How An Audiobook Charity Changed My Life
Audiobooks have a powerful impact for people less able to read or hold a book. Here, Listening Books member Margaret* tells us how they have changed her life.
I was born in 1945 and during the 1947 polio epidemic I caught the virus. As a result I was in and out of hospital until I was 14 years old, which badly interrupted my schooling. Books, however, became a huge love of my life.
I came to London at age 22 and worked in various secretarial jobs. I loved the 1960s London life, which is where I met my husband. He had studied at a great university, and when our son was 3 years old, we embarked on his scholarship to South Asia for a 2 year stay. When that ended, we spent time travelling up through India and Nepal. I still remember these as wonderful days.
We returned to London, where my husband found it unsettling to return to, and be bound by, academia, so started a fairly mundane job. During those years I returned for solo trips to India, and informally I also taught young Tibetan nuns English in Nepal, having become a member of the Free Tibet society in London.
When my husband took early retirement we moved out of London to a remote village in the countryside, where we’ve now lived for more than 22 years. My husband concentrated on poetry writing, and occasionally returned to his old university to volunteer. We both grew up in rural communities, and walking was always a great love for us both, so we took full advantage of living in the beautiful countryside.
Discovering Listening Books
However, about two years after moving out of London, I began experiencing muscle and joint pains, along with overwhelming fatigue. I was diagnosed with LEP, the late effects of polio, which presents as similar to ME/CFS. I’d been used to getting about on the bus to the nearest towns to where I live, which were all about 20 miles away, and using the library was always the highlight of my trips, especially as my husband is away for a week a month volunteering.
It was when the LEP started to kick in and severely restrict my mobility that something wonderful happened: I was given the name of Listening Books.
It’s impossible to convey what a difference that made to my life. Talking books were a revelation. This was long before the internet was available where I live, so my life had become quite restricted and narrow. We have a house full of books, but as well as difficulty with physical mobility, I struggled with concentrating long enough to read. I like a description I read from a young member in a polio magazine – ‘achy, painy, fuzzy, brainy’! It really was a case of water, water everywhere, but ne’er a drop to drink.
A Highlight in My Life
As I’ve become increasingly housebound, the talking books, which were always a huge pleasure, have become a highlight in my life. In the early days they arrived in long boxes, which were blue for nonfiction and yellow for fiction. Now, through tech-y wizardry, they come in slim envelopes with MP3 CDs. Then, as now, red letter days are when they are posted through the letterbox and arrive on the mat.
Book reading and television watching is a bit rationed because of tired eyes and a lack of continuous concentration, which makes short articles and bursts of the internet just fine. Far outstripping even the radio, talking books are, for me, the best way to connect with people, places, and ideas; truly, a magic carpet transporting me on many journeys. At night, especially, they are a huge boon, when sleeping is difficult due to a bad spell.
Over my long stretches in hospital, books were in short supply and greatly missed, so I know young listeners can benefit from Listening Books too. Particularly for young people with ME/CFS there can be enormous challenges. They can struggle to get a medical diagnosis, with their parents having to battle for them to stay off school, so coping becomes an extra pressure.
Book recording in all its present forms is one of the marvels of our age. We are our stories.
A hundred thousand thank you’s to Listening Books.
* We have changed names and other identifying details to protect our member’s identity.
Listening Books is an audiobook charity providing an online and postal library to anyone who struggles to read print in the usual way. If you or someone you know struggles to read due to an illness or disability and you’d like to find out more about becoming a member of Listening Books, head over to our ‘why join’ page, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us on 020 7407 9417.
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