An A to Z of Books and Authors: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

For the A to Z blogging challenge this year I’ve decided to have a bookish theme and share some of my favourite books and authors – ones that I’ve loved, those I revisit time and time again. Ones that made me laugh and ones that have been influential in other ways.

B is for The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

B icon from the A to Z blogging challengeI read this back in 2013. Really I could have chosen any Margaret Atwood novel (or at least any of the ones I’ve read) as I’m slowly working my way through her backlist and have found all the ones I’ve read so far intriguing and interesting.  They are enjoyable but not in the most obvious of ways.  I knew I would include one of her books just not which. But I needed a book for B so The Blind Assassin it is.

This was a book that I originally tried to read and put aside only to return to some years later and manage to finish this time. Whether the difference was the first time I tried to read the paperback from the library and the second I had the audiobook (pretty much all the of the Atwood I’ve read has been audio) or whether the difference was simply it was the right time I’m not sure.

Blind Assassin is an epic both in terms of length and in terms of it’s scope which spans many years. It had a twist that I didn’t see coming and relationships that I found realistic.  It’s probably not the first book that comes to mind when people mention Atwood (I suspect that’s The Handmaid’s Tale which I agree is good) and it’s not usually the one I recommend to people starting with her books (that’s Alias Grace) but it’s well worth reading and a book that stayed with me for a long time.

An A to Z of Books and Authors: Jane Austen

For the A to Z blogging challenge this year I’ve decided to have a bookish theme and share some of my favourite books and authors – ones that I’ve loved, those I revisit time and time again. Ones that made me laugh and ones that have been influential in other ways.

Blogging from A to Z 2016 A icon
A is for

A is for Austen. As in Jane Austen.

Classics are something I read a few times a year.  Not on a hugely regular basis but enough to say they are a part of my reading loves.  I read some classics as a child – The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was one I read again and again one holiday – but mostly when I had to.  I can’t remember really reading any classics at school and it was an area of reading I didn’t touch for a long time.

Eventually I set myself a list of goals. Some of them were reading related but most weren’t. And as an adult my love of classics began once I tackled the goal to read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

I really enjoyed it and I’ve read all of her books now with the exception of Emma (I’ve partially read that at least twice but never got all the way through it). Part of me thinks I should give it another go but I’m not sure I will.  My favourite remains Pride and Prejudice and I’m considering rereading Persuasion having heard a few people say that was their favourite and not being able to remember much about it.

I don’t have a favourite classics author (Dickens is my least favourite I think) – at the moment I’d say I have a soft spot for the Bronte sisters as I’m still working my way through their books and with the exception of Wuthering Heights which I didn’t understand I’ve loved reading them.  But I enjoy Austen a lot and she’s a bit of a special author for me because she’s the one who got me reading a genre I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I do.

Z is for…

Z is for Zzzz

This post is being backdated to appear on the 30th but is actually being posted on the 1st because after a month of blogging everyday I forgot about it on the very last day! Then I did remember but I was making much sense as I was tired and it was late.

Having CP is known to cause fatigue.  I’ve seen various figures quoted for “people with CP use between X and Y times more energy” but they all vary and I think just like even people with the exact same CP diagnosis/classification are different that is too.  It’s true and it’s definitely something I have bur it’s also not something that’s easy to predict.  There have been times when I’ve said “sorry, I’m going out for an entire day on the Wednesday so I can’t do such and such on the Thursday, I’ll be too tired” and then woken up on the Thursday absolutely fine and other times when a so called normal Thursday morning in the bureau has led to a Thursday afternoon in bed asleep for several hours.

The other interesting thing is med fatigue.  I know loads and loads of people with CP who complain about taking baclofen and it knocking them out, leaving them groggy. The term “baclofen hangover” is something I’ve heard a lot.  It was all a bit alien to me though – i didn’t get knocked out by baclofen and it certainly didn’t leave me groggy.  Then last year I stopped taking it and suddenly had more energy.  I’d been taking it so long I’d obviously forgotten how it made me feel.

But sometimes (and last night) was one of them I’m just tired because I’ve had a busy day or two and lots of stress and not enough sleep.  The fact that as a person with CP I can still be tired (or have whatever symptom) for so called “normal” reasons is one that’s all to often overlooked. And that winds me up – because I’m more than my diagnosis and my disability.

 

Y is for…

Y is for “you have got to be kidding me”

Today has been a day filled with aggravations and annoyances and has left me feeling pretty battered.

It’s all little stuff and bar two things it’s petty stuff – someone was thanking the key people involved in doing something and forgot that I’d been one of them. I popped quickly into Waterstones to look for a birthday present as I had a spare 15 mins and the layout of the store meant I couldn’t get into the section I wanted (too closely packed).  The trouble is it’s all today and no matter how petty something is and how unimportant in the big picture there all too quickly comes a point where all at once it’s too much to deal with.

And there’s some stuff in their about others expectations of me that I probably need to unpick a little to deal with.  But not today.

I did very much hit the point of thinking “oh you have got to be kidding me” when the last couple of aggravations hit.

There were some good things and I don’t want to pretend there weren’t.  I spent time with friends this evening and I got to chat with another friend on the phone. There’s a slim chance I’ll get to do something unexpected but very fun next week and I’m enjoying the book I was reading on the train. Plus, I got a copy of a book for free.

Had I been less tired and more with it I probably would have written something along the lines of “Y is for Yay I did it (almost!) and talked about this A to Z blogging challenge and what I think about it, what I’ve learned etc.  I’m really pleased to have made it practically all the way though the month and I think I will probably write more about that at a later date.

I don’t have the energy today (I barely had the energy to write this post)

X is for…

Today I want to write about something different.

I want to talk about voting.

Next week is the General Election here in the UK. I’ve always voted since I had the opportunity. I think it’s really important. People died so women could have the vote in the UK and in countries all over the world people are still fighting for the right to have a vote and a say in government. As a disabled person the ability to vote is even more crucial because there are still in 2015 people who can’t use their votes. Because the polling station is inaccessible or because they lack the support to get them to the polling station/allow them to use a postal or proxy vote. I’ve heard several stories along those lines.

It’s too easy for us here in the UK to take it for granted and not use our votes because we think it won’t make a difference, it doesn’t matter. I live in a safe Conservative seat. I’m pretty sure that they’ll get in again and my vote – my wish for another party – won’t count. But if every single person who didn’t vote, who never got round to it, thought it didn’t matter or was pointless went out and voted everything could change and it could count.

So rather than write some half assed blog entries about X-rays or something else that begins with X I wanted to use this entry to remind everyone that voting matters and ask everyone who lives in the UK and has a vote to make sure they use their X and vote for who they want to win the election.

And please – remember you are voting for the party and not the person.

W is for…

W is for What I Saw Yesterday

Yesterrday I went to visit the botanic garden in Oxford.  It was one of my 20 things I wanted to do by the end of this year.  We saw some amazing things and I’m sad to say my knowledge didn’t extend far enough to know what a lot of things were.  The fact that the majority were labelled only in Latin didn’t help either!

 

A photo posted by Emma (@funkyfairy22) on

I think the picture above is tulips but I’m not sure. The picture below is definitely tulips. They were some of my favourite flowers there (and not just because I could identify them easily) and they had several varieties.  I’m thinking of using the picture of the red ones for a new header for this blog.

Tulips A photo posted by Emma (@funkyfairy22) on

The rest of the photos can be seen on my Instagram account

V is for…

V is for Volunteering

(how is it possible we’ve reached V already?)

I do a lot of volunteering and I have done for over ten years.  It’s a great way to fill my time and allows me to make a positive contribution to society whilst working around the limitations of my disability and my inability to work in a paid role.

OK that sounds pompous and technical but basically volunteering works for me because I can do it on my schedule.  I can ensure that I pretty much never volunteer two days running and that I only do a few hours at a time.  If I can’t manage to go in on a day I’m supposed to it’s not a problem and if I can manage to go but only to do part of what I’m supposed to they work around it with no pressure. Plus in my CAB  role there are one or two things that advisers do that I don’t to make things easier for me.  Volunteering has a ton of flexibility that paid work doesn’t.

And it makes me feel good about myself (most of the time).

Mostly I volunteer for my local Citizens Advice Bureau.  I’m there twice a week most weeks doing roughly 5 hours in total over the two sessions.  I’ve been there for ten years and I’ve done a variety of things in my time there.

One session a week I volunteer in client facing roles which is either as a gateway assessor – doing a ten minute triage type interview with people who drop into the bureau to work out if we’re the right people to help and what sort of help they need.  I quite enjoy doing those but I suck at sticking to the 10 minutes.  That said pretty much everyone does. Alternatively if I’m seeing clients that might be as as adviser doing a full advice interview.  That’ll be with someone whose been through the gateway process and needs further help from us.

My other session I work as Research and Campaigning coordinator which can be anything from gathering evidence to writing letters to our MP.

I’m also an involved resident with my local housing association who I rent from.  Up until recently I chaired their disabled residents group but someone else has just taken over.  I do things with them on a much more ad hoc basis and that can be things like helping with the annual report, contribution to the tenants news that gets sent out and attending focus groups. I’ve made a couple of friends though that and had coffee with one yesterday.,

U is for

U is for Underground

I was going to do L is for London back when the A to Z challenge reached L but then I figured I didn’t have anything for U so I’d do this instead.

I love London. I seem to go every couple of months and that’s gotten much more frequent over the last few years.  So far this year I went to London in January (to see Cirque du Soleil) and I went twice in March – for one day to go up The Shard (when we also ended up going on the Cable Car too) and then overnight a few days later to go to the Simon and Schuster blogging event.

There are many reasons why I love London and I can’t list them all.  It isn’t a complete love story because I do get very annoyed when I’m there sometimes by lack of dropped kerbs in some places and people everywhere and the like but I enjoy it a lot.

And this probably sounds really weird if you don’t have a physical disability but one of the major reasons why I love it is The Tube (underground).  I had never really gone on the Tube until I was 30.  And by never really I mean once only.  I’d always assumed it wasn’t going to be possible as a wheelchair user.

Then came the summer of 2012 and the Olympics and the paralympics and in a very short period of time I went from being scared of the tube to using it with someone with me to using it confidently by myself.

It’s still tricky because huge parts of the network aren’t accessible in some cases those that are don’t work for me (London Paddington I’m looking at you). And it relies on lifts working and on knowledge of things like when I go to Green Park I have to board at the back of the train for level access and when I go to Kings Cross there’s another specific part of the train I have to board because those stations have raised platform humps and if you aren’t in the right part it’s not accessible.

But it’s brilliant and it’s really opened up London to me and given me an independence I didn’t think possible.,

I travel all the time my mainline trains and that works really well too. But for those I have to book assistance in advance.  It’s not a problem because I pretty much always know in advance and I’ve gotten to know the guys working at my three most common stations and we’ve gotten a bit friendly over the years and I have a laugh with some of them.  But it’s not great at spur of the moment independence.

And even though I’ve been using the tubes for three years now it still slightly blows my mind when I drive my chair onto a train without help and without even having to let someone else know I’m travelling.  It’s given me a whole new level of independence and that’s a big part of the reason why I love London.

T is for…

T is for Today

As in what I’ve done today.

I woke up having not slept as well as I’d expected. I’d been practically falling asleep while getting ready for bed and as I was a bit sore I took doses of both paracetamol and codeine right before bed. Being that codeine can knock me out I’d expected to sleep really well that wasn’t to be. It’s not that I slept badly just not great.

This morning was CAB and I saw two drop in clients (gateway) and then did a full advice appointment. Busiest session I’ve had there in a while and every client was something slightly different.  Sometimes it can feel like all you do is the same.  I made some phone calls from the bureau which made me remember that I needed to make one or two of my own once I was home.  Of course once I was home I had forgotten so I’ll have to do that tomorrow.

I popped in to Soha quickly on the way home to pick some paperwork up that had been left for me but it wasn’t anyone I really knew on the desk so I was in and out without stopping to chat. I then arranged this afternoon to go back in next time I’m passing and pick up a book as they were giving them out for World Book Night on facebook.

As always I then went online while eating my lunch and spent much too long messing around on twitter and the like. So eventually I decided that was ridiculous and I should be in the garden.

I’ve had several books lately that I’ve not quite finished because I’ve been going somewhere (usually on the train) and have started something else so I’d have enough to read in the time. So I grabbed one of those – The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides – and sat in the garden and finished that.  It was pretty good, not sure why it;s taken me so long to get back to it.  It was really hot in the garden and when I finished the book I had to go in and cool down.

I lay on my bed at that point and dozed for an hour or so which was nice. I’m not sure why I’ve been so sleepy this week.

Once I was up I drank a lot of water and then went in my powerchair and back in the garden.  I took another of my almost finished books – The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai – and tllted my powerchair back and finished that off.  I’m not 100% sure I understood the point of it but it was an interesting read.

Part way through my reading I thought “is that the phone?” and eventually decided it was getting back in the house right as it stopped.  It was my parents which really surprised me as they’ve been away and I thought they weren’t getting back until tomorrow. But they were back tonight so we caught up a bit.

Since then I’ve pretty much been on the computer putting off writing this entry and getting distracted from everything I’ve meant to do.  But I have sorted out a problem I’ve been having with this blog which is good and it was much easier to sort than I’d anticipated.

And that’s today.

S is for…

S is for Sailing

I take part in a local sailability (adaptive sailing) group once a week between April and October.

My relationship with sailing is a strange one because it’s not something I’d ever thought of taking part in until a friend spent over a year going on and on at me that i had to try it. I said I’d go. But only once and if I didn’t want to go again he had to shut up about it. I wasn’t going to want to go again, I was sure of it.

Well, I went one day back in 2006 and I’ve been going ever since. I loved it.

And even when in the depths of the off season on dark winter nights I wondered this year about trying something else and not going sailing I still endded up there on the water once the season started again and feeling the wind catch the sail and send the boat moving over the water loving every minute.

I’m tired today (long day at an interesting workshop and an early start) and I’m not sure I have the words to do sailing justice. I just looked at the saiing category on this blkog though and it seems I’ve writtten 60 some odd previous blogs on the subject so there’s plenty here if you need more convincing.,