Unsettling

One of my friends is supporting some of her loved ones through a tough time. I think it’s fair to say (I don’t know the others involved) it’s overwhelming and difficult. And I when I sent her an email to let her know I was thinking of them and hoping things were improving she asked me to write a blog to make her laugh.

This is probably not the blog to make her laugh. It’s something I’d seen and vaguely wondered about posting about. It’s probably not interesting to anyone but me.  I hope however it gives her a distraction for a few minutes if not the laugh she wanted.

When I went to London for the Creative Writing Masterclass I went for the whole weekend. I spent the day before with a friend (not the one referenced above) who moved there a few years ago. And after going to see the Poppies at the Tower of London we went to the Tower Bridge exhibition.

Now, I’ll be completely honest. We basically just went there because it was right by where we were and we’d heard that although they charge to go in both disabled and carers go in free. Can’t turn down a freebie.

I had it in my head from the access information available on Disabled Go that it wasn’t overly accessible which was why it was free.  It was accessible though and although in at least one place I had to use a lift where the route went down steps I don’t think I really missed anything bar the odd view

A couple of weeks ago part of the walkway above the bridge was replaced by a glass floor.  You could, if you didn’t like the idea of walking over it, just about squeeze either side.  But with them having put it right in the middle there was no way but over the glass floor for me. Not great from an inclusion point of view as I should have a choice same as everyone else but it wasn’t a problem once I was told it would be fine for my chair.

So I went over it.  It was, as I said to the staff member at the beginning of the glass bit, a good job I wasn’t worried about that. And going over it was fine. It made for a very interesting view of the bridge and the Thames and was something different.  They had signs suggesting people find out when the next bridge lift was and go up then for an even better experience. Must admit I’ll be happy to give that a miss.

I was glad we went and the engine rooms were the most interesting part. I’m not sure the glass walkway was really necessary for my enjoyment.

And then we fast forward to today.

I’m on facebook and I see off on the right hand side in the trending bit that a beer bottle got dropped on the glass walkway and smashed part of the walkway

Now I know there’s probably some physics type explanation that has to do with force and I’ve only got a vague idea what it is but don’t need to know more.  But I must admit to being a little unsettled that something I took a risk on being strong enough to take 30+ stone of me and my powerchair was later smashed… by a bottle.

Monday Music: All About That Chair

It’s ages since I did a Monday Music post.

I quite like Megan Trainor’s All About That Bass.  But if I am going to share a version of that song it’s not going to be that one.  Because you know I’m all about that disability bout that disability bout that disability (sorry I couldn’t resist).

A you tuber called Heather Schouten who uses a wheelchair has done a version called All About That Chair. And it’s incredible.

I can’t find a copy of the lyrics but this article in The Independent includes some of them. The article in my opinion borders on inspiration porn and probably sees things in the lyrics that aren’t there. But the song is awesome.

Obviously.

I was on the platform at the station in Oxford this evening.  We’d been to see a show (Shrek the Musical) and it had been a bit of a break neck race to get there after the show finished about 20 minutes late meaning we had approx 18 minutes to get out of the theatre, over to the station and on the train. And there wasn’t going to be a train for an hour after the one I’d booked on.  Also I’d forgotten to check how late Didcot station is staffed tonight so I thought if I had to get the next one it’d be ok but I wasn’t sure.

It was a definite argh stress moment and a very quick walk for my friend who was keeping pace with me. But we got there with a couple of minutes to spare and immediately spotted a staff member

I went over to him and said “I’m going to need the ramp please. I’ve got assistance booked to go to Didcot.”

He said whatever he said in reply I can’t remember exactly but along the lines of OK. And I think he mentioned the time of the train. The he grabs his radio to call over to his colleague.  My friend and I were right next to him and could hear the conversation.

“can you come over to platform 1 and get a ramp please?”

“what do you want a ramp for?”

“For a wheelchair. Obviously.”

We were amused by that and the look on his face. Then conversation with his colleague over he put his radio down and looking at us went “What did he think I wanted it for? BMX tricks?”

A few minutes later a train pulled out of the station and our slightly delayed train pulled in.  The colleague appeared and a ramp was produced and put down bridging the gap between platform and train.

Sadly it wasn’t used for BMX tricks or anything exciting like that. Just to let this wheelchair user board her train home after a night out with a friend at a good but not great musical and a crazy rush to the station.  Which is probably exciting enough at just before 10pm on  a Friday night. And anyway ramps are for wheelchairs.

Obviously.

Nice Girls Don’t by Sue Barnard

I received a free copy of Nice Girls Don’t by Sue Barnard in exchange for an honest review.

Who knows what secrets lie hidden in your family’s past?

Southern England, 1982.

At 25, single, and under threat of redundancy from her job in a local library, Emily feels as though her life is going nowhere – until the day when Carl comes into the library asking for books about tracing family history.

Carl is baffled by a mystery about his late grandfather: why is the name by which Carl had always known him different from the name on his old passport?

Fascinated as much by Carl himself as by the puzzle he wants to solve, Emily tries to help him find the answers. As their relationship develops, their quest for the truth takes them along a complicated paper-trail which leads, eventually, to the battlefields of the Great War.

In the meantime, Emily discovers that her own family also has its fair share of secrets and lies. And old sins can still cast long shadows…

Can Emily finally lay the ghosts of the past to rest and look forward to a brighter future?

A tale of discovery, love and fate.

I enjoyed Nice Girls Don’t and it almost kept me from being annoyed as my train journey home unravelled into disaster on Sunday (frankly nothing could have done better it was such a bad journey). I can think of many books I’ve read and enjoyed that wouldn’t have held my attention as well in such circumstances so that’s a positive for it.

It’s a relative short book but the perfect length for the plot which moves continuously and doesn’t drag at all or feel rushed. My only criticism is that I guessed one of the secrets and although I love the way it was handled I’d have liked to have had more of the reaction to that rather than jumping straight to the next plot point. That’s mostly because it’s an area I’m interested in rather than the book needing it.

Nice Girls Don’t has a rich cast of characters and I enjoyed getting to know them. I’d like to read more about them if Sue Barnard wrote a sequel either Emily and Carl or some of the minor characters who really intrigued me.

I nearly skipped this review request but I’m glad I took a second look and decided to say yes.

A Weekend in London

I went to London for the weekend and I had a busy but brilliant time.

Friday I met up with a good friend of mine who moved to London a couple of years ago.  We went over to the Tower of London to see the poppies.  I wanted to see them again and she hadn’t seen them.  It was strange because in so many places there were more than there were when Mum and I went in September but they were very definitely taking them down and there were gazebos and boxes and people in places doing that.  It was also completely and utterly rammed with people looking at them.  Nice to see them again but definitely a shame that they literally put the last ones down and started pulling them down the next day.

We mooched around a bit as well and went to a couple of other places but mostly it was just a lot of fun and to get he chance to see her and catch up properly because every other time I’ve seen her in the last six or so months it’s been in a big group and not a lot of time to really chat just us.

Saturday was the real reason why I went to London.  I went to a Creative Writing Masterclass put on by Books and the City (a part of Simon and Schuster).  And I was very very very nervous before I got there but I’m extremely glad that I went.

I had a blast, all of the talks were useful (plus the panelists were good at presenting which really helps) and I got a ton of freebies – I think I counted 12 books when I got back to my hotel.  Plus, we had Prosecco to wind the day down.

I loved hearing Milly Johnson talk about writing and her path to where she is now.  It was encouraging to hear that all the struggling and difficulties of writing and the publishing process are worth it.  She was funny and engaging whilst being very honest and telling us what we needed to know.  I enjoyed speaking to her during the drinks afterwards too. Quite a few of the free books  I picked up are hers and she signed one for me.  It’s pretty fair to say I’ve going to be reading very little but her books over the next few weeks.  And if the books I’ve read by her previously are anything to go by it’s going to be very enjoyable.

Lizzy Kremer’s talk about the role of an agent was also eye opening as I didn’t realise they did quite so much.  As a part of her talk she mentioned a couple of books coming out next year that she worked with the authors of and I quickly scribbled down the titles because she’s clearly very passionate them and they sound incredible.  I’ve since seen that one of them is already on NetGalley so I’ve put in a request for a review copy.

The biggest things that came out of all the talks for me were

  • At some point during the writing process you’re going to hate your work and this is normal and happens to everyone. Keep going.
  • That the process is more involved than I had thought and people’s jobs involve more than I would have expected.
  • It’s important to have a team of people that are passionate about your writing during the publication process because it makes a huge difference.
  • Networking with other writers is key and social media (particularly Twitter) was mentioned several times as a big part by various people

I also had a one to one session with the editorial director about my writing.  I’d submitted it in advance and that was the bit that I was most nervous about.  I’m not sure why I was so nervous (now) because she was very friendly and easy to talk to.  Plus she was positive about my writing and the idea behind my novel.  And although I have a lot of work to do on my novel following the feedback the biggest negative thing she said (about my setting not working) was something I’d already been thinking myself and had mentioned to a couple of people.  So it crystallised my thinking if you will and made me think I need to have more confidence in myself and my writing.

I’m really glad I went and I enjoyed meeting all the other writers there.  I feel much more energised about writing now and am looking forward to getting back to my novel.

Living By Ear by Mary Rowen

Mary Rowen kindly sent me a free copy of her book Living By Ear to review.

What happens when the world you love doesn’t press pause when you do? Singer-songwriter Christine Daley hit the streets of Boston and became a minor celebrity—with a local radio hit—in the 90s, but a “short” career break to marry and have kids changed everything. Now, sixteen years later, she’s a frustrated suburban housewife, struggling to find her place in life.

After filing for divorce, she learns that her attempts to reestablish her own rhythms—both in music and in love—are more complicated than she’d anticipated. Her two teenagers are desperate for their mom, and her soon-to-be-ex-husband is throwing every obstacle he can in her way. Adding to the stress is the progress in technology, which has not only changed the music industry, but also the dating world. Is there room in the mix for Chris?

I loved the style of this book.  It’s first person and it sort of feels as though Chris is talking to the reader.  For absolutely years I would have told you that I didn’t like books written in the first person and preferred not to read them but over the last year or so that’s been changing.  Living By Ear is great and it’s an example of a book that’s absolutely perfect in first person but might not work in the third person perspective.

I also really liked how this moves randomly between chapters set in the present day and at previous times in Chris’s life – you’d never know where or when you’d be reading about in the next one.  It didn’t seem slow or predictable or like it dragged at all. And maybe I’ve read too many books but so many seem like they’ve one or all of those problems to me lately. So Living by Ear was a refreshing change for me.

Living By Ear was very enjoyable and it kept me reading because I had questions and wanted to know what happened next – was Jon (Chris’s husband) really as much of a bastard as I thought he was? – and other similar things.

On an off topic but related note I’ve been wondering on and off for ages about getting a Kindle Unlimited subscription.  What put me off is that although it’s unlimited reading for a reasonable fee every month it seemed like a lot of my go to authors and series weren’t on there. And I thought it would be hard to find really quality books and authors from what was available.  I noticed that Living By Ear is one of the books available – if all of the books available on Kindle Unlimited are as high quality and enjoyable as this is I may well change my mind and get a subscription.

On Volunteering and Housing Day

Today is #HousingDay (hashtag housing day) a day designed to promote social housing and highlight all it does for people in the UK, how important it is and just what the need for social housing is.

I know from my own experiences just how much having access to a flat that is fully adapted to my needs, is safe and secure (in terms of both safety and tenancy) and affordable is.  It’s more than a roof over your head it’s the ability to make plans and do things and get on with your life that might otherwise be impossible.

And in both parts of my CAB  role (adviser/gateway assessor and social policy coordinator) over the last few years I’ve seen more and more people becoming homeless, struggling to find somewhere to live that meets their needs either due to availability, costs, access needs or landlords who won’t accept housing benefit.

I rent from a social landlord – Soha Housing – to be specific and a few weeks ago they made me aware of a call from TPAS for residents who were willing to share their own stories of being residents and volunteering to work with their housing provider. I’ve been involved since 2010 and we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well. So knowing I like to write they asked if I’d be interested in sharing my story.

I wrote my story and it was pretty tricky. There’s no doubt that the volunteering I do – both for Soha but also for CAB – plays a huge role in my life and in many ways has changed my life.  Even taking the CAB aspects of my volunteering out of the equation there was still loads I could say about the matter and it was difficult to know what to include and what to leave out to make the point about why resident involvement is so important to me in just a couple of hundred words.  But I did my best and sent it off and Soha submitted it to TPAS.  And we didn’t hear anything about it.

Fast forward to this lunchtime and I went on twitter to discover that TPAS had chosen ten of the resident stories they had received to highlight and help promote Housing Day. Mine was one of the ten.  I’m really proud to have the opportunity and a bit surprised!  Two of my fellow Soha residents and friend Carole and Richard also had their stories chosen.  All ten of the stories are well worth a read – find them here.

Looking back at what I wrote today I think it’s also fair to say a lot of what I wrote about how being involved with Soha helps me – especially my last paragraph – can also be applied to my CAB work.  People have in the past said to me they don’t understand why I volunteer and how I could just sit at home and no one would blame me.  But I’d be a lot worse off – and possibly in need of greater medical and other support – if I did that.  Because that’s the difference volunteering makes.

 

8th November

Today is 8 November 2014.

I started sharing my life online 8 November 2000.

I was bored that day and remembered this diary thing someone had told me about months before.  I’d written a few entries than abandoned it.  I went back that November day and deleted all of those and started afresh.  I’ve said before that I regret deleting those entries.  And yeah it would be interesting to go back and read them.

But my first ever blog entry from the days when they called them online diaries – the one I wrote that November day is still online.  And having gone back to read it I have to say my skill as a writer and my content makes me cringe.

I read another few of the entries back there on my first diary.  I’m absolutely horrified by how open I was.  I never shared my full name back then like I do now.  But I called all my friends by their names.  I mentioned where I went to uni and the halls I lived in were mentioned by name.  And in at least one entry, probably a hell of a lot more if memory serves I mentioned the disability services staff by name and the fact that I fucking hated [one of them].  Which looking back was pretty fucking stupid of me.

Now I did hate this particular person.  They weren’t in my opinion (but several of my friends who were also disabled agreed) very good at their job and they also weren’t very easy to deal with. Which add in my being very new away from home and using carers and their having a lot of input into the organising of that made for difficulties.  But I read that stuff and I just wanted to go back and shake my 18 year old self and say “what the hell are you doing?”

Luckily for me whilst I’ve had a few mishaps with my blogging and people being upset with what I’ve written over the years it’s never been anything serious.  And that entry with the disability services staff member and my declaration that I fucking hated them faded into the background.

I’m very glad I still blog although at the moment I’m on a bit of a blogging downer.  Not much inspiration for various reasons.  I’m also very glad my boundaries and content have changed over the years to what they are now. I wonder, if I’m still blogging in a few years if I’ll look at the entries I write nowadays and think they’re wrong.  It’s definitely something to think about.

But in the meantime I’m going to go back and read a few more of my early blog entries.  And wonder just why my 18 year old self thought anyone needed to know that I went to town and bought “a get well soon card for Pam. also bought chocolate, envelopes coke, beans and always“.

Boring much?!

 

November, NaNo Time

It’s November

And November is NaNoWriMo month.  I am taking part this year. Sort of. I must admit after several years of taking part and being a big supporter of it I’m going off it a bit.  I love the fact it promotes writing and make the time to do it and chase a dream (if writing a novel is your dream). But it’s not the be all and end all and some of the ridiculousness I’ve seen in the name of NaNo no longer seems worth it to me.

I have a work in progress that I’ve been working on properly since the summer after planning it and writing bits of for a year or two. I also hadn’t touched it for several weeks.  And at the beginning of this year (or maybe right at the end of last year) I told a couple of my friends that one of my goals for 2014 was to end the year with a finished draft.

So I’m working on finishing that.  It’s going to need a lot of work once it’s finished but getting that done will be a big help and will mean I meet my goal.  I think it needs at least 40,000 words adding but I’m not sure; it will probably end up needing more than that.

Today I seem to have written at least 1000 words of waffle which will most likely get cut.  But it got me writing again after being a bit stuck with where to take it next.

Because I have another idea for a story, probably a fanfic, nagging at me.  And it seems like all my ideas today are for that.