We reached out to Ann Voss, an 80 year old Learning with Experts student who struggles with hearing difficulties. We wanted to find out how she got on with Barney Desmazery’s course ‘Sourdough at Home’, and whether the course was accessible to someone who is profoundly deaf.
Why did I want to do this course?
I have been interested in bread making for some years, however I have struggled with courses in the past as tutors often do not take my difficulty hearing into account, so I tend to leave feeling very frustrated and not having learned much. One particular sourdough course I attended was very badly organised and I didn’t really understand the process, my sourdough making became rather erratic as a result… a process I usually find therapeutic.
In August I was reading Good Food magazine online and came across your ‘BBC Good Food: Sourdough at home’ course. I then realised it would involve watching and listening to videos and that I wouldn’t hear them as I am profoundly deaf. I was just about to log off when Hazel asked could she help. I explained my problem and she said that Learning with Experts were working on organising subtitling of videos and to come back next year. I then said if they needed someone to try them out to contact me. A couple of days later Hazel told me she had spoken to her CEO and they were willing to give me the course for free to try it out.
Barney’s videos and the accompanying notes were so clear and well-illustrated that not being able to hear was not a problem. After the first video, Barney had already answered most of the queries I had left from a previous course I had done. He was brilliant and so clear. I was thrilled. However, I should point out that sadly, anyone with a beard is usually very difficult to lipread. I need to make that comment but it isn’t personally directed at Barney, it is a fact. I would definitely encourage any deaf person who wanted to do the course as they could manage fine. My other reservation was, of course, that at 80 years of age, virtual learning was something entirely new to me and I was very apprehensive to begin with, only tentatively entered the classroom and it took me a while to pluck up enough courage to respond to another in my peer group.
For me the situation was made easier by the fact that I already knew something about both bread making and sourdough making, making it easier to follow the notes and watch the videos. I also had most of the equipment, although I did not use the casserole method recommended as I have Lekue bread making container (from Lakeland plastics) and a baking stone (from Pampered Chef) which had always worked for me previously and so I used them again.
I absolutely loved doing the course and it was just what I had hoped for. The videos were excellent. Barney was so organised and unfussy with no unnecessary movements and distractions. I believe there was some music at the introduction but with what little hearing I have I am not the best judge of that. The accompanying notes were excellent, too. I downloaded those first before watching the video as that made it easier for me to follow the video.
Apart from a few minor comments (a typo in lesson 2 which has now been corrected!) I found that everything was explained well, and being able to print off the photos with the notes made up for not being able to hear some of what Barney said during the videos. It was great to get some feedback on my assignments from Barney, and the opportunity to ask him about things I hadn’t understood really enriched the learning experience.
So, to conclude, I would like to say I really have no negatives about the course. It was well planned and organised and in particular, as I have said previously, Barney explained the whole sourdough making process clearly and concisely. I had read about Autolysing before but never understood it and right from the beginning the sourdough felt completely different to work with and, of course, did away with lengthy kneading which again is very useful to someone of my age. I am very grateful to you for allowing me this opportunity as I have found I cannot attend a normal learning class because I miss too much and get very frustrated.
What I need to do now is to practice more which will be great when I am stuck at home in bad weather. My neighbours are already benefitting from my trial loaves.
Here are a few of Ann’s trial loaves that she submitted for comment from Barney:
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