Random Bullet Points of Life

Posts for the little things worth remembering but which don’t need their own post.

  • CAB is going to be closed on one of the days I’ve always volunteered there for at least this month.  So I’ve had to changed my times and days.  Switching from a Monday morning of seeing clients to a Monday afternoon of social policy isn’t a problem.  But I swear the way I’m going I’m going to forget to go in on Friday and see clients.  I keep thinking “I could do X on Friday” and then realising that no… I’m going to the bureau.
  • Sailing starts tomorrow!  I didn’t think it was going to happen because the pontoon has been broken but I’m now told that it’s not fixed but is useable.  The cynic in me isn’t convinced but we’re going to see.
  • Apart from weaving some of the ends in my mammoth knitting project is finished.  I think it needs to be bigger but several people disagree with me.  Pictures maybe when the recipient has it.  I weave starting ends in as I knit, must figure out a way of doing that with end ends if you know what I mean.  Still, that has cut the sheer number of ends to be dealt with in half (and there are loads of them)
  • Point four deleted as it got so long it needs it’s own post.
  • I bought my mum the Batman film boxset for mother’s day.  This caused much consternation from my siblings but she liked it.  We watched the first one last night which I hadn’t seen before. I’m undecided if I want to watch the rest.
  • Last time I was at the doctors the phlebotomist told me an NHS service which I had a bad experience with a few years ago had ended as far as I knew.  I was really relieved by that because I was the obvious candidate for it but for the fact they couldn’t handle my level of disability (or rather the fact I wouldn’t let them get away with their lack of access and inclusion) and I’d been concerned that one of the many new medics at my surgery would try and get me to go back (I’m pretty sure none of the medics who were at the surgery at the time I went there would.) Then my sister said she’d had an email about something else about a week before and it had included mention of that self same service. Blah.
  • Sometimes the online disability community really annoys me.  Other times I really like it.  At the moment I’m in the middle slightly off towards the “annoys” side.

Stones by Polly Johnson

Stones by Polly Johnson is a book aimed at the YA (young adult) market.  This is ebook only and was published by Harper Collins through their Authonomy programme. Sometimes when I’ve read books which have originally been published online on sites like authonomy or wattpad I think they aren’t great and need a much better edit before publication than they’ve had but I didn’t find that with Stones. The writing was good, the plot worked well and I didn’t notice any errors.  Which means the process worked well.  I received my copy of Stones free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Here is the synopsis:

Coo is trying to cope with the hand that life has dealt her. At sixteen, she feels she’s too young to have lost her older brother, Sam, to alcoholism. She’s skipping school to avoid the sympathy and questions of her friends and teachers, and shunning her parents, angry that they failed to protect her, and desperate to avoid having to face the fact that, towards the end, she began to wish Sam would leave forever – even die. Then, one day, truanting by the Brighton seafront, Coo meets Banks, a homeless alcoholic and she’s surprised to discover that it is possible for her life to get more complicated.

Despite warnings from her friends and family, Coo and Banks develop an unlikely friendship. Brought together through a series of unexpected events, strange midnight feasts, a near drowning and the unravelling of secrets, together they seek their chance for redemption. That is, until Coo’s feelings start getting dangerously out of hand.

It felt like a gritty, realistic look at grief and I liked it. Stones is not a happy book nor is it one I’d have necessarily chosen but as soon as I read the blurb I was intrigued by it.  It however probably won’t be the most memorable book I read this year.  It’s not long since I finished it (a couple of days) and I can remember what happened to the main character, Coo ( I love the name Coo, it’s short for Corrine which isn’t a short I’d have thought of but which works), but I couldn’t tell you how it ended for some of the other key supporting characters. That said I found this gripped me when I was reading it and I read it in big chunks over short periods.

As an adult the relationship between Coo and Banks had me wondering what her parents were doing that they didn’t realise exactly what she was doing.  But the secrecy of teenagers felt the same as it does in real life and that combined with their grief could well have made that happen.  So it’s an uncomfortable part but very necessary to the plot and one that could easily be true to life.  For great swarths of the book it feels as though Coo and her parents are adrift from each other and that Banks, inappropriate friend though he is, is all she has in terms of support. And that he does his best when it matters to be more than who he is and be what she needs.  Eventually however Coo does come to realise the truth as she and her parents heal from the trauma of Sam’s death.

According to Amazon, the ebook is the equivalent of 300 pages but I have to say it felt shorter than that to me and I would have guessed 200 pages.  Perhaps because it flowed so well that I kept going because there didn’t seem to be points where it felt necessary to put it down and take a break.  However long it is it’s the perfect length for the story and I was left neither wanting more nor wishing it would hurry up and end.  If I’m honest this is one of those books where I hope there won’t be a sequel because I feel that would feel contrived and ruin the end of this book. A good read but not one I’ll reread anytime soon.

 

Fabric Fun

On Saturday I went to a craft taster workshop on fabrics. If I’d been sensible and/or thought about it properly it probably would have occured to me that it wouldn’t be particularly good for my specific  CP. I’ve never been particularly sensible about such things so it never occurred to me. It wasn’t what I expect and I don’t think I’d go again. But I did manage to make something. A crap something, but something.

A big part of that was that a friend of mine had also gone and so was able to do needle threading, pinning of fabrics and little bits like that which I couldn’t. I also deliberate chose to use strips of ribbon because they didn’t require cutting (I don’t find using scissors as difficult as I used to but it’s not an easy thing for me – and cutting in straight lines is something I’ve yet to master on things that are any bigger than basically miniscule.)

Here are the work in progress pictures like I did for both the celtic clay and mosaic taster workshops I did

image

A rectangle of black felt with a bright pink ribbon sewed diagonally accross it.  I used a very messy running stitch, made no attempts at doing so equally or neatly and used a “contrasting thread” by which I mean one that was easy to see.

image
The same thing with a dark purple ribbon sewed diagonally on top the opposite way.

I really should have sewed along the middle and not around the edges.  That much sewing killed my hands. But rumour has it you’ve got to make things really secure. I don’t plan on a next time but if there were I’d overrule that with CP needs come first.

image
Then I added three vertical ribbons, bright purple on each edge and light pink in the middle.  I put a round black and silver patterned bead in the middle of each of the purple ribbons.  I put three sort of diamond shaped beads of the same design on the light pink one.
image
The incredibly messy and pretty tangled back of my work.  I carried my thread quite far in a few places to avoid having to tie it off/cut it/restart sewing.  Hence the mess!

image
The finished object was then mounted on a bigger piece light pink fabric which had been cut out with pinking shears to give it an interesting look.  The ribbons had also been trimmed to more uniform/sensible lenghts too. The person running the workshop did the cutting and sewing of that for me because my hands were done by the time I got to that.

Emma, Elsewhere

I’ve been sitting on this post for a few days because I am expecting to have another link to share some point soon and thought I may as well do a two for one blog.  But as I’m not sure when that’s going up (or even if it definitely is although I’m told they like it) I thought I should probably post this before too much more time passes.

I have a post up on Where’s The Benefit?  I think it’s the first time I’ve written over there since 2012.  It’s about the Citizen’s Advice campaign on ESA and it’s called Fit For Work?

You Know You’ve Got CP When…

Went to get my blood pressure checked (normal and I suspect I’ve now had “white coat hypertension” added to my records given how very very high it was when I saw a new to me GP last week) and have some blood taken. The results of the bloods came back a few days later as “normal” which isn’t the most reassuring thing ever as I’d rather be told what they actually are along with the fact they’re normal. But that’s something to take up with the GP at a later date rather than the receptionist giving me the results.

Anyway I was talking to the healthcare assistant about the fact that years ago I was told by one of the nurses there not to let anyone try and take blood from my arms because my veins were buried and they wouldn’t be able to do it but the last twice they’ve drawn it first time from my arm.  I find it weird that for so long no one could get it out my arms and most wouldn’t even try (and then the nurse told me that and I stopped letting them try unless they’d tried and failed in my hands) but now suddenly they can again.

She wondered if I’ve upped my fluids or lost any weight?  So I was explaining that I have been trying to eat healthier and more sensibly (and to be honest not doing great at that lately but I didn’t tell her that) but that it was proving so hard for me to be weighed and causing so many issues I’ve decided not to focus on that any more.  I used the example of the NHS specialist weightloss service I went to a while ago and how they couldn’t cope with someone of my level of disability and just accused me of letting my disability stop me.

Immediately the healthcare assistant went “no! you don’t let your disability stop you Emma, you’re not sitting on your bum all day…”

And I went “well I am sitting on my bum all day…” and laughed

She went on to say that she meant I don’t just hang around at home doing nothing but I’m out and about all the time at CAB and other things.

I knew that’s what she meant but the way she phrased it originally just tickled me. One of those accidental things that able bodied people say that I laugh about when I point out to them but point out nonetheless because it’s a bit of a silly thing to say to a wheelchair user.

And then as I made my home I thought about the fact that it’s such a “wheelchair user” thing to say – to most people what she said would have been just one of those things but to me it was worthy of comment and kinda funny.

you know you’ve got CP when…

Mosaics!

I went to a mosaic making workshop last weekend. It was the third one I’ve done – the first one in a couple of years – and despite being a lot shorter it was a much better taster. I really enjoyed it and want to do more. My mum and a friend of ours came too and certainly my mum wants to do more too. She’s been talking about a trip to hobbycraft for supplies.

image

Here’s the start of the piece I did.  It’s a relatively large square of MDF (about the right size to be a potholder) divided into nine squares with pencil lines (which mum drew for me).  The beginning of the design I did is on here.  Full size, uncut tiles in royal blue, yellow and an orangey red.  The uncut tiles are 2cm by 2cm I think.

image

Just finished and starting to dry.  The PVA glue used to stick the tiles on is obvious in a few places.  As well as the whole tiles in the one above it’s now got some cut up tiles in different shades of red and yellow and some cut up crockery (which is white with a blue design) and some cut up mirror bits.  It’s a bit random and my mum had to help me get the last few bits on because we were running out of time to get them dried and on to the next step.

image

All of the mosaics people made in the workshop spread out on the floor in front of a heater to dry (also pictured: my feet).

image

My piece all covered in grout.  It’s very messy and unfortunately because some of the glue didn’t dry properly, some of bits have moved. I’m (jokingly) blaming those bits on my mother because the bits she did she smothered in glue then wondered if she’d used enough.

image

After starting to clean the grout off.

image

The last bit I did in the workshop was to take a dry cotton cloth and polish each of the tiles in order to get as much of the wet grout off of them as possible.  This was a process that had to be repeated a couple more times throughout the next day or so until it dried.  It was hard to know when to stop with that.  Once it had been dry for a day or so I had to do the same thing with a damp cloth.

Overall I like it but I’m not 100% happy with it.  It’s hard to do some brilliant in a taster session though so I’m trying to not be annoyed about that!

Emma, Elsewhere

Time for my monthly visit over on Bea today.  I’ve been musing about blogging and my reasons for doing so in Why Blog?

I think it’s a topic that bears more thinking about and probably more writing about too but that’s where I am on the topic right now.

A Disabled Day Out in London – A Poem

(I was talking to a friend about my day out in London from a few weeks ago using it as an example for something else that I was a bit inspired by to write. She suggested that the day itself and what I was saying would make a good poem. I might still write the something else.)

A Disabled Day Out In London

Yes we do assisted travel here at station A

(You’ll book but that won’t matter)

You’ll request a push up to the train

but we’ll walk off and ignore you

 

Yes we do assisted travel here at station B

(You’ll book but that won’t matter)

The people at station A won’t have reminded us

So we’ll not bother to check

and leave you stranded

 

Yes we’ve got a ramp into the building

(you’ll check and be reassured but that won’t matter)

Because the ramp is too steep and not safe

A passer by grabbing you is all that prevents

a nasty fall

 

Yes we’ve got lifts. Two and you’ll need to use them both

(a reassuring claim

but that won’t matter)

Because one of them doesn’t quite stop level

with the floor

and you needn’t think your wheelchair will fit

without some creative struggling

and the risk of a fall

 

Yes, we’ve got a ramp for the internal steps that come next

(their claims of “yes” begin to reassure

but that won’t matter)

But it’s a moveable one

And you’ll get half way up it

And notice it’s slipping as you move

Meaning you must

give up

or risk falling.

 

And finally, yes we’ve got a disabled loo.

(the final piece I needed

the final claim that makes it possible.

but that won’t matter)

but you can’t have a wheelchair

right by the loo

and properly shut the door

let alone lock it

and so I must choose my own adventure

my own risk

chance getting walked in on

as I did to another?

or yet again risk a fall?

 

I try to complain

(but that doesn’t matter)

The response is just

“we’ve got ramps.

we’ve got lifts

we’ve got a disabled loo.

didn’t they show you them?”

 

When it came to

wheelchair access

that place

had it all

But that didn’t matter

Because it would only

work for

the wheelchair user

who doesn’t use a wheelchair

 

Then you return

to Station B

wary

but overwhelmed

and desperate

for home

 

different staff now

and suddenly

access matters

and access works

 

The train will pull in

to Station A

the last stop

before a taxi home

access fail

means nerves

are high

 

A different staff member

waits to help you off the train

Actually helps

Restores my faith

in humanity

because suddenly

access matters

and access works.

Here’s (One) Two I made earlier

At the end of January I did a clay sculpture workshop and made a bowl with a lid and a jug. I blogged about it and posted pictures of the work in progress (along with a finished picture of a tea light holder I’d made in the same workshop a couple of months before). That was in my post “absolutely filthy”, the title of which relates to what I said later that day when my mum asked me on the phone how I was (I truly was covered in clay as was my powerchair).

Yesterday I picked up the finished objects after the tutor had fired them in her kiln,

20140307-230611.jpg

20140307-230622.jpg

20140307-230634.jpg

So I made a jug which is a bit lopsided and has blue bits decorating the top, a blue handle and a blue stripe opposite. It’s also got random blue spots where I dripped some paint on it then put more to try to make it look like it was meant to have those. I very much doubt the jug is water tight even though it has been glazed. I can see a spider web of cracks on it, I’m not sure they show in the photo though. The main body of the jug is a creamy colour which is the natural colour the clay comes out after firing. If I’m honest I don’t like it.

I also made a bowl with a lid (one of the photos shows the bowl with the kid on and the other shows them side by side). The bowl is plain, again just the cream colour the fired clay is. The lid is mostly cream but it decorated by a swirl made out of clay (painted yellow) and lines of clay coming off of it (painted red). I ended up trying to make something vaguely like a sun, I like this much more than the jug but again it’s a bit lopsided,

I think of the three projects I made between the two clay workshops I like the tea light holder I made in the first one the best because it looks better to me. But it was a much easier project to do so it’s probably not a fair comparison.

Writing Tips from Andrea Murray

As well as answering some questions for me Andrea Murray, author of Omni, also sent me some writing tips. I’ve been finding my writing hard lately so I was hoping some writing tips might help.  I think they did but I also think I’m getting a bit obsessed with getting writing tips and I probably need to just spend less time reading about how to write and more time actually doing some damn writing.

But before we get to Andrea’s tips here is a quote about writing I literally just found and really liked:

“The secret of being a writer: not to expect others to value what you’ve done as you value it. Not to expect anyone else to perceive in it the emotions you have invested in it. Once this is understood, all will be well.”

— Joyce Carol Oates

Anyway. Here’s what Andrea recommends:

1.        Make time.

It’s so hard to find the time to write sometimes.  You have to create a schedule of sorts, a set time every day or a certain number of days per week to sit down and devote yourself to your writing.  I have two young children and a full-time teaching job.  Finding time is often a struggle, but I really try to maintain my writing/reading time, and that is harder than it seems.  Sometimes, I look around and see toys that need to be picked up, clothes in the hamper awaiting the wash, or a coffee cup that needs to be put in the dishwasher, but I have to put on my blinders and focus on storytelling.  You also have to be willing to sacrifice for it at times.  What do I sacrifice? Sleep!  My writing time is between 4:30 AM and 6:00 AM.

2.        Know your characters.

You MUST know everything possible about your characters.  You should be able to drop your character into any situation and know exactly how your character will react.  Talk to them (just don’t let anyone hear you doing that or they will begin giving you strange looks).  Listen to their responses.  See them.  Know what they look like even if you never introduce that into your story.  If you know your characters well enough, you will be able to create the best conflict.  I try to put my character into the situation I know he/she doesn’t want to be in.  That’s when I get my story.

3.        READ!

Good writers are good readers.  If you aren’t reading, how can you expect to write? Yes, it’s time consuming to spend time reading and reviewing other works, but you can’t write if you don’t experience other writers’ styles.  Reading expands your own writing and helps you know what’s out there in the world of novels.  You don’t want to fill a notch that’s already filled, but you won’t know if it’s your notch without reading.

4.        Know your audience.

I know teenagers.  I may not be the best writer in the world, but I know, without a doubt, what kids like and don’t like.  I have long since lost count of the number of students I have had over my seventeen years in education, but one thing I’ve learned is that teens don’t really change.  Styles change, language changes, but kids are overall the same.  They might have trouble explaining what they loved about a book, but they most definitely know what they hated about it.  From that, I deduced things they like.  Reluctant readers won’t read a long novel.  It might be the best book EVER, but if it looks like you could smash a small rodent with it, they won’t touch it.  Kids like short chapters.  It gives them a sense of accomplishment and a clear goal.  Most kids like a little grit.  They want a character with at least a touch of bad. It isn’t realistic to think kids don’t hear cursing and talk about mature subjects.  If they go to public school**, trust me they hear it.  Does that mean the book should be overflowing with sex and profanity? No, that is likely to turn them away.  It’s a balance—one I’m constantly striving to achieve.

5.         Editing is hard.

I am still working on this one.  It is so difficult to edit your writing.  That page you just sweated over is your baby, your pride and joy! Cutting one word feels like a wound.  You NEED that word, that sentence, that paragraph.  If you hadn’t, you wouldn’t have written it, right? Well, eliminating that one word might improve the entire piece, so it has to go.  Painful? Sure.  Necessary? Absolutely.

**to save anyone else having the blank confused moment I did reading this (caused mostly by how stupidly tired I was I think because usually it wouldn’t have thrown me) I’ll note here that Andrea’s in the US and what they call public school isn’t anything like what we call public school. Usually I tend to think our names for things make much more sense but in this case I must admit I think the US have the sense thing down here.