An update on Blogtober

My attempts to do Blogtober, were I said, going to be kill or cure for this blog that I keep almost abandoning, then trying to resurrect only to practically abandon it again. And actually they are going pretty well.

I have several ideas for blogs but sometimes I don’t have time to write them. That’s the problem today. There’s been a few tiny niggles. Insignificant in the grand scheme of things but time consuming and a little bit mentally draining.

And as much as I planned to write a post about Frida Kahlo and disability, another one about disabled characters in books and possible one with some writing thoughts, my main thought when it came to blogging tonight was “oh god, I need to write a blog.”

So that’s how Blogtober is going. I’m glad to be blogging again and I’m mostly enjoying it. But today I’m not. And that’s ok.

Telling My Story

My quickie jive powerchair. The focus is on the workings (and it's in the up position) and all you can see of me is my arm/legI’ve been disabled from birth and I’m proud to be a wheelchair user.

I love my powerchair, it’s scratched and squeaky, muddy but magic.  I’ve dripped pasta sauce all over it and bled on it. I’ve tangled the wool from my crafts under it and had to call for help when a duvet cover got jammed in the wheels.  I’ve drunk cocktails in it, danced in it and carted home heavy bags from the supermarket in it. It lets me live my life and do what I want. Someone described it as my independence but it’s more than that, it’s a part of my body.

This chair has taken me on over 1700 miles of shopping, appointments, memories, struggles and life in general in the 18 months I’ve had it. But lately it feels as though people are forgetting about me, that I’m Emma and more than the wheels that move me.

(I originally wrote this at a blogging workshop about telling your story. The exercise was to take a photo of you or part of you and then write a short piece/caption)

Kicking The Bucket

Content Note: This post mentions death. More so in the post linked at the end of this post then in this post.

I’ve written before about the fact that I’ve been doing the NCTJ Foundation Certificate in Journalism.  And as a part of that there’s a unit of blogging and our tutor arranged for each of us to have the oppportunity to guest blog on a site called Kicking the Bucket.

Kicking the Bucket is an Oxford based festival which will happen for the third time in October/November this year.  It’s a festival about living and dying. It looks like they have some interesting events planned.  I probably won’t go to any as they all seem to be at times I’m likely to find tricky or places that would be a struggle to get to.  I have however found the blogs that are being posted (by many people not just my fellow journalism students) thought provoking.

We were asked to write about any aspect of death we wanted to and it was suggested that it should be somewhat personal.  The topic caused a lot of discussion and I thought of many things I could have written about – disability issues (I decided that wasn’t suited to that site) and language around death being two of them.  I actually decided to write about how social media influences our dealings with death.

My post is Death in the Facebook Age.

 

Snapshot

When I write a blog (or a tweet or facebook post) I’m writing about a moment.  What I write is a snapshot.  It shows what happened and how I feel about it right then. And it shows what I want to share.

It doesn’t show anything that I’m worried may compromise my own privacy or safety or that of anyone else.

It doesn’t show every option I’ve considered or every word someone said when I’m writing about doing things or conversations. I’m about blogging details without being too exact or too boring. But I do sometimes use my blog as a recording device for my own record.

It doesn’t show what happens ten minutes after I hit post or how having the outlet of typing it out and sharing my thoughts can at times make me feel better.

This blog does, I hope, show who I am and what I am and give a good overview of all of that and the things I’m passionate about.

And books. I hope this blog is great when it comes to books.

I love blogging.  I love that I have so many years worth of recorded stories and memories.

I love that I can search on my blog for something (last night it was what I’d blogged about Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows) and then get lost reading days or weeks or months of entries that I’d mostly forgotten.  Reminders of funny stories, family weddings, things I did thought, and enjoyed.  And yes sometimes the sucky or frustrating things too.

This blog is not my full story. It’s never been or will ever be my full story.  As much as I hate abridged books – that’s what this blog is.  The abridged Life and Times of Emma (many years ago, around 2006 this blog had the tag line “The Life and Times of Emma”).

And yes, this is a snapshot too. I’ve told you what I’m thinking about blogging tonight but I haven’t told you why, have I?

(Oh and when I read back my predictions for Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows I was surprised how accurate they were.)

edit: Holly’s comment below made me remember something I heard about legacies and the internet which I wrote about here

Beyond Definition

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this topic before but I can’t find the post (one of the downside of having blogged for 15+ years although it’s not really a downside…). So I will write it again and hope not to end up rehashing too much old ground.

As a person I’m more than what most people think I am. People see me, see my wheelchair and they think they know who and what I am. But they don’t. I’m a writer, a crafter, a reader, a CAB volunteer, a sailor, a sister, a new aunt and a blogger. I’m all too often lazy, I’m fat, I wear glasses and right now I’m sleepy. And yes I can’t walk. It’s part of who I am and it influences my life in massive ways.  It’s not my whole life.

People don’t tend to see it that way. We like to know who people are and when you see me in my big powerchair that’s battered and often covered in mud it’s an obvious and easy assumption to make. Emma? She’s a wheelchair user. But if that’s all you see then really you’re missing out on me.

I’ve been thinking about that because the blogging challenge I’m taking part in required you to post what category your blog was in. And mine didn’t really fit into any of the limited categories. Everyday you post you have to specify what category that post falls under from an even more limited list of categories. There isn’t an other or none of the above option.

The categories are important according the organisers (and I guess they do help picking out others posts to read) and people would benefit from this as it would help them know who their audience is.  I know who my audience is – anyone who wants to read it.  I don’t know what my category is.

I blog about what I’m thinking about. I write about the books I’m reading, the places I’ve been and occasionally the people I’ve seen. I write about disability, things that I’m thinking about, and rarely politics. I post photos, take about crafts and sailing and absolutely anything else that comes to mind.

This has been called a disability blog before.  It’s not something I set out to be.  I’ve been called a book blogger as well and that is something I work consciously on and write a lot about. But if you come here and are put off because it’s not just about disability (I can’t remember when I last wrote a post just about that but I will have one later this week) or because I write about things other than books this isn’t the blog for you.

I can’t categorise my blog because it’s beyond definition. There are entries on here dating back to 2006, over 1000 of them (and more dating back to 2000 lost to the depths of the Internet in other places). It’s wide and huge and a little bit scary to think about how much is here and how many hours and days I’ve spent writing these entries and sharing my thoughts.  And it’s not just one or two things – in those 15 years I’ve gone from my first year at uni to a new graduate living alone for the first time to where I am now.

So if you’re new here from the Ultimate Blogging Challenge or anywhere else then welcome. But please take a look around and see what there is here before you put this blog (or me) into a little box based on assumptions. Neither the blog nor me does that very well and we’ve much more to offer.

Opening Lines

Here are my Opening Lines of 2015 – the first line of the first blog post of every month.  I found this really interesting last year looking back so I wanted to do it again this year. Looking at these you’d think all I’d blogged about this year was self care and books. Link to the post is in brackets.

January – I promised myself I’d make more of my blogging this year. (Self Care Sunday)

February – This week has been a difficult one in many ways. (Self Care Sunday)

March – 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) (Self Care Sunday)

April – (I had intended to post this a couple of days ago but the last two have been good but busy) (A to Z Blogging Challenge)

May – I bought four books in Waterstones last Sunday.  (Reading Down My TBR Pile – Week Six)

June – I think I’m going to move these posts permanently to Monday. (Reading Down My TBR Pile – Week Ten)

July – A combination of a couple of train journeys – including to Birmingham and back – and several late nights sat enjoying the cool of the evening in the garden mean I think I’ve read the most this week that I have since I started writing these weekly “what I’ve been reading” posts. (Reading Down My TBR Pile – Week Fifteen)

August – For the small things worth mentioning but probably not worth a blog entry of their own (Random Bullet Points of Life)

September – I’ve enjoyed every single Colette Caddle book I’ve read and so when I saw her new book, A Summer Breeze, was available to review I was really keen to have a copy. (A Summer Breeze by Colette Caddle)

October – Language around disability is a really tricky thing. (“Special Needs”)

November – Once again I’ve been a bad blogger. (Bad Blogger)

December – Actual news, not personal news that is. (All Things News)

A Summer Breeze by Colette Caddle

I’ve enjoyed every single Colette Caddle book I’ve read and so when I saw her new book, A Summer Breeze, was available to review I was really keen to have a copy. I can confirm that A Summer Breeze was well worth the read and I enjoyed it.   It’s being published on 24th September 2015.

 

All Zoe Hall has ever wanted to do is act, then love got in the way of her dreams. But now that she has divorced her husband and come home to Dublin, she is determined to get her career back on track. It’s easier said than done though and she earns just as much helping out her caterer friend, Tara Devlin, as she does from acting.

Finally she is offered a juicy part courtesy of Tara’s famous actor father and heart-throb, Terence Ross. It looks like finally Zoe is going to get a chance to show off her talents – or is she?

At a time when she should be concentrating solely on her acting role, Zoe finds herself drawn deep into the lives, loves and heartaches of the people around her, not least that of her beloved brother, Shane. Consumed by her need to help, Zoe is in grave danger of missing out on her second chance, a chance that may also be her last…

A compelling, emotional story from number one bestseller Colette Caddle.

Collette Caddle’s rapidly becoming one of my “go to”authors when I want an escapist chicklit book – one where I know whatever happens it’ll be a happy ending and I’ll enjoy the journey along the way. Plus she writes Irish fiction and there’s just something about Irish women’s fiction. I can’t explain why but it’s a section of the genre I especially enjoy.

A Summer Breeze is the story of Zoe who is finding her way again after giving up her career for her now exhusband. I enjoyed seeing her grow and change throughout the book and could relate to the times when she was torn and pulled between what she wanted to do for her and what she needed to do for others. One thing that was done particularly well in A Summer Breeze was the portrayal for a character with a mental health condition.  I’ve noticed this is somethng that often features in a Colette Caddle book but she seems to do it slightly different each time which I liked.

I was reading it in the hotel in Birmingham before going to see The Bodyguard and was hard pressed to put it down and go out, kept thinking “I don’t need to get ready yet…” thankfully I needed to do very little to get ready or I might have missed the show! This kept me guessing, smiling and laughing until the end.  There’s a secret in the book that the plot resolves around and I had absolutely no idea what it was but when it was revealled I thought it made sense and worked perfectly.

Well worth a look if you want to try a new author. And if you’ve read a Colette Caddle book before and are wondering if you should read this I’d vote yes.

Books and The City Spring Blogger Evening

Tuesday found me on a train back to London, this time to attend the Books and The City Spring Blogger Evening (Books and The City is part of Simon and Schuster).

I had a great time. I saw several of the friends I made at the creative writing masterclass and enjoyed catching up with them.  I also got to talk to a few people I hadn’t met before. Ideally I would have liked to talk to a few more of the people I only know from twitter but it wasn’t to be and it didn’t matter because we do have twitter.

I got several compliments on my blog which was great – apparently people loved my recent entry about the train to London and it made them laugh. I feel more confident now.

There were snacks and drinks and fizz. And there were five authors there who all read parts of their latest books. We got given a chapter sampler at the end which had the first chapter(s) of each of current books and I got it signed after. I also picked up entirely too many books and had the chance to talk to each of the authors some only whilst they were signing for me, some in more depth.

Jane Costello read from her soon to be released book The Love Shack.  I’m really looking forward to reading it, the bits she read were pretty funny and it sounded great. Hearing her talk about it made me think of my sister Sophie because The Love Shack is about a couple who move in with his mum to allow them to save up to buy a house. And Sophie and her partner James recently moved in with my parents for a few months for similar reasons. I doubt my own mum is as difficult as the mum in the book sounds though. Jane Costello written several other books and I’m not sure if I’ve read her before or not but I picked up several of her back list at the event.

Iona Grey read from Letters to The Lost which is coming out in April. I read it a few weeks ago and absolutely loved it.  Hearing her read it made me want to read it again. I saw on Twitter earlier that one of my friends also has a review copy and started it today. I’m a little jealous, I must be honest that she’s getting to discover it for the first time.  Iona made a point of telling me how glad she was to meet me and how much she loved my review. She was extremely lovely and said some great things about my writing which was pretty “wow!” and a great boost.

I’ve had a copy of The Two of Us by Andy Jones on my shelf for ages (it’s already out in ebook and will be out in paperback in May) but have been putting off reading it after hearing it has a subplot about the MC’s friend who has a terminal illness (One of my friends is terminally ill and I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to read it).  I liked the extract he read. And watching Andy and Claire Hey his editor dance around trying to avoid revealing a major twist in the book whilst discussing it really intrigued me, sending it flying up near the top of my TBR pile.

Watching Heidi Swain present about her book The Cherry Tree Cafe which is being released as an ebook in July was a great moment because we met at the creative writing masterclass, got to be friends and have kept in touch since. Watching her progress with her writing since that day has been inspirational.  It features crafts and cake and sounds like my sort of read. Must admit I’ve been on to Amazon and clicked “pre order” on that today – and I basically never preorder books.

Last up was Milly Johnson reading from Afternoon Tea at The Sunflower Cafe. I love Milly Johnson books and she’s a brilliant speaker. Afternoon Tea at The Sunflower Cafe sounds sure to be another hit full of feel good and happily ever after and having heard an extract I do not want to wait until June to read it!  I picked up several of her backlist and thought it meant I’d now got all of hers but having looked when I got home I’ve ended up with a duplicate or two and I still need at least one. Trying to resist ordering that right this minute.

Rotation Curation for #Disability #rocur

I’ve been curating the @OxfordIsYours twitter account.  It’s a RoCur (Rotation Curation) account for Oxford and the person who runs it said living in Oxfordshire counts.

Basically RoCur is where there’s an account (often on twitter) where people take a week at a time to run it and share their experiences and tweet on the subject.  Most of these relate to places – like with Oxford Is Yours I’ve been tweeting about where I’ve been and what I’ve done – but some relate to hobbies or jobs or organisations or anything else.

I’ve been enjoying it and have learned about a place in Oxford I’m going to visit soon I didn’t know about. I’ve also met a couple of new tweeters who I’ll follow from my own account when the week is over. And possibly have a couple of other places and events in mind I’d like to go to the logistics of which may prove tricky as they aren’t in places I can get to easy.  That’s basically the point of rocur – to share tips, tricks, and experiences and recommend places and venues.  The person who runs OxfordIsYours said to me last weekend she was looking forward to reading a week in my life and that’s basically what it is.

Admittedly days like today when I’m close to home and not doing very much it feels like a struggle to have anything relevant to the account to tweet. But on the whole it’s been an interesting and fun experience and I’m glad I’ve done it.

I’d really like to have a go at curating People of UK for a week.  But what I’d really really like is for their to be a disability rocur.

And as far as I can tell there isn’t one.

I’m thinking about setting one up.  I know of one other person who is interested in taking part. But I think we need more than that to set it up.

So I need help to do that.  I need to know if people are interested in that.  And if so

I need people to be curators.

I need people to signal boost this message

And I need people to read and comment and tweet and just generally try to use this as a way to make our already pretty awesome disabilty community online better and more of a community.

I was asked on twitter what definiton of disability I would apply and I’m going to go relatively wide and say you simply have to self identify as disabled.  I am however going to specify that this is not at present open to carers because I want it to be a space where disabled people can share and speak for themselves.

Once I know that there’s some life in this idea and people are interested I will write up some more guidelines with specifics but basically it doesn’t just have to be about the disability side of being a disabled person.

Let me know in comments if you are interested or tweet me @FunkyFairy22

 

Normal, Mundane and Boring

This is something I’ve been thinking I should blog for a few months but haven’t got round to. I was talking to someone about the internet and disability earlier and this was something I mentioned. So now I’m blogging it.

I think sometimes it’s very easy to blog about the things that make me angry or that annoy me or that happen out of the ordinary. Generally things I blog about are things that I’m passionate about and often times that passion comes across in blogging about negative things.  It’s easy to forget to blog about the other side of the story – the times when things go well or are positive. Usually because that’s just routine and isn’t really worth noting.

Back in November I went to London and I had an absolutely terrible journey home. There was an issue with part of the tube not running and my need for step free access making finding an alternative route difficult (this was in part due to a failure on my part as an advocate because I didn’t have the knowledge to push for what should have happened to happen). And then there were big problems with the regular trains due to overruning engineering works and again.  It was frankly a nightmare

Early last year I also had a bit of a nightmare journey. In part because I was using stations I’d not done before, in part because it was during the floods and in part because I was travelling with a couple of people I’d not done before. And their expections of what would happen, my expectations of what should happen and the reality of what did happen were all slightly different.

I then spoke a few months ago to someone who was with me for one of those journeys and told them about the other.  I know they read my blog so they may have read other stories of difficult trips. This led to their commenting that I “don’t have much luck” travelling on the train

And nothing could be further from the truth.

By my reckoning since the beginning of this year I’ve

Been to Reading once – and that train journey was fine.

Been to Birmingham once which involved changing trains at Oxford – and those journeys were unremarkable

Been to London Paddington once – apart from having to chase after the assisted travel staff member when he tore off from the customer reception to my platform faster than I could go it was fine. Terminal stations, particularly London ones have a reputation for making you wait for assistance but there was a man with a ramp ready and waiting when the train pulled in. I came back on an earlier train than I was booked on and asked my Dad to go to the station at this end to meet me. When he got there they said “We know she’s coming on the earlier train!”

And counting today I’ve been to Oxford at least four times. I did have to come back via Reading on one of them because of a broken lift. But it was easy and I got to chat to someone who works there I’ve known for years but hadn’t seen for ages.

That’s basically 17 trains. (7 return journeys, one of which involved a change and my extra diversion to Reading). 34 interactions with station staff who needed to be there with a ramp and help me. One that was a problem but which was quickly and easily resolved with little stress. And none of them were negative or bad or really worth remembering.

It can hardly be described as my having solely bad experiences with the trains.

But – and I suspect this is true of many things if I think about this – I don’t blog about the normal because it’s mundane and boring and not worth doing so.

I think perhaps I should.