One of the ways in which I earn a living is lecturing about broadcast journalism at a couple of local Universities. One of the key skills involved in writing for radio and television is to keep it simple. Listeners and viewers only have one opportunity to understand the story they’re being told so I’m sure I bore my students rigid with the mantra – write in simple, conversational English. Oh, and know your audience. Who are you writing for? If you’re writing a television script for Newsround, it won’t necessarily been the same as the version of the story you write for Radio 4.
Understanding the audience is something I keep in mind when I visit Mum. My greatest connection with her these days, music aside, is laughter. I know that when I tell her about what I’ve been doing since we last sat together in the dining room of The Firs, it will mean very little to her. She might nod from time to time and make the right noises, but I don’t think the subjects of my verbal ramblings hold any great significance. In fact I know they don’t, since more often than not, Mum stares at the floor when I’m talking. Come to think of it, talking to Mum and to my students isn’t all that dissimilar.
One way of ensuring eye contact, though, is to make Mum laugh. The best way to do this is to gently tease her:
“I hope you’ve been behaving yourself Mum.”
“You’re not making trouble are you?”
Mostly, Mum laughs heartily and, briefly, I see the sparkle in her eyes which reminds me so much of my childhood. Sometimes, though, I think I’ve gone too far and have maybe sounded a little patronising. Understanding the audience when dementia is involved is a tricky one. Sometimes, Mum is responsive, sometimes not.
There was plenty of laughter during yesterday’s visit and, as often happens these days, we finished with a song or two. Now, I don’t know the last time Mum listened to “Some Enchanted Evening” from “South Pacific” but we haven’t listened to it together for years. And yet, from the first note of the recently-downloaded recording I played yesterday, Mum was away – eyes bright, words almost fluent.
At times like this, I know my audience. I know exactly who I’m talking to. Thanks Mum.