Category: Uncategorized

A bad day and the impossible task

I already knew last night that today was going to be a bad day.

“Why didn’t you do something pre-emptive to stop it then, you daft cow?” (those are my words, and maybe what you’re thinking too.)

Unfortunately it was too late. I was lying in bed, fretting, listening to the husband snore, reading a blog I’ve become ridiculously immersed in (I think I’m as far back as 2013 posts from this woman now; her family story is fascinating and her writing is really engaging and fun) and wondering why I couldn’t sleep despite my body feeling so so ready for slumber.

Knowing I needed to sleep was one of my problems. I had a second interview for a job this morning, over the telephone, and I wanted to be well rested and coherent instead of a mumbling sleepy mess. We’ve been away at a music festival this weekend, an indoor one. There’s been drinking and lack of sleep and less quality sleep than when I’m at home. My diet has been poor. I lay there berating myself for a weekend of unadulterated fun, which is ridiculous! But this happens to me often. After gigs, and weekends away, and holidays.

“Did I enjoy myself enough?”

“Did I make the best of it?”

“Why did I spend so much money?”

“What could or should I have done differently?”

It’s an exhausting thought process.

If you follow me on Instagram I posted last week that I’ve been something of a recluse while I’ve been off work; pretty much just hanging out at home. It’s all cool, it’s through choice. But I had a lovely day out shopping on Thursday, then lunch with my Mom on Friday. I’d been invited to the afore mentioned second interview, after successfully navigating the first one earlier in the week. The husband and I had an end of summer barbecue on Friday night and sat outside til late with the chimnea burning. Then we were away Saturday and Sunday, catching up with friends and having a lot of fun. I hardly saw any of the bands because it was so hot in the venue and I was so aware that the good weather might be the last sign of summer that I didn’t want to hide away inside (I didn’t love the bands that were playing anyway, I was always going more for the social side). “Was that a mistake?” wondered my tired brain. “Should I have spent more time listening to music than socialising with people I don’t see very often?” Yep, an unsettled mind is fantastic for analysing things it’s too late to do anything about.

After such a good few days, maybe it was inevitable that I’d crash and burn today? I’d had really odd dreams and it was barely daylight when the alarm went off (grey days really drag me down anyway, I feel my mood slide).

Plus, stupidly, I’d run out of anti-depressants. I had a repeat prescription, but hadn’t collected the tablets. Now I don’t for one minute think that the benefits of anti-depressants leave your body in just two days of not taking them, but it’s always nice from a mental point of view to know you’ve got that extra bit of serotonin support when you’re feeling a bit wiped out. I knew I’d need to leave the house today and fetch the prescription; preferably sooner rather than later.

Up I got, with the husband, saw him off to work, fired up my laptop and my CV and collected my notes ready for my interview. It went well, I was happy with my responses and, if I don’t get any further in the recruitment process, I’ll know that I did my best. I really want to get further, because it’s a company I would really like to work for, but as long as I have no regrets in how I conducted myself in the two interviews, I can’t do any more.

And then, it happened. Flatness. Emptiness. Inability to adult. Operating like a normal person was today’s “Impossible Task”.

I read about the Impossible Task recently on Twitter, and it’s gone viral as so many people can identify with the tweet and the sentiment behind it.

Impossible Task tweet

Depression isn’t all crying and sadness (or being Mrs Angry, in my case). It can also comprise of inability to do things you need to do, things you’ve done a thousand times, because they are impossible at that point in time.

You can read the tweets and more about it in this article from Stylist magazine.

So, there I was, facing my Impossible Task. I knew that even the immediate placebo effect of taking a Prozac would help to level me out, but the thought of leaving the house to get them was too much. I went back to bed under the proviso of being cold. I spoke to the husband on his lunchbreak who told me to get up and go and fetch my tablets. I told him I would, but I closed the curtains and went to sleep for an hour. I woke up and sat in the dark for another hour (reading that blasted blog!)

Then I realised there was no-one to help me with my Impossible Task. The husband was at work. I couldn’t expect him to come home and go back out again to fetch my prescription. The house was a mess. And me moping in bed not only isn’t helping, it’s also unfair on the husband.

So I dragged my carcass out of my pit, had a manic tidy up, sorted some washing out, had a shower and even brushed my hair. I went to the supermarket, then I fetched my tablets. And, even before I’d taken one, I felt better. I’d overcome what I thought I couldn’t do earlier today.

I’m not saying this was a depressive episode, because that belittles depressive episodes, and I’ve gone through them enough to know you don’t get over them in one day simply by making the decision to. But it was symptomatic of not practising self care, and also my circumstances. My garden leave is officially over as of the end of last week, so I’m no longer in paid employment. That’s pretty scary. I’m probably pinning more hopes on the job I’m interviewing for than I should, and I don’t have lots of irons in the fire elsewhere right now. This is likely to be situational depression. A feeling of not being good enough that’s come to a head because I didn’t have a job to go to and I allowed myself to retreat inside my own head where things feel worse than they are.

We’re going on holiday on Saturday, for our 10th wedding anniversary trip. We’ve talked about going to Santorini for over 13 years, and it’s been booked since August last year. Me being a dick and feeling all sorry for myself isn’t going to change the situation, or get me a job, but it could well ruin my holiday. You bet I’ll be putting those packets of Prozac in every single pocket and bag when I’m packing for our trip. Placebo or not, I’d like to be married for another 10 years thanks.

This has been cathartic. If you’ve got this far then thanks, as always, for reading. x

Friday Feeling [35] – a lesson in dignity

Kids go to school for an education – to learn about the world and better themselves in preparation for adulthood.

But what about when school is more than just a place to learn?

Some pupils in West Side High School, New Jersey, were being bullied because of their appearance; regularly turning up to school in dirty uniform. Other pupils would point them out and humiliate them.

Headteacher Akbar Cook can’t solve the problem of the students’ personal circumstances (in many cases they’re officially homeless, or don’t have access to facilities to keep their clothes clean), but he has helped to create a solution to the results of those circumstances, by converting an unused locker room into a free Laundromat available to all pupils. With a financial grant, and donations of laundry detergent from companies and local individuals, students can wash their belongings either independently, or with the help of an adult on hand to teach them.

The fact that these kids are in such poor situations, or that more fortunate students are bullying them because of it is a whole other post, but the thoughtfulness shown by Mr Cook is to be applauded. Well done that human!

Read the full story here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

 

The strangest things can make you feel sad

The other day I was hanging some wet washing up to dry and I had an enormous wave of grief and sadness wash over me, because of a pair of pyjamas. They’re leopard print and they have pockets and they were one of my Christmas gifts the last Christmas before my Dad died. I had a flash back to putting them on, as soon as I opened them, over my clothes. I put on pretty much all the other clothes Dad and his wife bought me as well, including a pair of leopard print tights on my head. My Dad was laughing, his eyes crinkling up until you couldn’t see them anymore, and telling me I was a nutter. We all knew that Christmas was going to be his last, even though we didn’t say it. He knew it too – he really went overboard and spoilt us all.

I read an article recently that really resonated with me. You can read it here. It talks about life carrying on, and changing in ways that mean a person you’ve lost wouldn’t recognise things anymore. When we moved house I got really upset that my Dad wouldn’t know where we lived anymore, if in some way he could ever come back (I’m actually welling up typing this, the thought still gets me). When I changed my car it occurred to me that he wouldn’t know it was me if he saw me driving down the street. I still have his phone number in my mobile, and cant being myself to delete it, just in case he managed to get in touch. All daft thoughts, I know. (Also, can you imagine how freaked out I’d be if my phone rang and “Dad” popped up?!)

I can’t imagine how that grief must be magnified if you lose a partner.

We went to Dubrovnik last week, me and the husband and Dad’s wife. And we talked about Dad, as we often do. We knew he’d be happy that the 3 of us are so close and that Julie (Dad’s wife) travels with us. But there’s that ever present reminder that the 3 of us are together because Dad isn’t here anymore.

Grief can hit you at any time, unexpectedly, it can take the shine off your day; zap your mood from hero to zero in an instant.

But it can also bring back happy memories, reminding you to think of the good times.

Almost 2 years on and I’m still learning that, actually, grief is a law unto itself. It doesn’t go away. It just changes over time.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Dear Dad…

It’s Father’s Day. Don’t pity me too much. I have a Dad. He isn’t here anymore; not on this mortal plane. But he’s forever in my head, my heart and my mind.

I hate reading people say they don’t have a Dad anymore. If you love your Dad then he will always be part of you.

Today I will be having a chat with my “Dear Dad” rose. The rose I bought which sits in his wife’s memorial garden where some of his ashes are scattered. The rose I have a replica of in my own garden, where I spend most of my time in summer.

20180614_184245.jpg

Last year was my first Fathers Day without him. It sucked. I was bitter and resentful and angry.

Today, my second Fathers Day without my Dad, I’m just sad. Really really sad. I can’t begrudge anyone still having their Dad around – that would be spiteful. I’ve flinched and shrugged off the marketing and adverts and turned the other cheek this year. But I miss him. And I wish I was seeing him today.

If your Dad is a good man who has done his best for you, be sure to let him know. Not just today, but all the days.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Friday Feeling [32] – who you gonna call? Gay Bar!

We’d all like to think that we’d instinctively know what to say or do if a family member shared something important with us, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes we might need advice from a third party.

It’s not very often, though, that the third party would be a gay bar!

This story is pretty heartwarming – a bartender at a mostly gay bar in Mississippi took a call from a woman who’s son had just come out to her, and she didn’t want to say the wrong thing, so she called the bar for some advice.

Altogether now…aw!

Maybe not the most conventional approach, but thoughtful nonetheless.

Good on that Mom!

Read the full story here.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

Why fundraising for cancer charities is not fun

**DISCLAIMER – this post is not an attack on people who fundraise. I think they’re incredibly admirable and, without them, cancer charities would severely suffer**

I have a bee in my bonnet. It’s about the way fund raising for cancer charities is portrayed in the media.

Cancer

First of all, let’s take a step back. The fact that fundraising is necessary at all really grinds my gears. Kids baking cakes and women shaving their heads and men running marathons is all great stuff, but the fact that research and support for such a vile, in-discriminatory, debilitating, life changing killer disease like cancer has to be funded by the public is appalling. When you look at the amount of money that is spent on war, footballers wages and Hollywood films, and then see that cancer charities are asking for donations to continue life saving work; well, something doesn’t add up there. The same can be said for many charities. I work in the sight loss industry, and some blind people rely heavily on charities like RNIB and Guide Dogs to level the playing field with sighted people for a physical disability that isn’t their fault. But that’s another post.

So, cancer charities are very necessary and very worthwhile.

My problem is the way in which the media encourages people to get involved, in this whole fun, uplifting show of bravado that “together we’ll beat cancer.” My current bug bear is with Absolute Radio, who are promoting a comedy show to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. The advert goes something along the lines of “we’re going to show cancer who’s boss – it’s us.”

It fucking well isn’t us at all. Statistically, the chances of being affected by cancer (that’s having it yourself or knowing someone who does) used to be 1 in 3. Now it’s that 1 in 2 people will get cancer. Not even be affected by it. Actually get it. I know a couple who both have cancer, now, at the same time. The guy has been told his is incurable, and while dealing with that, his wife got diagnosed with breast cancer, had a mastectomy and has just started chemotherapy.

That isn’t us “bossing” cancer.

The radio adverts for Macmillan coffee mornings also pissed me off “oh I’ll have a slice of cake then, if it means beating cancer”. For fuck’s sake, stop trivialising it. These adverts, with their airy fairy-ness, don’t represent the gritty reality of people being unable to eat, sleep or walk because their body is being ravaged by tumours. They’re making cancer into a sociable excuse to get together or a reason to bake some cakes and make yummy noises.

I’m not saying the fundraising efforts, and the encouragement to make them happen, should stop. Of course it shouldn’t; it’s an integral part of treating what is a global problem. I’m just saying I wish the reasoning behind these efforts wasn’t delivered in such a fluffy, softly softly way. And I know that’s because I saw what my Dad went through after his cancer diagnosis, and because I watched him deteriorate mentally and physically up until his death. And it’s because I’m bitter that all the cancer research in the world couldn’t save him. And it’s because I’m cynical, and I actually believe that a cure for at least some cancers already exists. And it’s because I can’t believe governments won’t sanction the use of cannabis oil to help cancer patients, in spite of it’s proven palliative and sometimes curative effects.

But mainly it’s because cancer is one of the most serious and worst things many of us will ever have to face; either personally or by association. And giving it a fascia of having fun isn’t doing justice to how life changing and damaging it is.

Here’s an idea for a marketing campaign.

“Cancer is evil and deadly and we want to support people affected by it, which we can do with your donations. Please give generously, either personally or through sponsored events. Thanks”

Rant over.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Lies, damn lies and politics – Donald Trump is at it again

Donald Trump, 2016 election campaign: “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you…”

Donald Trump, July 2017: “…the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. [It] cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

I mean, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a politician told lies to get elected, but this is a pretty huge deal and a downright disgrace.

It’s difficult to tell, these days, whether Trump:

a) realises he’s out of his depth and is making wild decisions in the hope that he’ll get impeached

b) hates Obama so much that he’s just trying to repeal as much as possible that was passed under his Presidency

c) really is just an absolutely bonkers, narcissistic misogynist who hates anyone that isn’t like him, and belongs back in the dark ages

I could go on and on about why this is a bad decision. About how transgender people have as much right to serve in the military as people born in their correct gender. About how the training and selection process to get admitted to the military is so tough that what really counts is your physical and mental strength and resilience. About how I’m sure Trump wouldn’t care about the gender orientation of any member of the military were they protecting him from an assassination attempt (how come no-one’s tried that yet, by the way?)

I could point out that transgender people aren’t a burden to anyone; that the burden they carry is being born in the wrong body and that they’re more of a danger to themselves if they have to stay in that body, and more of an asset to society if they can be who they truly are. I could point out that anyone who has the heart and soul to defend their country and put their life on the line should be welcomed with open arms, regardless of what is or isn’t between their legs or on their birth certificate. I could point out that this is 2017 and America is supposed to be a progressive country, as well as being the land of the free.

But I won’t. Because most sane and rational people know that, right? And if you’re reading this blog you too must be a sane and rational person! 😉

I’ll just leave you with this, from Twitter, instead.

James Corden tweet

Which I thought was so brilliant in it’s delivery, as well as being so powerful coming from a celebrity with a lot of followers and therefore a degree of influence (not enough influence to topple the hairy tangerine, unfortunately).

Bravo James Corden, bravo. And a big fat raspberry to President Fart, followed up with a punch on the nose.

Transgender people – know that many of us in the world stand with you, and we admire your strength against adversity; today and everyday.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Friday Feeling [8] Muslims are people too

Following the horror of last week’s terror attack in Manchester and the humbling response by people in the City pulling together, I’ve been so uplifted by seeing Manchester and beyond showing strength and solidarity.

This story embodies it for me.

It’s a fairly long watch, but worth it. My eyes were squishy by the end and I felt proud of my fellow humans – whatever age, colour, or faith – showing this brave young man that we’re all in this together.

Just have a look.

We stand with you, Manchester.

Thanks, as always, for reading . x

 

What we got up to in Penang

We arrived in Penang at 11am on a Monday morning after approximately 16 hours of travelling, 2 flights and very little sleep. Initially I feared I would crash and burn and have to hit the sack for a couple of hours but both of us were invigorated by finally being there, and the beachy view, so we checked into our (upgraded) room, unpacked, and set off to explore.

Batu Ferringhi beach

Although the majority of attractions in Penang are in the capital, George Town, we wanted to base ourselves by the coast for that all important paddle in the sea, so opted for Batu Ferringhi which is on the North of the island. Batu is little more than one long main street, with a number of hotels to suit all budgets, lots and lots of food establishments, mini markets and tailors shops (tailoring is big in Malaysia, the husband had a fabulous shirt made during our stay).

Batu comes alive early evening when the hawker food centres and nightly market open for business, both of which are a marvel to behold! The market stalls run for approximately 2km along the main street and sell everything from watches to sunglasses to bags, t-shirts, trinkets and trainers (mostly designer copies) and each stall is meticulously set up each and every night and packed away at the end (around midnight). We watched some stall holders wheeling their metal stall around 200 metres down the street, into the path of oncoming traffic, like it was the most normal thing in the world!

There’s not an awful lot to do in Batu Ferringhi, which suited us fine. It’s mainly focussed around eating (yay!) and sightseeing outside of the town. Because Malaysia is a Muslim country alcohol is heavily taxed, and therefore expensive, and there isn’t much of a drinking culture. Many restaurants don’t serve alcohol or, if they do, it will be purely beer. Booze prices are similar to at home, in some cases slightly more expensive, with a small glass of wine at around £5. We bought some drinks from a licensed liquor store and had a couple of nightcaps on our balcony and also spent a couple of evenings in the Hard Rock Café drinking delicious but overpriced cocktails! Hard Rock had a house band who played from 10.30pm each evening and were very good.

One of the things we were really looking forward to was the food, and it didn’t disappoint. There is a proliferation of both Indian and Chinese food in Malaysia, with Malay cuisine being something of a combination of the two, with lots of rice, noodles, fresh seafood and spices. You wouldn’t touch many of the streetfood stalls with a barge pole back at home but somehow, over there, eating from a hut constructed from metal poles with a corrugated iron roof, plastic patio chairs and a bucket at the side of the road for washing up seems perfectly normal! We had no stomach problems at all and ate some absolutely amazing dishes. A personal highlight was an amazing Mee Goreng (noodles cooked with meat and spices) for a ridiculous 80 pence. The husband pushed the boat out that night, his dinner was £1.20! The taste and flavours and freshness were just incredible. Also in Penang are a couple of large hawker centres, where lots of foodstalls are under one roof – all serving different cuisine. Our favourite was Long Island which we went to twice. The process is simple – get a table number and then go to whichever stalls you want, order your food, they will cook it fresh and bring it to your table where you then pay.

Dishes were no more than around £3 each at most, and the husband made the mistake of sending me off to do the ordering with a fistful of ringgits (Malaysian currency). We ended up with easily enough food for 4 people from about 7 different stalls! Examples included 10 sticks of chicken satay for less than £2, national favourite Char Kway Teow, Tom Yum soup, onion roti and chicken samosas. Amazing.

As well as spending time in Batu, we ventured into the capital Georgetown for two full days to soak up the sights and sounds. There’s a lot of building going on in Georgetown, lots of high rise condos and apartments (they have to build upwards due to lack of space on the ground) which sit along heavily adorned temples of such beauty and acres of green forest hills. It’s a really complex landscape with a different view at every turn, architecture influenced by British colonial days and a view across the Malacca Straits to the mainland. It also doesn’t seem to have a centre as such, and isn’t particularly easy to navigate, so a map is a must.

Penang Hill

Technically outside of Georgetown, in the nearby Air Itam neighbourhood, Penang Hill rises 833 metres above the city and is a green and luscious area. Accessed by funicular railway which, at it’s steepest, rises at 50+ percentage, it’s definitely worth a visit. You could spend as little as 10 minutes for the views, up to most of a day exploring the summit of the hill and it’s attractions. We had a wander round, marvelled at the views, had some lunch, had a look round the Hindu temple, and took lots of photos. The funicular is a highlight in itself, and a feat of engineering, imagine building a railway on a hill that steep!

 

Dharmikarama Burmese temple

I was very excited to visit temples in Malaysia, not because I identify with any religion (I don’t) but because the architecture and attention to detail is so stunning. This temple and the Wat Chaiyamangkalaram Thai temple (below) are opposite each other, incongruously positioned on opposite sides of the street in the middle of George Town. At first glance it seems to be a competition between who can bring the most bling, there’s a A LOT of gold leaf, everywhere! The temple itself is very serene and picturesque, with dedicated areas for praying, although non praying people can also enter as long as shoes are removed.

 

 

Wat Chaiyamangkalaram Thai temple

This temple is famous for the reclining Buddha – 33 metres long and the 3rd biggest in the world, but it was closing as we arrived so we only got to peek inside. Again there are multiple buildings, gold leaf and mosaics everywhere. The architecture is incredible – everywhere you look is a stunning building or intricate piece of work. Amazing.

 

Little India

I’m going to be slightly controversial here and say that Little India was a disappointment. Firstly it wasn’t as busy and bustling as we’d hoped, which I think is because we were there in the afternoon and the main food sellers don’t open until early evening, but secondly it wasn’t that Indian, to us! Let me elaborate – I live in Birmingham which has a large Indian and Pakistani community, and there are areas of Birmingham where these communities live closely together and therefore develop their own “Little India” with sari shops, indian restaurants, mosques, and food stalls filling the air with pungent fragrance. So this place wasn’t really any different to anything I’ve experienced at home. If you live in an area or country that doesn’t have an Indian community that you’ve experienced, then you may feel very differently. Whilst there we did have an incredible thali style lunch at a restaurant which came with chicken curry, mutton curry, tandoori fish, basmati rice, pickles and poppadum, and it was spectacular, and I also snapped some pics of the Sri Mahamariamman Hindu temple but only from the outside as it was closed.

 

Street art in Armenia Street

We struggled to find Armenia Street initially, walking round in a big circle, trying to get in the map (a Friends reference!!) and starting to get ever so slightly narky with each other in the crazy heat of the day. When we did find it we were only there for 15 minutes or so, but it was good to see some of the fun street art which is a renowned tourist attraction in the city. Getting a photo without someone else in it who’s trying to do the same is something of a struggle, but a bit of patience goes a long way.

We also visitied Masjid Kapitan Keling and Kek Lok Si Temple, but I’ll be doing a separate post on both of those.

Would I recommend Penang? Absolutely. The people are incredibly friendly, generous and selfless, keen to tell you about their homeland (as we found with a couple of very chatty taxi drivers), the food is absolutely incredible and very cheap, there’s a good balance of city and beach to suit all interests and the mix of architecture is fascinating.

Getting shirty

I don’t generally buy shirts, and the honest reason is because I hate ironing! Which means that, invariably, I’ll wear them and wash them once and then they sit in my wardrobe looking at me in an accusatory fashion.

But they’re so useful for this in betweeny time of year that I’ve found my eye being turned.

It started with these two from H&M. Great basics, these actually don’t need ironing (rejoice) and are great for layering underneath a jumper when it’s colder, or wearing on their own now the weather is improving. They were half price in the 50% flash sale a few weeks ago (where I also bought my current favourite dress) at just £7 each.

They don’t look anything exciting, but teamed with skinny jeans and some statement boots I’m really happy with them.

Then, in the most recent H&M sale (which of course I ordered loads from because, sale) I spotted these two.

My husband wears a lot of checked shirts, and when I showed him these he thought I’d bought them for him!

He was pretty disappointed that they’re for me. So far I’ve worn them with indigo straight leg jeans, but they’ll be good with denim cut offs in summer as well as battered pale blue jeans and sandals. Unfortunately these will need ironing (ick) but I really like them so will try and make an exception!

They’re lovely and soft and cost just £7 (top) and £5 (bottom).

Four new very versatile tops for just £26; how great is that?!

How do you dress for inbetweeny weather?

Thanks, as always, for reading!