Genealogists, West Ham and deafness.

I’m not deaf, despite what some people say, but it’s true that I don’t always listen 100%. I find it quite easy to ‘switch off’ or be distracted. Is that called ‘selective hearing’? I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing, as long as one listens to the most important things, and one is not obvious about it – and I actually spent many happy years not listening to an ex-boss in Catalonia who loved the sound of his own voice. At a New Year’s Eve party here the other night, however, I misheard something, and yet we continued the conversation quite normally.

This has happened to me before – a few years ago now, when I was introduced to a woman at a party in Suffolk. I thought she told me she was a genealogist. That’s really interesting, I said – because I thought it was. I asked her where she worked – from home or an office? – and she then told me she had a ‘studio’ attached to her home. Excellent, I said, excellent. And then I asked her how it worked – whether people came to her with an old family photo or a letter or something – I mean, how does it all start? She said that sometimes a client might come in with an old photo or a ‘magazine cutting’, yes, and then they’d ask her to design something around it, or something similar – and so I said that’s excellent, that’s really interesting – and do you then build a profile for each member of the family? – and she said, yes, sometimes, especially if there’s a wedding, because often the mother and daughter might want to share, design or re-use a late grandmother’s jewels or something – and I nodded, saying that I understood perfectly, because you’d obviously need to trace things back to the grandmother’s mother and great grandmother, too, perhaps – and she frowned but also nodded – and thus we went on and on and on – having a perfectly normal conversation. Or at least that’s what I thought. When I got home I said to my ex-wife that I’d met her charming new friend, the genealogist, and that we’d had a lovely long conversation. She told me she was a gemologist.

Now, West Ham beating Liverpool by two goals yesterday reminds me of my conversation with a Russian woman who I met at the New Year’s Eve party here in Sitges, Barcelona, the other night. This time I blame the very loud music and the red wine. She asked me whereabouts in England I come from. I said from near London, then added ‘between London and Cambridge’ to simplify the geography. She nodded. I asked her if she knew that area. She said she knew London – and then I thought she also said that she didn’t like West Ham. Exactly why she didn’t like West Ham, I was unsure – but she definitely said it. In fact she said it twice. She pronounced it like ‘Weththam’. ‘West Ham?’ I said. She nodded, mumbling something about Weththam being terrible. I then tried to explain in detail over the loud music that I thought they were having a fairly good season, much better than previous years, and that Slaven Bilic was doing a pretty good job, all things considered. But she was adamant. She said every season Weththam was crap – which I thought was very unfair. Every season Weththam was raining, grey skies, cold, and not like Barcelona at all, she went on …

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