Since the world watched her hear for the first time, Jo Milne has been on a journey into sound, all the while knowing her world is getting darker by the day. This week she’s been to the Rugby World Cup.
I stand, mesmerised, watching the ball spin in the air from kick-off. A wall of opponents run full speed as the pitch comes to life. I hear the sound of grass being ripped up as a winger races down the sideline hoping to down the ball in the try zone.
The mighty roar of the forwards engaged in a one-tonne scrum, the crowds on their feet screaming encouragement. Hands palming faces when scoring opportunities are missed.
I can hardly believe I’m here watching England versus Wales among the supporters in an 82,000 strong crowd at Twickenham. My cheeks tear-stained as I hear God Save the Queen, swept up in poignant patriotism, I spot the two contrasting flags to my right, displaying the red Welsh dragon and red English rose.
High-spirited smartly dressed chaps in skimmer straw hats and striped blazers in a kaleidoscope of colours; all of us from different walks of life come together reminiscing about the sport over warm beer. We discuss my late grandfather and the Springboks in his native South Africa. The whiff of steamy chips eaten from paper assaults my senses.
Defeated but still proud, my heart goes out to the fans glued to their seats in a bewildered trance. I watch as the St George flags, once expertly painted on their faces, drip onto their shirts. The mascots of dragons dance in the street, drums beating away as we scramble past a scene not too dissimilar to a Chinese New Year street party.
The next day, I’m back on the London underground. The loud rumble as tube trains fly past in an instant. I’m reminded of this fast pace of life I once knew as commuters hurry past and my memory recollects a younger me: briefcase in my hand, charged for the working day ahead.
London has shrunk since I was last here. I’m not in awe anymore of the impressive red brick St Pancras station; that – and the sky – have disappeared and instead been replaced with the heads of people weaving and darting in front of me, anxiety etched across their faces as they hurry not to miss a train.
“Defeated but still proud, my heart goes out to the fans glued to their seats in a bewildered trance. I watch as the St George flags, once expertly painted on their faces, drip onto their shirts.”
But of course I know London hasn’t changed at all. It’s still bright, bold and bustling as always. What’s changed is my view of it. Usher Syndrome has seen to it that all peripheral vision is gone but I know it’s there. Yet I feel energised and renewed as my ears are able to let the tannoy guide me; the soft female Scottish accent listing the destinations. It’s almost a tune with a perfect pause in between each one.
Tube trains only consist of one carriage and one set of doors these days, and rather than throngs of people filling the platform; they’re all standing in the same two square feet that I’m occupying, all pushing themselves forward to squeeze themselves into the train. My friends smile at me from across the carriage as they know from the subtle crease on my face that I’m hearing the announcements for the first time.
Life is challenging for all of us; it’s not meant to be hunky dory. We have a tendency to really live in the black and white, good or bad, easy or difficult – and life isn’t like that. We just have to try our best.
My brain is alive, trying to keep up as the breathtaking Wembley Stadium goes from silence to sound in seconds, leaving an echo in its path. As the game comes to a close, the Irish fans joyous in their win against Romania, I join in a Mexican wave with assembled emerald green army and as I stand, arms in the air, I notice an almost full moon in the inky blue sky directly ahead of me.
No matter what hardships we’re going through, we have to overcome blood, sweat and tears to get through life. Defeat or glory, life goes on and we should all take comfort that even in the darkest times, there’ll always be a light shining brighter.1169 Views
Gateshead-born author of Breaking the Silence, ambassador and campaigner. Jo has Usher Syndrome, a rare genetic condition causing deafness then the onset of a retinal disease leading to gradual loss of vision. Those who know Jo describe her to be inspiring as she continues to wring the joy out of life. @jomilne10