Thursday, March 31, 2016

My Voice Essay

I have three voices: Me, Robo-voice and Roux.

My voice is “broken” and has been seriously so for three years. The problem began in the late 1980s. Episodes were initially short and very infrequent. Since, they have just gotten worse and lasted longer. My last episode endured through the last part of 2013 and almost all of 2014. This episode began roughly two months ago.

I discovered Robo-voice when my only voice was my broken voice. I noticed one day when someone asked me my phone number that I could count like my normal speaking self. My voice was loud and clear. There was something about “commencing” speech that allowed me to make sound. Sustaining speech was impossible.

Robo-voice began as speaking one-syllables at a time, stopping, and then starting again. It was slow and hard on listeners and seemed to me to require holding my breath. I found myself often gasping for air.

Recently, I discovered that by lowering my shoulders and relaxing completely—even shutting my eyes—and speaking slowly on a single note or tone, I could “talk” softly but quickly and in a voice close to my own.

I think of Robo-voice as flat; it’s my “black-and-white” voice. I don’t like using it and friends don’t like me using it.

Roux, on the outher hand, lets me speak in full colour. It is my “rainbow” voice that allows me to speak quickly and with lots of tone and inflection; it facilitates emotional expression. It is a voice of convenience and very handy in communication emergencies.

Roux has been, so far, embarrassing to speak. I feel phony and it can prove hard to shed if I use it too much, but it is easy and once my listeners and I get used to is, it is very, very effective.

I have no idea how I discovered Roux or how I learned it. I never ever in my life tried to learn how to speak like an Australian but I always loved playing with accents. I have always been a “funny” person; many have told me so, and accents were part of my shtick—not necessarily foreign, but fey, snobby, or drunk as other examples.

But I do remember one day saying “beck,” as in “beck and call,” and realizing that the way I’d said “beck” was how an Australian says “back.” It it was like finding a key that unlocked how to do an Aussie accent. With that one word, I suddenly could “fake” an accent that sounded like somewhere in the colonial southern hemisphere.

Final Notes
  1. Mr. Morrison at VGH diagnosed my problem as due to GERD. I have been taking Tecta since October 2014 but to no effect. I also have been doing exercises prescribed by Dr. Ramage since October 2014. I go back to them in June.
  2. I would desperately like to be able to answer the question: “What’s wrong with your voice?” Some knowledge about what is wrong would be a fit reward for the patience and understanding of my friends.
  3. I am keen to either fix the problem or accept it and get on with my life.


“Roux” is the name I give to my Aussie voice.

Last night as Beth and I drank champagne in the sunshine and about Roux and with me speaking as Roux and Beth was very positive about my uncanny ability to speak as Roux and inability to speak in my own voice. She said: “Who cares? Even if you have to do it forever, it works!”

She’s right of course and I was reminded of my stress course: It’s not what happens that is important, but how you react to it. I have been fighting Roux. Yes, “he” is handy for emergencies and convenience, but at stores and at the hospital yesterday, I spoke in my own horrid broken whisper because that is me—true me. And I want to be me with doctors and friends when I can.

About yesterday… it was an important day. It was the day my pile of shorts moved from the top, inaccessible shelf, to pride of place in my closet. I enjoyed my day in the sunshine yesterday in shorts and a T. It is magnificent weather.

My medical tests revealed that my arm problems are due to arthritis on my spine and not nerve degeneration. There’s nothing to be done about the arthritis: I came, I saw, I age.

On the way back from Ming Wo I took the path through the dog park so I could get some good dog time. I had a lovely time with two canine brothers and their owner and then decided to move on, passing another set of brothers.

I stopped, offered my hand in peace and the owner of the second set of brothers said, “She’s not too friendly.” I made a quip and continued on to a bench in the sunshine to have some coke and check for emails. Then the owner of the second set of canine twins was seated beside me and after some pleasant conversation she asked if she could give me her number so I could give her a call.

I said immediately: “I am not who you think” and I explained Roux; it was not a gay warning. And I told the women with the two dogs — one with orange toe nails — I would, so she typed her contact information into my phone. I could not say, “No” when she asked if she could give me her number. 

Now, off to find Beth and get out in the sunshine….

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Big Step for My Voice

I have an appointment in June with the voice specialist who misdiagnosed me. It was my choice and the recommendation of my GP to go back to him. The first time I got an appointment with him, I waited eight months to get in. This time, the wait is three months.

I am so worried about what speaking in Aussie is doing to my head that I started looking up things about speech therapy online and I found this interesting speech therapy centre here in town that offers free 30-minute assessments. I am booked for next week.

The free assessment will give the therapist an opportunity to familiarize herself with my problem and enough time to provide me with a financial quote for a full on, professional technical assessment of my condition. No matter what the cost, I am up for it. What better use for my money?

I am keeping the appointment with Dr. Morrison. I will the diagnosis from this paid-for assessment to take with me. I do not mind having two professional opinions. I have been open with this second centre about my upcoming rendezvous with Dr. Morrison.

The Royals Get Relational

Voice Loss and Impressionists

Because of my voice loss and my uncanny ability to speak with an Australian accent (that I HATE doing), I find impressionists fascinating. This guy, Jim Meskimen (doing Shakespeare) is incredible. Several of him impressions made me laugh — not out loud, I can't, but silently.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Little Bird

I rarely remember my dreams but last night I had a dream that I found a little baby sparrow. At first sight, I knew something was wrong, so in my dream I extend my hand to the little thing and it immediately hops onto my hand. I take it home and its there that I notice its throat has been damaged. It has had a wound. Also, in the dream I talk to a vet in Aussie!!

This is so weird and interesting, this whole voice loss issue with me.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Sunday Cooking Class

Our classroom eat Dirty Apron school.
Chef Matt and the wonderful mirrors above him.
Talk about weird.

I went to a cooking class tonight. I thought about how I would talk as I walked there an decided that I had no choice but to speak Aussie. So right from the get go I was Roux. And wouldn't you know it, the young woman staff member who welcomed me was from Sydney Australia. I was mortified, but when I apologized for my accent, she said she never doubted I was from Oz but she thought I was from Perth. She was really kind and lovely.

Then we all had our first demonstration (boeuf bourguignon ) and then we each made our own. And while it was cooking, we made lobster thermidor. I actually put a live lobster into boiling water. Then I went into the dining room and cried. I am such a wus.

When the lobster was ready, we went into the dining room to eat our lobster and there I met the people around me — and right across from me was a speech therapist. I instantly told her my accent was completely fake and she was fascinated. Now we are email connected and I have promised to stay in touch.

Now the really weird part. When I went to show her my normal (crappy) voice, I had trouble finding it. In just two days, I have become so used to talking with this silly accent, that its actually hard to remember how to speak in my normal accent and voice. What the hell is going to happen to me.

Introducing "Roux"

G’day, mate. I’m Roux. How you doin’?”

Roux is the name I’m giving my Aussie voice. I am done with Robo voice. It’s too hard to use for any length of time. It’s natural me, or Roux until I can recover my normal voice.

Last night, I ripped right along at my dinner party using my Roux voice. And this morning my first spoken words were to Leon (my cat) and they automatically came out as Roux. It just happened, probably because I’d been Roux all night last night with Beth, Allan and Larry. It really works, though God knows why.

We’re all interested in what will be forthcoming from the voice specialists when Round Two begins in June. How come Roux can speak and not me?

Speaking as Roux is reminiscent of speaking French when I was learning that language; I’m feeling really self-conscious right now but if I have to stick to this, then I k now I’ll get better and that soon I’ll be talking to myself in Aussie and dreaming in my Roux voice.

I’m a living party trick. “Watch what happens when he tries to speak English.”

“Let me hear your real voice.”

“You’re faking that, right. Do it again”

“How do you do that, really?”

Sit. Fetch. Roll over.

Yesterday at Ming Wo buying my frying pans I used my own voice. I had to repeat everything, often more than once. I left feeling really down. 

Today, talking with a man who had two fabulous dogs (and with Beth beside me), I used my Roux voice for the very first time with a stranger. He, of course, didn’t question the authenticity of my accent. It was rather wonderful, really, because I easily communicated with him and he heard every word clearly. 

For me, having Roux, is as a cochlear implant is to a deaf person. It restores function where there is none. Baby steps.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Cream Puffs (and a Meal) for Friends

This is craquelin. It is flour, brown sugar, sugar and water
rolled flat between parchment paper to a very,very thin
consistency. Then I cut little circles of it with which to top
each puff before it goes into the oven. It yields that
lovely surface you see on each cream puff. 

Beth is coming for dinner. She's from Toronto. And my friends Allan and Larry are also coming. Allan and Beth did shows together when Beth was an actor here in Vancouver many, many years ago. It will be a lot of fun for me to be with thespians.

I'm serving three courses by Yotam Ottolenghi. I remain passionate about this incredibly talented chef. God, I love his food. First: Fancy Coleslaw that has fabulous tastes coming from baked, spiced nuts, tarragon and fennel amongst the radicchio, carrot and cabbage. And, as always with Chef Ottolenghi, the sauce it to die for.

Second: Fried leeks; a favourite and always a hit. And then the Spicy Potato Cakes with apple chutney I make. It is a tapas-style dinner and the cream puffs, above, are for dessert. I am stuffing them with praline paste and whipping cream inside beside a dollop of my own passion fruit ice cream. Yum.

Easter Cookies (I Didn't Make)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

All Day in the Kitchen

Today was spent entirely in the kitchen.

First I made my favourite mayonnaise. Then I made a delicious coleslaw salad (Ottolenghi) that takes a lot of time to make. I loved doing it on a rainy day. I had no desire to go outdoors.

Then I made eighteen potato cakes (Ottolenghi again) stuffed with divinely delicious fresh herbs, jalapeno, and tamarind paste. I will fry them up when my guests (Dwight and Beth) visit. I’ve made both these dishes before.

Then, because I had lemon curd and raspberry purée left over from yesterday, I made a lemon curd tart with (unsweetened) raspberry coulis and meringue for sweetness….

I made two tarts. This is the small one with the lemon curd.
This is the large one with the raspberry coulis added on top.
Then the meringue. Yum!