If you’re in the UK and *ahem* of a certain age you might remember the BT adverts with Bob Hoskins declaring “it’s good to talk”. Bob was advertising telephone services. I’m not. But his sentiment is absolutely bang on!
I’ve had quite a lot going on in recent weeks. A weekend away at a festival, a weekend away in Norway, work stuff, family stuff and just stuff. It’s fair to say that my mental health hasn’t been at it’s best. Not in an “I’m going to hide away and not face the world” way. Just feeling a bit jangled and not quite right. It’s hard to explain unless you know, but I’ve been living with my own head for long enough to be able to pinpoint when it’s off kilter. There’s often nothing you can do…just ride it out.
A contributing factor to the way I’ve been feeling is very likely to be Father’s Day. It’s my third Father’s Day without my Dad this year. It’s a difficult time anyway, but when I’m feeling a bit jangled, I miss him even more. He was a very calming influence in my life and really helped me at times when I was frayed, stressed or angry. He had a way of making me see things more logically instead of my self internalised, often overreacting, often self pitying way. He was a very sensible man, and he was very good at helping me to rationalise.
Now, it’s not that without my Dad I don’t have anyone to speak to. But, for some reason, I have built it up in my head recently that I don’t want to speak about the stuff that’s being going on in my life. So I’ve kept it all in my head, building it up to oversized proportions, feeling like crap, convincing myself that no-one can help me like my Dad could, and basically being a bit of a drama queen! Unfortunately for the husband, he’s been on the receiving end, which is pretty mean of me and for which I have since apologised.
Good news – after reaching boiling point earlier this week, I talked! Well, not so much talked as spewed forth a whole heap of anger, vitriol, stress, upset and frustration. I cried. And I shouted. I said “and another thing” quite a lot.
It’s good to talk
I feel heaps better.
As well as reminding myself that it’s good to talk, I have reminded myself (or been reminded) not to take things personally, not to feel attacked, and that it’s ok that I’m not 100% perfect or successful in everything I do.
Will I remember these lessons? Probably not. But it certainly makes for a happier me in the short term, which makes for a happier husband too!
I haven’t posted about assisted dying for a while.
OK, so I haven’t posted much of anything for a while, but let’s gloss over that!
Like many supporters of
, and believers in a change in the law to allow terminally ill people autonomy over their death, I was gutted when Noel Conway’s latest legal battle was unsuccessful in November.
Noel has been an unending powerhouse in fighting for a change in the law. Suffering with Motor Neurone disease, and wanting the assurance that he can end his own life when the disease becomes too much for him to bear, he has been through court cases and appeals, all with the support of Dignity in Dying. In November the Supreme Court – the highest in the UK – ruled that he could not appeal against an earlier ruling that he could end his life by assisted suicide at such time he deemed fit.
This leaves Noel in the situation of either waiting for his disease to kill him; a slow, dignity stripping and painful end, or seeking an assisted death elsewhere. The current choice of destination for Brits wanting to end their own life on their own terms is Dignitas in Switzerland.
If you’ve followed my blog for a while you’ll know that my Dad wanted the option to travel to there rather than be ravaged by a late stage diagnosis of prostate cancer. What he actually wanted, underneath all of that, was what many terminally ill people want – the choice to end their life on their own terms, in their own home with their family around them, With that not being an option, Dignitas was the next best thing for him. Unfortunately his GP blocked the necessary paperwork he needed, on legal and ethical grounds, leaving Dad to face the very end that scared him most.
Fast forward then to this week, and the heartbreaking case of Geoff Whaley and his family. Geoff too had motor neurone disease, like Noel Conway. Geoff feared the disease taking away any sense of living in his final months. Being alive is so different to living, and that wasn’t what Geoff wanted. So he made plans to travel to Dignitas and have control over his death.
I did not fear death, but I did fear the journey. When I eventually got the ‘green light’ from Dignitas, a weight lifted; I was able to get on with living without the constant mental anguish over my death.
This is the key for so many people who want the choice of assisted death. Fear hangs over them and overtakes every day – days when they could be making the most of the time they have left. My Dad was a living example of this; he was consumed by wondering how ill he would get. Would the cancer take his mobility? Would he end up bedbound? Unable to go to the bathroom? Would his death be everything he didn’t want it to be?
Horribly, for Geoff and his family, someone made an anonymous phonecall to the authorities to alert them to his plan. Imagine involving the law in a dying man’s wishes? Imagine the selfishness and self-centredness that would lead you to try and turn a dying man and his family into criminals?
Because that’s one of the major issues here. Anyone who assists a person to make their way to Dignitas and end their life can face a criminal investigation and up to 14 years in prison. Geoff’s wife had made the arrangements for him because his disease had already stripped him of the use of his hands to make the calls and send the emails himself.
Thankfully, although a small mercy, the police decided not to proceed with any criminal charges. That doesn’t excuse the fact that Geoff’s final weeks were blighted by the threat of investigation and criminal charges against his family.
Geoff travelled to Switzerland with his wife, children and close friends. He ended his life independently by drinking a cup of water laced with barbiturates.
Tellingly, his wife Ann said:
I wish the law let me have him for longer.
Geoff, like so many others, had to end his life earlier than he may have wanted to because of logistics. He had to be well enough to travel to Switzerland. Had the UK law been different, Geoff would not have had to expedite his death for fear of missing the opportunity.
In a last show of strength, Geoff wrote an open letter to MPs. In it, he implores them to consider the real effects of the law on real people and real families.
No family should ever have to endure the torment we have undergone in recent weeks.
The reason that people like Geoff and Noel fight the fight is not for themselves. It’s for the future of other people who might find themselves in such a position. And their fight isn’t without results.
Change of heart
Although every assisted dying bill has so far been overruled in the House of Commons – the most recent being the bill brought forward by Lord Falconer in 2015, the tide is turning. Some MPs are becoming vocal in their support for a change in the law. Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, who I listened to in Parliament last January as he spoke of the potential for an assisted dying law to be exploited, and therefore his inability to support it, has now come out with a very different view.
He concedes that, with safeguards in place, assisted dying could be a viable legal option for terminally ill people. He has publicly gone on record as saying he is now in support of looking at the law surrounding the controversial topic.
There’s still much to be done. Change won’t come overnight, and nor should it. But the fact that high profile cases such as Geoff’s are making politician’s think more about the situation and how they themselves might want to proceed with the same circumstances can only be a good thing.
My reading habits have, as an adult, always been fairly predictable. I like fluffy chick lit. I’m not ashamed of it either. I’m more than capable of deeper, more meaningful, insightful reading. But there’s something about the cosy warmth of a book where you know, in the first few chapters, that two of the main characters will end up in a relationship. Wondering how they’ll get there but knowing they will. It’s a personal indulgence, and I rarely deviate.
18 months ago though, during our week in Greece, I did deviate! Unusually, for me, I squeezed some paperbacks into my luggage (I’m usually too laden down with shoes and have been relying on an ereader in recent years. But it’s just not the same). And our apartments had a swap bookcase, where you could leave your read books and pick up something left by another visitor. Weirdly my eye was drawn by The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena.
It didn’t give me the usual immediate squishy feels. The contrast between the high drama of the book and the relaxed nature of lying on the beach and occasionally paddling in the sea was strange, but I devoured it. I couldn’t wait to read the next chapter, the next twist, and find out what the ending would be. I always read voraciously, but in a “predictable” book (and I say that in the nicest possble way) there isn’t the same intensity and urgency.
I’ve discovered a whole new enjoyment of literature
In case you haven’t read it, the premise of The Couple Next Door is around the kidnap of a baby which has happened while the parents were next door having dinner with their neighbours. They have a baby monitor with them and they’re only footsteps away, so what could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot, as the book goes on to detail, with twists and turns right up until the very end. Thriller fan or not, I would definitely recommend it!
What effect have these changing reading habits had on my choice of books since? I now actively seek out thrillers as an alternative to my set ways of reading, and I have to say I can’t get enough! I stock up for bargain prices during charity shop binges so I always have a pile to get through.
Do you have a genre of choice when it comes to reading? Have you read The Couple Next Door? Let me know in the comments!
I don’t buy into the whole New Year thing. It’s just another day. A passing of time. Only the fact it comes with a new set of numbers really changes it from the year before.
That said, here are some things I’m looking forward to in 2019.
I’m going to be an Auntie!
By far the biggest thing to happen this year, my sister and her boyfriend are having a baby, due in July. I’ve already known for quite a while. I went to their private 10 week scan just before Christmas which was just beautiful.
They’ve now had the 12 week scan and everything is as it should be. I was amazed, even at 10 weeks, to see the detail in the scan, the shape of the baby and it’s little stumpy arms and legs! As you’ll know if you’ve read this blog for a while I have no maternal feelings at all! That said, I cannot wait to be cool Auntie Kel, buying all the shoes and having fun days out with my niece or nephew.
Sad but true! This sounds like bravado but it’s honestly not. Getting made redundant from my previous job last year was one of the best things that could have happened to me. It made me reassess what I want from a career, and what I want to put into it. I’ve only been in my new role since November, but already I feel more motivated than I have in a very long time. The company is very forward thinking, I’m already looking after a brand, and I know there are lots more good things ahead.
To say 2018 was the year of the garden is an understatement. Our garden makeover combined with one of the best summers I can remember in years meant I was outside as much as possible. From early barbecues in April through to planting bulbs as late as October, I took every opportunity to be in my happy place.
The joy of seeing plants come to life and everything look so pretty will never fade for me. Really hoping for more of the same this year!
More holidays and seeing more new places
This will hopefully be on my list of things to look forward to until the day I die! Unusually we’ve started the new year with nothing booked or even planned. This is mainly due to the Brexit uncertainty and not knowing what effect it will have on the travel industry. That said, I am currently researching a trip to Bergen in Norway. It’s my Mother in Law’s 80th birthday in June and she’s always wanted to visit the fjords.
Basing ourselves in a city then doing trips out on the water seems to offer the best of both worlds, so I’m 90% sure that will happen.
As for the rest of the year…who knows? (the husband keeps telling me he doesn’t want to do long haul flights anymore. There’s some work for me to do there!)
Whatever other opportunities come my way
A bit of an ambiguous one this, and not just because I’d run out of things to look forward to! More so that we’re only 6 days into the new year, so who knows what lies ahead in the next 359 days? Things can change so quickly and dramatically that there could be events and plans out there way beyond my comprehension. Isn’t that part of the fun of this wild journey we call life?!
What are you looking forward to in 2019? Let me know in the comments.
The Instagram Top Nine of the Year has become “a thing” in recent times. In case you haven’t heard of it, a third party app will analyse all the likes on your photos of the year and show you a collage of your top nine pics.
Without further ado, here are mine!
I thought it might be fun (for me, and also anyone reading, hopefully!) to hear more about the story behind each of the top nine pics. So, here goes!
Photo 1 – January
This was actually taken on New Years Day 2018. We hadn’t left our house in over a week (by choice, may I add) and thought perhaps we should integrate into society before the inevitable return to work. I thought it prudent to start the year wearing sparkles; why the hell not!
Photo 2 – February
A Sunday afternoon in February where I was forced to get dressed because a man came round to give us a quote on our garden makeover. This is actually a man’s t-shirt, from ASOS, I like the print. I remember captioning this picture with “double boobs” because both the pinup girl and myself were braless!
Photo 3 – February
We had a casual dress code at my old job; jeans were pretty much the norm. I’d worn these boots in an effort to have warm feet and legs under my desk in the office, but it still didn’t work!
Photo 4 – September
Taken in Oia, on the island of Santorini. This was our 10th wedding anniversary trip. Oia is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. One of these days I’ll actually get round to blogging about it!
Photo 5 – September
Posted on our 10th wedding anniversary, during the aforementioned Greek trip. The photo was originally taken on our wedding day, in Mauritius. We got married on the beach – it was idyllic. This is my most favourite of our wedding photos; perhaps of all time. You can read about our wedding here and here.
Photo 6 – August
2018 was the year of the garden, thanks to an incredible summer. I was out there as much as possible – planting flowers, eating food barbecued by the husband and having the occasional drink! This was taken on a lazy Sunday afternoon; my favourite kind of day. I made sangria a couple of times over the summer, and it was a hit. More of the same in 2019 please.
Photo 7 – September
Another one from our 10th wedding anniversary trip; this was part one – Athens. After a less than auspicious start on arrival the day before, we woke to beautiful blue skies for our first day of sightseeing. This was taken in Syntagma Square, opposite the Hellenic Parliament building after we’d watched the weekly Changing of the Guards ceremony. Read more about our trip to Athens here.
Photo 8 – December
A recent one here, taken just a couple of weeks back when we went to my “new job” Christmas party. I approach work events with trepidation, because who knows which Kelly might make an appearance! (my drinking has been known to take me by surprise – not big, and not clever). But it was a really good night, I was well behaved, the husband met a lot of my new work colleagues AND I go to wear my sequin trousers!
Photo 9 – April
Sequin skirt – say no more! This was an unnecessary and unseasonal purchase; who needs multi-coloured sparkles in April? The answer is obviously me! This skirt will never not make me smile. In fact, if we manage to leave the house to eat today, I think I’ll wear it. Starting last year with sparkles went down well, so…
I posted much less than usual on Instagram towards the latter part of the year, but I still absolutely love it as a social platform – it appeals to my nosy side (permission to look at other people’s lives, what’s not to like?!) and it’s a great way of documenting and looking back on your own life; days out, holidays, outfits and shoes!
2018 is the third year that the Birmingham Magic Lantern Festival has been at the Botanical Gardens. But it’s the first year I’ve actually been.
If you read yesterday’s post about our trip to Blenheim Palace, you’ll know we missed out on tickets to the Winter Wonderland outdoor light experience. Instead I suggested we visit the Palace and the Cinderella exhibition, and then head back to Birmingham to visit the Magic Lantern Festival.
When we got back to Birmingham the weather changed for the worse and it started to rain. And rain. Then rain some more. The thought of a wet and squelchy walk, especially as we’d forgotten our umbrellas, was unappealing. So we abandoned the plans, and made new ones.
Magic Lantern Festival, take 2!
Last Christmas we didn’t leave the house between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, which isn’t exactly healthy! So we decided to rearrange our plans for 29th December, which would force us out into real life!
I’d read good things about the festival from previous years, but didn’t know what to expect. Short answer – it was brilliant! There was a great mix of festive and none festive decorations; wonderfully lit, brightly coloured and really well spread out. The pitch darkness meant they look great on photos too!
Christmas themed lantern displays
Whimsical fairytale lantern displays
Flower displays everywhere!
Animal lantern displays
Finally, my favourites – the pandas!
We got the tickets for the bargain price of £8.50 each via Travelzoo, and it was well worth the money. If you’re quick you can still catch it, as the last entrance is on New Year’s Day. If not, I’d definitely recommend it for next year.
The same organisers also do festivals in Leeds and London. Have you been to any of the locations?
Disappointment. It’s a fact of life. Not a nice fact of life, but one most of us have to deal with, nonetheless.
Special occasions can be a huge source of disappointment. The anticipation in the build up to the event, the high expectation to enjoy yourself and have a great time – there’s a lot of pressure. This is further exacerbated when the world around you seems to be having the best time; the most amazing birthday, fantastic holiday or cosiest Christmas.
That’s not to say all events go badly. Of course they don’t! But, if anything, that makes it even more upsetting when things don’t go to plan.
Take Christmas, as an example. Our insta feed is full of the biggest trees, the prettiest gifts, the fancy meals and family get togethers. Christmas is a pinnacle in many people’s annual calendars; we use it as a measure of how far along we are in the year, how ready we are during December (how many people have asked you if you were ready for Christmas this month?), how we feel during December (hands up if you’ve uttered the immortal “I just don’t feel Christmassy” line this year!) Of course we want it to the be the best one ever. And, if it isn’t, our heart rightly breaks a little.
The same goes for other occasions. Disappointing holidays – when we’ve spent time and effort and hard earned cash to getaway – leave us feeling crap. Disappointing gigs; maybe the band is late, or the sound is poor, or the crowd are obnoxious and spoil things (talking from experience seeing the Foo Fighters at Wembley this summer – the crowd were bloody awful) – we feel crushed.
How do we deal with it then? What can we do to ease the inevitable disappointment?
Allow ourselves time to wallow a little
It’s ok to feel angry, upset and hurt. I certainly find it helpful. Glossing over your feelings can often lead to resentment. Acknowledge the disappointment, feel it deeply, and then move on.
Direct your disappointment at the source of the cause
I’ve been guilty of taking my feelings out on the wrong people; either by being vocally upset with them or withdrawing and being sullen. That’s not fair on anyone. Make sure you’re not dragging other people into your disappointment and associated feelings.
Keep a sense of perspective
In most cases, the event we’re disappointed in or at is not a one time only opportunity. Christmas comes around once a year. So do birthdays. There will be other gigs and holidays (hopefully). Try to remember that you can always improve things next time around. If it’s a special occasion that has been spoilt, try to take the attitude that it’s “just a day”.
Try to look for a silver lining on that cloud
After the Foo Fighters gig our group of friends spent the following day together and had an absolute hoot. We drank in the sunshine, laughed at ourselves and each other, and had a great time. Despite a 2 day rainy start to our holiday in Italy, we saw the most amazing stormy skies and sunsets. It’s rare that there’s absolutely nothing good you can take from a situation.
Try to “make up for things” by arranging an alternative good time
Perhaps it’s a nice meal to cheer yourself up, or visiting friends, or just something you didn’t plan to do but know it will raise your spirits. Erase bad memories by making better ones.
Most of all, as so many people have said and will continue to say, don’t compare your bad time with the wonderful lives of friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Especially Instagram! It may just leave you feeling worse, when that person’s truth may be a bigger disappointment than your own. Concern yourself with the things you can control, and try to move past the negativity and back to a shiny happy place.
(in case you were wondering, part of my Christmas was pretty crap thanks to the rotten behaviour of some people, hence the words of “wisdom”. Trying to take my own advice by making the rest of the holiday enjoyable, and memorable for the right reasons).
Like many people, I think I become more aware of the need for charity at Christmas time.
I support charities year round. Don’t get me wrong, I think the very fact that charity has to even exist is abhorrent. Avoidable disasters like Grenfell; disasters the government should be paying for – people run the London marathon for charity. Illnesses like cancer (which I believe there is a cure for…whole other post) – people running around local parks in a pink tutu raising cash for “research”.
I’ve posted my opinions on charity before. The government wastes thousands on crap like Brexit (also posted about this before) but expects the public to pick up the tab for REALLY IMPORTANT SCHIZZLE.
Anyway, this wasn’t a post to promote previous posts! Or to lambast the government (OK, maybe a little bit). It was to talk about charity at Christmas.
Back to the first paragraph
I am a regular charity supporter. It makes me feel good about myself (sorry, not sorry), and I hope the money goes where it should. But something about Christmas makes me extra generous. Especially to those in society who don’t enjoy Christmas in the same way as me. Last year I did a reverse advent calendar and donated food stuffs to charity. I’ve done the same this year (not the advent calendar, but a supermarket basket full of food in the local food bank collection).
One of my new colleagues (still bleating about having a new job, whatcha gonna do?) came to the office with some present tags from charity KidsOut. Her son goes to a local day nursery and they were supporting the charity. There are a mix of tags. Some show just an age and gender, some show an age and gift request, and others show a name and preferred present. KidsOut is a charity supporting children affected by domestic violence; many of whom will have escaped a violent home with a parent and have no presents to open.
My tag was for an 11 year old boy who requested a diablo. What with me being old, I thought this was a technological present I had never heard of. Imagine my surprise when I googled it (don’t judge me) to find it’s an old school toy made of wood and string!
I couldn’t resist bringing it into the 21st century (and to make that boy the envy of his friends!) so I bought a light up one that changes colour as you spin. He deserves something a little bit special, don’t you think?
Christmas happens for everyone
Back to the point of my post. Christmas happens for everyone – in varying degrees. There are people like me and the husband who have enough money to buy gifts for each other and donate to charities to help other people. There are people like the homeless who I saw on the streets where I live and gave money to yesterday. And there are children who, through no fault of their own, will wake up on Christmas morning not only without presents; but without a bed, a bedroom, clothes or their favourite teddy bear.
Being out of work was not a fun experience for me. Not that unemployment should be fun. But I had a decent pay out so I wasn’t poor, and I have friends and family around me for company, so it could have been a good time, I guess.
My own brain stopped me from throwing myself into it wholeheartedly; I was very aware that I didn’t know when I would get a new job and therefore my next pay packet, so being sensible was the right way to go.
In all I was “off work” for 14 weeks and 6 days. A quarter of a year! Prior to that I couldn’t have comprehended that amount of time not working. Looking back now, 2.5 weeks into my new job, it doesn’t seem like I was off for that long. I didn’t really do anything of value or substance.
I did, however, learn a few things. In no particular order, here they are:
1 – I love going bra-less
I’ve never been troubled by bras. I don’t have huge mammaries so support isn’t an issue. I don’t get back pain. I don’t get straps cutting into me. My size is well catered for in the major high street shop, so I don’t have to spend a month’s mortgage payment on a new boulder holder. But when I didn’t have to wear a bra (and when I say “have to”, I mean based on society’s demands and norms for a woman) it was wonderful.
The advent of autumn meant digging my fluffy jumpers out of hibernation and, let me tell you, a soft fluffy knit against a bare nipple is a delight! I wore a bra as little as possible during those 14 weeks. It’s only now, being part of the rat race that demands a certain level of underwear, that I realise how fucking annoying bras are.
2 – Monday blues exist even without a job
You’d think the one benefit of being out of work would be not having to get up for work on a Monday. There has to be some advantages to not having a job, right? Actually though, for me, Monday was an ever present reminder that I didn’t have a job to go to. After a weekend with the husband the house felt quite empty when he left for work, friends were bemoaning being back in the office after 2 days off, and I was embarking on another week of no-one wanting to employ me. Sounds dramatic but Monday was the worst day of the week for me. Ironically, in my new job, I’m currently excited to go to work on Monday. Long may that last!
3 – I hate housework
I’ve always known this, really. I’m no Mrs Hinch! But when you’re working it’s easy to say “I’m too tired to do housework”, or “I deserve two days off after a week at work”. I had all the time in the world to clean our house top to bottom, but I just find it so unsatisfying. I believe a house is for living in, not to be a show home. I did do home improvements, as I said I intended to in my to-do list, but they were more around home improvements than Zoflora! Don’t get me wrong, we don’t live in a stinky hovel, but anyone who does housework “for fun” is barking mad, if you ask me.
4 – I can pass ridiculous amounts of time on the internet
I’m not much of a TV person, really. I enjoy watching it, but wouldn’t think to put it on when I’m at home alone. Similarly with music; I love listening to it but I don’t think to put the radio on or play CDs. I’m quite happy just bumbling along and keeping myself occupied. There’s always something to look at on the internet – be it losing hours debating with strangers on Twitter, scrolling oodles of photos on Instagram or playing a-bit-crap-but-super-addictive games. Occasionally I’d choose to read a book instead, and feel great about it, but mostly the lure of absolute shite on the WWW was too much to ignore. Bit pathetic really.
5 – I need to work
A conclusion from points 3 and 4, I’m not great at being off work. I’m not rubbish, I wasn’t climbing the walls or anything (apart from the odd bad day where I despaired for my future). But I don’t know how people can not work. I don’t mean those who have no choice; through illness or parenting or the like. But people who are affluent and don’t need the money. Lottery winners, for example. I don’t know, maybe it’s different when you have money and no worries about where your next pay packet is coming from. Perhaps you can fill your life with hobbies and lunches and stuff.
I just felt my brain was starting to decay, my social skills were diminishing, and I had no purpose. I’m not saying you need a job to feel worthwhile, Of course you don’t. But, for me, work has always pretty much been a constant for me. And without it I felt a little bit lost.
So, there you have it! Five deep and meaningful (!!) insights into my jobless life. Let’s hope I don’t revisit redundancy-town any time soon!
Last night, as we settled into bed, we saw the terribly sad news that a friend of ours had passed away. Chris had cancer. He died because of cancer.
But cancer did not beat Chris, and he didn’t lose the battle.
Sure, it’s only terminology, just words. But for the people left behind, experiencing the death and pain and emptiness, it’s important. At least it was to me, when my Dad died. I hate that anyone might think my Dad “lost”. That he didn’t fight hard enough, or long enough.