Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.


Sunday, 25 February 2007

Daffs and a Flickr of sunshine

Well that's better. Some daffodils in the house make all the difference. Last night I stayed up into the wee hours taking a closer look at Flickr. In fact I've made a start at putting some of my blog pix up there. It's well worth checking out if you have an enthusiasm for photography (note, enthusiasm rather than aptitude, which I would never be so bold as to presume) and wish to share your images and see some beautiful stuff by other people, such as An Unreliable Witness, whose work, in all genres, I like very much. There are all sorts of groups at Flickr you can join to suit your style and interests. It really is a great place. Gladdens the soul. Bring on the daffodils, sunshine and some beautiful things to capture! Enthusiasm is a great thing. It alleviates all manner of ills.

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Light fantastic

Just to say I tried to capture some beautiful birdsong for general delectation earlier. The sound on the clip lived up to expectations, but it was such a grey day that I decided to leave it for now and wait for a sunset or at least a sunny day. Or something a little less drab than the current inclement conditions, please!
It occured to me that what with everything that's going on, I hadn't even noticed how dull February has been. That's February, I suppose, but it really leaves one feeling washed out. Time for spring. The first daffodils are appearing.
But in the absence of both inspiration, good weather conditions, and adequate mobility (very poor at this precise mo) I offer you this instead...the lights above my computer. This warm, pretty glow is where I can be found when blogging. These lights soften my surroundings, soften battered senses and soften my heart.

Listen to this beautiful music

One more link for the day. The Goldfish has a sister with a truly stunning voice, and she can be heard performing Allegri's Miserere as part of an Ash Wednesday service at Winchester Cathedral. Very beautiful.

Friday, 23 February 2007

Disability Carnival on Employment

David's post on Chris and a typical day at work was simple and very effective at getting the message across that yes, disabled people may have obstacles to overcome in accessing work, but we do not need a special pat on the back having got there. This was just the pure experience of reading about someone going about their work and everyday life written from an everyday perspective. “I’m proud of myself. I love my job,” Chris says with a smile.
Wheelchair Dancer made me think and smile with her account of turning down some nude work. She is always so acerbic and wry and this is no exception. She questions why the ad asks for a gorgeous wheelchair woman. What is gorgeous? Who sets the standard?
I was horrified to read about the prejudice experienced by Emma at a job interview. No one should have to put up with that sort of behaviour and yet I expect it goes on all the time. Being quizzed over your condition rather than the job you are applying for is just wrong. But I've experienced it, as have many others who have a history of mental ill health, although Emma wasn't writing in this context. It's just that when it's something you have an option to conceal, you are tempted to miss out periods of illness from your CV. But now I have to be more honest as I'm physically disabled too. Not that I'm working at the moment, but why should I hide anything anyway? She got me thinking about how to 'fit in' and how to 'not fit in' and it not be an issue.
Disgruntled Ladye has an arthritic illness that is invisible. She is therefore subject to the very specific and unpleasant daily ignorances that come with having an invisible illness. She sums up very well what that feels like and offers the following advice to people in the workplace who find a colleague odd, or different or snappy when they look,well, so 'normal'.
"Maybe that person is dealing with a chronic illness or invisible disability. None of us have a right to judge. And, as long as that person is getting their work done, what does it matter to you?" Well said.
Also well said to Wheelie Catholic who had to endure an outrageous incident involving negative labelling, but tried to turn it around into a positive learning experience. Very brave, and very necessary.
I'd love to write more on these excellent posts but my son needs some calamine lotion. He has chicken pox. More later if I can.
Back after an interlude of three hours, watching Black Beauty (depressing) and applying lotion (fun but tricky).
Blind writers at Blind Confidential and Stephen Kuusisto ponder the limitations of internet access and incompatability of voice software. This leads to people with visual impairment being excluded from certain activities or work tasks that are web based.
Manxome writes with great feeling for the loss of her great uncle, who had a huge heart. This post moved me, and she shares with us everything she learned from him.
All this, and the few I haven't shared here, got me thinking. I will post some thoughts when it's all settled down.

Mild hysteria over

Yes there has been an outbreak of chicken pox in the household and yes it did momentarily send me a little strange yesterday,what with all the general pressure, but all is well now. We were wondering if my son would ever get it, and at nearly nine it's best he gets it out of the way now. I found the ultimate in wacky remedies on the internet yesterday. Bathing in oatmeal with added bicarbonate of soda. If anyone can explain why this works, it would satisfy my curiosity. But it really does seem to work. Soothes itching and lessens redness. Makes a bloody mess of the bathroom though.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

The Pox!

Chicken Pox! Quick, there's only one thing for it:

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

carnival and calvin

I like Mark's blog. It's where the next carnival on employment is to be held. I posted early, in my eagerness, and am glad that my rambles about Permitted Work have generated some responses which add to the debate. Basically, the Department for Work and Pensions is a nonsense, a travesty, and indeed would be a comedy of errors if it weren't so utterly tragic.
My brain really isn't in gear tonight so check out Mark's page tomorrow and here to join the DWP debate.
I had to venture out today and left a newly purchased Calvin and Hobbes book in Holland and Barrett. This is to hopefully be resolved tomorrow. Wonder what they made of it?

Those unfamiliar with Calvin and Hobbes should note that, in my opinion, it outclasses any other cartoon strip by miles. In fact I don't really like any other cartoon strips. Their creator Bill Watterson stopped producing them in 1995 as he became disillusioned with the whole media lark and wrangling over not over-commercialising his creations, but there are many collections available that he did allow, all hilarious. But then comedy is so subjective. Calvin is six. He has a toy tiger (Hobbes) who comes alive when no adults are around, and they are generally to be found getting up to no good and musing and theorising as only precocious six-year-olds and stuffed tigers can. Watterson considers Hobbes reality to be more of a philosophical question, concerning perceptions of reality and the co-existence of different realities for different people at the same time. Kind of appropriate in the disability arena, come to think of it.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

When you're smiling

Tonight was something of a triumph over tragedy. This is largely down to the bravery and sheer resilience of my son, who I introduce to you today through the magic of pancakes.
I asked him first if it was OK to feature him on my blog. "What's a blob?" he asked. I told him it's my website and I try and put good things on it.
This week saw an eight-year-old boy return to school with the world somewhat heavy on his shoulders. His parents have told him they are splitting up, and I won't go into the details here as it's a little too raw to write about, but I am so proud of how he is handling things.
Yes he looks pale and tired, and we arrived home from school to find the For Sale board up outside the house. There wasn't supposed to be a board, but oh well, everyone knows now and it's a bit late. Plus we really do need to sell this place. Anyway, I digress.
Tonight was all about Pancake Day, so we got on with the very serious art of trashing the kitchen with eggs, flour and 'the ones that got away'. This year there were at least three lumpen abstracts, rendered inedible by being flipped on to the floor, or more annoyingly when they sort of flip over then catch the edge of the pan and then scrunch up in a wrinkled heap. Then you try and unwrinkle them, and they gets holes in. Anyway, most of them (and there were lots) were delicious. We had them with sugar and squirty cream. He went to bed happier than when he got in from school. Things like tonight make a difficult time a little easier. And here's one we made earlier.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Feline interlude

Ralph, bless him, caught a mouse this evening. This was not a pretty sight, and after much playing about and generally sadistic cat behaviour he was booted out, with mouse, into the rain. I don't know what became of the mouse, and I don't want to know.
But for those of you not yet familiar with Ralph (who shouldn't really be called Ralph on account of his superb looks, but he isn't mine yet as he has just kind of moved in from across the way so I can't rename him officially until they've completely given up on him...plus I'm moving soon too) here is a photo. I do love him so. Interlude over, please dispose of sick bags accordingly.

Disability Carnival #9

Well, I've got plenty to say on the theme of employment, which will be the next great debate on Thursday, given that I have been looking into starting some work again after a long period of ill health. I haven't worked at all for over a year, and prior to that was doing the odd bit of paid writing (I am a writer) under the Permitted Work rules in the UK. The rules are there supposedly to govern how much you can do, how much you can earn, and for how long before your Incapacity Benefit is affected.
The idea is a graded return to working and earning. The reality is somewhat different.
Now I ran into an interesting situation when I resumed some work, for a short time after becoming ill. I'd stopped working when I went on to Incapacity Benefit, but after a time wanted to do a bit of work again. I followed the rules, wrote to my local JobcentrePlus office, contacted the Incapacity Benefit office, and was promptly turned down for Permitted Work.
On what grounds? The Decision Maker (God I hate that term) decreed that I wanted to take up work that I was doing before. This wasn't allowed. What's wrong with that, you may ask? Well, according to the people who make the rules, you can't just go back to your old job. In my case, I worked from home, am freelance and have such restricted energy and mobility due to my condition that the ONLY work I can consider taking up again is short bursts of online work. Such work is out there, but this didn't seem to fit with the rules.
I wrote them a letter, with a supporting medical letter, explaining that I wasn't returning to my old job in the true sense of the word as I was taking on writing that didn't require me to leave the house. Online work, rather than out-and-about work. No meetings, conferences, just me and a desk, a computer and (on a good day) maybe a phone. I didn't hear back, did a few bits of work with my health continuing to decline and then had to give it up anyway.
I was left with a sense of frustration, to put it mildly, and thought of all those people out there who want to resume work, but are not allowed to because they want to do what they have trained for, built up a business doing, and want to do again.
What is the problem? Have I got it wrong? It seems not.
The latest version of what you can do, and how, when thinking about returning to work is here
The main issue I have is that when you've not been working for a while, they automatically assume you need your hand holding when approaching the big bad working world again.
The fact that someone may be prepared to rebuild their career from home, start paying tax again and generally feel more useful and, well, employed, kind of passes them by.
You seem to have to, and correct me if I'm wrong, enrol on a workshop, do some voluntary work, work in a hospital and suchlike to become employable again.
Or, you can only do two stints of Permitted Work at 26 weeks each (adding up to a year) followed by a year's break. Why?
My confusion over the rules tells its own story. It becomes very difficult to know who to approach, what advice to ask for and how to resume the work you WANT to do, and that fits in with your ongoing ill health, when things are this unclear.
The fact that I am self-employed should not complicate matters or prove a barrier to me working again. On the contrary, it should be encouraged.
Basically, I want to write again. I want to stick within the allowance of £86 a week or whatever it is, and build it up until I can inform the Incapacity Benefit people that I don't need it any more. That would be nice. It would make me feel good.
But with the prospect of being channelled into a 'scheme' for which I am entirely unsuitable given the fact that I have to rest for long periods each day, I am not inclined to give them a call.
I have to choose the best moments in the day in which I can work. As a freelance, self employed writer, I can potentially do this. Lucky me, if only the rules weren't getting in the way.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Tricky business

The thing is, estate agents really are slippery sorts at times. Which is why a firm hand is needed. The house I am interested in renting was supposedly reserved for me, albeit unofficially, pending paperwork and signatures and all that. So I turn up yesterday (yesterday? or day before...can't remember) and there's a young couple viewing as well.
"Oh they're not really interested," my estate agent breezes. "They're just getting a feel for what's out there, and will be viewing one up the road in a minute, which they are far more interested in."
At which point I politely directed them in the direction of said house up the road, "as I have measuring up to do." Said somewhat pointedly. But fair enough, I felt.
Then I noticed the damp patch on the wall, and a second query about a rotten window frame elicited a somewhat vague response when the estate agent returned from the house up the road, young couple no longer in tow.
I've been reading about The Goldfish's moving horrors and it has got me wondering about who is responsible for what and how when renting. I know my dilemma is not quite up there with her plight, but what rights do prospective tenants have? Is it reasonable to ask for a letter detailing by what date specific repair jobs will be attended to, before handing over your deposit and month's rent? Is it reasonable to ask if the boiler has been serviced and the furniture is fireproof? Or does all this questioning just put a landlady off and make her think "Sod this. I'll wait for the next tenant to come along." Que sera sera I suppose.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

An 80s moment

I make no apologies...this has been going round and round my head today and on closer inspection it's highly appropriate. Nice scenery too. And yes, I'm crying.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007


My life has suddenly entered the fast lane. This is somewhat difficult to maintain given that I have a condition that requires me to live more in the manner of a very unfrequented B road.
But events are unfolding before me at a rapid pace. In short it involves a relationship breakdown (mine) and a house move (possibly imminent).
I am between my current abode, where my computer is, and my mum's (where I can rest and absorb the hugeness of events).
It's all going to work out ok. This has been on the cards for a long time. Got to dash. Viewing a house. Some finger crossing from those of you not busy typing would be much appreciated.
Will post again when I am back later in week.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

My first video

This is an exciting moment for me. It's great to be achieving small things that mean a lot. If I keep posting words, pictures and film, I will be putting out there a lot of beautiful things, which I hope people will stumble across and enjoy.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Barrow girl

Some time soon I hope to be able to share my snow video with you. When I've worked out how to post a video here.

In the meantime...

Take this simple common or garden wheelbarrow. Dumped against a wall doing nothing one day. Now transformed by a sprinkling of snow. Even the utilitarian can be beautiful.

Soon, I promise, there will be no more snow posts. But please indulge me in the meantime. It's providing a welcome distraction from some major pressing issues, which I will go into in more depth when I feel able.

I could have gone further with sledging shots, tree shots, but I'll call it a day for now.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Feeling for snow

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Schools out, the holidays came two days sooner than expected. Happy kids everywhere. My friend who is leaving teaching this week got an early and most welcome release. It's been ace!

Yes! Snow! And lots of it. It really is becoming a 'once in every five years or so' experience here in our unnaturally warmer UK.
It was such a joy today. That real childlike joy that brings out the kid in everyone, most importantly the kids, who I feel are far too overburdened these days with homework and assessments to really enjoy the experience of being a child.
Today was about sledging down hills in the park, watching dogs go crazy, marvelling at giant snowballs sitting on the horizon like some wacky art installation placed incongruously against the urban backdrop. It was about getting freezing cold, feeling warm because of friends, and not even caring about the voice that was saying 'you shouldn't be out in this, get back indoors.' I didn't care. I may pay for it tomorrow but it's always better to feel crappy after having had fun, than to just feel generally crap. And today really did allow me to go wild with the camera. Snow is a difficult subject. It is wet and can damage your equipment. It creates blobs where you don't want them. And you need to look for contrast, hence the bright colours posted here.

More snow please. I feel thirty years younger. Which feels great.


Another Carnival over, and I really felt enlivened and informed by some of the posts out there on contact. It was a clever choice, deliberately vague so as to prompt a vast array of different perspectives.

Bobby and Wheelchair Dancer wrote with force and feeling on how your own family's attitudes to disability, and reaction to your own disability, can really mess with your head. I related to much of what they said, especially the overwhelming sense of frustration, anger and determination that an independent life will go on, with or without understanding and support.
Kay and Mark considered how socialising, contact with others, has been shaped by their experience of disability. Mark wrote about his wish that he could meet up more often with people who can understand and share where he's coming from 'in a world that is entirely too normal'. I feel cut off at times too, in fact a lot of the time, but am finding writing here offers contact of a different but nonetheless very nurturing sort.
David wrote a quite beautiful post about Meredith, and how...actually I'm not even going to try to recount it, he captured it so perfectly I would spoil it. Just read it.
Thirza and Book Girl share my defensiveness and need for self protection when encountering the medical profession. I hate nearly all doctors these days, and have concluded that the only person who can sort your head out is you. There can be guidance with the physical side of disability, whether it's therapy, physio, pain management, and all that jazz. But no one can force you to a place of acceptance before your time, or mould your reaction to what is your own unique experience. This is somewhat stating the obvious. But I have spent a long time in not-blissful ignorance of quite obvious things. I am radically reducing the time I spend being 'messed with' medically. It's called taking the reins.
Thanks to those who wrote lovely things about my post.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

disability carnival #8

Over here you will find the next Disability Carnival on Thursday. It is an intriguing choice of topic. Contact. Here's what I've come up with.

I didn’t want to end up in orbit.
I didn’t want to lose contact.
I look down at the earth.
I want to be part of it again.

The notion of losing contact spoke very strongly to me when I was considering writing a post for this carnival.
How did I lose contact? Why? And how has losing contact affected me, and those around me?
Well, it was both sudden and gradual, a case of losing contact with others, with normality, with myself.
Losing contact because people I knew struggled to accept the ‘new me’, the ‘me-with-a-disability’. They struggled even to use the word disability in connection with me, because I suppose it’s alien to what they knew before, and what they know in their own lives and the lives of people they know.
Losing contact with normality because for a time my disability, or the adjustment to it, robbed me of routine, work, structure, interests, socialising, going beyond my house.
Losing contact with myself because the experience of becoming disabled was initially, for me, so traumatising that I was thrown off balance. Hit by a tornado, it felt as though I was hurtled into the stratosphere and beyond, to become a speck in orbit around a world that carried on.
My illness came very suddenly and I was instantly severely impaired both physically and mentally. My senses were so interrupted, confused, disorientated that I had to withdraw.
I read recently that touch can play an important part in healing serious illness. A touch from someone who cares can nurture on many levels.
But because I withdrew, and because those around me struggled with my altered self, I couldn’t experience that healing.
I craved contact, a reassuring touch, a hug, to lie in the dark and have my head stroked until I felt better.
None came, or so it seemed. In fact there were people trying to reach me, but I wasn’t receiving. I withdrew and lost contact even with myself.
To experience such utter isolation feels like being in orbit. Like a module floating around the earth, a world from which I came, which I was part of, and which I was blasted from without warning.
Silence descends, a heavy cloak that blankets time and muffles the enlivening sounds of everyday life that occasionally filter through the dark.
Disparate, disjointed noise floats my way. TV, music, laughter, shouting, parties, fireworks, the pub, the playground.
I pick up these sounds, and yet feel so far from them, and the people they envelop.
I am floating way up above a world that seems to carry on without me. Or I was.
Until I realised that I had to launch my own rescue mission. I had to make contact. I had to reconnect in a new way, as a new me, the me that was rejected, that I rejected, that broke up and came back together but different.
Slowly I am sending out signals, sometimes unintelligible, sometimes so clear they hurt the ears of those who are listening.
I am quietly making contact in a world that seems so noisy that if you become quiet you go off the radar.
But quiet can work. At my computer, writing my blog and reading others it works. Feeling less alone, peculiar though my illness is and difficult though my behaviour can be, I feel reassured.
Making contact.
And trying to make it beautiful.


The past two years feels like a long period of absence. Sometimes we need time to pause, sometimes it is forced upon us. Either way, it can lead to an altered perspective that encompasses all that has been travelled through on the road to acceptance. The good and the bad.

I think it's called wisdom, although I hesitate at being so presumptious.
But if we choose to observe the lessons within what life has thrown at us, if we become less passive and actively seek out the value in what we have been shown then surely wisdom will follow.
I would love to be wise. There are many people I admire who possess this quality. I don't think it's necessarily a word that people connect with me. But it certainly feels like something attainable. Which is progress.

Friday, 2 February 2007

End of a tough day

Nothing to say really, apart from this was worth capturing before bed tonight. Made me catch myself before totally wishing the day away. Hasn't come out as well as I saw it, but that's beginners for you. Hope all is well out there.

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Promiscuous, moi?

Seahorses are the floosies of the ocean according to research which paints us as flighty, flirty and bisexual. If only I had the energy.