365 days - day 31

There's sometimes a bit of a communication problem in our house. I'm a bit deaf after too many years sitting next to speakers as a groupie/roadie to ne're-do-well musicians in London's east end, so I don't always catch everything that people say, unless they're looking directly at me. The kids are usually wearing headphones or they're in another room, so we often have to shout a few times to get through to each other. And my husband? Well, if we're being really honest, he's not actually listening most of the time. Unless of course I'm talking about spending money, earning money or sci-fi TV shows.

Many's the time I've been talking away to him and noticed him drift off and have had to drop in a "ooh is that your tenner?" into the conversation to get him back again. It never fails. Sometimes I might use "and they were only 80 quid" or sometimes just "NatWest" is enough to get his attention. I save "HMRC rang" and "I resigned today" for the really special occasions.

It's not that he doesn't care, it's just that he doesn't need to listen to all of it, all of the time. He just tunes in and out and hopes that his tuning in is at the right bits. It usually is. But mostly I don't need him to answer, or even to listen, if I'm honest. I just need him to be there whilst I talk. He's my sounding board.

Sometimes a problem is big and tricky and there's no obvious way forward. Or other times I've experienced something and I'm not sure how I feel about it, or what I should do about it. So I talk it out with myself. It's like, when a problem or issue is in your head, your head isn't always big enough to hold it, and you can't see all of it properly, because it's all squashed in.

So talking it out of your head and getting it into the air allows it to take its full form so you can see it in front of you, like a hologram, and twist it around, and look at it from behind and above and from the sides. You can spin it round or slice it up and do pretty much anything you like with it. And for me, that really helps get some perspective and to find a way forward.

Sometimes the monster you thought you were dealing with is just an irritating little bug, once you get it out into the light. Other times you can split the problem into possible solutions and try them all out to see which one fits best. I do this a lot. It really works.

So anyway, back to my husband, who has, of course, wandered off whilst I've been writing this. His role in my talk-it-out sessions is to be the listener. He doesn't need to join in or give his opinion, he just needs to keep me company while I get on with it. A builder's mate if you like. Sometimes he joins in, when I'm fooling myself into making a decision that someone else would make, and not following my own ethical code, or when I say something that is completely out of character for me, like "maybe I shouldn't get involved", knowing full well that I will.

Don't get me wrong, I don't spend my evenings talking out loud to myself while my poor husband tries to watch a TV show, it's only now and then. But knowing I can, and knowing he'll (pretend to) listen is enough sometimes. And when it isn't, well, sometimes he'll even turn off the TV and join in too!

So whilst I don't own or ever wish to own an ironing board, I'd never, ever be without my sounding board. I'd strongly recommend them to everyone.

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