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.

A book that blew my mind #fridayreads #amreading

I have a copy of a book called 1001 books you must read before you die. There have been several editions of this book so at various times different books have been put on the list and taken off again (and in the case of Memoirs of a Geisha I believe returned to the most recent edition of the list).

I have the 2010 edition but I also have an app on my iPad and a spreadsheet both of which list every single book that have ever appeared on an edition of the 1001 books you must read before you die list. I believe the total number of books is 1300 some odd. I’ve read about 133 of those.

I have no intention of reading every single book on the list (although the app tells me I could with time to spare based on my age and the average UK lifespan for a female). I do use it for inspiration for reading material and a way of finding new things to read. Because of the list I’ve discovered some authors I love – Haruki Murakami is one of those and I think Muriel Spark is shaping up to be another but I probably need to read another of hers (I’ve read two) to be definite.

Earlier this week I requested a bunch of titles from the library. All ones that are on the list. One of the ones I requested was The Wonderful O by James Thurber. I knew very little about the book. Mostly just it was one of the shortest books on the list (it’s 80 pages). I’d looked it up in the library catalogue before but every time I did it said it was in the store. But on Monday I figured it was worth requesting.

Thursday it was at my local library for me to collect along with some of my other requests. I’d assumed it was in the store because it wasn’t popular or because it’d been released so long ago (1958).

I enjoyed the story. It’s the perfect length for sitting and reading in one go on a lazy Friday afternoon after a busy week. It’s a really sweet kids one with gorgeous illustrations. The basic premise is an evil man takes over a town and bans the letter O because he doesn’t like it.

What really blew me away was the book itself. Oxfordshire library service doesn’t stamp the date books are due back in books anymore. That’s a no-no in this age of Internet and self service. And I think in a way that’s a shame.

But this still had its ticket of date stamps in it. I could tell looking at it, it was an old book.

But I didn’t expect was to see the first time it was issued was in 1958. It’s not a first edition but it is from the year of publication.

It’s got the old book feel. It’s got the old book smell that’s so nice. New books smell good but not like this. And it’s got pages so thick and sturdy I kept stopping to check page numbers because turning them I thought I must have turned more than one by accident. They don’t make books like that any more.

Being that the reservations are kept right by the desk, I got them to check them out for me. I thought they would say there was a problem and I couldn’t take it. When I was all checked out and she was handing them to me I expected her to tell me to be careful with it. She didn’t.

Part of me wanted to go “this is so old and so nice. It’s practically a piece of history and a work of art. I’m clearly not to be trusted with something like that. It’s too precious, what are you doing letting me take it?!”

Because never mind the fact that books been part of the library service since before I was born. It was actually first issued the year before my Mum was born.

That really blows me mind.

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The cover and spine of the book. It’s an old fashioned, faded red hardback with a plain cover and no dust jacket
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The inside title page of the book
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The very first page inside with the ticket showing the stamped return by dates ranging between 1958, 1990 which appears to be the last time it was out and 1996 when it went to the store.
20131025-212203.jpgtwo inside pages with text and illustration (not every page has illustrations)

You Know You’re A Book Blogger When…

…you go to a club (Varsity in Cardiff) as part of your soon to be Sister in Law’s Hen Weekend. And some book shelves on one wall catch your eye.

Lots of books there. And as much as you’re enjoying dancing part of you wants to go check the books out, wonders what the deal is (are they just to read there or is it a book crossing thing) and wishes there were enough light to look at them properly. But more than anything you love to dance and don’t get to do it enough so you leave the books and lose yourself in the music.

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(image shows bookcases in a club with some books on. There are chairs in front, some of which have coats on. The picture isn’t overly clear because everything is tinted red by the lights in the club)

Party Memories (part one)

Small bullet point memories of my 30th birthday party.  I’ve been putting off writing this until I feel less depressed.  I do feel like things are moving forward from that point of view but they’re still bad.  It occurred to me however that I might feel better for thinking and writing about something very cheerful so here goes…

  • It was really, really good fun. I danced so much that my back hurt most of the next day.  That was totally worth it.
  • I’d really agonised over the venue because the party room and bar are on one floor and the two disabled loos are on another (right next to each other which I’m sure made sense to someone…).  There is a lift but I’d worried with the number of wheelchair users we might end up with there could be a big hassles with that. But unfortunately we couldn’t find another venue.  I think I invited seven other wheelchair users but actually the only other wheelie there was <a href=”http://stickmancommunications.blogspot.com”>Hannah</a>. So it worked really great from that point of view.
  • My birthday is actually Christmas Day so this was a very late party (due to Christmas being a rubbish time for any other form of party).  I never expected presents and if anyone asked me what I wanted I told them they didn’t need to bring me presents.  I got loads and loads of presents actually which I didn’t expect.  Some really great stuff too.
  • In terms of who was there I’ve been using the term weird to describe it.  Which probably isn’t the right one. Unexpected, probably is. Basically when I did the invites there were people I thought probably wouldn’t be able to come and others I thought for sure would come. There were also people who I thought wouldn’t stay long and others who I thought would be there until the bitter end.  But it felt like I was wrong on all of those. It was almost like if you were one of the ones I’d suspected (or in some cases they had said)  were coming for an hour or so only you stayed for way longer and one or two I’d figured would be first in last out were anything but.
  • Of my three cousins on my Mum’s side I’d been told two (plus partners) were coming but one couldn’t make it. What actually happened was the two I was expected both didn’t due to illness but the one I wasn’t expecting and his partner turned up and surprised me. Fun stuff and a very nice surprise!
  • Several other people who had said they were coming then didn’t come.  Some let me know not to expect them in advance and others didn’t. In one particular case I found out from another friend that they’d decided not to come which I was absolutely livid about (this was a few days before the party).
  • One of my besties wasn’t well and didn’t come but then popped round the following morning bringing (yet another) unexpected birthday present and an “unbirthday” card. Apparently her husband was very confused by the unbirthday bit as he didn’t know you could buy those. Somehow he missed that fact that card making is her hobby and she’d made it! She then stayed for a while to hear all about the party which was fun. I must admit when she rang however I was all “you can come so long as I don’t have to get dressed.” and I just threw some jama bottoms on while I waited for her.
  • My mum and sister made a massive chocolate marble cake in the shape of a 30.  They made two big roasting tins full of cake and cut it out freehand (using a template). 75 eggs went into the making of said cake bits of which I believe are still in my parents freezer.
  • Everyone gathered round in a big circle with me in the middle to sing happy birthday and for me to blow out the candles.  I think my brother had difficulty holding the cake for that… he certainly said it was heavy at the time.
  • They then did three cheers for me which was embarrassing but sort of fun and everyone danced to Chesney Hawkes One and Only which is my absolute favourite song.  Brilliant and the only time we had absolutely everyone dancing.

Wow actually I’ve gone into way more detail and said much more than I planned about the party. I’m really tired and I think I’ll save the rest of this for tomorrow to save writing a total dissertation in one blog entry.  Writing this has cheered me up and made me smile though… 😉

>I Saw A Mouse! Where?

>Yesterday it was arranged that early this morning someone would be popping round for a few minutes to grab something.

I let them in, getting out of bed only when I heard the doorbell and then went to the loo after letting them in.  They wandered into my lounge.

The next thing I hear is them screaming “oh my god oh my god ARGH”

They thought they’d seen a mouse running across the middle of my lounge. At just before 8 in the morning.  It’s safe to say they were freaked out.

I was a bit ARGH about the idea of a mouse in my flat but didn’t have time to get out of the bathroom before they calmed down and reported that it wasn’t a mouse.

It was a very small amount of yarn. They’d knocked it with their foot and it had rolled across the room.

They explained why they thought it was a mouse running across the room and said “you can see why I thought that.” then looked at me and realised I couldn’t.  Then got what they came for and went off.

And I went back to bed.

That’s not what I expected to happen.  But it made for an interesting start to the day!  Nevertheless I hope not to start my day like that again.

>Opening Gambit

>I had the most bizarre experience earlier today.  I was walking up to the bureau about lunchtime and there with this guy on a push bike who was riding along but slowed down to talk to me.  Not someone I know.

The very first thing he said was “people laugh at you all the time because you’re disabled.”  Weird.

Then he started talking about how my chair means I can go down the town and run people over.  The main gist of what he was saying was things about how “isn’t it good what disabled people can do these days?” I responded to him a bit then said I needed to get on and couldn’t chat.  I sped up a bit in my chair but he kept pace on his bike and kept talking, asking me questions.  So I just stopped responding.  Eventually he said he had to go and cycled off.

I was telling some of the others about it in the bureau.  One of them said they thought he was lonely and said that people do that sometimes, pick up on differences when they need to talk.  Said they’ve had their own differences to the cookie cutter Brit stereotype picked up on at times too by strangers looking to chat.  Which is interesting because my differences and his couldn’t be more different.

Someone else said that there’s been something on TV lately (which I don’t know about) which had stuff about people laughing at disabled people.  She thought he could have said the thing about laughing to mean that I shouldn’t worry because he wasn’t doing it.

I don’t know and I probably never will but it certainly struck me as a bit of a bizarre opening gambit.

The things people say to me about being in a wheelchair and because of being in a chair is actually something I’ve been thinking about blogging about for a while, particularly about how I react to those things.  Because recent events make me think maybe I need to change it a bit.  So it’s apt that this happened today.  But for now, I think I will leave that here.

>The Hairy Bikers Big Night Out (AKA After 10 Days, Emma Goes Out!)

>The Hairy Bikers last night was sooo much fun!  Absolutely hilarious.  My friend was going to drive but then my Dad offered as his car has 4 wheel drive which was cool as it meant we could have a few drinks.

The arts centre has two very cool dedicated wheelchair spaces at the back which me and my friend have dubbed the Royal Box and they can put you in the front row – the seats are fold down and they reserve you two to make a wheelchair space as a chair is bigger than one of the seats.  But they don’t put two seat numbers on the tickets.  I tend to prefer the back spaces because you can spread out a bit and especially for comedy (after sitting at the front for a comedy thing and having the comedian asking me questions one times).    For Hairy Bikers however we were at the front so we could be close for any food they might be dishing out.  It’s a bit strange as the stage area isn’t raised at all so you literally are right by the performers and vice versa.

So first there was a bit of confusion when I asked the ushers which was our “extra seat” and they didn’t know anything about the whole extra seat for a wheelchair user thing and we had to explain it about three times (the ushers are volunteers but at least one of them had been doing it for a long time so I was surprised he wasn’t aware of the policy) but then he went and found out for me.  Previously I’ve just taken one of the seats next to ours as my extra and figured if I’ve guessed wrong I’ll shift along.  But that’s been proven not to work so well a couple of times so…

Anyway the Hairy Bikers talked a bit about their history and how they met and what they’ve done.  They also did a load of cooking (it was described as Cooking and Comedy) and in the first half they made a prawn curry.  They had a table set for two up with them and got two people out of the audience who they basicallyt gave a whole dinner too and some tiger beer.  Some poppadoms where given those in the front of the audience which they made and fried as we watched – there was a “camera fairy” up with them putting close ups on a screen of the cooking so you could see  The Poppadoms were nice and they also gave kitchen roll as “you don’t want cacky hands”

After the interval they got two more people up and blindfolded them and did a taste test.  They gave the woman a glass of wine and said “is it white or red?” it was red but she said it was white.  They also fed her something and said “which root vegetable is this?” and she was all “broccoli” which is amusing because that isn’t a root vegetable – it was swede.  In other news, swede and turnip are the same thing – I didn’t know that.  Then they gave her husband some meat to taste which he got right – pork – but he also said was dry.  Finally they said they were going to give them a savoury snack (that went to both of them) which they thought was pork scratchings but it was fried cricket!

The Hairy Bikers then cooked an Italian steak dish which they gave to the same couple to try but they’d been for dinner first so didn’t have much of it.  They also had a bottle of red wine (Chianti?) and water on the table for them.

When they were chatting to that couple Si went to kiss the lady on the cheek but she shied away a bit and everyone was laughing at his antics.  So he then walks over to me and leans down and puts an arm on my shoulder and kisses me on the cheek, a long exaggerated kiss on the cheek – or so it felt to me.  I was laughing so hard I was shaking while he was there.  Then he went back on stage and went “I love girls I do!”

They also cooked a vegetarian pasta thing – with linguini and ribbons of courgette I think.  They gave some bowls to about three people in the audience but they didn’t have forks for them so they gave them tongs and other kitchen implements which they managed pretty well with and was funny to watch.  The ushers brought them forks from the bar though.  I think they should have made them keep using the tongs etc though.  I think the most amusing cooking tip they gave was using a Ped Egg to do parmasan – although they did say it should be one just used for the cheese, LOL.

So then for the finale, Dave stripped all his clothes off to reveal he was wearing a blue and silver shiny leotard thing underneath and Si was playing a kids drum kit then  Dave got a big bunch of yellow flowers (Freesias I think but don’t quote me!), stuck one between Si’s teeth and shared the rest out.  He gave one to my friend and one to me – we were the last I think and then he knelt down on one knee in front our seats and started singing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”  They put the words on the screen and people sang along and they they did “Dancing Queen” and that was that for the night.

It was such a great night – absolutely hilarious and completely different from what I expected!