Over on twitter people have been using #bookaday (hashtag book a day) to answer a set of questions about books – there was one for each day in June. This initiative was set up by @BoroughPress. Being something of a book loving rebel I’ve decided that I’m going to answer the prompts on my blog. And do it in July (although that’s mostly because I didn’t realise when I first looked at the image that it was meant to be a June thing). As July goes on I will edit the list below so the prompts link to the relevant entry on my blog.
28th Bought at one of my fave independent bookshops
29th The one I have reread most often
30th Would save if my house burned down
Looking at the list some of those prompts are going to be really easy for me. One or two completely stump me but hopefully by the time I get to them and give them some thought I might come up with something. And there are a few books which I could use for more than one of the prompts.
(If I were going to give this blog entry something of a melodramatic subtitle it would be “how will I know when I’m home?”)
I try quite hard not to make specific mentions of where I live. But at the same time given I’ve been blogging in various forms for almost 14 years (since before it was called blogging in fact) and that boundary didn’t always exist for me and also given that a lot of people who read this are people that know me I think the fact I live in Didcot is something of an open secret on here.
So I grew up with Didcot Power Station as a landmark of home. With the exception of the four years I lived in Stoke on Trent for uni it’s been a daily sight in my life.
And last year it shut down. In about a month three of the six cooling towers with be brought down by explosion. The other three on a later date in 2016 I believe. Putting aside the fact that environmentally closing the power station was the right thing to do the fact that in less than a month my walk home from town won’t be with the cooling towers on the horizon makes me sad.
Because if you live in Didcot the power station is about more than power.
It was the “that’s where my Daddy works” when I was a child because he worked there until I was in my early teens. So it’s also the driving on site to see him and the discos and visits to Father Christmas in thee social club. A packet of crisps and a glass of coke back in the days those were an exciting treat. I think my mum catered some events there too. The first Take Your Daughter to Work Day I went on there where they put on a load of activities and had lots of girls there. We rang my Gran from the office and told her how I’d gone to work with Dad. And the second when they didn’t put anything on and I mostly did my maths homework and helped my Dad reset his password.
It’s seeing it and knowing you’re nearly home. The feeling of relief after a long day of travelling when all you want is it to be over – the train goes past the towers and you know we’re practically in to the station then five minutes and I’m home. It’s being on a long drive through the county last year dropping multiple people off in different villages I didn’t know so I lost track of where we were. It felt never ending but then I saw the cooling towers and “oh, there’s Didcot.”
It’s being in the car with my family as a child and my brother and sister and I watching out for the power station all wanting to be the first to call out “I can see the chimney pots!” It was a bit of a competition. And returning from holiday just off the ferry from France or coming off the plane we all agreed “the holiday isn’t over yet. It’s not over until you can see the power station.” I have friends who had the same traditions or very similar ones in their families.
A story from one of my CAB colleagues about the fact that 40 years ago no one wanted it built. And now no one wants it to go.
The end of “power station snow” – iffy snow on days we might not have otherwise got it that never lasted long because it was just the steam frozen (or so my Dad claimed)
It’s driving home from a sailing club meal on the day they closed it last year and seeing the words “thank you for 40 years” projected on to it in green writing.
It was this afternoon in my friend’s car driving back from Reading. And realising that more than likely I’ll never be in a car driving that route looking at the power station in the distance ever again. We both agreed, lovely few hours in Reading but that thought was a sad one.
Non Didcot people have talked about being a blight on the landscape because you can see it for miles and it’s good that it’s going. But this week my facebook feed is full of posts about it. And most of the Didcot people are like me and will miss it. Many ask “how will I know I’m nearly home?”
The Didcot B power station is remaining and will continue to generate electricity. But like I say Didcot A was always about more than electricity and it can’t replace the feeling of part of what makes Didcot what it was and the feeling of home.
My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel is the story of one man’s struggles with debilitating anxiety.
Brian Cunningham has isolated himself to such a degree that his human contact is barely
more than an hour a day. While lonely, he feels powerless to change his life. Unexpectedly,
his safe little world is invaded by one Abigail Harris, a seven-year-old girl who, for the last
five years, has bounced from foster home to foster home. She has come to live with an aunt
and uncle she has never known. Unsure if she can trust her new environment, she turns to
Brian. Neither one quite knows how to live in the world. Can they possibly help each other?
I think maybe this synopsis might put some people off reading this book but don’t let it – it’s a great book and maybe the synopsis doesn’t do it justice. But at the same time a synopsis that did would probably be full of spoilers and we can’t have that. Just give it a try because it’s worth it. Tanya Peterson does a brilliant job of taking a difficult subject and doing it justice without making it boring, depressing or the sole point of the book. Brian and Abigail both have mental health conditions but they aren’t the be all and end all the book – they also have personalities, interests and an existance beyond that despite the impact these conditions have on all parts of their lives. If you’ve ever heard me on disabled characters in fiction you’ll know the “disability is all they are” trope is one that seriously annoys me. But this is avoided here.
The whole time I was reading My Life in a Nutshell it was reminding me of another book that I really liked last year and I had to hunt through my books on goodreads to determine the exact one it was as the title escaped me and it was bugging me (600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster). But despite my thinking for the first little bit that I wasn’t sure I was going to get on with My Life in a Nutshell I came to really like it after the first couple of chapters and actually if I had any one major criticism about it it would be that as yet it doesn’t have a sequel. Because in many ways it has the perfect ending with a twist I didn’t see coming (but probably should have) and great stuff. But I also really, really want to know what happens next. Or actually (I won’t say too much because of spoilers) it’s just come to me as I’m writing this that this is a book with a very interesting back story hinted at and a prequel would be a completely different thing yet work well. Lots of potential here.
I was supposed to have gone to see a friend of mine this morning but a disaster in the form of a boiler leaking and the need to wait for an engineer to come fix it put paid to that. Whilst I would rather have finished reading My Life in a Nutshell whilst on that train journey, it kept me happily occupied reading it in the garden this morning instead. And it drew me in so much it stopped me being annoyed and distracted every five minutes about the fact my plans were ruined and why wasn’t the engineer here yet. I just wanted to know what happened next and actually ended up setting an alarm on my phone for the time the engineer was meant to be here by so I didn’t lose track of time and could chase him if necessary.
Someone commented on one of my other book reviews a few weeks ago that they’d been looking for a new author and found one through my blog. I wasn’t particularly looking for a new author but I think I’ve found one in Tanya J Peterson and will be reading her previous books soon.
…you look at your twitter profile. And the bit where it says “joined July 2008” catches your eye.
And you think not “oh wow have I really been on twitter for six years?” but “oh that means it’s six years since I read The Time Traveller’s Wife.”
Because I initially joined twitter so I could post updates when I went up to Rutland Water and took part in my first regatta (the sailability multiclass). And whilst I was there I was also reading The Time Traveller’s Wife. A bit whilst the others were on the water and I wasn’t because it was too much for me – although mostly at that point I was watching and chatting to others – but mostly in the evenings in that hotel room.
From what I recall was a very good book. But that’s why it’s weird because I’ve never reread it – I’ve not wanted to. I’m not even sure I’ve still got the book. And I’ve not seen the film. It remains a good book with some brilliant portrayals of disability yet I’d not thought about it in forever until I saw that little line on my twitter profile and immediately remembered that I was reading The Time Traveller’s Wife that weekend when I first went to a regatta and I first joined twitter.
And for posterity my first ever tweet:
trying to figure this thing out; listening to my neighbours loud tuneless annoying singing; eating mini chedders and drinking squash
The good thing about blogging is it’s an easy way to look back in years to come and be reminded of things you might otherwise have forgotten. I’ve not been very good about blogging those moments lately and I need to improve on that!
I could blog about a very funny moment at sailing yesterday when one of the other sailors drove past us with their dog in the car on their way out of the car park. It was hilarious and me, my Dad and the friend we give a lift home too were all killing ourselves laughing. And about five minutes later I started giggling about it again because I just couldn’t help myself. But that’s one of the things that’s only funny if you know the person in question, what car they drive and about their dog. And if you were there. So given those facts and the fact I try to make sure other people aren’t identifiable on this blog unless they’ve said it’s ok I won’t.
But I will share this story. It’s already been on facebook but for memory making it’s better on here.
my mum comes round once a week and helps me clean (I give her some of my DLA for that). She asked me what to do with some stuff and I said “throw it” meaning bin it. She threw it (a big handful of stuff) up in the air and it went all over my bedroom and only realised when I laughed what I’d meant.
I was lucky enough to receive a free copy of Trapped: My Life with Cerebral Palsy by Fran Macilvey in exchange for an honest review. She also answered some questions for me. The fact that Fran sent me a free copy of her book doesn’t influence my review but I do attempt to be fair. I think this is the third memoir of a person with CP I’ve had to review (but not the third one I’ve read if that makes sense) and I think of those three this is the one I enjoyed the most. I think the fact that as of this writing Trapped has 20 reviews on Amazon and all but 1 give it 5 stars (I don’t give stars to books in my reviews on my blog) backs that up.
Here is the synopsis:
Living in the Belgian Congo with her husband in the 1960s, Fran’s mother became pregnant with a daughter. However, right after she gave birth in the hospital, she felt strange. Unbeknownst to anyone, another daughter was on the way, but before anybody responded, an hour had passed. Because of the delay, Fran was born with cerebral palsy. Growing up with her siblings in Africa, Fran always felt different. When everyone else was playing and having fun, she would watch and wish she could join in. After the family moved to Scotland and Fran grew older, her hurt turned into anger, self-hatred, and suicidal depression. Then one day, someone looked at her and saw a woman to love, and that was the start of her journey to self-acceptance. Fran has written the painful truth about her life to help readers understand how disabled adults really feel. In her revealing account, she shows just how hard it is to maintain the appearance of a “normal” life. More importantly, out of her million and one mistakes have come lessons in real acceptance, peace, and joy, which she would like to share with her readers.
As I eluded too yesterday when I posted my interview with Fran one of my friends saw Fran’s comment on my blog asking if I wanted to review her book. And after reading the sample on Amazon my friend (who has a young grandchild with CP) told me she’d found it upsetting and I shouldn’t read it because I’d get depressed by it. Now, admittedly the idea of calling a book Trapped did jolt me a bit because it’s negative and on the whole my experiences of having CP are very positive. So my first thought on hearing the title Trapped was it wasn’t what I’d choose. But having spoken to Fran and read her book I can see why she chose it. And I didn’t find the book depressing at all. I can see why my friend found it upsetting because she’s a very emotional person and also because as a person with CP my lived experience is very different to that of someone just beginning to walk the CP life with a child they love who suddenly has this thing which makes them different. That’s a topic I need to blog more on but it’s not one for tonight. My friend has now commented that she wants to read this and I was thinking about that. I think she’ll get a lot out of it but my first thought would be more that this is a book for people with CP and maybe for the families of older kids with CP say tweens or teens to get an idea of what life can be like. For newly diagnosed or those who’ve had their diagnosis for a while but who are still young I’d say read it but do so with an open mind and remember that CP is not just one condition and books like Trapped (and blogs like mine) aren’t there as a guidebook – this seems to be an issue in some CP groups with parents of young ‘uns in just lately.
I found a lot of similarities between Fran’s experiences and the way she describes thinking and feeling and my own whilst reading Trapped even though I think it’s fair to say the way in which we are affected by CP is very different and I am probably much more disabled than Fran reading between the lines. That’s one of the best things I like about disability memoirs especially CP ones and why I wish I’d been younger than the 18 I was the first time I read one. I grew up with several CPers my own age but knowledge from older ones and realising someone else has been there is always good. Fran is roughly 15 years older than me and that made me realise how much attitudes to disability have changed not just in the years between when she was growing up and when I was growing up but also within my own lifetime. Which is a very good thing although I was a little shocked by some of what she experienced whilst very young. On the whole I was left wondering just how much of the differences in our experiences were simply due to the progression of time and the disability rights movement and how much was down to simply different CP presentation/family/location/life in general.
Trapped is the perfect length and combines great writing with a level of honesty I wish I could share in my blogging. It’s a good book and if I had a teen with a disability in my life it’s one I’d want them to read to start their introduction to crip culture and the idea of owning identity and your disability and being your own person. Highly recommended.
Fran Macilvey contacted me a while ago and asked if I’d liked to review her memoir – Trapped: My Life With Cerebral Palsy. I obviously said yes because I love reviewing books and discovering new authors and also I like reading about other disabled people (especially people who also have CP) and seeing how our experiences compare. Despite one of my friends telling me point blank I shouldn’t read this book because I’d find it depressing I enjoyed reading it.
My full review of Trapped will be posted tomorrow (edit: it’s now available here) but Fran was also kind enough to answer some interview questions for me and they are posted below. My interview with Fran was probably the hardest one to come up with questions for (other than my very first author interview) because I had a lot I wanted to ask her that I suspected would fall under the too nosy/too personal/not really relevant/boring if you aren’t me. I’d like to thank her for sending me a free copy of Trapped and for taking the time to answer these questions.
What made you decide to write Trapped?
Once my daughter had started school I had time on my hands and could no longer pretend that writing was ‘frivolous’. I wanted my family and friends to understand my motivations, because I had become expert at saying and doing a lot of nothing. It was a big chance for me to learn more about the motivations of my family, to understand them better, and get to know them again; and to get over all the sadness. It was hard work, but I gained so much from having the courage to sit down and just start.
When I was younger I was always put off writing a book about CP for fear it’d be put in the “painful lives” section of Waterstones. Did you have any concerns about how Trapped would be received?
Oh, yes, totally. I understand that. It took me years to write my story, and to learn to leave other people’s stories alone. Having arrived at what I thought was a reasonable narrative I had to let other people read it and comment. It felt like jumping off a cliff. Yes, it was very frightening. I was unsure whether I had done the right thing, especially having put so much effort into it. Putting memoir out is really tough, because of course, all critique feels more personal. But it does get easier, and I can honestly say that without the help of readers, reviewers and those who offered feedback, the book would never have been written.
If you could give one piece of advice to the parent of someone just diagnosed with CP what would it be?
Relax and enjoy the journey as much as you can. If you care to listen, you can learn from each other. That’s two, sorry.
Would you give the same advice to a child or teen/young adult with CP or would you give them different advice?
Much the same, I suspect. Treating each other with respect is harder than it looks, and we can be careless about that, without meaning to be. But for a young adult, I would say, live adventurously. Look for the happiness in every situation.
Is there another book you’d like to write and if so what is it?
I have a second book in progress called, ‘Happiness Matters’ which is about how I learned to prioritise all the important things in life: love, patience, optimism and joy, and make them work better for me.
If you could give me one tip (or even a couple of tips) to improve my writing what would it be?
Always write as honestly as you can, even if that is within a fantasy framework. When I write honestly, I feel more alive, and that energy feeds into the writing. Fear, shame and personal embarrassment hold us back and are a bit of a waste of time. Take a leap.
What’s your favourite book that you think I absolutely have to read if I haven’t already?*
How about ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ or ’Pride and Prejudice’? In non-fiction, I would recommend ‘Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China’ by Yung Chang. If you prefer something humorous, perhaps Lilian Beckwith’s ‘The Hills is Lonely’ or the James Herriot books.
Say I invented a time machine and you could go back to an earlier part of your life what would you choose?
Two weeks in 1971, so that I could go back and see our pets, sit in the sun, swim in the ocean and maybe go on safari one more time. So long as you could guarantee that afterwards, I could come back here. Life is very good for me at the moment!
*I’ve read both Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Pride and Prejudice already and would also recommend them to any of my readers looking for a classic read.
It feels a bit soon for another Random Bullet Points of Life entry but I have things to say and none of those things are long enough for an entry to themselves.
I realised the other week that I’ve been seeing a lot of the same one or two friends but haven’t seen some of my others in forever. So I’m trying to rectify that this month. I had a drink (sneaky mid afternoon Sunday glass of wine) with a friend this afternoon and we talked writing and life and general stuff. I see that friend fairly regularly in a group but it’s been months since we’ve been out for a drink just us and been able to chat properly.
I can’t remember if this made it onto my blog or not but I don’t think it did: last weekend was the Oxford Challenger Regatta. It’s the only regatta I’m taking part in this year. I came second (of two) at my level and won a gift voucher. I also came last over all. Both of these things are situation normal and not a big deal. I also tried to race by myself for the first time and had a panic before the race even started resulting in my being towed in, getting a buddy on board and going back out. I just missed the start but was over the line within the required time.
Anxiety is a big problem right now.
People who make well meaning but rude and discouraging comments can basically fuck off. This has happened several times lately and I am just done with the “they didn’t realise what they said” and “well their heart was in the right place.” assumptions and excuses. [several sentences of generally irrelevant waffle on this subject deleted]
Having blogged a couple of months ago about the fact the five year “life” of my manual is coming to an end but I don’t intend to ask for a new one but keep the one I’ve got I’m now debating if I do actually need a new one. Or at least I need a few bits replacing (definitely one of my laterals, the other is beginning to go and my seat sling might be getting a bit old) so I’m wondering if a new chair might be a better idea
…you declutter your house and gathering (almost*) all your yarn into one place looks like this
Image description: Two clear 80 litre (aka absolutely fucking huge) storage boxes side by side on my bed which has a white frame and dark purple duvet. They are full to the brim of yarn of all different colours and textures – mostly DK but some is different weights. My collection of knitting needles of various sizes is sticking out of one of the boxes. The lids aren’t on in this picture and they are so full my mum had real difficulty getting them on when she put the boxes away.
*I thought that the only yarn I’d left out was the stuff I’m using for my current crochet project and the yarn for the knitting project I might do next. But then mum and I kept sorting my bedroom and did find several (maybe 7) more full or part balls.
This evening I’ve been thinking about the fact that blogs are just a snapshot and no one ever gets the full picture. Particularly in my blogs because I try very hard to allow others to be anonymous or protect their privacy in what I write. So much so that I’ve been known to go back to entries I wrote on here months or years ago and not have any idea what I was eluding too in my cryptic entries.
After a week+ with no internet I got a new router and got it working this morning. There are a couple of topics I’ve been thinking about writing during that week but this morning I was feeling angry at the world about various different things and I started writing about that. But I didn’t post it because it was just basically “rah angry” and didn’t make much sense. It’s in drafts, I’ll probably delete it when I finish writing this.
I’ve since found something else out about one of the things I was angry about and it makes so much more sense. I’m frustrated by a different but related issue now. Plus, it was basically gossip and I think the person who told me probably wanted a reaction out of me. Which they got to a certain extent at the time but I shouldn’t give them one on my blog too.
So I’m reminded that I should never blog in anger. But that’s a resolution I’ll probably break. Just as soon as I get pissed off again.