Juggling life through a bi-polar lens. Sometimes up, sometimes down. Mostly trying to tread water in the middle. Creating a likeness to a normal life. Whatever "normal" is...

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Got a real tree? CHECK IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ahhhhhh..........didn't it look nice?

-I write that in the past tense, because I've had to strip the tree and smother it with insecticide till it's dripping!

Apparently, aphids hibernate in the winter, and there is nothing they like better to have a snooze in than a nice bushy little tree. Not too big, close to the ground, snug.... erm.... just like this one, actually!

Well, after two days in our living room with the fire on, they woke up thinking it was summertime and therefore.......party-time!

I'd had cards around the foot of the tree and on Thursday morning, went to put another card there, newly arrived. It was then that I noticed something sticky on one of the cards....... sap. Wherever the little ba***rds had nibbled, the tree had produced sticky sap to try to defend itself. It drowns the bug in sticky yuckiness, leaving it immobile. But it doesn't stop it nibbling in the first place, and therefore didn't stop the needles falling. Neither does it do anything to prevent further wee baby aphids from hatching and joining in the fun fun fun.


Just when I thought I had Christmas licked!

Everyone's coming to our house for Christmas... only had ten days notice of this, but hey! I can handle this! I CAN handle it! I keep telling myself I can. Bought food...........found bigger table in charity shop........... bought decorations in an early sale.......... all done, all OK. Didn't account for aphid invasion in the middle of winter. Silly me.

Hey ho!

So. Take this moral- if you have a real tree, go and examine it. NOW. Before it's too late.

Have a merry, bugless Christmas!

Friday, 7 December 2007


I don't really drink. Never got into the habit, or developed the taste.

Then came duloxetine, my latest anti-depressant, with bigger than the usual "do not drink while taking this medicine" warning. Why so big a warning this time? I looked it up on the net....

.....man! How do these things get licenses? This drug caused liver cancer in the rats it was tested on. If they put it to market even after that, what was the point of putting the animals through that?

Anyway. So I've been taking Milk Thistle (silmarin) all the time I've been on it, as this is meant to help your liver.

I got the results of a recent blood test the other day- liver tested normal. Hurray!

So................ feeling a little wound up tonight, I decided to have some wine. Why not? The one that had been opend X weeks ago was off (really?) so I opened another. We have afew bottles- presents, winnings from pub quizes my partner went to, etc. All look the same to me, except some are red and some are white. I can usually tell from the label which is which, so I can cook with the right one. Ha!

Mmmm................. this red wine is gooooooooooood...........sweet, tasty, yum! Sip sip.... pour more.......

Then my partner says, "Hey! Hold on! That's not wine! That's PORT!"


Better put some paracetamol and water by my bed for the morning......


Thursday, 29 November 2007

What am I? Where am I?

You Are a Yellow Crayon

Your world is colored with happy, warm, fun colors.
You have a thoughtful and wise way about you. Some people might even consider you a genius.
Charming and eloquent, you are able to get people to do things your way.
While you seem spontaneous and free wheeling, you are calculating to the extreme.

Your color wheel opposite is purple. You both are charismatic leaders, but purple people act like you have no depth.

Calculating?????? Cheek!!!!!

This next one is based on Dante's Inferno. Your answers place you in one of
his 9 levels of Hell (his ten levels overall, if you count purgatory). I'm in the first level, folks. Not too bad! But whoa... look at this list!!!
VIOLENCE??? MALICIOUSNESS????? LOL! I can only think this is because I ticked yes to occasional suicidal thoughts, and even an attempt way back when.

Hey ho!

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to the First Level of Hell - Limbo!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very High
Level 2 (Lustful)Low
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)Very High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Moderate

This next bit is how this level is described. Not too bad, really. Bit like life here, but without the religious fanatics. Looked at like that, it's a possible improvement!

First Level of Hell - Limbo

Charon ushers you across the river Acheron, and you find yourself upon the brink of grief's abysmal valley. You are in Limbo, a place of sorrow without torment. You encounter a seven-walled castle, and within those walls you find rolling fresh meadows illuminated by the light of reason, whereabout many shades dwell. These are the virtuous pagans, the great philosophers and authors, unbaptised children, and others unfit to enter the kingdom of heaven. You share company with Caesar, Homer, Virgil, Socrates, and Aristotle. There is no punishment here, and the atmosphere is peaceful, yet sad.

Take the Dante's Inferno Test

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Polish workers, cats, trees and one Polish word.

An old polish gentleman came to our door last night. He showed us a hand-written card to explain that he was a deaf-mute and was selling his drawings door-to-door. We don't need pictures- we have several, framed and unframed, still unhung from when we moved in 4 years ago. Still, me and my partner exchanged glances, perhaps a wink, and decided to help if we could. Any reluctance on my part disappeared when the pictures came out of his bag...

They are A4 size, too big to scan completely, but here are some details:

He had a few dozen. My partner prompted me to choose. I chose ones I could see were hard to draw! Not that the others looked easy, I don't mean that. But I've tried these two subjects!

I can't draw trees at all. I think I get bored. The first few twigs look OK, then it turns into a hairy doodle.

As for the cat picture, OK, it might be a bit too twee to actually hang on a wall (?) but I've found that kittens and ALL tabbies are the hardest ones to draw. With all those lines, it's easy for them to look 'flat'. I get confused, whilst drawing, between line, detail, shade. I lose track. Is this bit I'm doing a bit of shading, or is it some of the tabby pattern? Sound odd? Give it a go and you'll see what I mean. Maybe. Or maybe this is just me. Ha!

So I was impressed, that's the basis of my choice.

Look at the textures- that blanket in front of the kittens. OK, maybe he put it there because, like me, he can't do paws (if you ever see a picture of an animal standing in long grass, you know you've found someone else with this problem.) But the blanket looks real!

My partner knows British Sign Language. I guess some of it is universal, as they were able to make themselves understood.

I worked in Poland for a little while, back in 1991, and was excited about saying some Polish. When his attention was turned to me, however, I was ashamed and horrified to discover that I couldn't remember any of it. Except the word for "thankyou". But perhaps that's all that was needed.

Isn't it awful that people with skill and talent like this have to go door-to-door? And in the same week, a silly man lost his job as manager of the England football team and was paid 2.5 million sterling to leave his job? The world's mad.

We have lots of people from Poland here in Colchester. Since the EU expanded the other year, lots have come to the UK to work, and quite a few hundred to this town. I hear the language every time I go into town. Last night's experience has shown me AGAIN that it is never too late to learn. Why didn't I keep up the language in the 1990s? Hey ho. I wonder if any of the new Colcestrians has thought of giving Polish Language classes. I think I might enquire at the college when I'm in town this afternoon..............


The Polish for "thankyou" is pronounced "D'yen-koo-yah".

Monday, 19 November 2007

World Toilet Day

It's true! November 19th is World Toilet Day! The serious thought behind it is to draw attention to the billions who don't have good sanitation, something that we usually just take for granted. There's a website, here.

As well as the serious stuff, there are cartoons and quizzes. E.g., What kind of toilet paper are you? I am, apparently, a dried leaf. I don't care. It will make a certain Bear very proud, I'm sure.

what kind of TOILET PAPER are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

You scored as dead leaves

That's right. When it comes to toilet paper, you're a pile of dead leaves. You're curious, ethereal, and spiritual. You love to challenge traditional philosophies. And because you're so environmentally conscious, you never take from Mother Earth what you can't give back.

dead leaves


under-dispensing toilet paper


over-dispensing toilet paper


quilted toilet paper


public restroom toilet paper


paper napkins


empty roll


Sunday, 18 November 2007

A Certain Bear

I adopted Bob The Bear (or Bob T Bear esq., as he prefers to be known) in 2002, packing him off in a box to Ecuador. Also in the box was a supply of Chocolate Biscuits for the journey, a Christmas Pudding, some tea, and a few other things that my partner, at that time working in Quito, would be missing. He had mentioned to me that he had never had a Bear when he was a boy, so I decided that I had to correct this dreadful remiss. I hugged Bob and told him to pass on the hug when he got there, which I'm assured he did.

My partner was just a good friend back then, but after he returned to the UK in August 2003, we realised that no Bear deserved to have estranged parents and so we all moved in together. The rest is history, much of which Bob took to documenting in his personal diaries, which he moved into blogland last year.

Friday, 16 November 2007


I took this pic' last summer, in Suffolk. We came across the sunflowers unexpectedly. We'd had no idea they were there! If you look closely, you can see a bumble bee at the bottom of the inner circle.

Today I read the following, which has helped me feel much better about turning 40:

"Start to learn the piano NOW? Are you MAD? Have you any idea how old I would be by the time I had learnt to play?!"

"Yes. The same age you'll be if you don't."


(Good, isn't it?)

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

She's ok!

Hoorray! Fluffy got the all-clear! The lumps were just 'fatty lumps'. We have to keep an eye on whether they come back bigger or strangely shaped, but otherwise, it's all OK!! We're sooooooooo relieved and happy.

The poor thing had all these staples in her wound: No surprise then, that once they were removed she was singing and running about all over!

She is also getting very cheeky- this is her brother's bed, made from an old computer packing box and lined with an old quilt. We made it for him because he is so enormous we couldn't find a good one in the shops for him..... Fluffu decided that a visit to the vet gave her squatter's rights:
Never mind. Another old cover on a bench in the garden, and Scooter found a nice alternative in the sun:
I'm very happy that my little rogues have survived to purr another day!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Off for a few days..

Fluffy has a strange liking for leather shoes. With her sister it was bags. I still have a black leather handbag that has scratch marks all down one side. I'll never part with it. It says, "Figs was here". But Fluffy's fetish is definitely of the shoe kind. Here she is, a few weeks ago, sitting on my shoes. She later slept on them for hours. I have to take spare footwear with me. The alternative is a visit to mum's spent indoors.

Ah well. I'm off later today to see her, and to take her back to the vet tomorrow. We might find out what the lumps were....

The other day I dreamt that she had got the all-clear. I woke up smiling and relieved. Then I remembered it was just a dream. I can't say how much I hope that one will come true. My brain is telling me not to worry. My gut is saying "Prepare."

Should be blogging again by the end of the week..... please keep good thoughts for Fluffy.

thanks for the birthday messages!
Scroll down for a post about the day....!

Saturday, 10 November 2007

How to survive your 40th birthday

Birthday cards: they make me smile whenever I look at them.

Being a supply teacher, my partner didn't know whether he would be home or not for my birthday. Sure enough, he got a call the evening before. Never mind. Once you get past your 21st, you get used to being on your own on your birthday. Once you get past your 30th, you start preferring it that way. Once you get past your 39th, you sort of hope that it won't happen at all...

So off he went to work, leaving me to have a lie-in, one ear on the radio, one ear on the letterbox. Despite both, I slept for another few hours.

Then I did the girly bath thing- run the water deep and just warm enough, pour in the remnants of ALL the bottles of bubbles and oils that you've accumulated over the last three Christmasses and birthdays, fix a huge cup of tea and set a pile of chocolate biscuits at arm's length, and bring in the radio on a mile-long extension lead. It takes some setting up, but it's worth it.

A long, long soak with several hot top ups later..... soft pink slippered and dressing gowned thing floats downstairs stinking of lavender/rose/nutmeg/strange green oil of Ulay mixture.

Alas. No cards or letters on doormat. Sigh. Check outside... oooo! Two parcels! -Cards and presents from my partner's parents (suprise) and one of my brothers (miracle).

I've a total of £30 tucked inside cards, so I spend the afternoon in town. I keep looking at things that would suit other people. What so-and-so would just LOVE for Christmas... oooh I should get this for.... No! I have to reel myself in and tell me NO! Today it's for ME! I'm buying something special for ME!

I often come home from shopping with 'nearly gots'. My partner asks me how I got on and the list starts; I saw a nice skirt and I nearly got it, but (insert excuse), or I nearly got a new jumper, it was only £5. "Why didn't you get it then?" he says. Oh, didn't really need it. I've got a jumper. And so on. I'm good on nearly-gots, I am.

But this time I'm determined. I buy a watch that I saw and admired last year. I've liked it for a year, so it's safe to buy it. A certain bear has put a photo of it on his blog.

In the evening, a minor headache: make-up. Don't normally wear it. I have large, open pores on some of my face and make-up just sits in them. From a distance it all looks perfectly flawless, as they say on the adverts. But up close it looks like the surface of the moon. I go through the usual process of putting it on, taking it off, putting it on, oh, maybe if I just take SOME of it off, no, take it all off, put some back on again.... and so on, till my cheeks are so red I don't need any colour on them anyway.

Off we go, for a meal in town. We've been there before and it was good..... and it is again. I get the wrong starter, my partner's salad doesn't turn up, but the deserts are magnificent, just like last time, and that's what counts!!! Then I decide to have some alcohol. I'm not really allowed, not with my medication. But hey, just one yummy drink, just for today.

"Irish Coffee? Oh, we would, but we're out of cream, sorry. Would you like something different?"
I think, "That WAS my different. I normally have tea!" But think better of ordering anthing else. Maybe it's a sign I shouldn't drink after all. Hey ho. Off we go home.

Change into baggy jumper and jogging bottoms.
Chocolates. Tea. Telly. Both fall asleep on the sofa.
Trip upstairs. Snuggle into bed, on our new 'memory foam' mattress topper. Ahhhhhhh..... a few pages of PD James and away I go, asleep....

It might not sound like much, but I had a very, very happy birthday.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Keeping busy after the shock of the vet's bill!

Chicken pie out, wholemeal fruit scones ready to go in...

I've had the bill from the vet. For a dental clean, a few teeth taken out, one blood test, the removal of two suspicious lumps for sending to the lab.... guess how much? £954.82.

The nurse told us not to worry as "You can get it all back from the insurance." Not so!

I have an email friend, Donna, in Missourri. Her husband is a vet, and had never heard of Pet Insurance. Is it a UK thing?

Anyway, I pay just under £15 a month for Fluffy's insurance. But there are catches: NOTHING to do with the mouth is covered at all. Of everything else, there is an excess of £60 PLUS I have to pay 25% of what's left.

This means I will get back £539.98. Hardly getting it all back! I hope that nurse isn't saying that to everyone. I'm used to it, but others might have a bad shock coming.

I wonder if this attitude is behind the high fees, and even the strange fees. For example, I have been charged £225.25 for "surgery" and then £47.00" for "surgery theatre fee".

What the??? Where else was he going to operate? In the street?

Off course, Fluffy is worth it. And it's what my credit card lives for- I only have one for vet fees! But I do wonder if vets take the p**s.

She has 25 staples AND stitches, none of them being removed till next Monday. Poor thing. I don't think I can get down to my mum's (where she lives) to see her till Saturday. I may have to forego partner and blogs for a few days, and stay there well into next week. I feel I owe her lots of hugs and attention...

Friday, 2 November 2007

It was nice to feel good for a week!

Move along, there's nothing to see.... move along there....

If you want a happy post, that is!

........bad asthma attack, first one in many years....

.....Fluffy the cat has an operation today: two lumps found (her sister had some, and died of cancer)....

and.... why do people have to let you down?

Thursday, 25 October 2007


Old archway squashed between modern buildings, Limerick, taken Tuesday afternoon, 23/10/07.

Well we got back from Ireland yesterday, and it was all fine.

Better than fine, actually, it was lovely.

Once there, I didn't suffer from nerves or butterflies or dread. On previous visits it has been so bad that I have counted the hours till we could set off back to the airport for home. I'm amazed by the difference this time.

It wasn't plain sailing all the way. I felt so panicked at the airport. I was in tears more than once. Had to take one of my blue pills.... I didn't want to go through check-in. I tried to find ways, in my mind, of getting home again from the airport, and telling my partner to go on without me. Maybe I could call my friend, the one in Enfield, and ask if she can meet me if I can get to her by Tube. Or maybe I could take the Tube to Liverpool Street station and a train home from there. It would take 3, maybe 4 hours, no- on a Sunday, after all, it would be more. But I'd be home. I'd be safe. I could get back into my bed and curl up, coccooned.

But I kept thinking of how awful I would feel about myself afterwards, in the days to follow.

Surely I should push against this, make myself do it..... I hadn't had the strength to do so before. I've never been able to join in. I loathe get-togethers, groups....
Seagulls by Limerick Castle.

I don't know why there was such a difference this time, once I was there. I felt completely comfortable, not scared or fazed by the people or situations at all. Didn't have to think twice about anything. Just went with the flow. Is that what it's like to be "normal"?

So maybe the only answer is that I am a little better, mental-health-wise, than in previous years.

Whether this is true or not, there is still some good news in this. I did it. Horray!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Off for a while....

I'm off to Ireland for a few days. We're staying with my partner's family in the south west. I'm nervous as hell. Took a long time to decide to go. Don't usually, he goes alone - it's not a snub, it's the butterflies in my tummy when I'm around people I don't know well. Already, yesterday, I was running to the loo with nerves.

Wish such family stuff wasn't such a big thing for me. Is it for others? Do you tie yourself up in knots over things like this? Or is the decision to go or not to go really easy, just takes a minute?

Thursday, 18 October 2007


A visit to the astha nurse, once you're over the age of 10, always makes you feel like you're too tall.

Everyone seems to think that asthma is one of the "childhood diseases" that people either get and grow out of, or manage to miss. We had a charity envelope for an asthma charity through the letterbox the other week. You know- one of those you fill with brown coins from down the side of the sofa and then present to the collector at the door whilst trying to make a "honest, I put a pound in" look on your face, whatever that might be. Well, on the front of the envelope was a photo of a particularly peuse looking child, complete with gooey lips and snotty nose. I don't recall having either during an attack myself, but they seem to be compulsory for illustrating illness, especially when the artist is working in black and white.

The thing is, it isn't an illness that only affects children. I didn't have it till I was 23. I've only had one bad attack, and by bad, I mean a stay in hospital. This was December 1996. I lived alone then, and there was no phone in the flat. I had a bad cold, a bad chest infection on top, and had run out of my inhalers. I lived a long way from the doctor's surgery and had no cash for a taxi. Oh, and I had 4 cats. All these little things meant that the bigger things, like chest pain, and wheezing, grew worse.

I remember wrapping a blanket round me and walking to the public phone box. I called for an ambulance, then sat on a wall nearby and just waited. I think it took about 15 minutes. I then spent 4 days in hospital surrounded by victims of the worst flu outbreak this country had seen in years.

The wards were so full, extra beds made out of trolleys were squeezed in between existing patients: privacy was lost, as curtains could no longer be drawn round each bed. The wards were filthy and stank of stale urine. It took them 48 hours to get round to putting me on antibiotics, and by that time it meant having a drip.

After spending my first night in a nightmarish mixed ward- a senile woman on my right, waving soiled underwear around, a senile man farther down the ward trying to get into the wrong bed over and over, an intolerant yob somewhere in between who spent the dark hours shouting abuse at anyone: nurses, doctors, me, shadows.... I was moved to a geriatric ward in the morning as this was the only one with a space.

Because of staff shortages, I was given a chart that measured my breathing and shown how to fill it in. I was also told to note my pulse at the same time. There was a column for blood pressure, but was told not to worry about that one.

When I had originally reached hospital, samples of my blood was taken. These were lost, so a doctor came along for more. "I don't believe this is a chest infection," he said, "I think you have a blood clot on your lung, and it's very, very dangerous." He said he had to take blood from a different place to be sure, and then extracted some, extremely painfully, from my wrist. He left the bloody needle tip on the bedside table. It was still there the next day. I never saw or heard of him again.

Another doctor came the following evening on his rounds. The nurses presented him with "my" x-rays, which turned out to be those of an 85 year old woman. He eventually dismissed mine, as they were now 48 hours old.

The food was tasteless and cold, but at least I ate it. Plates were left on trolleys next to the beds of old ladies I had never seen move. After no staff had been around to help them eat, these were wheeled away when cold, untouched, leaving the patients to grow more skeletal.

One morning, when someone asked for tea, the steward couldn't find a cup on the tea trolley. They hadn't loaded enough. Spotting one on my bedside table, she asked if I had finished with it -which I had- then shook drips out of it into a bucket, filled it with tea, and gave to the other patient. I had been sipping water from that cup all night.

After 4 days I asked to be discharged. By this time I had caught another infection on top of the one I had arrived with: one that gifted me with diarrhoea and vomiting. The head nurse told me I would "be better off at home with that, if you stay here you'll get worse" so off I went, antibiotics and inhalers in bag.

Once home, I started to get better. The next day I called my employer to ask if they wanted me back on Monday, 23rd December, or should I leave it till after the holiday now?

They had given my job to someone else in my absence.

So you see, asthma isn't just a wheezy kid at the back of the class trying to get out of PE. I did put some money in that envelope the other week, but added a note, it isn't just kids, you know.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Toe Tabby

This postcard came from a friend in Rome.

I love the way cats have no respect for things that we hold in any kind of esteem: the hard-worked flowerbed, the basket of clean washing, the best chair, the hand-embroidered bed cover that's been passed down through the family. To them it's all just a place to relax.

And here. Geography? History? Art? Nahhh..... this toe just fits my shape perfectly, thanks, and the stone makes a cool spot for my afternoon nap. Why? Was there something else?

Monday, 8 October 2007

5 minute sketch

Fluffy is actually a black cat, but it was the expression I was after. To colour it in would have spoiled it. Or put another way, I was just too chicken.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Tiny Bit Scary, This One!

OK, peeps! This is one of the pieces I sent in for the final assessment on my writing course. It's 1138 words, and a tiny tiny bit scary- so if you want to skip it till halloween, be my guest!

Otherwise, hope you like it.


A Letter To My Neighbour

Have you any idea what you've done? The enormity of it?

Years, it was, I suffered with the hauntings. From house to house, the ghosts moved with me. Finally, here, just three years ago, I was freed from the terrors. And now you have let them back in.


Unable to sleep within any ‘normal’ kind of pattern for years, now, I have come to follow a routine of sorts, around a nocturnal clock. Mostly, this means I pass my partner, Tony, on the stairs in the morning; he on his way to work, me, to bed. More lately, my night-times have evolved to include peaceful walks in the garden to spot statue-like frogs by torchlight, or check that birdfeeders hold enough for the greenfinches’ breakfast.

Winter nights are spent by the fire, sipping tea and watching old comedies on videotape. Whilst the bright, summer dawns are met in the coolness of my study, where I’ll be exploring emails and listening to the reassuring sameness of the World Service. Unexciting. Unthreatening. Undisturbed, but for the mouse.

I always called it ‘the mouse’, even though I knew that ‘he’ was very probably just one of a fair sized family. Two or three hundred, one edition of BBC Wildlife magazine suggested, although I hid that particular edition from Tony. Any hint at the vastness of the Common Woodmouse’s promiscuity would result in all kinds of pained expressions on Tony’s face. I developed antennae for mentions of such things on wildlife programmes and would intervene with the remote control before the news reached his ears. Such news reaching such ears effected a change in topic of conversation that I did not want to hear: traps.

And so, for nearly two years now, I have cleaned floors more studiously than necessary to the naked eye, pulled out units and machinery from our fitted kitchen to get to the pencil-lead droppings hiding behind, and agreed, enthusiastically, whenever Tony remarked on how we only ever saw one mouse at a time.

Ah, yes. Except there was that one time when - but on second thoughts, the mouse was probably just very speedy. No reason at all why it couldn’t have been the same one behind the sofa and just ducking behind the oven. Just very quick, that’s all. Anyway, no need to say anything. They kept the ghosts away, you see.


Have you ever been haunted? It isn’t like in the films. You don’t see their thin, wispy fingers reaching out from just a hint of desperate, beautiful young face. And you can’t help them. There’s no good thinking you can carry out some unfinished business for them and then deliver them into some brightly lit niche somewhere.

They don’t communicate with you. All that M. Night Shyalaman stuff! That’s just to make you feel important, make you feel you have a role to play. But you have no role. Only fear.

God, the darkness. It has so many shades. You think of it as black, but that’s wrong. I first knew this as an eight year old child, lying, stiffly, with frozen fingers clutching the tips of my blankets to my screwed up face, as some hideous creature emerged from beneath my bed. Transparent, it was, yet perfectly detailed, as though drawn by some pencil artist after Drurer. Different shades of pencil in different shades of darkness. I lay staring into it, too afraid to scream or run or blink, barely able to breathe through the leaden weight of my body.

Over the years, I grew more sensitive to the subtle little changes in the atmosphere when a haunting was about to begin. The clicks in the empty kitchen, the straining floorboards, the groaning stairs. I would turn up the television volume, make a ‘phone call, read a book. But soon it would be there: the Presence.

So many times I turned, expecting to see who had just come into the room, only to find an empty space. A sudden coldness down my neck as I did the washing up. A breath against my face as I sat in the bath. Eyes following, watching, burning into my back. But whose?
And then came the laughter. Nothing could be ominous in the sound of children’s laughter. You think not? Distant, yet just behind you. Faint, yet following you down the stairs. Four or five of them. Chuckling, conspiratorially. Always stopping, just as you turn.

I learned to sleep sitting upright in an armchair, too scared to switch off lights and climb the stairs to bed.


Strange, the way the ghosts followed me from house to house. Whenever I moved, they were there. I was never sure if they followed me or if they went on ahead. But it would never be long before they made their presence known. My heart would race and the curdling cold sweat come back as again, the familiar, watching Presence returned to hover menacingly in the corners of the room.

Then we moved here. A new house, new town, new county, new neighbours, shops and doctors. And it wasn’t long before the mouse popped out to greet us.

My nights were now filled with entertainment as he examined the new furniture brought into his home. I left food in a corner for him, experimenting to find his favourite dish. Pine nut kernels were a firm favourite. As was anything chocolate. Lettuce and cabbage were surprisingly welcomed, as was a bit of cooked aubergine that got dropped and swept into his corner rather than cleared up. Mushrooms were firmly rejected. ‘Quiet as a mouse’ is the saying, but it proved to be as untrue as the one about them liking cheese. And through his noisy little escapades I came to disregard every little sound.

A rustle from the kitchen? Just the mouse. The door creaked? Opened, slightly? Must have been the mouse. No draught boded ill any more. No knock, scrape or shimmy caused a shiver. The only mischief in the vicinity was four-legged, round-eared, long-tailed and benign.


And now. The biscuits and pine nuts I left down for him five nights ago are still there.

You said you’d heard mice in your attic and were going to ‘Phone the man at the council’.

What have you done?

What did he do?

I’ve been sitting here for hours, listening. I did hear some scurrying across the kitchen, even a crunch. I checked the biscuits a few times, I was so sure it was him, but nothing.

I thought Tony was coming downstairs at one point. I was so sure I heard him walking across the landing. The boards creaked, and then the stairs broke into a rhythmic thud....

The pills don’t work without the mice, you see. Not on their own. Not without the mice....

Monday, 1 October 2007

Back to the Old Country

Cherished79 mentions suicide in her latest post. I've a few suicide attempts on my file.

I'm not sure I would try it again. Although, as I have said to someone close to me, I can't even make that a promise to myself, let alone someone else.

Yes, that probably does sound selfish. But the thing is, even when you've been through it, you can't remember the pain. You can remember being in pain, but you can't remember the pain itself, not really, just descriptions of it.


I thought I was doing ok, miles better, this last year. Then, last month, out of nowhere, BAM! And I was at the bottom again.

I had forgotten what that DEADNESS felt like. Like being in a street alone, swamped in a thick smog, sinking in quicksand, all at the same time.

WOW. I had truly forgotten that, even though I'd written about it. Know what I mean?
Luckily it lasted only about 10 days. A few weeks more of being fragile, and now I am almost back to where I was.

What if that were to return one day, and didn't go after just a week or two? What if it were still there after five months?

Hmm. That's funny. I was about to write "six months", but decided mid-type that no, I wouldn't be able to stand that. Wouldn't even let myself imagine it going on for that long.

It did before though. And longer. When I was 13, again when I was 21. Those were the times I tried to end it.

At 28 and 34, again. But no attempts those times. Well, I did, but got myself to a doctor. It was more extreme self-harm than serious attempt. The feelings were there, but not the determination. I was still in touch with people around me. That was the difference. Previously I had felt like I was living under a glass dome. There was no way in or out for other people. It's like being sucked down a vortex. In the end you have no energy to reach up. In the end, you think they'll all be better off without you anyway, so please, let me sleep, let me go. If it is love you have for me, don't make me stay with this pain any longer.


Saw the psychiatrist last week. I see one every 3 months, for 30 minutes. It is never the same doc, a new person each time. I think it's a training thing. Or maybe, just not a permanent post. Or maybe, a post served by several different hospitals. Who knows. I've never been told the reason. Just a new doc every time.

They never read the file. They each want to start again. So last week, instead of being able to check on my progress, or go over the huge dip I was just coming out of, we were going over how many brothers do I have? And sisters? And is there depression in the family? And how old are you again?

One of these times, I swear, I shall call their bluff. Yes, I shall say. My parents are still alive AND together, currently touring Belgium as part of a circus with my 19 siblings- that's 7 boys, 10 girls and 2 hermaphrodites. Hear voices? Oh yes, all the time. My cats, mainly. They speak 4 languages, you know.

This time, the doc suggested mood stabilizers. I'm not so sure. Just as I said August 2006 when they were suggested.

Is there something I could just take when I was very low? Just for then? Just when I needed a wee bit of extra help?

Off she went to consult with someone else. Comes back all gleeful. So proud and pleased that she is going to help me, looking forward to later, no doubt, when she is sipping wine in front of the TV and reflecting on how rewarding her job is.

"We're going to put you on a mood stabilizer!" she announces.

Oh, really?

I took the prescription from her but haven't had it filled out. Knew I wouldn't, at the time. For all the same reasons I said no to mood stabilizers a year ago. I bet those reasons are there, too, in that file. I'm too tired to go over them again with her. This, in itself, is a sign that I'm still not out of the woods.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

OK, don't rub it in!

I've had a week of sleepness nights and groggy days, thanks to a heavy cold. To make things worse, I have to try to sleep sitting up when I have a cold, or at least propped up, so that it has minimal impact on my asthma. Hence, I've not had much sleep lately, as I just can't sleep like that!

So it's sort of rubbing my face in it, to turn over my cat-a-day calendar and find this cheeky wee fella!

Don't you wish you could sleep anywhere, anytime, anyhow? -Like Mr Ginger, here? LOL!

Saturday, 22 September 2007


Isn't he beautiful? But this is a youngster- the adults have red on their faces, covering the eye. Or to be more precise, the males have a red eye mask that covers the eyes completely, and the females' eye mask stops half way across the eye area. If you look closely at the last photo, you can just about see his dad on the right, towards the back. You can see the splodge of his red eye mark.
But anyway, my point is, this fella is lovely, but he'll get even more colourful as he gets older!

It took us ages to get goldfinches to the garden. They eat a tiny seed called nyger seed. It's so small you need to have special feeders so that it doesn't just spill out everywhere. The first feeder we bought, we ended up throwing away. No one came to it. And then, earwigs inhabited it. Yeauck!
In the spring, I heard the goldfinches' very distinctive call again, so bought a new feeder. I tried it in a few places, before they 'found' it here, in our hawthorn tree.

One day, I was standing at the kitchen window, finally deciding that yes, this window is filthy and could really do with a clean, when a goldfinch flew down and half hovered, half leaned on the window-pane, just up in the corner. I watched, amazed, as it pecked away at a cobweb. He fluttered to and fro doing this, several times. They use the cobweb material for binding together the moss in their nests!

It gave me a good reason to leave the window cleaning for a bit longer, and also made me think of spiders in a SLIGHTLY better light. (I'm still terrified of any bigger than an inch, though, and feed them to my Dyson.)

This wee fella confirms that these lovely birds have been breeding nearby. Horray!

One other thing, just look at all the berries on this tree! It is absolutely smothered in them. My mum says that this is a sign that a bad winter is to follow. I've heard that before. What I want to know is, how does the tree know this?

Friday, 21 September 2007

Strange Light

There's always a strange light in the evening here, this time of year. It only happens for a week or so. You get a sort of orange light. It lasts about half an hour, before it starts to grow dark.
I can't capture it with the camera. The last shot is out of focus, I know, but gives a bit of an idea of what it's like. In reality, the gravel, terracotta pots and the red hot pokers were all glowing with a sort of fluorescence that doesn't come out here.
Look at the red hot poke at the top there. Amazing colour. Yes, maybe that top photo is the closest after all.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

:^ )

Someone emailed this to me today. Cheered me up.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Bit difficult, this...but does it matter?

Another writing assignment due in this Friday, and I am utterly stumped.

Truth is, I've been very low for a week, now.

I resisted for a long time, but in the end I've had to start taking my "supplementary pills". These are little blue ones I take on top of the antidepressants for "times of especial anxiety or disturbance". Not sure what they mean by "disturbance". Perhaps for when my neighbours put their noisy "music" on (God, I'm showing my age).

The reason I resisted is that they dumb your head down a bit. Push your thoughts into a lower gear. So that they stop spiralling, spinning, merging, bubbling. They don't exactly help you write.

Hey ho.

Found this in my email this morning. It's from a newsletter that tells me I can "unsubscribe" at any time. That's decent of them, since I've never heard of them. Think I get what it says though. Wonder if it will be helpful.........

When something feels "difficult" or "hard," that is not a signal you should not proceed ... Instead of deciding a lack of ease is an indication of what you shouldn't do, next time you notice something feeling hard, stop. Tell yourself you don't know what this means. It may not mean anything more then you need to eat lunch or take a short break. Instead of interpretating, notice what "difficult" feels like as information at it's most basic level: perhaps you notice a sensation of heaviness or of sleepiness or even a vast rush of energy or an inability to sit still.

What if you simply noticed sensation without labeling anything--no feelings, no shoulds or shouldn'ts.

What if you stayed there, bringing your mind back to what you are experiencing without any filter.

What if?

Friday, 7 September 2007

Why thank you! [bleagh]

My sister lives in Australia. She emailed me today and said that her boyfriend had bought her the worst present ever. She wouldn't say any more. Apparently I have to call Mum to find out, as she's already been on the phone to her. She wouldn't go through again for me, it's that bad.

Well, that got me thinking, what was the worst present I ever got?
I'm afraid it was from my fiance. (Sorry, Luvbug, if you read this!)
It was when I first went on some new antidepressants and suffered one of the horrible side effects: a really, really dry mouth.
So he went to the pharmacist without telling me, and came home with "artificial saliva spray". Eugh!
But the bad bit is- he didn't just give it to me, he told me to close my eyes and open my mouth. Obviously reluctant (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) I was assured it was safe to do so and that it was "nothing nasty". So, thinking it would be CHOCOLATE!!!!!!!!!!!!! I did so, and he squirted some of it in!
It was gross.
I know he meant well, "bless 'im", but even so.....
So...over to you- what was the worst present you ever received????

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Rats! It's arrived!

My diet book's arrived.

I orderd it from Amazon about 10 days ago. Once I had done so, I decided that I could treat myself to anything I fancied until it arrived. Hence, I ticked the box for the cheapest, slowest delivery. HAHAHAHAHA. And now it's here.

Before you write in and say "ARE YOU MAD? I SAW THAT PHOTO OF YOU A FEW POSTS AGO AND YOU'RE HARDLY THE STAYPUFT MARSHMALLOW WOMAN!" no, I don't think I'm hugely fat. But I AM overweight.

I've been here before. In fact, I've been here plus another 14 pounds.

My "ideal weight", I'm told, is between 8 stone 4 and 9 stone 2. (112-126 pounds.) I'm now 136 pounds. I know that's not hugely obese or anything, but it's at this stage that I start to feel, well, round. It's also at this stage that my PCOS symptoms sneak back.

You don't want to know. You do? OK, just don't be eating. They include: spots like when I was 14; excess hair enough to keep a sheep shearer in overtime for several months; fatigue and sleepiness to the point where I forget whether I'm meant to be on breakfast or dinner; depression; dizziness and er................. sorry if you're a guy, but er...... period problems (eugh!).

I tried eating a "healthy" low fat and high fibre way a few years ago. I lost 2lb in 8 weeks, went spotty and achey and my period that month lasted for eleven days THAT'S ELEVEN DAYS. Stroof. So much for healthy eating.

So I switched to low carb/high protein. It worked. Symptoms cleared up in a month. So since then I've avoided sugar, rice and wheat. If I'd stuck to this, I'd be OK. But hey, they make chocolate for me, don't they? I mean Cadbury and me are like that. Last year they said that lots of Cadbury stuff had to be withdrawn because of a salmonella scare in the factory. I thought, "Whoah!!! Salmonella? But that's killed at high temperatures! -ship the chocolate to me: I'll melt it down and eat it with a spoon."

See? Chocolate. That's what did it.

I wonder how long I can last out. (THIS time)

Monday, 3 September 2007

Result (hmmm....)

Got my mark from my tutor for that piece I put on here recently.

I got 82%, which is a "B". You need 85 for an "A".

OK, I know that 82 is a good mark, but I was quite pleased with that piece of writing, more than anything else I've handed in, so I was a wee bit disappointed. So, I wrote and asked him what would have made it an "A".

He said that there were similies and metaphors in it that he didn't get, and so it couldn't be an "A", as "A"s are only for stuff that is publishable. Huh?

Hmmm...... sort of knocked me down a tad.

OK I have a piece of prose, 2000 words, due in by 14th September, plus another 500 words written about it.

Then two pieces of 1250 words each due in by 5th October, along with another 700 words about them.

Nothing written so far.

Nothing in my head writing itself, as sometimes happens, either.

Oh bugger!!!
It's a distance course, but there is an online "forum" for other students. Not many take part. I'm not a part-taker, myself, not much. But I've had a browse over the last few days and see a lot of them talking about having lost their "Muse".


The only muse in my life are mews, and they are produced by my lovely two cats, who live with my mum now, cos she has a big garden and I don't, and I live by a busy road, and anyway, if I had them here, how would I be able to get down there to see her without a cat-sitter up here?

Sorry. It's a sore point.
THIS cheered me up though. Wasn't going to put it on here - not keen on long posts. But it made me laugh.

This is from an online test, to see if you're Bi-Polar:
  1. Are you on medication?
  2. Do you like blue cars?
  3. When considering heights, does the thought of jumping / flying come into play?
  4. Do you have bad credit?
  5. When contemplating seeing a psychiatrist, do you consider yourself an experiment?
  6. Do you shuffle your feet?
  7. Do you like blue cars?
  8. Do you think "they're" crazy?
  9. When you think about being 'normal', do you get depressed?
  10. Do you keep noticing things that others miss e.g., birds, daisies, bricks, blue cars?


0-2 Check your pulse!
3-4 Close, but no cigar
5-8 Yep, you're bi-polar
9-10 This isn't funny, get professional help immediately

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Never trust a hairdresser who has short hair

- It's true.
I don't know what it is.
Surely it isn't jealousy?
I mean, how can it be in their INTEREST to lop your hair all off anyway?
But here it is, irrefutable evidence.........
Photo one- taken the beginning of August, up in Yorkshire:

Photo two: taken on a "Falconry Experience Day", 17th August, after my ONE INCH TRIM:

See what I mean?
OK here's another "before" shot, taken same day:

Know what she said?
"Oh well, my inch is like that," while shaping about 3 1/2 inches with her finger and thumb.
It's enough to make you chew your own foot off.
Nice owl, though, isn't he? He's called Sid.

Monday, 27 August 2007


I'm sure this is what really happens.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Finding My Way

I wasn't going to put up any long posts on here, but here's an exception. Skip it if you want.
This is a version of my latest assignment for my Writing Course. It had to be around 1500 words, and autobiographical. The theme had to be about a book, a baby or a wrong turning. I took the latter. Let's hope he likes the one I sent him more than he liked my poetry, huh? ;^)


me, Easter 1974, age 6

I jog to keep up with mum, head down, staring at the pavement as it rolls past underneath me, my scuffed blue shoes dashing along, my white summer socks, grey from the rain. Her scarf flinging flag-like from the February wind, she looks forward, her taut features stubbornly fixed towards home.

I hadn't meant to get lost.

All the Catholic seven year olds at St Thomas More's primary were to take their First Holy Communion in the coming June. Today, after school, we were to have our second class on the Catechism. I knew this. Or at least, I must have known. She must have reminded me at breakfast, because that's what she told me she did. When she found me. When we found each other. And I had forgotten about it because I never paid attention to anyone but my Dad. And he wasn't here. He was Away At Sea. And that was where my brain was.

I couldn't make out why she wasn't at the school gates to meet me. I waited with Joanna's mum. I liked Joanna. She had neat hair in a "page boy" cut, and she wore shoes with three buckles on each foot. She had a cat called Thomas O' Malley and a toy submarine for the bath that doubled up as a flute when it was dry. I wanted to be just like Joanna. Standing with her and her mum at the gate, I was part of her family. They didn't argue and their house was neat with fitted carpets all one colour. But as the sky grew darker and the crowd thinned away, Joanna's mum bit her bottom lip and shook her daughter to one side.

"I'm sorry, Helen, I'm sure she'll be here soon. Perhaps she's gone up the shops! We have to go. I have to get tea, for Jo's dad."

And so they left me. Joanna turned back to say something but her mum pulled her arm along so strongly that my friend was lifted off the curb in a twirl that made the skirt of her Proper School Uniform Coat spin out like a wintry ballerina.

I smiled at their backs till they turned the corner, then dug deep into my pockets for my gloves. Not there. Maybe I should go back in. I turned and looked at the school. The windows were all black and Mr Stokes, the caretaker, was pulling the silver gates together and threading a chain through them. I turned to the church on the other side of the drive. Lights were on, and flickers of red and yellow were tickling the windows. What was going on in there? Better not go over. Sr. Callista is probably in there, whatever it is. A scary headmistress; an even scarier nun. Pale bumpy skin and a black veil. Like the bad Queen in Snow White.

I scooped the front of my coat up with my chin. If I stuck my neck out, I could get it to stay there and double as a scarf. But the mohair on my numbed skin became itchy, so I dropped it and stared up towards the main road. Should I walk home on my own?

Mrs Morrison, the Lollypop Lady, should be gone by now. If she’d seen me, she’d make me go home with her and then how would Mum find me? She’d put me indoors and then go and look for Mum. That is what grown-ups mean by “trouble“. I mustn’t trouble her, or cause trouble.

I go to the corner and check that she’s gone. Then walk on towards Silverweed Road.
After all, Mum will be worried about being late. If I walk on, and meet her half way, she will be relieved. Her eyes will open wide and she’ll smile with all her face so that her top lip folds up. She’ll be happy and laugh, and tell me that I’m clever. We’ll stop at the cake shop on the way, where Toni’s mum works, and we’ll get cream meringues for tea, the ones shaped like butterflies. Then, when we get home, I’ll tell my two elder brothers why we’ve got cakes, and they’ll be nice all evening. It’ll be great.

With my head bowed against the drizzling rain, and my thoughts far from the details of my journey, I have gone on far past the spot where Mrs Morrison usually helps us cross the road. Out of the corner of my eye I see the trunk of a tree foreign to my usual walk home. I stop and look up. One, two, three trees. Where am I?

Big black branches pour down towards me like treacle as the wind pulls up another heavy gust. I stare up at their clawed limbs sprawling out against the charcoal sky as the rain finds the gap around my neck and collar. I start to cry, and run.

Puddles lie in ranks along the path, mirroring street lights now fully lit. I splash through their yolks in my panicked sprint till I am too dizzy from the wind to go on, folding up to squat on the curb, shivering, with my arms wrapped round my knees. I sniff cold mucus into my throat, coughing and crying.

Suddenly I am blinded by a beam of white light making a stream of raindrops glow towards me. A new panic, as I realise a car is stopping by me. I don’t know anyone with a car. Least, I might know someone who has one, like Joanna, but I’ve never seen them in one.

The door swings open and a wrinkled black shoe splashes into a puddle.

“Helen? Is that you? What on earth...?”

Oh boy. Sr Callista.

Just pleased to feel warmth again, and to be near a person bigger than me out here, I gladly climb onto the back seat.

“Weren’t you coming to Church, then? No? Well where’s your mother, then?” She drives off in mid thought in the direction of the shops. All the mothers from our estate walk down to the school along past the shops. It’s when bread for breakfast is bought. And cakes, for tea, if your Mum’s in a good mood.

But I’m not listening. I’m investigating a beige cardboard box on the seat next to me. Little disks of plastic made to look like silver, with faces of old people on. Most of them have haloes and “Pray for us” written in the circle. Then there are small crosses with Jesus on and “JHS” underneath his feet. I wonder what this could stand for and decide on “Jesus Has Suppered”. We did about The Last Supper last week. I feel pleased to have remembered.

“Ah! Isn’t that your mother?” She pulls up not far from the shops, alongside a small figure hunched forward with one hand on her headscarf, holding it against the tugging wind.

Is it her?

The voice is familiar, but it isn’t Mum’s. It’s higher pitched and says different words.

“Oh really? Oh dear! Helen? Are you all right darling?” She puts her head into the car. It IS her. She opens the door for me.

“No, no, Sister. That’s fine. No, of course you have to go. No, we’re not far from here, anyway. Thank you. Thank you!” She waves energetically and smiles as Sister drives away.

I feel soft and warm inside my chest. I can feel my smile cracking my lips but it doesn't matter, and I relax into her presence. It’s all going to be all right now.

“Can we go and get some cakes?”

“CAKES?” She grabs my arm an turns me around towards home. The raised voice has cut through me more sharply than all the rain and wind. I trot along trying to keep up, head down. We march past the cake shop with its welcoming lights glowing over the last of the buns. I see Toni’s mum laughing with a customer as she reaches for one of the big Bun Rings, the ones with white icing and a cherry in the middle. We had one of those for Dad’s birthday. The customer leaves, still laughing, letting a whiff of warm, sweet air escape and tease its fingers under my sore, red nose.

“I just can’t believe you sometimes, my girl. I just can’t believe you.”

And so it starts.

My eyes on my shoes, I think of Joanna’s, with the triple buckles. I imagine them stuffed with newspaper by the fire as she and her dad have their tea. I think of her purring, ginger cat, and decide that I will draw it when I’m sent to my room.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Summing up a place

A few weeks ago I was in Yorkshire.

The advantage of a digital camera is that you can click away without worrying about quantity. So I came home with over 600 photo's. Of course, you tell yourself that you'll delete lots and only keep the best ones. But going through that many is a job easily put off!

I certainly wouldn't want to try to put even a tenth of them on this blog, so I looked for one that summed up the place. Would that be possible? Just one photo to sum up all that?

Well, I think the one above is a good candidate. In case the notice isn't clear, here it is in close-up:

I took this near Bolton Abbey, which is set in the middle of lots of hills and paths that obviously appealed to hikers and explorers. It was on the wall of a Post Office. Inside was also a gift shop, grocery store and tea bar.

I think this notice sums up the spirit of the place. Lots of people outdoors in all weather, faithful friends, hospitality and welcome.

OK that might be a typical visitor's sweetened view of a place. But the photo isn't a typically sweetened postcard view, is it?

Saturday, 18 August 2007


Like apostrophes,
swallows punctuate the sky;
gathering, to leave.

I'm always sad to see them go. It always happens mid-August here. But this year, I'm noticing their leaving more than ever because I've seen so many more of them around. Especially when I was up in Yorkshire a few weeks ago.
I miss their high-pitched calls, high up in the sky, and looking up to see them, up and out from the busy High Street in town. I enjoyed seeing them, while all around me the crowd of shoppers carried on regardless, unaware of the glimpse of wildlife above their heads.

So beautiful, so sweet looking. Goodbye, my innocent little ones. I hope for safe journeys for you all. Avoid the French shotguns. Avoid the Greek glue-traps. Come back to us safely.