Recently I liked the post of a friend who shared 7 things about himself which others might not know. What I didn’t know was that in clicking ‘like’ on his post this got me nominated to do the same. Now I could have ignored it (I do with most of these nomination games which come my way) or I could have just written a post on Facebook. But being a writer I saw the potential for something a little more in-depth and figured the best medium for this was here on the blog. Of course, once I’m done, I’ll end up sharing it back on Facebook, bringing the whole thing full circle.
So here are 7 facts you probably don’t know about me and, as a bonus, 5 more facts which might make you wonder if you wanted to know me at all…
1. I’m learning 14 Languages.
I’ve never been a brilliant linguist but I’ve always been fascinated by languages. After living in Bangladesh where I had to learn a whole new script and set of grammar rules I began to really see what a global village we live in and I’ve converted to being an evangelist for language learning. Combined with my studies into mnemonics, I’ve found that there’s no reason why anyone should only learn one language at a time – in fact there’s much to suggest that learning several at a time would be better.
I would like to see language education in school change so that children are taught useful phrases in multiple languages to begin with rather than forced to learn quite complex ones in a language they might never need. When I was young you had to learn French and German was the only other option but these choices had their roots in the previous generation based on post-war time politics. Now Spanish is all the rage and it certainly is more useful than German but no one is learning Chinese Mandarin despite the fact it is spoken by more people than any other language in the world.
Anyway, as I say I’m not a very good linguist so the languages I study range in fluidity. I’m reasonably fluent in Bengali, French and Latin. I’m not bad at the Indian subcontinent tribal language of Santali too. I’ve been quite fluent at Egyptian hieroglyphs, ancient Greek and German in the past and I’m slowly rebuilding those skills. My Hindi is good enough to read in shops and restaurants in India though I’m a long way from true fluency. Then there are the ‘long haul’ languages – either new to me or very complex. These are Chinese Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Arabic, ancient Hebrew and Spanish.
My shyness and the visual-oriented nature of my learning skills means that I’m much better at reading these languages than I am at speaking or hearing them but I have to admit I don’t study them so I can converse with others (though some of them I do use to talk with friends abroad). I learn them because I find the process stimulating. Learning to read new scripts is a lot like breaking codes used to be when I was a kid; it’s like unlocking secrets.
2. I used to be a semi-professional Magician.
What’s odd about this is that I find performing tricks utterly terrifying! I have to really make myself perform tricks to anyone – especially if I do table magic at restaurants and bars. I love the reactions I get from doing tricks (which I prefer to think of as ‘psychological stunts’) but I go through periods of doing no magic at all to suddenly showing everyone some cool new trick I’ve learnt.
Oddly enough, the guy who nominated me to write this post is also an amateur magician and he did a really neat little video for his Facebook a few weeks ago. Check it out below and then click the link to go look at his cover picture. You might just be amazed…
3. I used to be terrified of water but my 5-year-old daughter trained me out of it.
Thanks to an incident during a school swimming lessons (involving a stupid trainee teacher who I would cheerfully punch on the nose if I met him today) I developed a true phobia of water before I reached my teens.
This changed when my young daughter, Thing I, began having swimming lessons and I could see she hated putting her head under water. It was beginning to be a real issue and I was determined she wasn’t going to end up with a phobia like mine. So, at bath times, I started challenging her to see which of us could put a part of our faces in the water. First it was just chins; then a quick one-second dip of our face. Then longer. The final test was, after several weeks of this, putting our heads so far under water that it went in our ears. That was the big panic for me and my daughter actually over took me at that point. But I persevered until I no longer panicked when putting my head under water.
Once I could do that, fear of bodies of water simply ebbed away. We went swimming as a family for the first time in our lives and I had no problem in the pool at all. I’m still not a very good swimmer and I need goggles because my eyes get sore very easily but otherwise, I love the water now – thanks to thing I.
4. I’m famous across the world for my sneezes.
All my students over the last 20 years or so know that I have the loudest sneezes ever which come frequently and without warning when I teach. I’ve simultaneously terrified and amused kids in the UK and in Bangladesh with my eruptions. Kids at LAMB used to say they knew when ‘Uncle Ken’ was in the school even if they didn’t see me because my sneezes could be heard anywhere in the whole school. I claim ‘the world’ for my fame because many students and short-term teachers who witnessed my stemutations have gone on to live all over the globe now. It’s as close to famous as I’m going to get!
5. I’ve read thousands of books – but almost none of them twice.
I love books in any form – hardbacks, softbacks, ebooks, audio books – I’m not picky. But unlike most voracious readers, I rarely – if ever – read a book a second time. I’ve read Watership Down twice (back when I was young – I have it on my list to read again soon though) and Asimov’s original Foundation trilogy got a second read when he brought out several more books to the series decades ago. Other than that the only other book I can think of is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and that’s only because I read it in Latin! I also have it in French but I’ve not finished it in that language…yet.
6. My ears are weird.
I don’t mean to look at (though they’re not exactly handsome either) but I mean how they work. I was reminded recently when commenting on another blog how, a few years ago, I thought I was going deaf. I kept turning the TV up more and more to the point of it being painful for Wifey. She made me go to the doctors to get my ears checked. I did and went to the audiologist for the test. Afterwards I braced myself for the awful news that I was losing my hearing. For a musician, this is as bad as it gets.
Instead, I was told my hearing was better than 98% of the population and that I could hear things most others couldn’t. It was concluded that I was probably turning the TV up because I couldn’t tune out of all the noises I was hearing around me – noises in the house or cars travelling in the distance and so on.
Having said that, I think I have some form of tinnitus. I’ve not got it in the usual way: I believe sufferers of tinnitus can’t go into cathedrals and other places where sound echoes freely; I have no such problem. But I do have a kind of ‘untuned radio’ hiss constantly in my ears. This means I can never enjoy true silence. Even if there is no sound at all in the room (which is just about impossible – believe me!) my ears are listening to constant static. It’s very annoying – as a kid I used to struggle to sleep and I’d wrap my pillow around my ears to try and drown out the sound. Of course, it did no good.
One final weirdness is that I swear on my soul that once, for just a few seconds, my ears picked up radio. I know, I know – crazy huh? I can’t explain it, I really can’t. For just a brief moment it was like that tuning static suddenly came into focus and caught a radio-wave or something. It was like someone twiddling the knob of a radio. Scientifically, I know this is impossible but…I promise it happened. Maybe I was about to enter a moment of psychosis and my brain kinda went “woah boy! Let’s back off from this hearing voices thing hey?” Who knows…
7. I’m hoping both my kids will be my best friends one day.
Through 20 years of teaching I’ve always got on extremely well with teenagers. Hundreds of them are friends to this day – with many of them now grown up with families of their own. It’s been a real privilege to know these guys but I’ve always worried that having to do the ‘dad’ thing with my own two kids would get in the way of building that same kind of relationship. I never really had to discipline my students – for most of the time anyway – so we all just got on with working together (I saw them more like clients than kids). But as a dad, I’ve had to tell my two off many times (as the saying goes “if you’ve not said you hate me at least once in your life, I haven’t done my job as a parent”) and I always hate the clashes which come with that. It’s just not me.
So my hope – and it’s coming close – is that as my two Things are now entering the teen years properly that the discipline stuff will disappear and the friendship will grow. We’re already a family very comfortable with each other’s company and we share everything together. I’m looking forward to a day when they choose my company as adults because they like who I am as a person – not just because I’m ‘Dad’. I’m hoping that ‘home’ will always be ‘home’ to them – wherever it happens to be in
And now a list of 5 things which are a little bit…weirder…
1) I think Joseph Merrick was a beautiful human being.
Truly. I think this famous Victorian England circus freak was one of the most untainted and beautiful human beings who ever lived. The famous Elephant Man remains a hero of mine and is a constant reminder to me that beauty can be found anywhere if you have eyes to see it.
2) My favourite classical music is that of Gyorgi Lygeti.
Seriously, I relax and chill out to his stuff. While Stanley Kubrick might have been using Lygeti’s music to freak out audiences in The Shining and give cheap alternatives to drugs for those who watched “2001: A Space odyssey” I find his requiem, Lux Aeterna and Atmospheres serene and peaceful. See what you think –
See what I mean? O.o
3) I would love to meet a ghost.
I’d love to believe in ghosts and I would jump at the chance to meet one. Long-time followers of this blog may remember my (true) tales of ghosts in the past.
4) I’m worried I’m secretly a murderer and don’t know it.
Back in the early years of my marriage, whilst living in Cambridge, I had three recurring dreams which always left me waking up feeling they were real.
The first was that I’d completely forgotten to hand in my dissertation for my Masters degree. Well once I had my degree certificate in my hand that dream lost its power.
The second was that my Wifey said “I don’t” rather than “I do” at the church. It was sickening but totally believable – I still don’t know to this day why she didn’t. But after nearly two decades of marriage I guess I can believe we really did tie the knot after all.
The third though, was the horrible thought that I murdered a friend ‘as an experiment’ and completely forgot about it. The recurring dream must have come as a result of watching a horror movie or something as this is a staple diet of horror fiction but it’s the only one of the three which still slightly unnerves me because I haven’t seen this friend for more than twenty years – before these dreams began… (eek!)
I should add I haven’t had those dreams in a very long while now…moving on…
5) I’ve timetabled my life in 15/20/30 min blocks since I was 15 years old.
Again, regular readers are aware of my story and that of my son’s of life with ADHD. What you might not know though is that since I was a teenager I’ve written timetables for every day of my life. In the early days it was for every waking 15 minutes of the day. By university years I’d made a more manageable 30 minute slots with an allowance of considering a 70% completion rate each day being a pretty good day.
To this day, I timetable myself to a degree bordering on OCD. Everything is in there – writing, research, editing, pitching to editors, study, language work, housework. Even down to taking a bath or playing a game of chess on my computer chessboard!
Makes the previous factoid seem a little more likely doesn’t it…?
Well that’s my time up for writing this post (according to my timetable) – time to go check Facebook instead!