Category: Other

Being Ill is so Frustrating (by )

So I have a shonky immune system - I tend to pick up chest infections and stuff that makes others ill for a few days can take me out for weeks. This hasn't been so bad since finding out I can't eat gluten but it is still there.

And it is incredibly frustrating... so last the week before last I was a little run down, I got a cyst and a sore throat, everyone else got a sore throat and a slight cough. They got better within a couple of days. The stupid cyst got worse and then popped (which was a relief) and I was just left feeling a little chesty but that was it.

I thought I was basically better, but only just, so I went to my rehearsal for the acting job I love. Now I could have not gone to it and done a rehearsal plus shift on Saturday but that's a long day and I have to avoid stupid long days due to the head injury etc... and I thought I was better so I went to the rehearsal which was outside in the rain. Before the session was even over I started to feel stuffy headed and to cough, sneeze etc...

Roll on yesterday where I spent the day curled up coughing my lungs up, with ear ache, nausea and no to little voice. I had a slight temperature, I've felt worse - in the past when I have pushed myself whilst feeling like this I have ended up sick for months and ended up with full blown pneumonia and in hospital on oxygen etc... I never want that to happen again so I will confess I am a bit more of a scaredycat/I need to rest person these days. Plus I don't really think it's fair to infect others and part of the problem I have is that people go out when they are sick and infect me with my dodgy immunity!

Our cultures entire work ethic is just power through! Dose yourself up and get on with it - but that is incredibly damaging to everybody and down right dangerous for those with low immunity.

But... but... I also can't stand letting people down and so yesterday morning having slept through the school run and being barely able to stay upright I was still trying to work out how to work. I had a workshop booked for the evening. Then I sneezed and it was EXPLOSIVE and I thought - damn I must be infectious I can't go and infect people, I'm a bio hazard and I had to contact people and say I couldn't run the workshop... and this hurt - it hurt like hell. I was letting people down.

At the same time I'm trying to think on this as damage limitation - if I don't cancel one or two things now then I might well be wiped out until after Christmas and that would mean letting down a hell of a lot more people.

This morning my temperature has broken and I managed breakfast properly, but I am coughing and snotting still and the coughing has pinged something in my back and I think if I go and try and run about in a wet field for a few hours I will be very ill... so I have just texted to cancel the acting shift for tomorrow - the shift that was the whole point of going for the Wednesday rehearsal :'(

I really really wanted to do this shift and not just from the not wanting to let people down point of view - I love this work, I love the acting and it's opening night and it's the night that people are coming to see me and now I wont be there and I'll miss all the professional photographs and so on.

But if I don't take the time off now I risk not being able to do any of the run - but I've just canceled my first shift!!! How unreliable does that make me? 🙁

I've said that if I am suddenly a lot better I will come in still but at the moment I still can't breath properly. I am hoping that I'll be better for Sunday when I'm running a craft workshop (inside) - kind of trying for damage limitation here - but I feel pretty crap emotionally as well as physically now.

I feel like a failure when I can't do things.

Day 2 of being curled up in my nest.

20 yrs Ago… (by )

20 yrs ago, me and my friends Nikki and Helen went nervously to our school to collect our GCSE results. I at least was petrified, I believed that everything hinged on the results. I'd had noise bleeds and panic attacks trying to get through the damn things.

The added pressure for me was that I had a hell of a lot to prove - it wasn't just my future that was at stake - it was me myself - it was my self worth.

I am [dyslexic](, very dyslexic, I have ADHD and dyspraxia too - I was not statemented for the dyslexia at this point. There was no extra time or allowances for SPAG made, some of the papers I sat I'd only gotten to the centre of the exam paper before the exam time run out. I also had several stints on walking aids and crutches due to the hypermobility and general clumsiness of dyspraxia.

I'd only sat 8 GCSE's (counting double science as two GCES) in place of the ninth I had "Option Support". I'd been talked out of doing geography because of the amount of writing involved in it.

Also I tended to get lots of chest infections and had extremely bad periods where I would throw up meaning I often missed big chunks of school.

I was bullied unmercifully - I was one of the poorer families, I had mostly home made uniform, I wore NHS glasses and had frizzy hair. Every one thought I was thick - I saw what other people were like - I was pretty sure I wasn't thick (most of the time but sometimes I thought I was the stupidest person on the planet).

One girl would steal my bag and copy my homework, her spelling was great but my finding things out and reasoning was much better than hers. She would get full marks, depending on the teacher I could score 0 for my spelling nullifying the answer for them. Most of the teachers were great and incredibly supportive but not all of them. My bag would end up in the bin, sometimes it would be hidden, sometimes it was thrown on top of things and kindly teachers had to retrieve it. I had stones thrown at me and my hair set on fire, I wasn't the only one.

When I started the school my parents were informed I'd be lucky to be sitting GCSE's at all. I needed to prove the world wrong about me.

I worked on my coordination with my little brothers help, I worked on my reading - I was desperate to read - I could see there were films where you could see inside peoples heads inside books and they were quiet so you could "watch" these films anywhere.

My dad made me alphabet and spelling cards and my mum and nan sat with me for hours trying to get that click of recognition were letters and words were concerned.

The head teacher Ms Winstone was on my side and this was a tremendous help. But I had little to no drama, music, second language lessons as I had to go and do extra English. I had to go to The Red Room. I actually loved the Red Room and the ladies who helped me in there. There was a chicken game with spelling eggs that I think one of the ladies sons had made. I loved it!

I respond well to gamification.

But the Red Room was the "special room" for special people who couldn't be anything and needed to be put in their place in society.

In year 8 when I was 12 yrs old my friend lent me two point horror books The Boyfriend and The Girlfriend. I decided that what ever it took I was going to read those books! I was going learn to read.

It took me three months to get through the first book - point horrors are for young teens and are between 1 and 2 hundred pages of largish, well spaced type. It was so so damn hard, I had a red ruler that I used to follow the words - to make it clearer which line I was reading. It was a slog.

The second book I believe only took me 3 weeks, by the following year I had it down to 3 days! But... I was reading all the time - I still wasn't a fast reader I just devoted a lot of time to it, I read walking home, I read whilst waiting for my friends, I had books shoved in the pockets of my blazer. Within five books of starting this "proper reading" I was reading long epics such as The Eight and Weaveworld, I read classics such as The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Other Stories. I began to collect books to read, from charity shops and library sales. I discovered that I don't really like most "classics".

This reading transformation is not as clear cut as this makes it seem. I would never have loved books if it had not been for the books my last year Junior School teacher Miss Savage had selected for me or the help the librarian at that school had given me - the use of high content low word count books was amazing and I loved [Bangers and Mash]( and Tim and The Hidden People. And the help to over come speech problems and so on via looking looking after ducklings all played a huge huge part.

And I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a archaeologist, opera singer and astronaut. I did not know the difference in Infant school between archaeology and palaeontology and the boundary is a tad blurry! I wanted to be an opera singer so I could design the sets, cloths, and write the stories as well as sing and act. These are still pretty much all my aspirations.

I don't let go of dreams easily, and getting to secondary school had been a near miss with suggestions that I needed to go to a "special needs" school. To be a geologist I needed to get to university and even I at infant school age 4-7 yrs old knew that you couldn't get there from those types of schools (this was the 80's).

So GCSE's were a pretty big deal and I was terrified on the day I went to get my results - I was determined to do four A'levels but I was starting from a bad base of doing less GCSE's that most people to begin with.

Due to the tremendous improvement in my reading skills I had been put up into first set for Science from third set - something that was a big gamble for the teachers and something everyone had to have meetings about. Some considered it wasn't fair and there was the issue that bottom sets are often not taught everything because they just don't have the time to get through everything at the pace needed for students who can't read through huge texts books by themselves etc...

This meant I was trying to catch up on 2-3 years worth of science foundation as well as learning the stuff for the actual exams. I really loved my science lessons and ended up in what was called the "super set one" who did more in depth stuff like cosmology and A'level and degree level questions just to stretch you a bit - the down side? You lost lunch times for the classes.

My science teachers believed in me - or at least let me think they believed in me. And this was a confidence boost but at the same time put an expectation for success on me that was probably all projection from my own expectations of self. I knew I couldn't fail because I'd let down all those parents, grandparents, teachers and friends who had helped me. My nan died during my GCSE years so it was important not to let her down - she had won a place at grammar school but had been denied it as she was just a girl and the eldest of a large brood who needed caring for. I had to succeed for her.

And yes my friends helped me - they helped me by letting me catch up with notes copied from the board when the maths teacher was bullying me in year 8. They helped me face down the bullies and snuck sweets into the cinema with me. These were the same friends who came with me so we could collect our results together - Nicky and Helen who were both fire bearers at my wedding.

No one in my family had made it to university, it was not something you did, I could not fail, I could not fall but I was sure I'd have to do it part time whilst working because how else did you do university?

I wasn't even sure if people like me could go to university but I never let the impossible slow me down. I would have to find away.

We marched into the front of the building through the official visitor entrance, giggling with nerves and being too loud (or at least I was) and we picked up our envelopes. I couldn't read the results, my vision had blurred with fear or blood pressure or nerves.

The results? 5 Bs, 3 Cs and a D - the D was in History where Id had to write essays and hadn't gotten very fair with the paper - however I was borderline for a C and the teachers suggested we get it remarked. This cost £30 I think and was a lot of money to us but we did it - it came back still a D.

This was higher than I'd expected, and higher than most of the teachers had expected due to that only getting to staples in the middle of the papers thing, oh and having a panic attack in one exam and having been in A&E with a stupid injury from trying to run to an exam when our friends mum forgot to pick us up.... and so on.

The only exception to this was Art - I was actually predicted A for art but I didn't realise that I needed to write up the art work - my portfolio was lit. just all the pictures I'd created and sheets of practice eyes and colour work. That was it - that was the art but there was supposed to be writing too. No writing, no A.

Science was BB - but only because I took the higher paper - I did not finish the exam paper - every question I had managed to answer was right. Maths I'd only gotten to the middle of the paper - Intermediate paper - I got a C again my teacher made a big point that I had gotten everything I'd answered right.

The biggest surprise though was English Lit. I got a B!!! I got a B with a reading age of 12 and a spelling age of 8 - yes I took my GCSE's with a spelling age of 8 much to my English teachers horror! Part of this was the subject matter - I loved my GCSE books - To Kill a Mocking Bird, Of Mice and Men, An Inspector Calls (and Shakespeare - I actually like Shakespeare but I tended to turn it into little comic book strips so I could work out what was actually going on). The anthology had included the poem No Streamin' There - a poem about someone in lower sets who realises that even if they are not good at school the graveyard shows it doesn't really matter because everyone is just dead! The Oakum Room which had me obsessed with womens' right in the Victorian era and the absolute horror that many in my class thought the protagonist (a young mother in a workhouse) was to blame. London - one of my all time favourite poems and The Cream Cracker Under the Settee - a story that still haunts me and was part of the inspiration for how I wrote Alfie's Triumph (though obviously the actual story of Alfie was built up from an actual person and event).

I loved the GCSE reading so much that I'd also been working my way through the entire list of potential texts and not just the ones I'd been assigned - I was still doing this when I moved to Gloucestershire and sadly lost the list somewhere in the move. This how I ended up reading some truly amazing books!

Seriously people check out the books! (Libraries and few downloads... amazon links below).

There was also a lovely film of The Cream Cracker Under the Settee and an audio adaption which you should look out for!

Teachers got hugged on the day of my results - of course not the cute biology teacher I had the biggest crush on ever 🙂 He'd compounded the issue by being the main teacher to rescue my bag for me when it was thrown on roofs etc... he was also only about 22 and not butch! (think a short gothier dressed Alaric), I could barely talk or even look at him!

I was elated, ecstatic and amazed! I had 5 B's, I only just had 5 B's and I had Cs in English and Maths - this meant I had just scraped enough to sit my four A'levels. My friends thought I was mad (the normal at the time was 3) but the head Teacher Mrs Winstone thought it was a great idea and informed me that she had done the same. I was in the top 20 students of the school for my results and there was a special cup for progress The Craven Cup so of course there was a prize given award to go to the following academic year. I chose a book on Geology and it was awarded to me by an Eastenders actor (played on of the first gay roles on British TV) and just happened to be Mr Hogg's (the deputy head or head of year (I can't remember now)) son 🙂

It was amazing that I got through and that I achieved - but here's the thing as I see young people I know stress and panic about exams I think that it is not worth it - it is not worth the health of our kids. Exams are not a good judge of how academic a person is, and academia is not a measure of how intelligent someone is. There are so many paths you can take in life and education should be about the learning and more so... the learning how to learn - not about stressing that you are going to be stuck in a pit of poverty and waste your life and be a big fat failure. This is what is sold to kids, this is the fear that drives our youth to education and it is not a sustainable system.

So I found myself congratulating kids and for others giving them examples of other routes they could take and pointing out they were not failures just because of some stupid piece of paper! Exam learning doesn't stay in most peoples brains - they've crammed and it is slinking away by mid afternoon the next day - not committed to long term memory and actually a lot of it is just fact checking - you don't need that in you brain - you need to know how to fact check but not the instant fact recall! (obviously if you are going into something like the military then how you recall info and behave under stress is very important but that is in the training!)

20 yrs ago I got my GCSE results - my 12 year old bought home a GCSE maths book from school - it was what she is currently learning in class. She likes exams, she doesn't see them as a stressful thing - I hope we can keep it like that for her.

The Admin Grind (by )

The science world and the art world are full of forms - in order for me to do an hrs work I have to fill in forms that take me hours and get me stressed - I'm dyslexic (+head injury) it takes me a long time and I often get things wrong, this sometimes costs me chances to work, work I am perfectly capable of doing - admin of one sort or another is currently taking all my time and therefore killing the creativity which it is supposed to be supporting/enabling :/

Admin also has a habit of multiplying - so the more admin I get done - the more appears before me in a kind of sisyphean bog of hate - because yes I hate ADMIN. I hate it so much. I hate the way it gets under your skin and ends up in your dreamscapes or the way it scoops our your mind as you try and balance dates and times and places and equipment costs. I hate how it scritches away at your brain when you are just trying to have a bath or something.

I hate the fact that people want phone calls which are especially hard for me unless I know the person well because you know I have tinnitus continually and that makes hearing hard and I have always done better if I can lip read the person talking anyway - this is a remnant from being almost completely deaf as a small child with glue ear. This means the amount of brain energy/effort I have to put into understanding some one on the phone is astronomical and I it tends to scrub me out. I am happy to meet in person or email but phone calls... GRRRRRR.

I hate that people can be really damn snotty about little typos and spelling mistakes but demand responses instantly leaving no time for me to even consider getting the replies proofed by Al and really that isn't needed anyway - it is obvious what the reply means unlike the jumbles of long winded text that has three small points of information that I need in them. BULLET POINTS or NUMBERED LISTS people!!!! Come on!

So recap things I hate - form filling, phone calls, waffle instead of information and people thinking they can alter events at the last minute and that will just be ok and have no reprucussions at all - like I am only there to serve them - this is mostly a problem in the charity sector where I find people seem to struggle respecting that my time is a resource.

Rant over - now back to admin... I suppose :/

Country File Live photos 2017 (by )

Country File Live was an amazing event with just so much going on - because I was working there I barely got a chance to snap things as I passed - the girls and Al also had a fab time but still felt that they had barely scratched the surface - Jean took photos on her iPad which we'll pop up in a different post. These are the snaps I took on the first day.

Snake with the reptiles and amphibian group Country File Live

This beautiful snake was part of a demonstration including handling by the Oxfordshire Amphibian and Reptile Group (I think!).

Blue dragonfly at Country File Live

I caught this blue dragonfly whilst taking a nap on some bails in front of the bee hive (head injury recovery means I have to take random naps but it is very surreal to conk out in public but I think it's working well).

Birds on the lake Country File Live

There was a lake with a wibbly wobbly bouncy but secure temporary bridge across it. It contained various birds and plants coming and going.

Tree face Country File Live

There were some great flower displays in the Wild Life Zone.

Metal Duck Country File Live

I love this duck - it is exactly the sort of thing I would buy Al if I had more money 🙂

Bikes and flowers in the wild life zone Country File Live

This bike display cheered me up even though it had just been bucketing it down!

tractor tractoring country file live

Tractors! I live like machines like tractors.

Ye old tractor Country File Live

I love old machines like tractors.

Vintage tractor Country File Live

Probably a good job I didn't have more time or there would have been hundred of flower and machine pics!

Old tractor Country File Live

I'm working on a series of machine colouring sheets for an event in the autumn as well to be fair - but I would have still taken all the photos regardless.

Tractor! Country File Live

I like the gubbings of machines.

Tractor bits Country File Live

I think they are pretty

Tractor parts Country File Live

These were all from a huge monster of a machine

Tractor gubbings Country File Live

Many people were taking photographs - elderly men mostly and a press officer.

Tractor swirls Country File Live

Everyone feels they need to ask me why I am taking photos of tractors or make jokes about it - this happens at car shows too.

Being a little bit batty at the Garden Stage with Oxford Mammale Group at Country File Live

We got Batty with the Oxfordshire Mammal Groups.

Foxes and Badgers with the Oxford Mammal Group at Country File Live

And met the cuddly foxes and badgers.

Oxford Mammal Group explain mice with cute cuddlies

And a squeaky little mouse 🙂

Mouse, fox and badger skulls country file live

And skulls of said animals - well actually in the photo there is a mouse skull, fox and badger.

Giant papier mache stage beetle at Country File Live

Insects also featured heavily including butterfly nets creches, many types of bees and this giant papier mache stag beetle!

Milk churn urn flower pots country file live

Milk churn flower display - this is similar to what I wanted when we lived at The Bakery though I was going to bare paint them so they didn't rust away.

Sheep sculptures at Country File Live

Sheep sculptures - love these though more from a making point of view if I am honest - I remember going to a Garden Show and seeing large metal dragons like this which I adored! If we ever get to do the Salaric Emporium idea and have a tea garden then this sort of thing will be in it (along with dinos and fairies!).

yellow water lilies on the lake Country File Live

These beautiful yellow water lilies where on the lake.

Go Wild Country File Live

Loved the giant Go Wild sing 🙂

Water plants Country File Live

Water plants on the lake - oh I probably should have mentioned that this was at Blenheim Palace.

Geese arriving on the lake at Country File Live

The geese kept landing and taking off from the lake and were pretty impressive!

Geese at Blenheim Palace Country File Live

There was plenty of garden ideas - especially those to help you have a greener more wildlife friendly garden - I like this shed but I'm pretty sure ours is falling down and couldn't take the extra strain!

A shed of flowers for the bees Country File Live

Food is a huge part of the event too - I caught sight of this fab cheese stall!

Cheese at Country File Live

And Kendal Mint Cake Laqueur!

Kendal Mint Cake Liqueur at Country File Live

And to end - more animal sculptures 🙂

Horse and deer sculptures at Country File Live

Putting Socks On (by )

The last two weeks have been amazing, wonderful and awful at the same time - as always with our bad luck field. So yesterday Al was already in pain when he took the kids to Country File Live, they all enjoyed themselves but he was tanked up on pain killers to survive the day - what ever he did it was going to be a tanked up on pain killers day.

By the time he got home he was in considerable pain and we did all the normal - hot baths and massage and his physio - but over the last year his hip has been getting alot worse again including him having to miss Krav and park runs because he can barely walk.

This morning I had to put his socks on for him - this is not the sciatica - this is his hip (which may or may not be part of the cause for the sciatica).

He's been a bit depressed about this - the amount of pain he is in is well... loads. But more than that it means going back to the Dr to talk about hip replacements - something he has desperately been trying to ward off. Just after Mary was born he was in lots of pain and the Dr told him that his options where to pay for physical manipulation to try and slow the wear on the joint down or he would def. be having the hip replacement before he was 40.

Obvs. hip replacements are not something you really want to be getting into before you are 40 so we paid knowing it might not work or would only work for a while but hopefully would get him to past his 40th birthday. The treatment was no longer avalible on the NHS though the hip replacement would be. It worked really well for a few years and made a huge difference. Initially after Mary was born we both had mobility issues which were fortunately slightly different but we would have to co-operate to change the babies bottom!

It was a bit of a nightmare time capped off with him and the baby getting pnumonia and a house move. All that aside we had been hopeful - the manipulation did wonders and for the first time that he could remember - standing still did not hurt him!

Basically up until that point his leg had been rammed up into the hip joint, compressing and wearing it out. This was left over from some child hood accident - we don't know what but the Dr was surprised he did not remember it as it was have been painful. It was possibly falling down the stairs or something.

Anyway the joint is already worn and we were just buying time. He's been doing the strengthening exercises and working on general fitness and posture which need correcting... but then about a year ago it started to occassionally pain him again and has just been getting worse and worse and of course because he was looking after me with my zillions of hospital appointments he didn't really want to say anything as it's going to be a whole ball of medical stuff for him too etc...

Well his now shuffling about increasingly with little let up, yesterday had him walking about on hills so he is quiet frankly in agony :'(

He tends not to say when things are wrong with him but he is actually really struggling at the moment - so please be nice! No one likes it when someone else has to put their socks on for them!

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