Daybook Entry – 19th October


FOR TODAY

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Outside my window… the wind is howling, darkness has fallen, leaves are being blown hither and thither and the beautiful earthy smells of Autumn pervade the air. This is my absolute favourite time of the year.

I am thinking… that I was a little bit hard on Ethan this afternoon when I lost my rag with him, but he has responded in the way that has made me proud. And relieved.

I am thankful… that my church family are so forgiving, especially when it comes to misbehaving technology during the service!

In the kitchen… we had home-made broccoli and blue-cheese soup for tea tonight and it was delicious! Sounds a bit strange but so easy to make and extremely tasty. Not only that, but it cost pennies to make too which is a bonus. In fact the most expensive item was the blue cheese which was £1.50 for 150g of Tesco Danish Blue. The rest was bits of veg we already had in so a very economical meal to make and went down VERY well with my boys.

I am wearing… jeans and my yellow polo shirt. Will get my “comfies” on later.

I am creating… loads and loads and LOADS of stuff for my OU course. I posted a short story earlier this week which is a piece I had done in preparation for my first assignment, so if you haven’t had chance to read it please give it a look for me if you would. I’d love to hear your feedback if you don’t mind.

I am going… to put the X-Factor results on shortly. We’re watching the Strictly results now, and recording the other side so we can fast forward the adverts and get to the meat of it within about 15 minutes.

I am wondering… how my lovely Emma is doing on her first assignment for her final year of her law degree. I helped her out with some proofreading this morning and it looks pretty good to me but it’s all about what her tutors want at the end of the day.

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This is Emma last week. Isn’t that a picture a mother can be proud of!

I am reading… I’m still battling my way through “The Detective’s Daughter” from last week. It’s very hard going and I’m so bored with it, but at 76% of the way through I’m not about to give up now, and I want to know whodunit!

I am hoping… that the National Lottery got it wrong and missed a few 00’s off the end of our £9.60 win. Haha!

I am praying for… my mother in law still. She is extremely weak and is unable to sit up or lift her head off the pillow. She is on thickened fluids because of her inability to swallow properly and can’t speak any more. We can understand some of what she’s saying/asking but it is very, very difficult.

I am looking forward to… a bit early maybe, but I’m looking forward to Christmas.

I am learning… that I have more emotional strength than I thought I did.

Around the house… is order and cleanliness. We had a Big Clean yesterday in the living room and we have a lovely room again now. It smells lovely and fresh, and we have a great relaxing space to sit in.

I am pondering… having a stall to sell some of my crotched stuff in the next few weeks. I have got lots of samples of hats, blankets and toys etc and have lots of photos of my stuff so I can demonstrate what I can do and I’d like to sell some stuff, get orders for more and make a little bit of cash.

A favourite quote for today:

Romans 8:38-39 New International Version (NIV)

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

One of my favourite things… is a proper home-cooked meal.

A few plans for the rest of the week: lots of writing! Some music practice, Stay and Play in the morning, hospital visiting, a bit of cooking, a bit of reading, a bit of gigging….the usual really!

A peek into my day… we came home from the hospital this afternoon to this little lady in the garden. I didn’t notice her before, but this is probably the last rose of summer in our garden and she is lovely.

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Short Story – “Lights Out”


“ ’The lights will go out across Europe and I fear they won’t be back on in our lifetime’ ”. Father shook out his newspaper in frustration. “What the hell does that mean!”

Grumbling to himself as he read more, pausing only to slurp greedily from his rapidly cooling tea from a saucer, Father continued with the story in the paper.

“Do you really have to do that?” Mother admonished, wafting a dishcloth at him angrily.

“It says here that we’re heading for war!” he exclaimed and stabbed his finger into the print to make his point. “Who do they think is going to fight in this bloody war then? The only fit men round here are all down the mines. Who’s going to bring up the coal if they want us to go and fight in sodding France? Is that what he means about the lights going out or what!”

“Hmph. I didn’t mean the news,” muttered Mother, fussing round the small kitchen and tidying the breakfast things away. “If you don’t stop slurping your bloody tea off that saucer, it’ll be YOUR lights that will be going out. And it won’t be no bloody Sir Edward who does it neither!”

lights out

This is a piece I have composed in preparation for my first assignment on my OU course, due in the week after next. We were tasked with writing a 200 word piece from a set prompt and then we had to write a commentary on it. I have not published my commentary here as that’s the bit that will earn me marks and to be honest I don’t want to get into trouble with the OU! I’m allowed to share the story so here it is. Please be gentle with your feedback if you would like to leave some for me!

Productivity


I’ve had a rather productive day today, despite a very ropey start.

When I woke up I was full of the lurgy – pains in my head, that woody bit behind my ears was aching, my glands under my jaw were like golf balls and my eyes felt like they were trying to escape their restraints – so it was a bit of a slow morning for me. But once I got going WOW I got a lot done!

Before I’d even got out of bed I’d had an online argument with the EDL and some idiots on the Manchester Evening News website (don’t get me started on knuckle-dragging, short-sighted and narrow minded people that exist in our country), and once I was up I sorted out all the laundry (can someone explain to me how three people can generate an overflowing basket of washing in three days please? I only emptied it on Sunday!), stripped our bed and got the first of four loads on. Downstairs, I cleaned the whole kitchen, got rid of the bits of washing up that has been hanging around and the detritus on the worktop, and I bleached all round the sink, the cooker, the floor, the bin and all round the hall and the front door. Everything downstairs got swept, mopped or otherwise pummelled into being clean…and then I had my breakfast.

OK, OK, OK, it was gone midday by this time but wasn’t I good?! I needed to clean out the aquarium today too, but I can’t manage that all on my own so I took out half of Terry’s water and replaced it with clean by way of syphoning and scooping out in a pot. I should have taken him out first, but when I tried to pick him up he hissed at me (yes, really. Terrapins hiss!) and he ran away from me to hide under his basking platform. Grrr little swine…talk about making life harder. Anyway, he’s relatively clean now and has some nicely aerated water to swim about it again.

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On to the afternoon and after a quick stop for a brew and something to eat with my bestie I hit my study books. Washing machine still whirring away and now the dryer and the airer full too, I tackled my Inside Music work for the OU which I had been putting off. I had allowed myself two sessions this week to do the work I needed to this week and I am really pleased that not only did I finish it ALL today but I managed to get ahead on next week’s work too. Woohoo!

I took a couple of breaks from studying during the afternoon and kept up the swapping of laundry from machine to airer etc, and of course kept myself thoroughly soaked in tea. Lovely jubbly.

Before tea, I remade the bed and started on a creative writing piece for my first assignment which is due next week. After tea I did some crocheting and managed to make a big headway on the last of the blankets I have been asked for.

I feel quite accomplished today, which is a very pleasant change from the way things have been recently. As you know, things have been very difficult in all kinds of ways which has naturally had an impact on my mood and my buoyancy. I wouldn’t say that things are back to normal, but today was a chink of light in an otherwise gloomy situation.

For those of you who have been praying for my family and in particular my mother-in-law I want to thank you once again. She was a little brighter yesterday and was able to make herself understood more easily than in the previous days, but she is still very poorly and largely immobile. She cannot swallow fluids safely so as well as pureed food she now has thickened fluids so she doesn’t aspirate them which is both a choking and an infection hazard. I visited her for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon with Emma and we gave her a mini-manicure which she seemed to enjoy. Kevin visited her today but she was asleep and he didn’t want to disturb her so only stayed for half an hour. I’ll be going again tomorrow and will let you know she is faring after then.

 

Daybook Entry – 12th October


021114_2314_DaybookEntr1.jpgFOR TODAY
Outside my window… ooooh Autumn is definitely here!

I am thinking… about how cruel life can be

I am thankful… that my Mum made our tea tonight. Thank you Mum, I don’t know what I’d do without you xx

In the kitchen… is a bloody annoying light that is blinking on and off. It seems to respond when we talk to it. Not sure if that’s us hallucinating or we have a really clever light

I am wearing… hoodie, tracksuit pants and a black t-shirt. Catching up with Strictly calls for sports gear even though I am a million miles away from doing any exercise right this minute!

I am creating… still working on some baby blankets that have been ordered by a lady at church and oodles and oodles of notes and story/character/plot ideas for my creative course

I am going… to bed soon. It has been a horrible day and tomorrow is looking as equally difficult

I am wondering… what tomorrow will bring

I am reading… “The Detective’s Daughter” by Leslie Thomson

I am hoping… my mother-in-law is not distressed and is peaceful tonight

I am praying for… to be honest, I don’t know what to pray for tonight. My mother-in-law is in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease and has been taken to hospital again today. She is facing an operation tomorrow but we are worried she might not withstand the anaesthetic, and if she does survive it her quality of life is so poor it seems wrong to pray for recovery. It is very difficult for all of the family so I suppose my prayers would be that we all stay strong and can face the next couple of days together.

I am looking forward to… in the current circumstances it feels wrong to be looking forward to anything very much, but I am looking forward to handing over these blankets to my friend. The babies are not due for another couple of months but I want them to be with the parents soon nevertheless!

I am learning… that statistics and case studies mean nothing when it’s a member of your own family suffering with a cruel disease

Around the house… meh…..stuff, more stuff, bits of stuff, messy stuff….

I am pondering… selling a kidney so we can afford a cleaner

A favourite quote for today: “You can’t rewind a sunset” (said by me this evening)

One of my favourite things… is my Mum’s shepherd pie

A few plans for the rest of the week: apart from Stay and Play in the morning, this week is going to be pretty much a minute by minute, hour by hour “see how it goes” kind of week

A peek into my day… we went for a drive this evening to have a bit of clear air and just to change the atmosphere. As you can see we chose a beautiful time of day to go out!

 

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I’m All About The Postmodern Jukebox


Do you know how every now and again you find something so refreshingly different that you just have to go all evangelical about it? Well, have a listen to this!

I actually quite like the original of this song (after I’d got over the shock of who was actually singing it!) but this cover version is equally as good as that. I much prefer live and acoustic music to highly polished and overly electronically-enhanced noise, but for this song I can make an exception. I like the lyric and I like the message it is giving out. I also quite like the video despite what I just said about things being highly polished and overly enhanced!

I went a-hunting to see what other music PostModern Jukebox have produced and found a brilliant version of Livin’ On A Prayer.

Go and search for more of this band – they are fab!

 

 

 

 

Touchstones Gallery


I went to the Touchstones Gallery in Rochdale today as part of a trip with 33 Year 10s from my school. I wasn’t sure what to expect really – first of all I’ve never been in a TA role before (Teaching Assistant) and second of all I have never been involved with secondary school art education in any way shape or form before. Ever.

Thirdly, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the gallery itself. Was it going to be one of those pretentious “Emperor’s New Clothes” type of place, or was it going to be somewhere that I could understand and connect with the works on display?

As it turned out, it was a little bit of both. One of the rooms we visited had an exhibit of works that reflected the changing seasons – “Four Seasons In One Day” – which was the type of art that I instantly understand and can appreciate the talent and skill of the artist, and was really good in my opinion. But the other two rooms we visited were as I’d feared they would be… We had gone to the gallery because the students have been studying the work of local artist who makes models out of bits of scrap and who draws inspiration from quirky and unusual buildings she sees on her travels. She met us at the gallery to do a talk with the students and to explain the background to another artist’s installation, “Sanctuary” by Rosa Nguyen.

Rosa’s installation was one of those “I can’t really see what I’m seeing” type of things – it just looked like a load of old twigs and branches on the floor interspersed with some handmade pots to me, but the more I looked at it the more I found myself responding to it, and I began to see a little of what the artist was intending.

This picture will show you a little of it:

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Another view shows you a little more:

 

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And this is where things got interesting and I found myself being inspired. The students were encouraged to make sketches and drawings of the things they could see to use in projects in the future, but as you may have gathered, my inspiration usually manifests itself as words and not drawings, so I found myself doing a pen portrait instead. It’s one of the disciplines we are encouraged to do as part of the Creative Writing course with the OU that I’m doing, and I was really surprised at how easily it came to me today.

I made some notes, and out of those notes I found the germ of (another) Haiku being formed.

My notes ran along the lines of:

Twigs in pots; leaves on deck; gaps, space, where do I fit? etc

But then it struck me that the painted walls looked a bit like a horizon – sea, sky, distance, gaps etc – and then it struck me that the “twigs in pots” actually looked like submerged masts.

This is the haiku I came up with:

Far in the distance

Boats below the waterline

Sunk by exhaustion

For saying I’m not a fan of these here haiku thingies, I’m getting into the groove of them now! Gobsmacked that a school trip of all things could prompt a burst of creativity within me, and not only that but I actually “got” an art installation without feeling that it was all a bit silly and that the artist was having us on.

Woohoo!! I’m either getting there or losing the plot altogether. You tell me!!

Autumnal Haiku


I was doing a writing exercise for my OU course yesterday and whilst playing about words and images of the horrendous weather we were experiencing, my thoughts and pen took their own little walk and I began to draw parallels between the destructive, turbulent force of nature and the destructive force of man.

I came up with this haiku, which I hope draws all that together:

force of man

Haikus are not a form that come naturally to me, and the rhythm doesn’t sit easily with me either, but as a way of distilling ideas and words quickly and efficiently they are a good discipline to get to grips with and the sense of achievement at completing a successful one is something I can get used to quite easily!

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Sometimes


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Sometimes, we don’t need a superhero to rescue us; we don’t need advice or instructions from anyone else. Sometimes, we don’t need to be told what to do, or what to think or how to feel. Sometimes, we just want someone to be there simply to let us know we are listened to and cared about.

 

Book Review – The History of Loneliness


history of lonelinessThe History of Loneliness by John Boyne

Background/plot:

It is really difficult to describe the plot and background to this book because it is a tale that is revealed in stages, rather than given as a linear story, but I’ll give my interpretation of it. We are immersed in the life of Father Odran Yates, a Catholic priest who is removed from his comfortable teaching post in a boy’s school for reasons that become apparent as the book progresses. There are many layers to this story, and it raises as many questions for me as it answers. It made me think a lot about how victims are defined, and how a handful of individuals have the power to bring down an institution.

My overall impression?

From the very first page I was drawn into this story and even now, four or five days later the characters and the things that pricked my own imagination and conscience are still living in my head. It is an extremely well written book from an obviously accomplished author. I hadn’t read any of John Boyne’s work before so wasn’t sure what to expect but the way that he weaves this story is a wonderful treat. The story jumps around quite a lot but it is not distracting in the least. We read scenes from Odran’s childhood, his early adulthood, episodes from his teenage years and of course, we learn about his time in the seminary as a trainee priest. These little pictures of Odran’s past all contribute to the overall picture of how his position as a priest has changed over the years. The eventual outcome of the book is signalled from about three-quarters of the way through, but had I been paying more attention then I probably could have put two and two together sooner. But having said that, it didn’t matter because the joy of this book lies in the telling of the story rather than the eventual destination.

Who are the main characters?

The story is narrated by Father Odran Yates, but his story weaves around members of his family (his sister, her children, his mother), his long standing friendship with other priests from his seminary days, and probably the biggest “character” of them all is the Catholic Church of Ireland. 

Where is it set?

It is mostly set in Ireland but there are chapters of the book set in Rome. 

Will I read any more by this author?

Most definitely! As I said, I haven’t read any work by John Boyne before, but I will certainly be putting this right in the future. If this one is anything to go by, he has definitely got the knack of creating believable characters who are flawed and weak as we all are in real life.

Would I recommend it to my friends?

Yes, without doubt. This is a book for readers who are interested in people stories rather than action stories, and it is for readers who like to question what is accepted as truth by others. It would also appeal to those readers who like to observe life rather than question it. An all-round great read and one to recommend to others.

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Food On A Budget


Can anyone beat “mummy blogger Anneliese” and her challenge to feed a family of 4 on £20 a week?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/bills/article-2774978/Can-feed-family-20-week-Mummy-blogger-Anneliese-out.html

Off her trolley??

I had to bite my tongue so many times when I was reading this because of the sheer patronising arrogance of this woman. Clearly she is found the challenge “fun” to do. A bit of “slumming it” to see how the other half live and to prove a point to all us poverty-stricken whingers that the Conservative austerity measures have not gone far enough and £20 per week is ample to feed a family of four…with change to spare and all.

There were a couple of things to note:

1. She did a bulk-buy before the challenge started and used the allocated budget to top-up on essentials during the week.

2. Her children were little more than toddlers, who couldn’t possibly eat a full portion of food between them. She should do it with a couple of hungry teenagers in the house and a husband who has a physically demanding job.

3. She acknowledges the fact that it is socially isolating to live on a food budget such as this. She was grateful for the opportunity for her children to go to a party, but she was embarrassed that she couldn’t return the favour until the challenge had been completed.

4. The menu she provided for her family did not include any “treats”, as she put it. She felt hard done-by that her children did not have cakes, biscuits, jelly etc and had to rely on home made ice lollies for one single extra during that month.

5. She tells us how horrified she was that her children were found munching breadsticks in between meals one day, realising how hungry they must have been to do that.

6. She acknowledges that fresh fruit and vegetables were too expensive to be incorporated into her challenge, fruit more so than vegetables. She tells us the answer to the gap in her children’s fruit intake was to go foraging in the fields behind her house for blackberries.

7. She was “bored” of the “bland and repetitive” meals…by the end of the first week!

I can’t take these points one by one because my comments span them and incorporate more that one at a time, but here goes:

1. This “mummy blogger” obviously can’t have a job, because the amount of time she would have to spend on cooking means that she simply couldn’t have fit paid work in as well.

2. It would be interesting to see what items were in her initial bulk-buy, and where she bought it from. Her menu relies heavily on fresh ingredients – hummus, carrot sticks, pitta bread etc – which can’t be bought and kept for a month.

3. On the subject of “treats”, she was mortified that when her children had been to a party she couldn’t return the favour because there was no room in the budget. She was equally mortified that her children had nothing to eat in between meals (apart from the breadsticks – presumably from the back of the cupboard and not out of the £20 budget. If she’d bought them out of the budget for this challenge, what a foolish woman she is, and if they’re out of the cupboard, what a cheat!).

We do have to remember that her challenge was for a month only – how on earth does she think people in this situation PERMANENTLY feel? There’s no chance to bulk buy for us! And to do without a couple of treats for a month is no hardship whatsoever. Doing it week in week out, month after month after month is not only tedious but yes, it is bloody HARD. And when it comes to parties and sharing etc, the guilt and shame and embarrassment of being on the receiving end of sharing like that without hope of being able to give it back is a terrible burden to bear. For someone who naturally wants to share and pay back, taking and not giving back is horrible. Horrible.

4. Foraging for blackberries in the fields behind her house?? Not living in Manchester or Sheffield then….

5. The fruit and veg thing, yes they ARE expensive but it is possible to manage things so that you are taking in nutrients without blowing the budget. Root vegetables tend to be seasonal, and there is a glut of them for about three-quarters of the year round. Carrots, potatoes, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, parsnips, swedes, turnips, courgettes etc are quite cheap to buy and can be incorporated into soups and stews for bulk and for vitamin contribution. Root veg freezes well, and if you buy frozen veg you can manage the waste a bit better too. Fruit however really is a different matter. Even cheap fruit isn’t that cheap – you don’t get much for your money, it doesn’t keep well, and doesn’t go very far. I think the only fruit that you can spread around a family of four is apples – pies, crumbles, purees etc. The rest? Forget it! Even salad veg is expensive – lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber etc. The best way to get tomatoes is tinned ones. So versatile and so long as you don’t have the very basic budget ones, you can be certain their quality is quite good.

6. She did this challenge in the full knowledge that at the end of the month she would be able to go back to normal. Anyone can survive hardship for that short amount of time knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, especially if you know that you have money in the bank anyway and you are simply choosing not to spend it because you have a point to prove to the Daily Mail readers.

I have to ask the question why she did this challenge in the first place. Is it to highlight how hard it is for normal people to feed their families healthily on a budget and therefore highlight where help is needed? Or is it to highlight that it is possible to do it and therefore encouraging the government to make even MORE cuts from people at the bottom of the pile? I’m not even going to get into the whole “poverty vs benefits” argument because that’s for another post, but basically there are people in poverty who have budgets as little as this who are working for their living and do not qualify for benefits and who can’t gain access to food banks because they are not on benefits who do struggle for food, medicines, toiletries, personal essentials etc. It’s one thing to prove a point that you can feed a family of four on £20 a week for a single month, but it is entirely different to live with it for real for months and even years.

The more I think about this the more incensed I have become but I would like to hear your views on it. Am I making too much of this? Or am I speaking for lots of people who are struggling to make ends meet? (Or even “meat”, as the case may be). Is this something that is unique to the UK, or are people experiencing things like this in other countries too? I’d love to hear from you if you are in the US or Australia, or elsewhere in Europe and can see for real the hardship that this woman has tried to emulate.