As promised in my first post about posturing, I’ve finally got around to writing about exactly what I *did* during those long hours, days, weeks, and the entire MONTH of July 2014 of lying face-down or on one side with 10 minute breaks every hour. (Please see https://rdramblings.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/pondering-posturing/ for an explanation of exactly what posturing is in relation to retinal detachment). Now being a fairly active person, the necessity of spending all this time lying down in one position was pretty grim, and that’s putting it mildly when you take into account all the side-effects of such momentous inactivity, as detailed in my previous post. The most relentlessly horrendous period of posturing was during July 2014, following surgery number two. It was at this point that my cousin, who had taught himself fluent Welsh whilst studying an unrelated subject at Aberystwyth University some years ago, sagely advised me, “You need to keep your mind active and think about something other than your eyes. Why don’t you learn a language?” Now, my language learning has always been a bit hit and miss. Apart from the usual smattering of French and German at school, I’ve learnt odd bits of wherever I’ve visited, including Spanish, Greek, Czech, Polish, and Russian (a long-held ambition of a visit to St Petersburg unfortunately had to be cancelled following surgery number two). After much thought, I decided to concentrate on German: a decision possibly influenced by the very kind German doctor who originally diagnosed my retinal detachment in Berlin whilst I was there for a few days holiday. My sister was dispatched to the library to scour the shelves for audio language CDs and returned with a small pile which I gradually worked my way through until I figured out which seemed to be the most useful.
Now, audio CDs are great for language learning, but there are a few problems in using them whilst posturing. Firstly, most of them seem to come with a book too. There’s something particularly frustrating about lying face-down concentrating on the vocabulary to be told cheerfully, “and to learn exactly how this works, just turn to page 8 in the book”. “Grrrrr – well I can’t flippin’ well turn to *any* page in the blinkin’ book when I’m flamin’ well posturing, can I?!”, I’d growl unintelligibly into the mattress in annoyance. Another difficulty was that in order to reach the plug socket, the CD player was placed on the windowsill, which was out of reach whilst I was in my posturing position. This meant that I’d press ‘play’ and then assume my face-down position on the bed, which had to be held for half an hour before I was permitted to turn on my side for the next half hour. So if I missed a bit, or wanted to pause the CD, I couldn’t reach it. Maybe this was a good thing in a way, because it meant that I had to remember things and learn quickly in order to keep up, but the frequent times of having to listen to almost a whole hour of German whilst barely understanding a word of it became somewhat irritating. I liked to tell myself that some of it must be seeping into my consciousness even if I didn’t understand it all at the time.
After a few days of this, I started putting my efforts into practice. “Meine Augen schmerzen” (my eyes ache) became a constant complaint whenever anyone asked how I was, with the additional lament, “Ich habe Kopfschmerzen” (I have a headache) on frequent occasions. BBC Deutche Plus didn’t teach me how to say that I ached all over, but “Ich habe Grippe” (I have ‘flu) seemed to sum up the general feeling pretty well so I’d sometimes resort to that for a change. My sister joined in my language challenge with enthusiasm, although it was somewhat confused enthusiasm at times when she clomped up the stairs and cheerfully announced her arrival with, “Bon jour!”. “Guten Tag”, I’d correct sternly, from my prone position with my head in the mattress. “Wie geht’s?”, I’d go on to enquire, receiving a confused, “Do what?” in response. “How are you?“, I’d translate. “Ooooooh”, she’d reply, “sehr gut, danke. Tu voudrais a cuppa?” “Ein Tasse Tee, and it’s German, not French!”, I’d remind her despairingly. “Oui, oui, Deutsche”, she’d nod in agreement. “So, would you like a cuppa then?”, she’d ask, abandoning any attempt at anything other than her native tongue. “Ja, bitte”, I’d attempt to nod before quickly realising that this was an impossible movement as the top of my head had nowhere to go other than further into the mattress. “Die Küche ist die Treppe herunter, dann rechts, durch das Wohnzimmer, dann wieder rechts”, I instructed helpfully, incase she’d forgotten her way to the kitchen. After a few seconds of confused silence, I explained, “The kitchen is down the stairs, then right, through the living room, then right again.” “Aaaaah!”, she said, in relief, as if she really had forgotten where the kitchen was. “I don’t know the German for kettle, though”, I confessed. “That’s alright, I’m sure I’ll manage”, she replied, before heading of down the stairs. A few minutes later she’d return bearing ein Tasse Tee, followed by the dog, Dizzy, who seemed a little bemused when we started calling him Schwindlig. A direct translation of Gillespie, the other dog, was a little more tricky but we settled on referring to him as ‘die Orange ein’ (the orange one), which was what my Grandad used to call him in later years when he couldn’t remember their names.
Unfortunately, my German has lapsed somewhat since my last bout of posturing in May this year. For the past few months, my only efforts have been via text exchanges with a friend who seems even more enthusiastic than my sister in helping me to improve my language skills. A typical text message from him will start, “Guten Abend! Wie geht’s?” (Good evening! How are you?), and go on to make a comment such as, “Das Wetter ist schlecht!” (The weather is pants. Okay, perhaps that isn’t an entirely literal translation, but you get the gist.) Things will then start to get a little precarious, with sentences such as, “How are your Augen?” and “I hope you’re not feeling too müde?” (tired), and occasionally, “When’s your next appointment at the Krankenhaus?” (hospital). I keep meaning to make an effort to get back into the German because after all, it could potentially be so much easier to learn how that I’m vertical for most of the time again…
Note to anyone reading this who knows more German than I do (and clearly this isn’t difficult): Please accept my apologies for any errors, which I blame entirely on the difficulties caused by my posturing position. If you have any good tips for German learning, I’d be delighted if you would share them by commenting on this blog post. 🙂