be and it took all of my powers of research to track down suitable opportunities. Working in a charity shop might be fun if you're in a place where people buy things that are worth recycling but ours are full of deceased-estate Tupperware and mouldy sheets.

The emergency services are another option in my neck of the woods as they are all run by volunteers but, in my experience, emergencies tend to happen at inconvenient hours and I don't fancy pulling on my wellies in the middle of the night to attend to a sewage mishap or battle a major forest fire while the paid staff are having dinner at the pub.

Finally I've found something I will not only be happy to do but feel I can do well. My contribution to society will be to record newspaper articles onto audio for visually impaired people. The induction process has so far not been patronising which is an incredibly good sign. There were two parts to my audition. The first was to read a list of fifty words that cannot be deciphered phonetically - you just have to know them.

I am the person who overrules the radio so this was a doddle for me. The funny thing is that I was warned in advance not to be daunted as these words are 'extremely hard'. I guess if you were born after 1980 and received no education relevant to the functional world, they probably are. I was judged incorrect on only one word of the fifty. I checked with OED afterwards and my pronunciation was accurate. I took it on the chin. In Australia, data is pronounced DAR-TAH whereas everywhere else in the English-speaking world it is DAY-TAH. That wasn't the word by the way, just an example of the complexity of maintaining decency in linguistics.

The second half of the test was to read a three-hundred-word newspaper piece. It had two grammatical errors in it, neither of them serious except in the sense that all grammatical errors are an offence against humanity. I rose above it and read what was written. I stumbled only twice which surprised even me. I do have some radio experience from many years ago. I practised the piece three times which is what I always used to do before I read on air.

As a new English/Journalism graduate, I was very lucky to have worked at a radical radio station in the late 1970s. I remember the first time I read a news bulletin on air. It happened without warning. The regular newsreader had not shown up and there was no one else left in the newsroom to do it. The presenter, who later became a very well-known DJ, was enormously supportive. I got through it without making a single mistake. Not surprising really since I'd written the bulletin myself. The next day I found a note the presenter had left on my desk. It read,

'Dear P. Five people (three men, two women) phoned in last night to say they enjoyed your reading of the news.'

Dears, I wish I could tell you that a brilliant career was born. Sadly, I never bettered that moment in radio but I think I read just as well now, if not better.

I've been shocked by the difficulty of finding a fit with a voluntary organisation for my experience and skills. Basically, I've had to do it all myself since the organisation that is being paid to make those connections for me couldn't connect alka to seltzer. I could go into detail about how dumb the whole labour-exchange industry is now and how ludicrous that is given that the internet pretty much does their job for them except that they are too stupid to realise it, but I might save that for dedicated post. Vast amounts of money are being poured into equipping third-sector organisations with buildings and scarily-pinstriped uniformed staff. There are three such organisations in my small town and they have ghostly 'training rooms' where I suspect not one soul has ever been trained to do anything useful, and 'consultants' whose last job was hairdresser.

Despite the obstacles, I think I may have found a match. Feel free to think of it as the blind leading the blind...