A Little Bit of Life

(I am surprised that with nearly 2000 entries on this site I’ve never used the title A Little Bit of Life before)

Two bits of not so brilliant but they could be much worse news are in my life at the moment.  I don’t think dominating my life is the right term but they are definitely big factors in everything right now.  And not easy. Life is never easy.

I will start with the slightly easier one first – my powerchair is broken.

The easiest way to explain it is to say it has a broken castor.  It’s more complicated than that because of the spider-trac but basically it’s not right and it’s manifesting in one of the castors (I’m not sure but I think they won’t need to replace the wheel to fix it).

It’s been niggling at me for at least a few weeks that it wasn’t right but when Mum looked she couldn’t see anything wrong with it and I wasn’t sure so I left it. But eventually I figured, it’s under warranty, get them out. And unfortunately it is broken. (the scary thing here is that I probably wouldn’t have called them out if I’d have had to pay a call out fee). I’ve been waiting 10 or so days for the part to come in which will hopefully be at some point next week. I’m told it’s fixable and it’s covered by the warranty. I’m also told the wheel is definitely not going to fall off and I can keep using it in the meantime (although I’ve chosen not to go to Reading today like I wanted to just in case). So it’s positive bad news. It does need to go into the workshop when they have the part though.

The second part of the news is that I went to the Drs last week to discuss my mental health and am now on Citalopram for depression and anxiety.  I was last on antidepressants very briefly two years ago at which point I came off of them much sooner than I should have. I’ve decided to commit to at least a year of meds this time.

I said to her that a lot of the time previously it’s felt like depression was the bigger issue but as much as I am depressed now my anxiety feels much more prevalent. That’s why she gave me Citalopram as opposed to the Sertraline I’ve had most recently.

Citalopram was actually the first ever antidepressant I took in 2003 when I was diagnosed originally but I had to come off of it after a couple of weeks due to nausea. It had been getting better but my then GP said to try a new drug (I went onto Lofepramine for 18 months and then had several years on and off of Fluoxetine before trying Sertraline). My current GP has put me on a 50% dose for a few weeks and I’m only just a week in but I’ve had one terrible day for nausea and a day or two of feeling off. So it’s more positive than I hoped.

I won’t go into the ins and outs of how everything has been and all that.  What I will say is that it suddenly feels so much harder to talk about mental health than it has done in previous years.  A huge part of that is that a couple of people I’ve talked to about it have been really negative about it and my choosing to go on meds.  And in one case gave me some unasked for advice that was potentially very dangerous (thankfully as this is not my first go with this I knew they were full of shit).  I might blog more about that at some point soon ish as I’m hoping to get back to writing regularly but I think that’s all I’ve got to say for today.

The Gingerbread House by Kate Beaufoy

Today I am taking part in the blog tour for The Gingerbread House by Kate Beaufoy.  I received a free copy of the book from the publisher to review but this is my honest opinion.

Nestled among cherry trees in a picturesque country garden, the Gingerbread House resembles an illustration from an old-world storybook. But beware! For in the fairy-tale, that s where the witch lives…

Away from the city, with no distractions, the Gingerbread House seems like the perfect place to start work on a novel. That’s what former advertising copywriter Tess thinks when she goes there to live with Eleanor, her aged mother-in-law. But Eleanor is suffering from dementia, and caring for her proves tougher than Tess could ever have imagined: feeling increasingly isolated, her only comfort is wine o’clock and weekend visits from her husband. Meanwhile her teenage daughter Katia is helpless to intercede; in the end she can only watch as things fall apart and a tragedy even closer to home surfaces.

The Gingerbread House is a deeply moving novel: a compassionate and occasionally wickedly funny tale of a family’s agonising struggle with dementia.

If I could start this review with a slightly personal note it would be that I’m currently struggling with depression. I have lots of books that I want to read but when it comes to actually reading them it’s been difficult to stick to them.  I had no such problems with The Gingerbread House. Reading the synopsis I knew this would be my sort of book.  As soon as I started reading it I knew it was going to be even better than I had expected and was hooked.  In fact I found it to be one of those books that I read cover to cover in one day – something that even before my current bout of depression had been getting rarer.

The use of Katia as narrator was a genius move -I really loved her character and perspective which was unexpected in places.  She kept me guessing a lot and I had to keep reading because I desperately wanted to know what was going to happen.  Even when I began to suspect that there was going to be a twist in the tale and think I knew what it would be I didn’t want to stop reading.

In places I could emphasise with Tess and in others she annoyed me, especially at the start of the book. I think some of that may have been deliberate on the author’s part and the rest was influenced by my own expectations of how caring works.

There was a great attention to detail in this book and some of the details of the Gingerbread House reminded me of my own grandparents bungalow when I was growing up. That added to my enjoyment as I’d actually forgotten about one or two of them before reading this.

I can’t say how much I enjoyed reading this book.

Random Bullet Points of Life

Random Bullet Points of Life entries are for when there’s a lot worth mentioning but nothing that needs it’s own entry. Or not a lot of time to get things down and I don’t want to delay blogging any more. Today it’s a bit of both – a few things I want to record briefly and not a lot of time to write the long entry about another subject I have in mind. And I miss blogging!

  • I had to delete my blog completely and reupload it earlier this week. Some things aren’t working right (for one thing I don’t think any photos survived) and if you were getting email updates you definitely need to resubscribe if you still want to get them.
  • In the last week I have received some excellent looking books to review. So many that I’m not really sure where to start, I keep changing my mind what I want to read the most. I think probably Forever Geek by Holly Smale though.
  • Whilst I’ve been listening to a very good audiobook it’s been a while since I’ve actually read anything.
  • We finished a digital edition of Tenants Times and I’m really pleased with it.  I like our digital editions a lot (but I also like the print ones). That can be found here.
  • One of my 101 in 1001 goals is to watch 5 new TV shows from the 1001 TV Series to Watch Before You Die book. I started watching Bones this week. I like it but I can’t decide if I want to keep watching it.
  • I haven’t been out for lunch this year. Now I am going out for lunch/drinks with a friend next Saturday and have two offers for lunch on the same day the week after. You wait all year…
  • For Christmas I got a set of KnitPro Symfonie Knitting needles and I am very much loving knitting with them.  The only problem is I now want the crochet hooks too (luckily they don’t seem to do a set like they do with the needles though because keeping using my current ergonomic crochet hook set is a much more sensible idea.
  • I’ve been picking at trying to learn to do Tunisian crochet but it’s not coming easy.

And I Would Walk 500 Miles…

Last Saturday marked six months since I got my Quickie Jive M (I think I can no longer call it my new powerchair). I had done 487 miles in that time.

I was, however, a tiny bit disappointed that I hadn’t done 500 miles because then I could have written a blog entry using the Proclaimers song for a title. I was still going to write a blog entry about having had the chair six months.  But I was taking my time getting round to it.  Then this morning I did my 500th mile.

So now I can both write a blog entry about having had the chair six months and using the proclaimers song for a title. This is silly but makes me happy.

That’s absolutely flown by in many ways.  And it blows my mind to have done so many miles. To have been so many places and done so many things that I wouldn’t have been able to without a powerchair. Some of which I wouldn’t have been able to do without this powerchair.

When the wheelchair tech delivered the chair he referred to it as “black beauty” (because I’d been so insistent on having it in black).  It’s still black now but wether he’d still call it beauty I don’t know – it’s muddy with the odd scratch and several loose bits – Mum had to come round as an emergency on Saturday when I found a bolt hanging out and tightened that and several other bits. One of which is already hugely loose again. And it’s noiser than it was.

The number of miles I’ve been doing per month has been lower over the last few months as I’ve been doing less in the cold weather.  And my wheelchair batteries are definitely not holding a charge as well as they were because of that cold.

I’m definitely looking forward to the warmer weather and getting out do more things again. I think my next big trip will be Birmingham to see Billy Elliot the Musical in April with a uni friend but I’ve got a date in the diary for cocktails in Reading with a twitter friend and other things are a work in progress.

It definitely feels appropriate to end this entry like this

…and I would walk 500 more!

Reading Down My TBR Pile – Weeks Three and Four

I didn’t write an entry about what I’d been reading last week because I didn’t finish a single book the week before.  I have finished some books since then so I’m back updating this week.

I may also have bought three books and received a review book last week (and received another review book the week before) but we won’t talk about that!

The Secret Life of Lucy Lovecake by Pippa James

This was a fun book and I enjoyed it a lot.  I took part in the blog tour for it and my full review can be read here.

Our Tiny Useless Hearts by Toni Jordan

Before Christmas I requested another book to review and when it came I found a copy of Our Tiny Useless Hearts had been included in the parcel too.  It was a nice surprise especially because it was a book I hadn’t heard of and on the face of it, it appeared to be a book that I’d really enjoy.

Unfortunately it fell somewhat short for me and I felt like it wasn’t holding my attention well.  I did like several of the characters and would definitely like to read more about the MC, Janice.  And her two nieces were brilliant, kid characters can be hard to write but I thought these were done well.

There were a few funny moments that I liked but in other places it just felt ridiculous.  It’s not a bad book, it just wasn’t for me – I think I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been so many characters with all their complex interactions going on at the same time. If I lived in that house I’d have to move out!

White Lies and Wishes by Cathy Bramley

I don’t have a favourite author as such but Cathy Bramley is definitely one of my favourites. I would highly recommend checking out her books if you haven’t read them yet as I’ve enjoyed them all.

Several of her books have come out in installments and having read two of those as whole books and two of those in installments I’d say definitely wait for the whole book to come out rather than installments. I think I enjoyed those a lot more but it’s really hard to resist the installments as they come out!  So for that reason I was glad that White Lies and Wishes was just released as one whole book. I read it in two long sittings over three days and it was just brilliant to lose myself in it.

White Lies and Wishes was fab. I loved seeing the characters grow and change through it. And I especially liked the unusual beginning and unexpected moments that were scattered throughout.

NCTJ Level 3 Certificate in Foundation Journalism

In October 2015 I started studying for a Level 3 Certificate in Foundation Journalism.  This was an NCTJ (National College for the Training of Journalists) qualification and it involved a 1 day session each month at an accredited centre in Oxford.

The course turned out to be very different to what I expected. It’s a very new course (it was the first year it was available but it had been piloted the year before) and I think perhaps that played a role in that.  But I enjoyed the discussions we had and it made me write some pieces I never would have done.  My piece Death in the Facebook Age is one and remains one of the best things I think I wrote last year.

On the whole I’m glad I did the course. I’m still in touch with several of the people I met through it via Facebook and have met up with a couple of them since it ended. We have plans to meet up again this week and perhaps we’ll be able to arrange to meet up with others from the course in the future. It’s something I’ve been thinking about.

Previously I’ve only ever done courses that were wholy academic (like my degree) or things like writing or craft workshops  to learn something for fun. Doing a more vocational course like this was a new experience and I keep changing my mind about whether I’d want to do a vocational course again. I definitely missed the more structured aspects of academic learning.

I knew in early December that I’d passed the course and the week before last I finally received my certificate in the post.  Soha had paid for me to do the course (and for my taxis to get there) as a thank you for my work on Tenants Times. And they asked me to take my certificate in when I had it.

Me with my NCTJ certificate. I’m in my powerchair and wearing a green fleece. It was taken in an office and the TT blog can be seen on the computer screen behind me.

So I did and they took a photo of my with it which was shared on their plasma screens in their offices and also on their social media. I shared the posts on my FB and twitter too.

And the next day I saw that my Mum had liked the post and realised I’d never mentioned to any of my family that I’d got my certificate at last. A few days ago she came round and I showed it to her and said “I never told you I’d got this did I?” and she said “you didn’t tell me you’d passed the course.” Which means I didn’t tell any of my family.

So that looks like a pass for the course and a fail on keeping everyone else informed!

 

 

The Secret Life of Lucy Lovecake by Pippa James

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for The Secret Life of Lucy Lovecake by Pippa James.  I’d like to thank the publishers for my copy of the book.

Daisy Delaney’s life is pancake-flat. A talented baker and passionate lingerie specialist, she has wound up with no one to bake for and a career that hasn’t proved successful. But when she starts a delicious relationship with famous French author-chef, Michel Amiel, everything begins to look a bit more exciting.

That is until Michel’s bestselling cookbook is knocked off the top spot by newcomer ‘Lucy Lovecake’. His outdated recipes slide down the charts, while the popularity of Lucy Lovecake’s new dating cookbook is rising like the perfect sponge.

 

The Secret Life of Lucy Lovecake was a lot of fun to read.  I really enjoyed it and can’t remember the last time a book left me with such a good feeling when I finished it. Perfect for a very cold and miserable evening.  In fact I picked this up intending to read the first two chapters and then make something some dinner. I started reading and the next think I knew it was  7pm, I was 50+ pages in and really wishing there was someone who could make me dinner so I didn’t need to put it down.

I can’t decide who my favourite character is.  I should probably say Daisy and I did really like her.  But I must admit to having a soft spot for her group of friends because they were just brilliant and the sort of friends every girl wants. I would tell you who my least favourite character was but that would be a massive spoiler.  I will admit to changing my mind a few times!

One thing I didn’t expect when reading this was how much it inspired me.  I thought it might make me crave sweet treats and it did. But reading the sections where Daisy is writing and trying to get published really made me want to get my writing out and get going with it again.  Just as soon as I finished reading the book.

Pippa James is to be congratulated for producing such a brilliant book with The Secret Life of Lucy Lovecake. It made me laugh and left me with a good feeling, a smile on my face and lots of inspiration.

Check out the other posts on the blog tour to find out more

What Have You Done Today To Make You Feel Proud?

(title is a lyric from the Heather Small song Proud)

A few days ago an acquaintance heard I’d done something and was really impressed. She was trying to encourage me to write about it for Tenants Times because doing so could inspire other people and it was a big deal what I’ve done.

I was frustrated by that conversation because I couldn’t see what the big deal was and I don’t understand why it’s news and people who don’t know me would be interested in it. Plus all I could see was it turning into some form of inspiration porn even if I was the one to write it.

I think she was frustrated by my not viewing it as a big deal and also I don’t think she understood my comments about inspiration porn (I feel I did a poor job of explaining it, in part because of previous conversations).  She commented that I’m worried to feel proud of myself. Which I denied to her and couldn’t be further from the truth.

But here’s the thing: what impressed her (and the two other people in the room) was in part what I did but mostly the fact I did it by myself. And in a wheelchair.

And here’s the other thing (which I didn’t think to share with her). In my circle of friends I can name at least three people who would have decided they wanted to do what I did and gone off and done it by themselves. Plus, it’s something I first did by myself in 2006

A friend has pointed out to me since that society considers this an unusual thing to do alone so maybe that’s part of the reason for her comments. Perhaps it’s something my acquaintance wouldn’t feel able to do.

I don’t view this as a massive inspirational achievement. And she’s right when she says I’m not proud of myself for having done it. But that’s because it’s normal for me. The fact I did it “in a wheelchair” shouldn’t come into it.

As a wheelchair user it’s strange that sometimes I can be doing the simplest thing and I get praise and encouragement when I really don’t need it. And then I get told I need to stop putting barriers on myself when I say access means I can’t do something.  Because the very fact I use a chair makes my existence a big deal.

It’s ableist, in a way.  Because if an able-bodied person had said “hey I did this” it might have turned into a conversation about how she wouldn’t have done it. But it would never have turned into a conversation about writing an article, being inspirational and needing to be proud of myself.

Able bodied people are allowed to be normal and mundane you see. Wheelchair users are either sad people who suffer and need to be pitied or objects of inspiration and awe who are overcoming barriers and our disabilities. We can’t be normal, it’s the law.

It’s pretty fucking othering to be criticised for not being proud of something that isn’t an achievement, I’ve done loads of times and didn’t even have to put a lot of thought into. That reminder that you’re different, you’re not normal and you never can be hits like a ton of bricks. Hearing them talk about how I should write about it to inspire people frustrated me because I’m more than the girl in the chair. Being criticised for not being proud left me feeling pretty shit about myself to be honest.

 

 

 

Reading Down My TBR Pile – week 2

A good reading week this week. I finished a book I started last week and I read another book cover to cover.  I also bought two books (I don’t know why I keep saying I won’t buy books in January, it never works).

The Olive Tree by Lucinda Riley

This was an audiobook I’ve had for a while (I don’t intend to listen to an audiobook a week, it’s just how things have worked out) and I enjoyed it.  Almost wished I’d got to it sooner.  It was easy but intriguing at the same time and kept me hooked. Will definitely be looking out for more by Lucinda Riley.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave.

This was one of the two books I bought this week. I’ve been wanting it since I saw the hardback in the summer – I saw the paperback in the supermarket on publication day and didn’t buy it which I immediately regretted so went back the next day to buy it.

It was absolutely amazing and a compelling read. Relatively complex but not confusing and I just really can’t do this book justice in a few sentences.  I’ve read other books by Chris Cleave and all of them have kept me hooked big style (I thought the Olive Tree kept me hooked and then I read this – I was so much more hooked with this if that makes sense?) I can’t recommend this highly enough.

Reading Down My TBR Pile

I’d like to rename these posts but haven’t thought of a good name so they will stay as Reading Down My TBR Pile for now.

So far this year I’ve read three books and I’m part way through an audiobook. I also think this is the best Bout of Books I’ve had.  I managed to successfully not buy any books this week too – I’ve decided not to buy any in January but that resolve was sorely tested when several bookish people were sharing some amazing deals on twitter for books I thought I’d like.  All in all a successful week.

Here’s what I’ve read

Secrets At The Little Village School by Gervase Phinn

I bought the first Little Village School book on a whim when I saw it for cheap in Sainsburys several years ago. And I’ve been hooked on this series ever since.  This 5th installment didn’t disappoint, it was just as good as the earlier books. They are enjoyable, gentle reads with a real feel good factor and I think I’ve read each one in a day. Judging by the ending I suspect this is the last in the series but I really hope it’s not.

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

Historical fiction with intrigue and twists (one of which I caught only one page before it was revealed). This reminded me of Downton in that it had all the good aspects and none of the ridiculousness that eventually put me off the series. I was very satisfied with this book and especially with how it ended.

The Hairy Bikers Blood Sweat and Tyres: The Autobiography by Si King and Dave Myers

First audiobook of the year. There’s just something about a memoir on audiobook when it’s read by the authors that I love. This was funny and interesting and made me hanker to read more memoirs. And hearing them read their story bought back happy memories of when I saw them do their live show.