As the title of today's Blog might lead you to suspect, today didn't go as well as I'd hoped.
For those of you who don't know what I am talking about, allow me to elaborate:
Today was the second of my three Sign Language assessments for British Sign Language Level 1. BSL102 was to be a two-way conversation on a topic of my choice from this selection -
• The Weather
• Describing My House
• What I Do in My Spare Time
Being a complete idiot, I thought I'd be clever and go for "Describing My House" - the one topic we haven't actually covered so far in our lessons. I thought it would be a good idea to put myself outside my comfort zone, and test my research and Signing skills.
But we all know that thinking isn't my strong point.
From the moment awoke this morning, I was gripped by panic. If fear was a pair of underpants, today they were three sizes too small. I knew what I wanted to say, but I was struggling to get it right in my head. All day I practiced and practiced, and researched words and phrases on-line.
All too soon it was time to set off to Hamworthy, near Poole for my assessment. My assessment was booked for 5:30, so I made sure I arrived in plenty of time so I could have a last minute practice. I was the first person there, but shortly after me, Nikki and her daughter Natasha (Tash) turned up.
It was obvious that we were all nervous about this assessment. Our tutor Louise was there to answer questions, and to help us prepare. She was a great help - but I was still nervous.
And then, my time had come. The assessor, Jackie, is completely deaf. She has been deaf from Birth, and as a result cannot speak. However, she does make noises - little squeaks and groans, which can be a little distracting. Add the fact that this assessment was being video'd, and you can appreciate the pressure I was under.
The assessment started with me signing my name, and signing which topic I had chosen to talk about. Then Jackie started asking me questions. Previously, I had written a transcript of what I wanted to say - but that seemed to go right out of the window.
Initially, things seemed to be going alright; I was understanding the questions, and was asking questions. But then, I asked Jackie a question and her reply involved lots of signing that I just didn't recognise. In my confusion, I just stopped. We had been taught how to ask someone to repeat themselves, and how to say that we didn't understand - but I forgot all that and just corpsed. Jackie waited patiently for me to answer, but when I failed to do so, she smiled and gave me a look that I can only describe as the kind of look you give when you see a disabled child. A kind of "aww, shame" look.
I struggled on, making some progress, but struggling at other times. I froze briefly one more time when Jackie asked me if I ever got to finish decorating my home. As I had never decorated my home (it's not mine - its rented), I wasn't prepared to be asked that. Luckily I remembered how to say that I didn't understand, and Jackie kindly explained slowly. Then I understood, and responded accordingly.
After what must have been the longest five minutes of my short, uneventful life, my assessment was finished. I thanked Jackie, said goodbye and left. I felt like a rabbit that was caught in a cars headlights - and had then been winded by an unexpected punch in the stomach. I left the building, and stumbled in a daze back to my car. As I drove away, I started going back through my assessment in my mind.
And that is when the swearing started.
The more I thought about the mistakes I had made, and how I could have done better, the more wound up I became. I drove home in silence, apart from the occasional four letter outburst at the top of my voice. Heaven knows what the driver in front of me thought when he looked in his rear view mirror and saw my rage contorted face screaming out of my windscreen.
I was so busy running that assessment through my mind over and over again, that I very nearly ploughed straight into a motorbike at a roundabout. In fact, I think it was the motorcyclist's reactions that saved his life.
I was getting so heated, that I was steaming up the inside of my windscreen. I had to keep opening my drivers door window to let air in to clear it - remembering that at these moments, I should try extra hard not to swear. But it was difficult.
By the time I got home, I had calmed down somewhat. Instead of rage, I now felt that I was a useless git who couldn't do Sign Language if his life depended on it.
And now, four hours later, I can't tell you how difficult it is to try and read someone who is Signing. I know I have only just started, but I have such a long way to go in terms of getting anywhere near as good as I need to be to be able to do anything with Sign Language. I'll find out how I did in this assessment in about 6 weeks. I'm not sure I want to know.
But what I do know, is that I've got a long road ahead of me......