Saturday, 30 June 2012

My New Website

I've set up a new website. Please visit me at:

Thursday, 5 January 2012

New Year 2012

Happy New Year! I’ve had a quiet Christmas, as usual, with my husband coming out with his well-worn comment of ‘I’m not a Christmas person.’ (Well, blow me, Ian. I thought you were!). I don’t like Christmas either, though I suppose what I don’t like about it is the phoney baloney commercialism. Really I shouldn’t complain. I’m fortunate enough to have a loved one to spend Christmas with, enough food and a warm bed; these are things which many people don’t have.

We went to visit Ian’s mum in her care home on Christmas Day. It’s so sad to see people whose bodies have outlived their minds or whose minds are trapped inside failing bodies. But I love the way a feisty ninety-year-old shouts ‘Up the Owls!’ every time Ian walks in because she knows Ian supports the Blades. He teases her by standing in front of her sporting his Blades T-shirt, and a lot of friendly bantering goes on between them. It’s interesting to get chatting to the residents and see the person they once were who is still somewhere inside. They each have their stories to tell. One frail old woman told us she used to be a contortionist. She took delight in showing us photos of her aged about 18 lying on her stomach with her legs over her head. Jeez! How did she manage to untangle herself?

I spent much of Christmas and New Year reading on my Kindle (Yes, I at last succumbed and bought a Kindle). I love being able to instantly download books, but I must take care not to spend a fortune with the all too easy One-Click method.

I enjoyed reading Jeanette Winterson’s autobiography, ‘Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?’, and seeing how this factual account of her life compares with the fictional account in ‘Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit’. I’m fascinated with the struggles many of us women have had, to get to where we are today, and the ways in which we can tell our stories.

Another good book I’ve just finished is ‘Wasted’ by Nicola Morgan. It is a Young Adult novel but also of interest to adults; a successful crossover novel. Jack is an endearing character who tosses a coin to make decisions. The novel explores how the seemingly small and random events from choices we make can change our whole life. Or do we only think we can choose? Do we have free will? Jack is the leader of a band called Schrödinger’s Cat, the title of which brings up for me complicated thoughts about quantum physics and the nature of reality. I’ve been hung up before on this sort of thing. Is what we perceive as external reality constructed in our minds? This thought has me wandering around wondering if the people I see around me are really each a separate existence or have I sort of dreamed them up? I asked Ian how he knows that I’m really here and not just a figment of his imagination. He says there’s no way that even his imagination could conjure up anything like me (I don’t know if this is a compliment or insult). Anyway, it’s all too confusing to think about further and I’d better quit it before curiosity kills the cat (was it Schrödinger’s cat it killed?).

I’ve only drunk alcohol once during these hols, but that once was enough to make me reel off four New Year’s Resolutions and rashly put them up on facebook for all to see. I should have waited until I was nearly sober and just picked ONE. No, I should have waited until I was fully sober and not made any, since I’m hopeless at keeping the flippin things. I resolved to do more writing, eat less junky food, get more exercise and stop reading before 2am when I’ve to get up early. I haven’t done much writing yet but I’m doing some now (if blog writing counts). So far I have been managing to do at least half-an-hour of brisk walking every day. The other two don’t count yet because I haven’t needed to get up early (will do tomorrow when I go back to work) and it wouldn’t be right, would it, not to stuff myself with the chocolates people have kindly given me as presents?

Well, enough of my ramblings. What I'm doing now is putting off making a start on filling in my tax return form, a task I hate.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Ignorance is bliss

Forty years ago in my other life I was written off as suffering from chronic schizophrenia. Like many people who eventually receive a mental illness diagnosis, I'd had years of abuse before entering the psychiatric system where I got more of the same. I was subdued into silence, my mind in an electro-shocked and heavily drugged torpor. Being labelled a chronic schizophrenic, especially back then, meant being given no hope of ever living a full, productive life. It meant being expected to remain on debilitating medication for life. It meant forgetting the dreams and aspirations you once had, losing your previous identity and being given a new and extremely limiting one.

But perhaps I was fortunate in that I didn't know my diagnosis. I didn't find it out until I read my case notes long after I'd jumped out of the net and after many years of being medication-free and holding down a responsible job.

I didn't know during years of happy marriage, and while sharing many precious times with close friends, that I had an incurable illness which brings about social isolation.

I didn't know when I returned to study and got a first-class degree that I'd got an irreversible brain disease leading to severe cognitive deterioration.

I didn't know I wasn't supposed to achieve all that I had done by then.

I didn't know, until I looked it up in a psychiatric textbook, that people with the rare form of schizophrenia I'd been diagnosed with, are likely to end up as vagrants (well, I suppose there's still time for that. I'd better not push my luck too much!)

I didn't know that I couldn't possibly have gone on to live the full, happy, productive life that I was actually living by then.

So I suppose my journey to 'recovery' (whatever the word 'recovery' means) had been a bit like the flight of the bumble bee in a verse I remember reading once (I'm afraid I can't acknowledge the author or seek copyright permission to reproduce it because I don't know who wrote it):

The scientists have ample proof
Proof no-one can deny
That by accepted theories well
The bumble bee can't fly.
With fat and rounded fuselage
With such small, fragile wings
He cannot even leave the ground
Bees are but crawling things.
And though these facts may all be true
And proved by people wise
The bumble bee, not knowing this
Just goes ahead - and flies.

Well, interpret that as you will.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Me again

Recent health problems have become much less worrying. My second gynaecological surgery went well and the investigations showed up no serious concerns. It looks like I'm going to be sticking around for longer, which is great. I'm enjoying life and there's still so much I want to do.

Now that summer has ended for the year, I thought I'd take advantage of this unexpected second debut of sunshine and head for the coast. We had a lovely day in Scarborough yesterday. I love being near the sea. I wonder what it would be like to live on the coast. Perhaps not as good as it sounds because I'd probably take it for granted and appreciate it less.

Today I've been wandering the streets looking at gardens. I mean noseying at the ordinary gardens of ordinary people. I wanted to get some ideas of what to do with ours. We only have a small garden and it's badly in need of a complete makeover.

I arrived back home to several emails and messages on the answerphone. One from my speakers club - do I want to take part in a speech competition? Erm.. no, not really, I don't think I do. One from work about the training classes for voluntary workers that I help to run, which start this Saturday. One about a date for a session I'll be doing for social workers at Bradford University (hey, they must have liked what I did last year as I've been invited to do another). One giving details of the book chosen for the next reading club. One from a friend about meeting for lunch ...

I'm going to stop moaning about being busy. It's so nice to be busy again with things I enjoy doing.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

One on One

I was on live radio yesterday on Liz Green's hour-long 'One on One' programme on BBC Radio Leeds. You can listen to it here (available for the next six days).

Being on live radio is kinda scary. On the way to the studio I kept thinking, what if right in the middle of it I want to go to the loo, have a panic attack, feel sick, get one of these optical migraines I keep getting, not know what to say or how best to say it ...

Ian was listening in the waiting room. When I dedicated 'True Love Ways' to him he came and blew a kiss to me through the glass door of the studio where I was being interviewed. Daft bugger! It distracted me momentarily and made me laugh.

Anyway, I did my best, and that's all anyone can do. Actually it turned out to be an interesting and (reasonably) enjoyable experience. But I guess I'll always find writing easier than talking.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Jean is not a happy bunny

While still in the process of deciding where to go with this blog (don’t tell me!), please allow me to indulge this time in airing my moans.

My GP referred me to a gynaecologist for urgent investigation. First, there were the usual kinds of admin problems. I received an appointment letter on the day, and after the time, that I should have been there. I phoned the receptionist who fitted me into a clinic a couple of days later under the care of someone else. I was seen by a registrar, and apparently some of my case notes were missing. She immediately sent me to the pre-op clinic. I arrived home to find a letter asking me to attend the appointment I had just attended, saying my previous appointment had been changed. I was put on hospital standby for an investigative operation and went in on Monday. Just before my admission, I received a letter from my GP saying she had heard from the gynaecologist that I had not attended for my appointment at his clinic. Once in hospital, nobody knew which consultant I was supposed to be under (and neither do I).

A few days earlier at my pre-op med, the nurse put the blood pressure monitor cuff on my arm and then she said ‘We’ll do the next test at the same time.’ The pre-hospital tests now include screening to ensure you’re not a carrier of MRSA. Anyway, she started pushing a swab on the end of long stick up my nose (at the same time as the BP cuff on my arm was tightening!). As it happened, the swab didn’t have to go far up my nostril but I didn’t know that at first. I just saw the long stick and thought ‘OMG!’ Needless to say she was then concerned that my BP was too high! (Fortunately, the second reading was fine).

To cut a long story short, the worst of it is that after bravely (or not) facing my fear of doctors, hospitals, general anaesthetics and medical procedures, I’ve got nowhere. I came round from the anaesthetic to be told that they hadn’t been able to go ahead with the procedure due to a complication. They’re attempts were bringing too great a risk of perforating my organs so they had to stop. Not their fault this time, I know, but I wonder if my body holds memories of past damaging treatments and has found a way of saying, ‘Leave me alone, you sods! Keep out!’

Yes, I know I shouldn’t moan when others are much worse off than me and I’ve no right to feel sorry for myself and blah, blah, blah. So now I will go and cheer myself up with a big piece of chocolate cake. Oh, I can’t, can I? It still hurts badly when I swallow, due to the tube they inserted.

Saturday, 2 July 2011


I’m thinking about blogging. That’s the trouble though. It’s easier to spend more time thinking about things than actually doing.

I started this blog back in September 2008, bursting to tell anyone who might listen that I’d at last got a publisher for ‘The Dark Threads’. I was, of course, very young then (well, only fifty-something) and my youthful enthusiasm knew no bounds. I proudly announced that this was my first book (where is the next?) and that I would chart my journey towards publication in this blog.

Okay, been there, done that and got the clichéd old T-shirt. After publication in August 2009, what then? Of one thing I was sure. My blog should continue. Getting a book published doesn’t end on publication day. It was scary but wonderful having the opportunity to speak out about a subject close to my heart while attempting to publicise my book. Me on radio! Me on TV! Me giving talks! Me winning a cup for (I still can’t believe this) Public Speaking!

But then . . . Somehow I was slipping into a ‘So what?’ kind of blogging. I suppose the problem was in trying to decide what to blog about now that I’d done what I set out to do in my profile. Perhaps it was time to wrap up the blog before it degenerated further into the ‘Had a boiled egg for breakfast’ postings. Oh, I loved writing about my treadmill and the dilemma of should I or shouldn’t I exercise with a cold. Fascinating! Or not. Pack it in, Jean, before you get like those old, pot-bellied pop stars who don’t know when to shut up, or those grumpy old women who rant about things like people getting their name wrong.

Perhaps I could start another blog about working on my novel. But I don’t need to talk about that. I just need to GET ON WITH IT. Okay, then, perhaps it definitely is time to finish this blog and bow out gracefully.

No! I want to continue with it.

So now I’ve got some serious thinking to do. I need to sort out what kind of things to write about here. What exactly is the theme of this blog to be now? Where is it going? Where am I going? I’ll get back to blogging when I’ve figured this out.