There There There. Sounds comforting doesn’t it? One can imagine an arm round the shoulder of a small child who has just grazed their knee, having slipped whilst rockpooling on an idyllic 1950’s holiday with their perfect family. Or perhaps it was whispered gently to a loved one and followed up with a light kiss on their head, after their childhood pet rabbit had finally died of boredom. Either way, a soothing ‘it’s all going to be ok’ phrase. A band-aid for the soul. A tincture for wounded feelings.
Not in our house.
There There There is said with impatience. It’s shouted, almost spat out. It’s a direction, a command. It comes complete with a pointed FFS finger. ‘Open your chuffing eyes!’ But what it actually means is ‘Open your chuffing ears!’
I’m a little hard of hearing. I have mild hearing damage and it’s now causing enough problems and exclusion for me to have hearing aids to help in certain situations. A variety of factory jobs and more than my fair share of gigs and rock concerts have taken their toll, though (apart from the factory jobs) a bit of wear and tear on my body is WELL WORTH the price for those experiences.
Some years ago me and my partner decided to get outdoorsy and go for a woodland walk. This particular wood was locally renowned for its wildlife, but we’d traipsed around all morning and hadn’t seen a thing. We’d proably trodden on an ant or two, but other than that there was little going on. We decided that as it was a Sunday, maybe all the animals and birds had gone to church to praise ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, and that’s why there were only ants left.
As we came to a clearing, I heard my partner say ‘There There There’. I was lost in my own thoughts so was slow to respond and looked up to see him pointing at an empty space. I looked at him, puzzled. He looked at me, puzzled. We stayed like that for a few seconds expecting the other one to speak.
‘You didn’t hear me did you?’ There was accusation in his tone. I shuffled slightly, knowing that I probably hadn’t heard him correctly, but as usual was too contrary to admit it.
‘Yeah, I did hear you. You said; There There There’.
‘No. I actually SHOUTED; DEER DEER DEER!’
‘Deer??? Oh. Where???’
As my reaction had been lax and not as excitedly fast as it would’ve been had I accurately heard him shout Deer Deer Deer, the Deer Deer Deer had now Gone Gone Gone off into the Wood Wood Wood.
We stayed a while longer. Me, cursing that I’d missed what apparently was a breathtaking moment. Him, cursing, full stop. We mourned the ants that we’d squashed then silently headed home.
I think, for my partner, it was the final straw after years of blank looks, confused expressions or just plain ignorance on my part, all because I’d not heard or had misheard what he’d said. There There There or Deer Deer Deer soon became his go to phrase whenever I said ‘Pardon?’ It has indeed become a regular standing joke.
I remember this short verse from a book I had as a child. It’s stuck with me and planted the idea of writing a long conversation where each person completely mis-hears the other and yet the conversation holds. My experience with hearing issues makes this an even funnier prospect. Alas I’ve no idea who to credit, but it goes something like this;
‘Oh look, a bunch of cows.’
‘You mean herd of cows.’
‘Of course I’ve heard of cows!’
‘No, I mean a cow herd‘.
‘Why do I care what a cow heard? I’ve got no secrets!’
It’s totally disproportionate how much that makes me laugh even now.
Didn’t find it funny?
THERE THERE THERE!