It's 1975. My seven-year-old self, long white socks, school shoes, yellow skivvy, brown pinafore. Hair in long, unruly pigtails. I'm at the Flinders Medical Centre Speech Pathology Unit. Tammy Riley and I have been taken there for my weekly session with Miss Carter.
Tammy has a stammer. She rarely talks in class.
I never shut up.
Tammy goes off in one direction. I follow Miss Carter to her small room, filled with games, letters and sounds. I enjoy this time. Back at school they're doing games. I don't like games where you have to run about. This is far better.
"Can you read this?" asks Miss Carter.
"Give it a go."
"She things the thongs of Tholomon, they thound the thtart of day."
I've been graced, since early childhood, with a lisp. Thanks to Mith Carter, age and time, the worst of it has gone. It still catches me out sometimes - words like photosynthesis, thus and thistle - any word where the "th" sound is followed quickly by an "s" - I'm screwed. I'm transported back to 1975, sitting in front of my grandparents singing "All I want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth." and watching their merriment.
My tea breaks now have a new purpose. Grounded Dutchman has asked me to give him a hand with his speech. Since the accident he's been left with a slur, a common mark of those who have suffered some sort of brain injury. GD's been lucky, his language skills are still there, it's just getting things out. He's more than understandable, but he's also self-conscious of this new imperfection. I've been at him to seek out some real speech therapy, but he is resistant after the therapy he received after his accident. "It's useless. They're no good," he keeps stating.
So tea breaks are now spent working with him. Reading things from the paper. Discussing topics. Making him talk, out loud, and lots.
I'm unsure why he's asked me to help him out, other than being a friend he can trust. And he knows I've done a few acting classes in my day. Where diction and elocution were part of the curriculum. So a bit of searching in the internet and we've come up with some beauties to get his tongue around.
I'd dearly like to get the HMS Pinafore out of my head. He did well with "I am the very model of a modern Major-General." But he couldn't believe that the whole thing is sung in less that a minute.
There's lots of resources on the web, lots of tongue twisters (or tongue breakers as they're known in Dutch) to help get his mouth moving. I remember an old language coach said that singing could help too - but he's welcome to do that in the car. He was tone deaf before the accident.
But I really hope he does seek out some real help. Our sessions at tea break may help - but I wonder what a professional could do for him - a good one.
I still think he's going to be monumentally unhappy with tomorrows tongue bender:
Theophilus Thistler, the thistle sifter, on sifting a sieve full of unsifted thistles stuck three thousand thistles through the thick of his thumb.
I can't even manage that. Bad Pandora.
I'm still thankful, nearly forty years on, that my parents named me what they did. And not like my thister, Thoothie. (Susie)...