Matilda!

Earlier this week I went to London, had a wander round by myself (getting slightly lost) and then met up with friends (including a very excited almost 7 year old) and we went to a matinee of Matilda the Musical.

It was fab.  I did expect it to be funnier than it was – I had high expectations for that because Tim Minchin who is a musical comedian (and one of my favourites) wrote the lyrics. But when I thought about it afterwards he’s known for clever humour. And this was certainly fully of clever lyrics with humour woven in.  I would much rather have that than it be full of cheap humour.

The staging and the effects were brilliant and the songs catchy and fab. I’ve downloaded the soundtrack and been listening to it a lot since I got home.  It’s a couple of years since I’ve seen a musical and wanted the soundtrack (although to be fair the last musical I saw was Mamma Mia and I already had the film soundtrack or I’d have got that) The cast, especially the kids were spot on.  It just worked really well which given that three of the last nine or so musicals and the last play I’ve seen have been disappointing was brilliant.

I would highly recommend going to see the show and it’s definitely going on my list of shows to see again if it tours.

The Cherry Tree Cafe by Heidi Swain

Last November  I went to the Books and The City Creative Writing Masterclass (I wrote about that here).  I had a great time and I’ve since kept in touch with several of the other writers who were there.

One of those writers was Heidi Swain. And she now has a publishing deal with Books and The City.  I was lucky enough to hear Heidi read an extract of that when I went to the Books and the City blogger evening in March and I’ve been really excited to read it ever since. Her first book, The Cherry Tree Cafe by Heidi Swain is being published on 16th July (ebook only).  I received a free ARC in exchange for a review on this blog and really enjoyed reading it.

Cupcakes, crafting and love at The Cherry Tree Cafe…

Lizzie Dixon’s life feels as though it’s fallen apart. Instead of the marriage proposal she was hoping for from her boyfriend, she is unceremoniously dumped, and her job is about to go the same way. So, there’s only one option: to go back home to the village she grew up in and to try to start again.

Her best friend Jemma is delighted Lizzie has come back home. She has just bought a little cafe and needs help in getting it ready for the grand opening. And Lizzie’s sewing skills are just what she needs.

With a new venture and a new home, things are looking much brighter for Lizzie. But can she get over her broken heart, and will an old flame reignite a love from long ago…?

For everyone who loves settling down to watch Great British Bake-Off, the Great British Sewing Bee, or curling up to read Milly Johnson or Jenny Colgan, The Cherry Tree Cafe is a coffee-break treat.

I really enjoyed The Cherry Tree Cafe. I’d thought I would but it was even better than I expected. Lizzie Dixon was a brilliant character who reminded me of many people in different ways and was just real. I had a real soft spot for Jemma and her family though.

The Cherry Tree Cafe was a gorgeous setting and I wished I could go there and take part in the crafts.  The last couple of months crafts have mostly been crochet for me but I’ve not had a lot of time and reading this book left me itching to pick up my hook again.

It was a fun read and it made me laugh out loud in places. The Cherry Tree Cafe was the perfect escapist read, great for an evening in the garden when you just want to switch off and read in the sunshine. Heidi Swain has a turn of phrase that I loved and I’ll look out for more books by her in future – if you want a holiday read or just an easy going enjoyable read for lazing around at home you won’t go wrong with The Cherry Tree Cafe.

N is for…

N is for NaNoWriMo

For those not in the know NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  It’s a yearly challenge that takes place every November to write 50K words in those thirty days.  I’ve done it several times since 2004.  I’ve won a few times but I’m lost many more.  Only not really because every word written is a win if you think about it.

NaNo has been great for me because it got me writing properly.  My first ever long piece of writing was a NaNo project, specifically a very bad Harry Potter fanfiction which before anyone asks was never posted in it’s entireity online.  I think I’d like to read it again but it’s probably better I don’t.

It’s also been great because I’ve made friends.  Some I just see in the group and the meet ups and several I’ve lost touch with over the years beyond sporadic tweets etc.  But I’ve got a couple of very good friends I met through NaNo – ones I’ve been to the paralympics with, and up the shard, for drinks and chat, theatre trips and breakfast in Giraffe (yesterday) and even to one of their weddings and that’s a whole lot of impact on my life and positivity that’s not to be scoffed at.

In many ways I’ve lost my love for NaNo now.  The year I acted as Municipal Liaison played a big role in that but I think it’s partially to do with maturing as a writer too.  I’ll still think of it every year and probably give it some form of a go.  I hear a lot about how it’s a bad thing and how NaNo ruins writing.  My suspicion is that some of those are valid points.  But I’ll always have a soft spot for it and think it’s a great thing.  Because for me it’s about more than the writing

Self Care Sunday

It’s generally been a terrrible week but there have been a few good moments and I’ve had a great day today despite a few moments of anxiety (new people, train faffing)

I’ve had three days of antibiotics (nitrofurantoin 100mg x 2 daily) for a UTI. And I ended up feeling physically appalling. Sick, dizzy and yucky on top of the usual UTI symptoms.  Finished those yesterday and feel better today which sort of proves the theory that I’ve had for a while that nitrofurantoin makes me nauseaous. As UTIs can make me feel sick it’s been hard to tell.  I’m not 100% right yet.

I had a whole night of insomnia. Which may or may not have had to do with the fact that i felt too crappy mid afternoon that day to stay up and slept deeply for two hours. It is unusual for a nap to keep me up all night though.

Depression has been kicking my ass and I think I probably hit the point where I was as bad as I was in the days before I was first diagnosed. I’ve been to the doctors and am back on sertraline – 50mg a day though rather than the 100mg I was on until last year. Well, at the moment I’m taking half a tablet a day for a few days/week to wean on to it slowly. I actually ended up having to tell CAB a day in advance that I couldn’t come in so I could go to that appt (when I rung and got an appt with the GP I wanted to see the day before I wasn’t going to say no) but it’s a good job I did because I was so yucky with the UTI I’d have not been able to go in anyway.

But as I said there have been a few good things.

I was well enough to go to a show on Friday night – Stephen K Amos. Well, I still felt crap but I felt OK enough to go especially given I was only 10 mins from home so if I’d started feeling rubbish I could have got back easily.  He was good.  A funny guy and a good performer but not one of my favourites. I probably wouldn’t go and see him live again but I’m really glad we went as it was a good evening.

Today I went to Oxford and sort of met up with the NaNo group.  A new ish member and I had been chatting online and had agreed to meet up. And then a meet up was set up by someone else for the group. So I went in and found her easily and we chatted loads and enjoyed it. I did eventually figure out that the rest of the group (two I’d met once or twice and two I didn’t know) were over the other side of the Jam Factory but we were having quite a specific conversation which we were enjoying and they were writing so we stayed there.  I had a bit of time after she left and debated going over to say hi but decided against it as I didn’t have long. I got my book out and read a couple of pages then one of them came over and said “Emma?” and I joined them for 10 mins before coming home.  I enjoyed it.

So things may be looking a little brighter.  But there’s still a long way to go.

 

 

You Know You’re a Bookworm When…

You get an email from Amazon that someone sent you a gift card.

And the message from your friend is that she was going to send flowers to say thank you but she figured reading or free spending would be more appreciated.  She didn’t need to send me something to say thank you, I didn’t expect it. Just the words were enough

I would have enjoyed having flowers. They are always a rare but nice surprise. But my friend knows me well.  I’m definitely a massive book fan and they last forever or there abouts. So I’m loving that.  Currently trying to remember when a book I’ve been looking forward to is coming out (I think it’s a week or two) and if I can wait till then to spend it. Or shall I go poking on Amazon and see what I can see?

It was a lovely surprise and made me smile.

I sometimes tell people that I don’t finish every book I start because life is too short to read bad books. Unfortunately life is also too short to read all the good books. I’m making it my goal to read as many of them as I can though! So far this year I’ve read 71. And I shall use the giftcard to buy the books that may form part of books 72 and beyond in 2014 (am aiming for 100 this year having decided that last years 140 is a feat I don’t want to aim for again).

Sarah, Thank YOU!

 

The End of NaNo

So it’s the end of November and Nanowrimo ends at midnight.

I’m a nano winner in that I’ve written over 50,000 words this month.

I’ve not written a book. I’ve not even written anything vaguely like a first draft of a book. Some of my friends are talking about submitting for publication pretty much straight away. They are either much better writers than I am or totally insane. Or both.

What I’ve written is a mess. It’s a variety of scenes from the idea I had. Some I planned and some I didn’t. Some work and some make me cringe just to think of them. I suspect when I look back some of the ones I thought worked probably won’t and some that made me cringe will turn out to be better than I remembered. I hope so anyway.

I’ve also come away with the feeling that the idea I had is actually for two stories rather than two arcs in the same book. And that very possibly I’m using the wrong perspective and the wrong main character. I wrote a bit using the new main character on Thursday and again yesterday and I like it a lot. It feels like better writing. But I think I’ll miss the person I thought was the main character. Which is why I’m thinking this is two stories not the one I thought it was.

More importantly being able to lose myself in my writing has helped me deal with a very difficult month with major wheelchair problems, several very sad happenings and lots of stress.

Taking part in NaNo has got me back into the habit of writing regularly once again. And it’s reawakened my love of writing. I needed that.

NaNo for me isn’t about writing a book, or finishing a book or anything like that it’s about writing and the fact it makes me do it. And tomorrow I get to go drink cocktails with a couple of very good friends (one I met through NaNo and one I got to know better through NaNo but knew before) and a bunch of new friends to celebrate that fact.

Surrounded by Sadness

After I wrote the things that make me happy post on Saturday I’d planned to write some more on the subject. I will write more on the subject I’m sure but tonight sees me writing about the opposite of happiness.

Because there is a hell of a lot of sadness around me lately.

I heard of the death of a friend of mine and my parents yesterday.

It was I think the sixth death I’ve heard of in the past seven weeks. Plus my Dad was saying he and my mum know of two others who have died recently.

Two distant family members. For one she was in her nineties and I think it wasn’t unexpected. The second was unexpected and frankly in shocking circumstances.
A very vague acquaintance I’d not seen in years and who probably didn’t remember me
Two people within the wider challenger sailing community, one of whom I’d met briefly once or maybe twice but mostly exchanged a few emails with. The second I don’t think I’d met or at least his name didn’t ring a bell. But he was sailing when he died and I do know the person who was on the boat with him at the time which got me a bit…
And now our family friend.

Funnily enough mum and I used to quite often see him and his wife at the arts centre. We were there three times last week and I’d commented to mum that we’d not seen them for ages and I was surprised they weren’t at the talk on the power station. Then we went to Gyles Brandreth on Saturday and we saw his wife (we know them because she was my carer when I was tiny before I went to school and they used to visit us at least every Christmas until I was well into my teens) with who I assume to be one of her granddaughters. She was telling us about her husband. How he was poorly and in hospital but it sounded like he was in good spirits. We said “send him our love” or words to that extent. And then we went into the show.

And afterwards I was by the merchandise table waiting to get my book signed. She came by and looked at the books. Picked one up saying she’d get it signed for her husband because he’d been meant to come to the show with her. Joined the queue behind me.

Then mid morning yesterday my phone rang.

When my mum rings in the middle of the day in the week it’s usually something wrong or some sort of specific question that needs an immediate answer, often tech support for her computer. And I could tell it wasn’t going to be one of those situations where I’m on the end of the phone trying to tell her how to find something on her laptop and getting annoyed because it’s so obvious if she’d just look properly and she’s at the other end getting even more annoyed and declaring “stupid computer!” In the tone of voice she gets when she’s about ready to chuck it out the window.

And it wasn’t.

She was ringing to tell me of a trip to Tesco, of hearing that our friend had died and a long hug in the middle of the supermarket.

Yet more sadness. Like a bolt from the blue.

I’ve been dealing with a lot of problems lately. Wheelchair issues with both my manual and powerchairs, anaemia, the hospital transport disaster last week. I’ve been feeling crap. I’m run down I think and pretty stressed.

But at the same time all I keep hearing lately is about sad things. People struggling and so many deaths. I don’t remember ever hearing of so many deaths in such a short period before. And in a way that scares me.

It’s like I’m surrounded in the periphery at least by sadness and people struggling.

Am I sad? Yes and no. I’m sad about our friend who just died. I had a drink at the arts centre at lunch with some other friends. It was weird to think he’ll never make me jump again by appearing behind me in there to say hello. I was sad to hear of the other deaths too. But most of all I’m sad for all the people around me who are struggling because of that.

So as much as I planned to sit down tonight and write my follow post about things that make me happy, I can’t. Because happiness and sadness go hand in hand. And I needed to write about that sadness first.

Self-Care Sunday: Something New and a Surprise

I’m continuing in my quest to spend less time online. I didn’t come on at all yesterday. Which is now two weeks running I’ve had a day off. And I suspect I’ll have one next week too if the weather doesn’t put paid to certain plans. I quite like it.

Mum and I went to a two hour craft workshop yesterday. It was on Mono Printing. I’d never done it before and to be honest I didn’t really know what it was. To start with I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it. It was a bit late starting because the majority of people doing it were late. And it was a bit slow getting going.

Mono printing, basically is where you get a sheet of plastic or similar and cover it in ink using a roller. You then put a piece of paper on top and draw or trace or even just press with your fingers a design. This then shows up as a print on the other side. It was very messy! We both had gloves on but Mum ended up with ink up her arms and on her elbow. And I’d meant to put my hair up but forgot. Meaning when I went to push it out of my eyes I got a nice blue streak on my forehead. Plus a red blob on my powerchair control. It took a scrub or two but it all came off.

Neither of us liked the first exercise he had us do but once he said go do your own thing and got us going with tracing stuff from magazines and making up our own designs we got quite into it. I ended up being a bit disappointed it wasn’t longer because I’d like to play more. Mum was talking about buying some of the stuff for another go so maybe we will…

I think my best piece was accidental however! I might take pictures tomorrow, I don’t really want to touch them in case the ink is still dry (I doubt it by now but last time I looked I got ink all over me again).

I read for an hour or so while having lunch when I got home. Then I took a two hour nap. I’d not intended to sleep that long but it was lovely.

My sister in law’s 30th birthday was this week and my brother surprised her with a trip away. They got home yesterday and he told her they were going out for dinner but that Mum and Dad wanted them to pop round first to give her their present.

She didn’t seem surprised to see a table with cake and presents and me, Sophie and James (Sophie’s partner) there as well. What she didn’t know but soon found out was that we were all in the kitchen but down in the bar/conservatory were 9 of their friends hiding. Mum lit the candles and we all started singing. At the same time Soph snuck down and got the others who walked up and joined in the singing.

Geri seriously had no idea. The look on her face said it all. She went from person to person hugging them while we finished singing and I thought at one point she was going to cry.

We had pizza and drinks (pink fizzy wine!) and hung out for a couple of hours. It was nice to see people and chat although I don’t know many of them that well. Everyone apart from my parents and me went into Oxford for cocktails then.

I stayed with my parents for another couple of hours chatting, watching tv and drinking some Smirnoff ice which mum had got for me for a treat (because I’d mentioned not having had any for years and sort of fancying some earlier in the week). I got home abut quarter past 10.

Yesterday was lots and lots of fun.

The National Diversity Awards

So if I were to mention the name Hannah Ensor or Stickman Communications I suspect a lot of people who read this would know who I meant.

Hannah and I have known each other since our school days. Back then I was rocking the wheelie thing but not quite as well as I do now. I was walking a lot of the time which took a lot of energy and I’d fall a lot. I didn’t hurt myself often having learnt mad falling skills. And the level of acceptance i have now (possibly better referred to as my “sod it quota”) was an unthought of dream,

Hannah was this accident prone girl who was always hurting herself in the most random ways and making us laugh. I swear I have more memories of teenage Hannah turning up to our weekly German lessons on crutches or otherwise injured than not. She denies this 😉

As teenagers often do we lost touch when school ended.

Then several years ago I was in town and someone with a really cool wheelchair was waiting in a queue next to me.

Hannah.

Turns out, she wasn’t as weirdly accident prone as we thought. She had a disability.

I see her semi regularly and sometimes we get together with another friend of ours. Its brilliant. we laugh a lot and support each other and its just great to be with old friends who understand that supermarket pharmacies are rubbish, buying bread in a bakery is NOT worthy of high praise, it is possible to have a favourite type of pain and, frankly, that applying to work part time for the fire service does kind of make sense as a plan for warding off relapses of potentially life threatening illnesses

Hannah’s awesome stickman products help bring a similar sort of education, acceptance and fun to the wider public when it comes to disability awareness. She’s been nominated for a National Diversity Award in the disability category because of this work. I think she deserves it and the more nominations she gets the more chance she has.

She doesn’t want to push it onto people too much so I’m asking here – please nominate Hannah!!

Here’s her press release:
Hannah Ensor, a cartoonist from Oxfordshire has been nominated for the Entrepreneur of Excellence (disability) award at The National Diversity Awards

The ceremony celebrates some of the excellent and inspiring achievements of positive role models and community organisations from across the UK. The awards aim to recognise nominees in their respective fields of diversity including age, disability, gender, race, faith, religion and sexual orientation.

Hannah Ensor lives with HMS/EDS (being far too bendy and falling apart) and PoTS (tap-dancing heart and appearing drunk without alcohol). For her, life with an uncooperative body is normal and the freedom of having a great set of wheels is simply marvellous.

Although initially trained as an Environmental Health Officer, her conditions deteriorated significantly in her mid 20’s and she was medically retired a few years later in 2010. Around this time, Hannah Ensor’s stickmen based approach to disability started as a way to communicate while unable to put a sentence together. It naturally grew into a business – communicating about disability with charm, humour, and unerring accuracy.

Her online shop www.stickmancommunications.co.uk stocks a whole range of her products, from stickers with her ‘Positive Disability Symbol’ design, to ‘differently normal’ wristbands, and Keyring Cards which help the user explain about their disability/how they are feeling/what they need effectively and with humour. From children’s books full of life and laughter – which just happen to include disability as normal, to cartoon gift books suitable for all ages which communicate about various aspects of life with disabilities, with humour and unerring accuracy.

Alongside the shop, Hannah’s blog, peppered with stickmen, works to raise understanding and acceptance of disability, not because she campaigns, but because she writes with openness and humour about her life in a way that is easy to relate to, and her enjoyment of life shines through.
Hannah also works closely with the Hypermobility Syndrome Association (for which she was appointed Patron for kids and teens in 2012) supporting others with her conditions and helping them make positive choices in managing it.

Some comments from her customers:
“Utterly inspiring and hilarious, she’s changing perspectives on disability in a fabulous way”
“I would never have put a universal disability logo on the car because of embarrassment but now I have this positive logo and I love it – I even have it on my kayak and I’m proud to show the world I’m positively different.”
“You have given me hope, thank you very much. I only saw dark days ahead of me but I think I should look at it differently. If I lose the use of my legs then there will be other experiences that I may never have tried. Thank you for being an inspiration with your attitude to life.”

The National Diversity Awards 2013 in association with Microsoft will be held at The Queens Hotel, Leeds on September 20th. Britain’s most inspirational people will come together to honour the rich tapestry of our nation, recognising individuals and groups from grass roots communities who have contributed to creating a more diverse and inclusive society.

Big Brother host Brian Dowling and CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell will be hosting this year’s event. The awards have also gained support from a number of celebrities including Stephen Fry, Beverley Knight and Ade Adepitan – and the Likes of Paralympic champion Jody Cundy, and Journalist Amal Fashanu were amongst last year’s attendees.

The largest diversity awards ceremony of its kind has generated great sponsors such as the co-operative Group, Sky, The Open University and Price Waterhouse Coopers.

Theresa McHenry, of Microsoft UK, said ‘The National Diversity Awards are a wonderful way to recognise the extraordinary contribution of real people to our communities. It’s a delight to be able to support this fantastic celebration of local heroes.’

Amongst last year’s winners was gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who scooped up The Lifetime Achiever Award; Trade Union activist Zita Holbourne who was awarded the positive role Model for Race and The Anthony Walker foundation, a charity established following the tragic murder of its namesake in a racially motivated attack.

The National Diversity Awards received an astonishing amount of nominations for last year’s event.

Paul Sesay, Chief Executive of The National Diversity Awards said, ‘if ever there was a time to celebrate and elevate the truly staggering diversity of talent the UK has to offer– it is now’

‘I know another fantastic spectacle of role models will be delivered and recognised this year’.

Nominations are now open and close July 19th 2013 – so don’t miss out on your chance to get involved!

Shortlisted nominees will be announced shortly after this date.

To nominate Hannah Ensor please visit: www.nationaldiversityawards.co.uk
Or for a nomination form please email: emma@thediversitygroup.co.uk

Rekindled

I’m reading a good book at the moment.  I hope to finish it tonight and I’ll review it for my blog in the next few days most likely.  When I flicked to the back to see how many pages it has I noticed that on the page after the end of the story there is the following quote.

“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.”
Albert Schweitzer

I’ve had a tough year I think it’s fair to say.  And things are greatly improving and I feel like I’m not in the best place I’ve ever been in but I’m certainly in a much better place, possibly even a good place.

I love quotes as anyone who has read my blog for a while will probably realise.  This resonnated with me a lot.

I’ve spent time this year feeling as though I was worthless.  As though the ridiculous disablism I experienced at the hands of the NHS (something I don’t think I ever shared fully on my blog and I doubt I ever will) destroyed my self esteem and confidence.  It’s coming back but I still feel more fragile and a lot less confident than I used it in some ways.

Putting myself back together isn’t something I can do alone though – I’m only where I am now because of the people who “blew my light into flame” if you will.

My family.  My friends. The ones who get the problem when I explain it and the others who get my text and immediately text back “oh fuck.” because that’s all there is to say and they know I can’t handle being told not to worry. The ones who point out the bigger picture.

The people from the You Know You Have CP When… group for providing me with a sense of solidarity and understanding I’ve not felt in a long time (seriously, 300+ CPers – you know you can post and at least one other is there to say “yup, been there.” HUGE.).

The people who had nothing to do with what happened but tell me the way I was treated was unacceptable and they’re sorry and will see what they can do. The guys at one of my favourite Oxford venues who at a point on Sunday when I was about to lose it inadvertantly made me laugh.  Those who lurk in the background.  The ones who deny they’re doing anything special. And, sadly, the ones who show their true colours making me realise I can’t trust them as much as I thought I could.

Those who do things I would never expect.  On Sunday the Oxfordshire NaNoWriMo kick off meeting was at a venue I’ve been to once before but not since I’ve had this chair.  I’d forgotten that the entrance wasn’t properly ramped which meant I couldn’t get in as trying to go up it triggered the safety cut off thing.

My friend is one of the organisers this year and came over to see what was up. She said she was really sorry (to which I said it wasn’t her fault) and that next week we’ll go to another venue which has great access plus totally rocks. By this time I’ve got the cafe owner trying to make stupid suggestions of what I can do to get over it (it’s a mechanism which kills all my momentum if I try and go up something particularly steep to prevent the chair tipping and it can’t be overridden or pushed past  “Go as far as you can then stop and try again and “go backwards” won’t work). When my mate then asked what about now I said I was leaving because I couldn’t handle any more faffing and knew I’d cry if I had to.

10 mins later I was almost to the station when I had a call saying was I on the train yet because all 14 of them were leaving the cafe for the accessible venue. I went back to meet them and got there before them. Two of that 14 are my friends and three others I’d met briefly before. I was blown away that a group of mostly strangers would do that for me. Hell in the past I’ve had difficulty getting groups where practically everyone knows me to use venues I can access.

I try to always say thank you to those who prop me up and support me but I fear I’m not always clear or successful enough.  My light wouldn’t have come back anywhere near as quickly if not for all the people who surround me.

Thank you.