Thursday, 21 July 2016


You know how everyone always moans about our NHS? Well this is the polar opposite of one of those posts because I'm just leaving Sunderland Royal Hospital now where I have been absolutely bowled over (yet again) by the care and thoughtfulness I've been shown.

I've heard loads of folks grumbling about our hospital but from first hand experience, I can tell you that their response was perfect in a crisis (they looked after me and Mark incredibly well in that week before he died) and they are also very skilled when it comes to the management of long term, chronic health conditions.

I'm old (27) and knackered and I have loads of ailments but the thing that causes the most upheaval in my life is definitely asthma. I'm a type 1 brittle asthmatic and I spend more time in that hospital than I spend in my own living room these days so I can see how easy it would be for a person's life to become quite small as a result of health restrictions.

I'm always cancelling plans and letting people down and it would be so easy to just stop planning things altogether. Luckily I have very understanding friends but not everyone is as fortunate.

Holidays are particularly fraught. Remember I was in Spain for three weeks over Easter and I spent most of that time incapacitated, wheezing and gasping, before eventually having to come home early and be admitted to hospital here. I also had to cancel a trip to Amsterdam in May and a week in Valencia in June so I totally understand why a lot of brittle asthmatics just stop travelling altogether.

This weekend I'm setting off on a mega-jaunt and the transport of my luggage will be a consideration. My normal nebuliser weighs a tonne and I won't be able to take it with me but I'll be travelling across one or two countries where the air pollution is a problem (Beijing) and the medical facilities aren't guaranteed so I'm understandably concerned about it.

I rang Asthma UK, the national body of knowledge when it comes to my condition, and asked for advice and tips to make sure I'm safe. They pointed out that only 4% of all asthma cases relate to brittle asthma and most of those folks just croak. Cheery eh? They also urged caution about going on my trip at all because it's too risky but I've wanted to do this trip for years so I'm definitely not going to cancel it.

Anyway, I'm just telling you this for background, so you get a sense of how concerned I've been feeling but this morning, after my trip to our local chest clinic, that's all disappeared because they've given me everything I need to have a safe trip, including the teeniest nebuliser I've ever seen! It's super light so I won't notice it in my backpack and best of all, it holds charge so it doesn't even have to be plugged in for me to use it. This is so handy when travelling to places with less than 240v of power (my other nebuliser didn't work in Colorado last winter because there wasn't enough power).

The hospital budget doesn't pay for these teeny nebulisers (because they're not classed as essential items) but someone's family bequeathed £500 to the department and the department manager used that money to buy it. I didn't even know these things existed and to have one for this trip is such a weight off my mind. When I come home from this trip I'm going to do something to raise money to buy more of these for our chest clinic. Another one or two of these could make all the difference to someone else's little life too.

We think we're just a number as we roll around these places; that we're seen as 'cases' rather than real people, but those girls in our local chest clinic really do listen and care about the patients in there. They didn't have to remember that I was going away on holiday. I just made a throwaway comment when I was in there last month but they picked up on it & they've done their best to help me out and put my mind at rest about travelling. I'll be leaving here fully tooled up with a rainbow of inhalers, a month's worth of steroids, a box of filter masks for Beijing and a really impressive little piece of kit that I can rely on.

Honestly, we need to protect our NHS. We're so lucky to have this and I genuinely doubt I'd get this level of care anywhere else. As someone who was always really fit & healthy until just a few years ago, I had no idea how much I'd come to rely on it or how grateful I'd be that it was available. Despite all the moaning we do, we are lucky, lucky people in this country.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

From Roots to Boots!

A few months ago, I began to realise that I am nearing that time of life (27) when I'm going to have to start wearing make-up to hide my MASSIVE WRINKLES.  As each attempt to apply some made me look more & more like a clown, I quickly reached the conclusion that professional input was required so I impulsively booked myself onto a three hour make-up tutorial/course.

I thought it would be a bit of a lark; that I might learn some useful tips while having a bit of a giggle but instead I was completely bewildered by some of the mind-boggling things that were said. I thought you might like to hear them too.

Things I learned in my make-up lesson today:

1. A 'basic' brush set consists of 8-12 make-up brushes and is likely to set you back £200 (I'm not even joking. I'd want a flipping car for that much money! 😳)

2. You should NEVER leave the house without wearing concealer & mascara, even if you're only going to the corner shop for milk (because apparently this is the time you will bump into that 'hot guy' you've been daydreaming about for months)

3. ALL WOMEN need to perfect the 'five minute routine' for occasions when said 'hot guy' will ring you to say he's on his way over for a coffee (assuming you were daft enough to give some random idiot at the corner shop your phone number & address)

4. Contouring isn't about being fat or thin (said whilst directly eyeing up my fattest bits). It's only ever about accentuating your best bits (which by definition are unlikely to be your fattest bits)

5. ALL WOMEN ought to have their 'colours done' because we can't possibly navigate our way through life unless we know whether we're Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter.

6. We should ALL change our look every day. Some days we might want a muted look (that doesn't mean I'm not allowed to speak) whereas on other days, we might want to 'grab life by the throat and make it take notice'. (Apparently 'grabbing life by the throat' primarily involves the wearing of red lipstick. Who knew it would be that easy!)

7. We should do our make-up and THEN pick our outfit for the day because our make-up guides the outfit selection (this has nothing to do with whatever happens to be clean/ironed/within arms reach/the least stinkiest thing from the bedroom floor etc).

8. If our faces and our outfits match, we are 'channelling a look' and it's very important that we do this 'from roots to boots' if we want to be TAKEN SERIOUSLY.

9. If you are trying to lure 'hot guys' from nightclubs, like some deranged stalker-type wifey, you will need SMOKEY EYES. They will make you win at everything in life. Seriously, everything!

10. In the main, it's best to 'live within one palette' to obtain each look however, it's occasionally acceptable to throw caution to the wind and wear bright green eyeshadow with bright red lipstick. Apparently this is just like 'Christmas on your face'.

11. No matter how much you believe points 1-10 above, there is always a danger that your 'look' will turn out to resemble Pennywise the Clown.

17. If you come home wearing the clown face your cats are likely to run away from you and you will have to resort to buying them a £5.60 cooked chicken from the rotisserie in Asda in order to get them to come to you again.

B. It will take a good half hour to remove the Clown gunk from your face and you'll still find bits of it in your ear later that evening 😔

I hope you lot appreciate me. I only do this stuff so you don't have to 😒

Friday, 10 June 2016

Two Years Later

It's been over two years since I last updated this blog. Life just became too difficult to muster the energy to write and I've been dealing with an awful lot throughout this time. Maybe I'll share more about that later but for now, I'm just leaving this here to mark a return of sorts. If you're reading this, thanks for continuing to check in.


Wednesday, 21 May 2014


I haven't blogged much over the last six months. 

Actually, that isn't strictly true. I've blogged a lot but I've been pretty low and none of it has been fit for human consumption so I haven't actually published anything I've written.

That can be an ongoing problem for me and my scribbles. 

I try to keep this blog reasonably active, which I use as a forum to share my latest escapades with family and friends in different locations. I also keep a private journal which is more for the really personal stuff and absolutely not to be shared with anyone else. 

The journal is a really good way of offloading and maintaining perspective when life is crowding in and I can't see the wood for the trees. When I am faced with an issue, it often helps to get it out of my head and onto a piece of paper where I can make more sense of it and reach a decision more clearly. 

It's also a good way of keeping a record of life's ups and downs so I can see the constant ebb and flow of good times and bad. Feelings and emotions are transient but writing them down in black and white makes them more permanent and, when life is tough, provides a clear reminder that life has been tough before and I survived; that I'm more resilient than I think I am; that it does get better eventually. 

Mark was so good at keeping his daily journal. He always claimed that getting too far behind with it affected his equilibrium and made him feel off balance somehow. I really used to admire his commitment but I never quite manage it myself. I tend to write in my own journal when times are stressful. It helps but in the process, I build a written record of all the bad experiences in life without any of the good. In turn, when I flick back through my journal, it appears to show that I've had a dreadful, angst-filled life which, of course, is not the case at all. 

So, the aim of this post is two-fold:

1. It's a reminder to myself that I need to start blogging again. I'll  publish the entries I've written over the last six months but I'll clean them up first, sanitise them a little so they remain true but aren't quite as dark as the place they were written from. 

2. It's also a reminder to myself that I need to develop a daily practice of writing in my private journal, thereby capturing both the joy and the difficulties of everyday life. I know that it works for me. I just need to establish a decent routine. 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Little Heroes

In the early hours of this morning, while it was dark and still and very, very peaceful, I read a few extracts from Woody's journal and found a whole section called 'Little Heroes'. 

It contained details of people he'd encountered in everyday life; people who'd inspired him because of their attitude to life or because of something they'd said at the time. 

It was lovely to read it and I even remembered some of the people he'd included. There was a terminally ill man that we once met on a ward when Woody was in hospital. He was being discharged at the end of that day because he didn't have much time left and he was desperate to die at home with his wife & dog to keep him company. He wasn't at all maudlin. He was just very much in love with his wife of 56 years, grateful for the life they'd had together and really happy to be allowed home so that they could chat as long as possible before he had to go. Can you imagine being with someone for 56 years and still being excited to see them? Desperate to chat to them? Isn't that lovely? 

Another 'Little Hero' on Woody's list was an old guy who once helped us out when we were hopelessly lost in Teesside one night. We'd stopped to ask for directions but before we'd even finished the sentence, he'd opened the back door of the car & hopped in because the route was complicated and he didn't want us to get lost. He gave a running commentary of interesting landmarks until we arrived at our destination twenty minutes later and he hopped out again, eyes twinkling with laughter as he refused all offers of a lift back to our starting point, insisting that we'd only get lost again and reassuring us that he was enjoying his adventure and fancied a walk anyway. 

People who are kind, helpful and positive make the world a better place and I'm sitting here, eating my lunch and counting my blessings because I have an abundance of people like that in my life. 

All of my friends are kind and good and I'm especially lucky to have those boys next door, even though they're always calling me a "stupid looking c**t". Little charmers... 

Then there's Gill.

Also known as John, Sexual Gillian and various other daft names that I've given her over the many years that we've been friends, Gill is the best mate anyone could have. She's more placid than anyone I've ever met in my life, although she's got a stonking right hook when she (infrequently) does blow a gasket. Normally though, she's so laid back I'm almost sure she sometimes forgets to breathe! 

She's done so much to keep me going this last year, since Woody died, that I can't even begin to list it but I know I'd have been lost without her. 

On holiday recently we were trying to work out the day of the week when she was born because I was convinced she must be a Friday child - loving and giving. As it happens, she's a Saturday child - works hard for a living, but either of those descriptions would be equally as appropriate. She's the most diligent, conscientious, reliable, thoughtful, loyal person I know, a real grafter and usually very resilient but she's having a crummy time of it at the minute and I feel powerless to do anything to help. 

It's a rotten feeling, especially as she does so much for me. We both had such a good time on holiday and I'd dearly love to take her away again, somewhere hot and relaxing, so she could get away from the crappy stuff in her life at the minute, but I'm too skint. 

I never buy into that stuff about praying for people but I know lots of you do so if you've got any positive vibes, can you send them Gill's way or give your crystals an extra rub in her honour as you dance around your cauldrons tonight.

She's a little hero who needs a little bit of love, support & good fortune at the minute. 

Thanks, folks!