Ask me to read an article quickly and then to recall the key elements and it would be beyond me. Spelling too is very testing, and taking in the facts presented in class or when revising (nowadays in French) takes me ages compared to the time others need. With the aid of tricks learned over the years, coping is all much easier than when I was at school, but dyslexia is relentless. My childhood dyslexia has simply matured into my adult dyslexia.
How do I cope? Well, first I have developed a thick skin – so the jibes hurt less than they did. I am also prepared to ask for help when there is work (French again!) to be done. But even so, problems still arise – recognising the meaning of symbols remains difficult. When approaching a traffic light there are times when I find it difficult to know whether the red light means stop or go, and the same applies for the green. All rather risky but I have learned to err on the side of caution! And a similar type of muddle occurs when I need to refer to certain words, such as ‘lion’ or ‘tiger’. I just can’t easily distinguish the word describing one animal from the word for the other. And the trouble is that it is difficult to resolve these dilemmas from first principles – principles simply don’t apply to reds or greens, or to lions and tigers.
It was a amalgam of these muddles that struck earlier last month. And one probably made worse by wishful thinking. But I need first to explain that I have a soft spot for most things Irish. Irish is in my blood – my great grandfather on my father’s side, a certain Dr Frank Humphreys, came from County Cork.
Be that as it may, on the particular day we had been for a walk and ended up in our local park queuing for coffee. The restaurant is in a rather grand ‘lodge’ where Bertrand Russell lived as a child. At the entrance to the building we found a sign in bold letters declaring ‘Irish Show – open from 10.00am onwards’. The prospect excited me so I re-checked both the message and my watch to discover with some sadness that the show had already begun. However, although I reckoned that we would have missed some events, such as the early heats of the Irish dancing or fiddle-playing competitions, coffee called and the Irish treat would have to wait. And anyhow, we might miss nothing. In my, albeit limited, experience it is rare for an Irish céilidh to start on time. I reassured myself that there would be time enough and that waiting would whet the appetite.
After our coffees we followed the arrows to a large room at the rear of the building at the back of which were doors that open out into a large courtyard. To my surprise there was no music, no platform for performers, no open doors and no one in tell-tale Irish green. Instead the room was full of older men and women milling around and chatting, all wearing English grey. The focus of attention was dozens of floral displays with blossoming bulbs, bristling with the most exquisite flowers. I was soon carried away by their beauty and forgot how I found myself there. Then, reading the notes by the various pots ‘First prize goes to Mrs Lily Brown’, the penny dropped and it all became embarrassingly clear. The ‘Irish Show’ was of course an ‘Iris Show’. My dyslexia had played one of its tricks – perhaps I should have known.
After a good laugh and with my wife’s confession that she had wondered what I was on about with my ‘Irish Show’ idea, we wandered off home. But it was likely that had I not been insistent we might have missed those most beautiful blossoms. That would have been a shame. Being dyslexic and suffering from word blindness can have advantages, although over a lifetime these are few and far between!