Thursday, 29 March 2007


Ok, things are really shifting up several gears all at once at this end. I have a provisional date for moving (next Thursday), the van is booked and various calls to all and sundry are being got through.
On a practical level, all is in hand. Emotionally...well that's another story. Suffice to say this is the hardest bit. Being somewhat in limbo, waiting to sign and get the keys, not being able to pack because my GP has just diagnosed a back problem that requires physio. Hence the wobbly legs. I feel I should ask for an X-ray. But would this be getting too hysterical?
Anyway, to spare everyone too much rambling, and to hopefully ease the hysteria, there is a point to all this. I am just wondering how the hell I am going to get through a move and manage to protect my already precarious state of health from worsening. Because this is my big fear. Not being able to cope. Deteriorating. Everything going tits up. Or do I just go with the flow and accept I will feel extra ill for a few weeks.
Also, as I would like to settle in and see my son settled as quickly as can be achieved, I would appreciate any bright ideas on making a new place homely, without excessive DIY? Little touches. I have my pink fairy cube lights for starters, and I'm thinking accessories largely, things that make a room cosy, magical even. I had a vague idea about making a bead curtain...If any crafty sorts out there have any other ideas that can be made inexpensively but with that soothing touch, please do let me know. Projects need to be able to be done largely from a reclining position :-)

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Not so grim

Good things happened today. My son was taken out for the day with a mate from school. They went skateboarding and he perfected an Olly. No, I'm not sure what it means, but it's like totally rad. And if you can't do an Olly, well, just get bent.
My oldest friend came over for a cuppa, and we went for a drive for a change of scene. This really helped take my mind off being in pain, and car seats just seem to be designed in the right way for my body sometimes. Other times they seem anything but, but there you go.
On our travels I saw a pheasant. Very close up, but not close enough to whip out the camera. Anyway, sometimes you just have to be in the moment, and it really was a very beautiful, iridescent pheasant. Bit like this one, taken by fellow Midlander John Loach.

Meanwhile back at the house, a colleague came round to see my ex about some work stuff. He splurged on why there's a for sale sign up outside. In fact, from the sounds of it, he told her everything. She told him, for the first time, that she has M.S. and has done since 2001, and they had a long chat about illness, how people react, how individuals adjust, or struggle to, how society can reject you, and how couples are affected. Two different illnesses, so many parallels, one emerging outlook. She is much further along the line of acceptance, and has achieved a balanced and wise perspective. But she'll have been in places I've been at in order to arrive at where she is now.
And even through separation, I feel we will get there and take on board what has happened to us, work it all through and learn to live with it without so much angst. We still have a son together, and will arrive at a more peaceful way of living, hopefully soon. And it really helped him to talk to her. She's going to lend us a couple of books that really made a difference to her outlook. Once again, it has been a day where contact with some understanding types has made all the difference. Oh, and a close friend popped by with his daughter last night and was very gentle and kind to both of us. Visits can be a bit like buses sometimes. In fact I'm thinking of that Wendy Cope poem about men...

Bloody men are like bloody buses
You wait for about a year
And as soon as one approaches your stop
Two or three others appear.

Great poem, not quite appropriate, but visits can come in waves. Mustn't grumble though. Anyway I digress.
To round off the feelgood vibe of general support I randomly found this from Tokah a few minutes ago. I was just checking to see what the next Disability Carnival is about (Disability and Culture) and found a post about his experience and management of pain. It was enlightening in terms of how your true self can be twisted by the aggravation of a background hum (or scream at times) of pain.

And I didn't feel like blogging. I guess there's a time for taking to your bed, and a time for getting out of it again. But having been further than I thought I would go today, and in more ways than one, I'm going back to it now :-)

Friday, 23 March 2007

Cut Up

Altogether now, in high falsetto, to the tune of a certain song about not being in the mood for dancing. Except mine's about staying in bed with my cat. Because my back hurts. And my wobbly legs are really pissing me off. But I thought I'd lift my sorry arse up the bloody stairs just long enough to share the following, as it made me smile as I changed the lyrics in my head. So there. Bah! Bollocks and grrrr. Back to bed.

But I don't feel like blogging
When I'm havin' one of those days
My heart could take a chance
But my brain can't find a way
You think that I could muster up a paltry few words sent your way
But I don't feel like blogging
No sir
No blogging today

Don't feel like blogging, blogging
Even if I find nothin' better to do
Don't feel like blogging, blogging
I can't set it down when I'm not in the mood
Don't feel like blogging, blogging
Rather be home, only one in the bed til dawn, 'xcept you (hoo hoo).

Monday, 19 March 2007

What's it all about?

I had time to think at my Mum's. It was good to have some space, and then have that space filled by my son over the weekend. We went out for Mother's Day. I haven't been anywhere near a pub or restaurant for a very long time, so a two hour meal was a challenge, with the normal complicated and sometimes irksome family-plus-illness dynamics at play. But the main thing was that I went out, and my son will have been encouraged by that.
It was good to have a break from blogging too. Being a partaker of other people's blogs is one thing. Starting your own is quite another.
When I'm away from my computer I revert to what I was for more than a year (ie the former, a partaker).
And I find myself still very much enjoying the former. In fact I don't just enjoy reading other people's blogs, I learn interesting views, insights, theories and so forth. I empathise with pain, suffering and anger. I share laughs, observations and the odd wry aside.
But starting my own blog has been more complex than I anticipated, and time away has confirmed this.
I remember setting out in my 'mission statement' that The Beauty Offensive would have good and bad days.
But it's not just a case of one day being receptive to beauty and wanting to share it, then the next day finding yourself anything but.
The problems arise when you have been well received in your original intent, but then find you are struggling to maintain it.
People will, I have found, respond positively to beauty and encourage the activity of seeking it out and posting it up there for all to share.
But the tension arises when the artistic intent in this endeavour (which in my more pretentious moments I still nurse) clashes with the very real connection made with others through the medium of blogging. My main way of communicating experiences of beauty is through photography. But I am also a writer. It's just that I've never done the two together before. It creates an interesting dynamic, especially when you have the direct communication of comment boxes in the mix as well. The connection between myself and those I reach through this blog makes me question what I originally set out to do. Remember, I have experienced extreme isolation through my experience of ill-health and the responses of those around me. I wrote about losing contact here. I still struggle with reconnecting with people. But please stay with this for now.
Ultimately, blogging leads me to want to share more of myself, in words. To be human rather than an anonymous purveyor of what I hope people may find beautiful. Is that realistic? Is it honest? Is it valid?
Blogging seems to be a developmental process in my case. It's evolving. By writing this out I'm getting to the crux of the matter (I sometimes write posts by hand before typing, to make a thoughtful connection with my own words and spare myself too much computer glare).
I started The Beauty Offensive with a clear objective. It was to be an antidote. My antidote, and an antidote for others.
And it does indeed bring some positive responses. Bridgett recently used the word 'transcendence' in reference to my blog, a really lovely observation, and indeed a real compliment.
Transcendence is something I can experience when I've encountered, photographed or read something really beautiful. It is possible to exist outside the created world, to forget the
worries that tend to follow me about, to forget pain and exhaustion for a while.
And of course, I'm happy to share these moments. In seeking them out I achieve my aim of finding an antidote to ugliness. And in sharing these moments I can, sometimes, intensify its potency.
But life can be ugly, can't it? And, sometimes, there's no getting away from the fact. Sometimes, having made a connection with people through The Beauty Offensive, I actually have an urge to write about feelings of despair, rage, trauma, numbness, anger, fear, isolation.
I was tempted over the weekend to start a separate blog. Only that would be twice the work as I'm not as design-savvy or mentally agile as certain other bloggers of note who keep several plates spinning on one site, or interweave the personal with the artistic. Is there a difference? It depends what you think you are doing with your blog, where you want to take it, or, more intriguingly, where it starts to take you.
So what to do? Start the 'Desperate Howl of Despair' blog, save these feelings for my own private time, or incorporate them delicately here? I really do have a strong urge to spare you kind and lovely people any desperate howling.
OK. Here's the deal. At this point in time I am feeling very vulnerable, most unwell and desperately sad at the break-up of my relationship. Sometimes I will make these short admissions to the intrusion of ugliness in my life. But no howling. I actually hope to rediscover humour at some point after being inspired by the success of Shaggy Blog Stories. And I still believe this blog is a space for beauty to be experienced, shared and, through interaction with others, magnified and evolved.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007


After a rather embarrassing collapse today (I call them rubber bandy body moments with electric shock pain waves) I am jumping ship and get a few days rest at my mum's before Mother's Day. I want to be in a slightly better state for that than at present.
My loving, giving and ever-understanding son has given his blessing to me getting some serious rest before he joins us at the weekend. He has also given his approval for the imminent use of a wheelchair. He sees it in such a simplistic 'needs must' way. But that's another post entirely.
So, for this intermission, here are some black and white photographs from the previously featured church and exhibition.

I was very lucky with the sunshine. The reflection of the window on the floor blew me away. Here's the window itself. I love the way you can sometimes take pictures directly into sunlight. I use natural light with flash if necessary.

And lastly, a section of the old carved font found in a quiet corner in repose on the floor. I don't attend this church as part of the congregation, so I'm not sure if this font is in use, but it is beautiful. I love the dark corners and heavy, ornate wood in churches. It's all very grounding, very peaceful and very restorative.

Peace to all over the weekend. Back soon.

Sunday, 11 March 2007


I have a friend who has never, ever treated me any differently since I became disabled. I have a handful of friends from my 'well' life who have achieved this. And it is their achievement, not mine.
She has never talked to me in 'that' way, pandered to my self-pitying moments, been at a loss, tactless or inconsiderate.
She visited me in hospital when I was hooked up to a feeding tube and nearly dead. Others were too scared to come near, I suppose because I looked so close to death it almost seemed like a foregone conclusion. That was a while ago now. I think me and death danced a little, but I trod on his toes.
Today she had tea with us in the park and handled the imminent separation between my partner and I with diplomacy, humour and a 'can-do' attitude.
She has known 'us' as a couple for years. But I feel she will still want to know us when we are no longer a couple. She will be there for both of us in separation.
She makes me feel as though I am still me. Because I am. And when things get a bit ugly it's friends like these who help you stay grounded, rooted in who you are.
All the psychiatrists, neuropsychiatrists, therapists (bar one), occupational therapists (bar one) and community psychiatric nurses mean nothing compared to time spent with a true friend.
Yes, there are occasions when you have to deal with doctors and therapists, and engage with ideas, strategies and treatments which may lead to improvement.
But increasingly, as I disentangle myself from the system, I realise that although I went into a deep crisis following becoming ill, I turned to the wrong people for help. I thought because I was suddenly and catastrophically ill that I would be helped. I became, in seeking help wildly and indiscriminately, helpless and enfeebled. The more I sought help, the more I lost myself. And it made me so much more ill.
Eventually it began to feel like struggling inside a plastic bag - I could see the outside world, but couldn't quite get there, and all that struggling just exhausted me beyond exhaustion. Recently, the bag opened.
There's a children's story called 'Don't Do That' by Tony Ross where Nellie gets her finger stuck up her nose whilst excavating it. During the course of the story, many and varied professionals (a doctor, a scientist, and a fireman to name but a few) are called to address the problem. In the end, her little brother, Henry who has been saying all along that he has the answer (but no one will listen) tickles Sophie, and hey presto, problem solved.
If only I had just gone and got my finger stuck up my nose.
As for the plastic bag, it's still around my feet and I stumble a little, but I'm climbing out.
Now I need to let my friends know that I'm returning, somewhat altered but still intact. I have been advised to seek out those friends like the one above, who show understanding and still recognise 'me' in all this. Friends who make you laugh despite it all, who you can cry on if needs be, and who help you focus on the way forward. And I have to say that this space, finding people who understand without the many and complex hurdles to understanding that we see other people in our lives try to negotiate, is proving very healing.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Funny business

A novel idea from Troubled Diva regarding raising funds for Comic Relief Day without having to resort to public humiliation, donning a red nose, sitting through a Telethon or in a bath of baked beans as Unreliable Witness wryly observes.
It's an appeal to UK bloggers who may have a post in their archives, or one they wish to specially prepare, that can make people laugh. I personally request that Goldfish and Lady Bracknell submit entries (these are recent fine examples) as their posts can often work such magic.
I unfortunately remain sadly at a loss, as I am sad and have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth.
But for those with sense of humour still intact, get over to Troubled Diva this instant.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Perchance to Dream

From Richard Gilbert's sculpture installation Fourteen. This was taken earlier today in Birmingham's St Martin's Church. I went there to find some peace, and found it.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

A Bad, Bad Day

Last night my ex (still can't quite get used to calling him that) was on his way home from the pub with a couple of friends, one of whom wanted to try and get some food in town. They got to the high street and were passing a chip shop when a youth (and I spit the word contemptuously) threw his chips at them. My ex looked round and innocently exclaimed "They threw their chips at us!" out of sheer surprise.
This was taken to be an invitation for a beating, and he and his friend (the other one was female, so they most courteously left her out of it) were set upon, punched, kicked and the friend had a bottle smashed over his head.
Things were starting to get really nasty when the police happened to drive past (there are a lot of police driving around in our area at night, so this is not necessarily a miracle, just a necessity). They broke it up, took everyone down to the station and the main assailant spent a night in the cells as he was too pissed to give a statement, only to be let off with a caution the next morning, because he was sorry.
This was an unprovoked assault. If the police hadn't showed I am sure the injuries sustained would have been worse. There were two 12-year-olds looking on, watching and learning for when it's their turn in a few years time to show their mates how hard they are. And the police dish out a caution?
It makes me sick. Sorry everyone but I was already flagging with staying positive, and this has just sent me over the edge. I came down this morning to find a bruised and vulnerable looking man in the kitchen bravely soldiering on with the task of making breakfast. I gave him a hug. What else was there to do? I throw up my hands and admit "I feel like shit, life's a bitch, everything's a mess." Time for an intermission. Cut to pictures only for a while. My head's not up to posting anything else, and I do want to keep this site a positive space if at all possible.

Monday, 5 March 2007

And before the rain

There was some sun, only a few days ago, and here's a reminder. These are camelias, I think, taken in the park near here. We were out for about half an hour and it was nice to sit and soak up some of the first rays of Spring. At one stage I was industriously attempting a close-up of a hoverfly (or bee?) who wouldn't quite take centre stage. But here he is anyway:

Rain Rain Go Away

Three days is a little trying. Sometimes when the weather is this inclement I can actually feel a little less pissed off that I can't get out much anyway. If you're snug and warm that can feel as good as being out and about, and often better. But sometimes it's just frustrating to have the option of going out completely removed. Thank goodness for Lady Bracknell and her parlour games, which are a most welcome diversion, rain or no rain. What a fab idea - if anyone knows of any other games (so far we've enjoyed I Went to Market and I Love My Love) which would suit the comment format then take a wander over to her site and make a suggestion.
Today has largely consisted of bed, pain, rest, hobbling and a couple of visits to Bracknell Towers. This post would have been somewhat less interesting had it not been for the ingenuity of a fellow blogger who has a big enough heart to keep the entertainment of others in mind. It really does mean a lot when you're feeling low, laid up and lonely. Games allowing for the wanton use of alliteration are particularly welcomed.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Art and celery

It's not exactly worthy of the new Saatchi Showdown site, but here is a watercolour of writer and poet Helon Habila I did at art class today. It doesn't look much like him and unfortunately he wasn't there in person (had he been I wouldn't have been painting but asking him all about his writing, his views on Nigerian narratives, whether he likes comparisons with Ben Okri, and whether he is single) but it doesn't matter. I will be working on my drawing technique to lessen the squints and half grimaces that seem to characterise my work at present, but I'm just a beginner after all. Not as enigmatic as the Mona Lisa, but who cares about her anyway?
Looking at the Saatchi site, it's a bit OTT and over-hyped, and the premise is kind of X Factor for the art world, but nevertheless it does provide a platform for new artists. It went live on Monday and has had 35 million hits so far this week. Bit more than your average blog site. Basically you get to rate your fave work using pretty little stars, on a scale of 1 to 10. Voting starts in a couple of days.
My own artistic effort gave me a warm feeling of satisfaction not felt much of late. Plus it was a lovely sunny day and had I not used all my energy for the class I would have tried taking some photos. But everything in moderation. It's been one of those good days, where even a couple of sticks of celery delicately dipped in Bovril brought immense pleasure (try it, you'll either love it or hate it. I was out of Marmite, with apologies to Lady Bracknell's editor and temporary ghost of Marmite Boy).
Celery v a packet of crisps? Celery any day. Crisper than crisps, fresh from the fridge and with limitless scope for added flavour enhancement (Bovril, Marmite, peanut butter, coleslaw, humous, a sprinkling of salt to name but a few). Is it just me or is celery the business?
Then I cooked a rather nice bit of haddock with a baked breadcrumb topping, which had a mixed reception, but I COOKED something, from scratch. And I painted someone I admire. A happy day.