Sunday, 3 July 2011

Speech Therapy

In the early years of primary school, there was a rarely a lunchtime where I didn’t suffer some kind of ridicule. This was commonly by my own hand – my inability to kick a football without falling down; running to the dinner lady in tears because my toy Jaguar car had been stolen; asking oh so naively to participant in games for which I was not remotely popular or athletic enough.

Without fail, a singular form of ill-deserved piss-taking would be visited upon me as I sat at the edge of the playground. I would be packing up my Goofy lunchbox (with the lid that, incredible to me at the time, was also a flask) and lift my head to find myself faced with my sister and a group of her friends. She was three years older than me and in the upper echelons of the school.

‘David – say ‘Tissue.’’

For some reason, it never really dawned on me that this was mockery. Dutifully I would scrunch up my face and give it my best effort.


My sister and her friends would ripple with laughter as only nine year old girls can.

‘No, David – ‘Tish-shoe.’’

Always, I would keep trying. They were laughing. They were paying attention to me. Unlike anyone else, they had included me in their game.


Once again they would laugh, and once again I would smile as if I had earned it.

‘Now say ‘Sausages.’’

This was a trickier prospect which I was far less keen to attempt. ‘Sausages’ was a word I could not manage. ‘Sausages’ and ‘Hospital.’ I can’t remember quite how I mangled them, only that their correct pronunciation was an impossibility.

A mild speech impediment was but one of a number of issues. For quite a while I struggled to hold a pen, requiring a special rubber grip to assist me. I was far behind the class in reading ability, and, despite countless hours in front of Sesame Street, I could not recite the alphabet until I was eight.

To address these oratory inabilities, I would once a week be plucked from school at lunch time to attend Speech Therapy. Strangely, all I recall of these sessions is arriving at the office. Every week the therapist would ask me what I had learned at school that day. Every week I would only reply ‘Can’t remember.’

Something must have worked. I do remember conquering the fearsome ‘Sausages.’ I was sat in the Abbey National waiting for my mum, a grand time for the flicker of a usually dim light bulb.

‘I can say ‘Sausage’’, I said, looking at the weekend queue. ‘And I can say ‘Jizz.’’

Like a particularly slow-witted ape grasping a club for the first time, the concept was clicking together in my head.

‘So if I just say them together... ‘Sausage’... ‘Jizz.’’

‘‘Sausage’... ‘Jizz.’’

‘‘Sausage’ ‘Jizz.’’

By this time I had caught the attention of quite a number in the Abbey National queue.

‘Sausages!’ I shouted in true triumphalist fashion.

Many years later, I knew a boy in secondary school who suffered similar, less pork product specific issues. As he put it, ‘I don’t speak good.’ Years of my own spent overcoming such problems did nothing to stop me laughing at him with all the others. I would clamour to pounce on his mistakes and wring them for all the mirth I could.

After we’d left school, the same boy lost a leg in a moped accident. When I heard, I laughed about him then too.

No comments:

Post a Comment