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 clich├ęd 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.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Flat-pack furniture

My next blog posting will appear soon. Meanwhile, here is something my husband wrote recently. He spent three wasted hours before reaching his verdict. I thought I'd include Ian's piece here as I suspect many of us can identify with it.

i) flat-pack tv stand.

ii) flat-pack tv stand almost fully assembled.

iii) flat-pack tv stand contains one part where 3x screw holes are MUCH too tight to receive the corresponding very long screws.

iv) flat-pack tv stand contains one part where 3x very long screws are stuck, only part way inserted, with the special screwdriver worn + useless.

v) flat-pack tv stand in bin.

vi) Verdict: f*** flat-pack furniture.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

What's in a Name?

Please note, my name is Jean Davison. Not Davidson. Why do so many people want to put that ‘d’ in it? My name is Davison. Davison. Davison. Does it matter? I used to wonder why my then husband-to-be got annoyed over such a trivial thing. But soon after becoming a Davison myself, I understood.

Yes, it does matter. It mattered when the GP’s receptionist kept telling me the test result I was anxiously waiting for hadn’t yet arrived. She could have put me out of my misery weeks earlier if she hadn’t been looking up ‘Davidson’ on the computer.

It matters with book publicity when my book ‘The Dark Threads’ is advertised as ‘by Jean Davidson’ and, even worse, an ebook version came out in the name of ‘Davidson’.

It mattered when I once went on a customer relations course at work where the course leader stressed the importance of getting people’s names correct. At last, someone understood that it mattered. After the course, I received an impressive looking certificate, and on it in fancy lettering, it said … Jean Davidson.

For heaven’s sake! My name is Davison. Davison. Davison.

Well, now I’ve got that out of my system, let’s take a brief look at the history behind surnames. Did you know that in England alone there are around 45,000 different surnames, each with a historical source? Before the Norman Conquest of Britain, when communities were small, each person just had a single name. Gradually further identification was needed, so a person might be called Joseph the Butcher, Peter the short or John son of David (or maybe he was son of Davy).

By 1400 most English families were using hereditary surnames, often based on occupations, nicknames, places and father’s names. This meant that these surnames stuck in future generations when the original source no longer applied to a person. So now we get vegetarians with the surname of Butcher, bad people called Good, sweet-tempered people called Moody and miserable sods called Jolley. Of course, some people do fit their names. A former colleague of mine with the surname of Drinkall seemed to feel a need to live up to this at office parties.

Does Professor Wiseman fit his name, I wonder? The results of a survey he conducted indicated that we make assumptions about someone’s lifestyle and character based simply on their first name. He gave 7,000 volunteers a list of 20 male and 20 female names and found there was shared agreement on who they imagined would be the most or least attractive. Ann and George were considered the least attractive. Sophie and Ryan were considered the most attractive. Myself I doubt that this research stands up to much scrutiny (sorry, Professor Wiseman). The name ‘Ryan’ in my mind will always be linked with a snotty-nosed kid at primary school. I’ve never liked that name since.

The same name can sound different depending on where we put the emphasis. I became interested in this as a child, listening to mothers standing on their doorsteps calling out the names of their children. This was the fifties when even very young children roamed the streets freely. My friend Andrew’s mum used to call ‘Ann – drew’, which I thought sounded like a sneeze. And it was a silly way to say it anyway because it caused all the Ann’s in the area to come first.

Sometimes people need to change a name that just doesn’t sound right for a particular occupation or image. Imagine Cliff Richard sticking to the somewhat boring sounding name of Harry Webb? Or a young, rebellious Bob Dylan being announced as Robert Zimmerman.

Some people get really narked if you get their name wrong. I know of a Mr O’Nions who turns beetroot when someone calls him Mr Onions. And a Mrs Portray whose feathers get rustled if she’s called Mrs Poultry. I can’t see what the fuss is about. I mean, why can’t they just develop a sense of humour?

Oh, yes. Let me remind you. My name is Davison, not Davidson. It’s Davison. Davison. Davison.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Did You Know???

Did you know that using a treadmill can be educational? To offset boredom during an hour's treadmilling session I've found it necessary to listen to anything that comes on the radio during that time. It's amazing what fascinating snippets of knowledge you can pick up from doing that.

Did you know that around 456BC a Greek dramatist died when an eagle dropped a tortoise on his bald head? Or that in 1718 the Irish Parliament passed the Coffee Adulteration Act by which it was forbidden (among other things) to attempt to pass off sheep dung as coffee beans? To get more up to date, did you know that copper door handles kill germs whereas the little buggers thrive on those made of aluminium or stainless steel? This must mean that when I wash my hands before making sandwiches in the kitchen and then bring the food through into another room to eat, I'm eating... No, let's not go there.

Anyway, what's all this got to do with getting on with writing my novel? Absolutely nothing. Unless I grab the idea of having the villain of the piece become a victim of a falling tortoise.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Authors North Spring Meeting

I must stop taking these blog holidays and resume my self-appointed job of cluttering up the internet.

I'm fired up now with all things to do with writing and publishing, after going to the Authors North SOA Spring Meeting at Hull yesterday. I met some lovely people there and we had lots of interesting discussion.

The meeting was held at the Hull History Centre. In the morning we had a fascinating talk by Judy Burg, an archivist who then split us into two groups to take us on a tour around the archives. The papers stored there are so well looked after with sensitive sensors to keep the temperature exactly to their liking. The rows upon rows of shelves stacked with boxes, and the whole atmosphere of the place, makes you feel as if you're inside a film set. It all seemed surreal. Among the thousands of archived material, they have original documents of Sylvia Plath. Also of much interest to me were the poems of Stevie Smith written when her work was still in progress, along with her quirky illustrations. Spread out on a table for us to see and touch were, among a wealth of other interesting material, the notebooks of Philip Larkin.

After lunch it was the Society of Authors Roadshaw. Ebooks, Kindle, Amazon, the Google Settlement, tax issues, copyright and the current state of publishing were discussed in a lively questions and answers session. All too soon we were finishing our coffee and polishing off the last remnants of the delicious banana & carrot cake and it was time to go.

The SOA staff and the members who attended were warm and friendly, great sense of humour and all so passionate about writing. I hope to keep in touch via the internet until it's time to meet again at the next meeting in Autumn.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Decision Time

Should I? Shouldn't I? Should I? Shouldn't I? (go on the treadmill when I've got a stinking cold)? No, of course not. Surely this calls for a day of pampering myself. Stay in, laze about, drink orange juice, read a bit, have a sleep . . . Or am I a wimp?

Seeking confirmation of my hypothesis that 'Exercising with a cold is unsafe' I looked it up on several Internet sites. Oh dear, the general consensus of expert (well what do they know?) opinion seems to be it's okay to do mild to moderate exercise if your cold is 'above your neck'. So just a runny nose, congestion and sneezing shouldn't be used as an excuse. Yes, well... I expect those who wrote this are younger and fitter than I am. They'd probably say don't let not being able to breathe make you think you've got a good excuse for not trying to exercise.

Well, here I am in my tracksuit bottoms and trainers, wondering what I should do. If I don't sneeze again in the next five - ten - fifteen (or perhaps I'll make it twenty) minutes, then I will do it.

But why does the name Jim Fix keep coming to my mind? Who was he?

Monday, 3 January 2011

Swear Box

A sweet old lady in her nineties, whom Ian regularly visits, gave him this pink piggy money box as a present. About an hour ago he announced that he will use it as a swear box. Each time he swears he has to put a pound in it. When full, the money will go to a charity (which one is still to be decided).

It wasn't long before the first pound went inside. I was questioning him about something I disagreed with, and he told me to stop asking b... stupid questions. The second pound had to go in not long after the first. He was asleep on the sofa and I looked up my book ranking on Amazon. 'Ooh, it's sold one today!' I yelled, jolting him into the land of the living and out he came with another swear word.

If he carries on swearing at this rate it will soon be full. He says I'm purposely antagonising him into swearing. (No, I'm not, says I innocently. Come on, Ian, you can't blame me. You're not a puppet.) I've decided not to join him in this particular fund raising for charity venture. It's not that I swear a lot normally. Actually I swear very little, but if I start thinking about it and trying not to, then I'm sure the words will just come out.

So I'll leave this one to him and see how he gets on. Watch this space.