Monday, 28 February 2011


Did you (I?) know that a disproportionately high percentage of left-handers work in the arts, or that a surprisingly large amount of stammerers work in communication? Do you care? No, and why should you; it's not your problem. I've managed to overcome the worst of the latter affliction but continue to proudly write upside down, as we lefties are wont to do, so that we don't smudge what we've just jotted down. Concerning stammering, I was interested to see that Colin Firth won an Oscar for his portrayal of George VI, and not just because a lot of people have told me I look like him; even Mrs. Fingers did a double-take when she saw his photo on the front page of the Telegraph website this morning.

The film was good, even if it did over-simplify the hell we go through on occasions and downplay the drawn-out personal therapy we subject ourselves to. I could barely get a sentence out when I was teenager, a period when insecurity spreads through our being like a coked-up Ferrari, though now it just manifests itself briefly and occasionally via the odd consonant. One of my 'prepa' students is similarly afflicted the way I was in those days, and we talked quite a lot about how we deal with it (a surprisingly fluid conversation, actually). We've compared notes on the film and both feel like there's a little more understanding for this awful, debilitating affliction (sorry, can't be bothered to look up a synonym). Stammers diminish as time goes on as we gradually acquire more self-confidence and affirmation of our place in society. Sounds like psychobabble, but it is true. I sincerely hope my student finds the same.

What's interesting is why people who have such difficulty speaking are drawn towards work in the communications sector. Some of it must be down to defiance and a will to overcome an impediment; you either fight it or you die. David Attenborough would probably call it the survival instinct. Even when my stammer was quite palpable I loved speaking in public. It was almost like defying the audience to cringe, laugh or walk out, shaking their heads. In the end, you do it for yourself: you set yourself a yardstick and you take a running jump. The worst that can happen is you fall flat on your face.

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