Friday, August 09, 2013

My Black Dog

I have a Black Dog. He doesn’t live with me all the time and he doesn’t have a name, but he visits, not as much as he used to, thankfully, but regularly and, usually, unexpectedly. He just kind of creeps up on me, silently, stealthily, without me noticing, until one day I just wake up and think, ‘aah, there he is, sitting on my shoulder like a malevolent creature of the night’.
Sometimes I can feel his presence, just hanging around my shoulders but not weighing me down, not yet. It is as if this Black Dog is waiting for an opportune moment to surround me with his dark, numbing, enveloping misery.  Maybe if I gave him a name it would make him easier to deal with, to get rid of even.
Most people think it was the great Winston Churchill who coined the term ‘Black Dog’ for his depression, but the phrase has been associated with the condition for many years.

I don’t know how long I have had it - I belong to a nation of copers, am possessed of the notorious Stiff Upper Lip peculiar to my tribe. 

The first time I remember addressing it was in my doctor’s office. I was weeping and trying to tell him what I was feeling, he leaned over to me and gently said ‘Julie, do you think you are suffering with depression?’ at which point I cried even more.
Since that fateful day I have had many visits from my Black Dog, I have been on and off meds, have tried to ‘get better’, tried to live a ‘normal’ life (which, by the by, I don’t believe in! None of us are normal, some of us are just better at covering up the crazy than others). 

I have listened to many well meaning souls saying things like ‘get out more’; ‘keep yourself busy’; ‘go for a nice long walk’; ‘I’ll pray for you’; ‘have you prayed about it?’; ‘trust God with it’; ‘Did you know that Moses/Elijah/Paul/all three suffered with depression?’ ‘Are you taking something for it?’; ‘don’t take the meds, it will make it worse’; ‘take the meds, there’s no shame in it’ etc etc - you get the drift. Maybe you have said one or more of these things to someone - I know I have.  Maybe, like me, you have thought ‘for goodness sake, pull yourself together, what have you got to be depressed about?’
The answer to that last question is nothing. I have nothing to be depressed about. So why does it happen? Why are there days in my life when I feel so overwhelmingly sad it is almost difficult to breathe? Why are there times when I sit gazing into space thinking about nothing and anything? Why do I lack the energy and motivation to engage with anyone or anything? In fact, why do I feel such overwhelming, debilitating hopelessness and sadness that I feel worthless and useless? Why do I feel nothing, just that numbing deadness eating away at who I am?

The answer is, I don’t know, and, I suspect, neither does anyone else. I don’t even know how to explain it to someone. How does one verbalise something that is seemingly so random, that sounds so trite - how many times do we hear someone say ‘oh, I feel so depressed’ ‘I suffer with long term depression’. Maybe you have even thought ‘well, you don’t look depressed to me, just get a life’. The truth is depression is a dreadful thing to live with it saps my energy, my self esteem, my motivation, as a Christian who does trust God with everything it also makes me feel guilty, disconnected from Him and a failure.

My Black Dog takes ‘me’ away - and sometimes it’s hard to get me back. I don’t know where I go, but I do know that during those visits I have to work hard at being Julie, at holding a conversation, at normal, everyday interaction. When, in fact, all I want to do is sit and stare into space.

Depression has a physical effect on me as well as a mental and spiritual effect. I find it difficult to concentrate, difficult to do the things I enjoy like reading. I read somewhere that it is associated with stress and anxiety - I believe that. I have always been a worrier, for many years I have lived with a huge ball of string in my chest; during periods of high anxiety and/or stress, I can feel it unravelling and pinging against my ribcage. For most of my adult life I have tried to please all of the people, all of the time, have done my best never to say ‘no’ to a cry for help - which is how I ended up as Secretary at my son’s swimming club, helping out at nursery, rainbows, beavers, school etc. etc.. Nowadays although I still don’t always say no, I find that too hard, I ignore stuff. Not necessarily the best approach, but it works for me. And that is the key - we have to find our own way of dealing with depressive episodes. Taking the meds helps to keep me on an even keel for much of the time, I have learned to avoid stressful situations and live a quiet, some might say boring, life - that’s what I need to do in order to avoid losing what remains of my marbles. Sometimes I feel lonely. Another symptom of my Black Dog is that I have little or no desire to socialise or communicate; this means that I have lost touch with most of my friends, however good people are at being a friend they become fed up of being ignored eventually.  And who can blame them?

So, that’s the story of my Black Dog, he is here this week, and will probably be here for a while longer, I have the huge, empty void inside me indicative of those episodes, I am experiencing almost overwhelming apathy and disinterest in everything and everyone (no offence intended Dear Reader) - fighting it takes all my effort and energy. So what to do? Ignore it until it goes away? Fight it until I can fight no more, even though I know that, in reality that makes little or no difference. In my experience, it is better, at this stage in my life, to let it run its course and wait for my dark, malevolent friend to disappear over the horizon again. In the meantime I will try my best to break free and get over it. Just don't count on it happening quickly.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Identity Theft, Privacy, 'it's all moo'*

Good Morrow Dear Reader, I wonder how you are in this Great Heatwave of 2013? If you are anything like me you may well be wilting.

You see what I did there? I'm a wilted, English rose - just a pity the image is a Lancashire version and not the beautiful white rose of Yorkshire. I confess that I don't like the heat, I don't like the sun and, for the past few weeks have been permanently sat in front of a desk fan in an effort to prevent heat induced grumpiness, nausea, and exhaustion.

So, what's new in the world of jottings I hear you cry. Well Dear Reader I have a salutary tale to tell. You may, or may not, be aware that the British banks have recently been found guilty of mis-selling Payment Protection Insurance (PPI). This has resulted in them having to re-pay a great deal of money. We didn't think we would qualify - being self-employed for so long meant that we never bothered with that sort of thing. However, we did get a no-win no-fee financial advisory service to check for us. We quite quickly received a small payment which was WONDERFUL.

Some time later the financial people informed us that one of the claims they had entered on our behalf had been referred to the Ombudsman who had then told the bank that they HAD to pay this claim also - this was considerably more, we tried to contain our excitement, being more cynically minded than most due to events in the not too distant past and being life-time members of the 'I'll believe it when I see it' approach to things. However, the bank did indeed send a cheque. Sadly they sent it to the wrong address. No problem! I rang up and spoke to a very nice lady in the Philippines who informed me I needed to go into my local branch and fill in a change of address form. I won't bore you with the whole sorry tale, just the salient points -
  1. We no longer bank with this bank and haven't for at least 6 years
  2. We have moved house three times since then and never filled a change of address form in - because we no longer bank with them
  3. The account is in my husband's name
  4. I had completed ALL the security checks
  5. We had already received one cheque without completing a form of any kind.
  6. After three phone calls no form has arrived.
  7. The phone number is an 0845 number - which means it costs me money every time I call them
 As you can imagine Dear Reader I am, by now extremely irritated. Even though we were never expecting this money, now that we know we are getting it we need it!! Silly though that seems. So, I rang again and, well, I ranted, I was polite, but, nevertheless a rant was had. Eventually I said I was going to submit another complaint to the Ombudsman because, in light of points 1, 2, and 3 above  I felt that the bank was time-wasting and using delaying tactics in order to avoid paying the monies owed.

 Funnily enough the Customer Advisor then advised me that the cheque would be in the post shortly. In fact she said 'I see Mr Inan that it is marked on your file that the cheque is to be sent out soon'.

Dear Reader, please note items 3 and 4 in my list and also note that I am, in fact a girl middle-aged woman.

Which brings me to the salient point of my blog, and let's face it what use is a blog without a cute picture of a dog AND a salient point.

Privacy issues and identity theft - easier than you think! I regularly make phone calls on behalf of my son and my husband - indeed even when making phone calls on my own behalf I regularly get referred to as Mr JottingsbyJools. So, Dear Reader, you may well want to beef up your security with regard to personal information and all that jazz.

*And, finally, if you are not a Friends aficionado, (if not, why not?) then watch this clip.

*Waves goodbye* 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Manners, Compliments and Being English

Good morning to you Dear Reader, I have a number of thoughts rumbling around in my brain and thought I would share with you. They are linked, in a tenuous kind of a way.

The first is manners - good or bad. In recent days sleep has, due to the heat, eluded me, when that happens I tend to listen to the BBC World Service and it was here that I first heard the news item concerning a customer in Sainsbury's who was refused service at the checkout until she had finished talking on the phone. The customer was outraged and complained vociferously - Sainsbury's apologised, until, that is, Tweeters and Facebookers took to cyberspace and voiced their support for the shop assistant. Evidently many of us, me included, think it is the height of bad manners to talk on the phone whilst involved in almost any kind of transaction. Happy days. It used to be that, as a society, we knew and understood what good manners were and why it is important to use them.

Now, I am quite sure the whole world knows that we Brits are experts at waiting our turn - indeed our expertise in queuing is world famous. But what about the rest of this little list? If we are talking on a phone whilst being served, anywhere, we clearly are not listening, cooperating, appreciating, or complimenting the server - nor are we able to speak politely or even give thanks for their efforts.

It used to be, in the not too distant past, that talking loudly in public was frowned upon - regarded as 'common' in fact and the epitome of bad manners, not any more, now many of us have no qualms about sharing any of our conversations, not just those taking place via a mobile phone, with anyone and everyone.

Safe to say then that I am greatly encouraged by the number of people who defended the actions of the worker in Sainsbury's and hope that, perhaps, we will all try and mind our manners a bit more.

This brings me nicely to my next point. Compliments. In recent days I have been subjected to a number of unsolicited compliments Dear Reader - I know, quite, quite shocking. The problem is accepting compliments makes me feel uncomfortable - and, I suspect, I am not the only one. It is not often I receive a compliment - when one is a stay-at-home mum it seems that one's efforts tend to fall into the 'taken for granted' category. So, to receive compliments connected to things I do as *me* rather than as wife/mother/daughter etc. is quite a novelty. I do have, after all, that infamous Stiff Upper Lip 

So, apparently, the etiquette for accepting a compliment is not to fumble and fudge and make the complimenter feel uncomfortable, but, rather to graciously accept said compliment and move on. Even if one is British.

Which brings me nicely to my final thought for the day. English or British? Well, Dear Reader, as you may, or may not know, last Sunday was a red letter day for the whole of Great Britain, after 77 long years Andy Murray became the first British man since Fred Perry to win at Wimbledon. The nation went into meltdown as a result of the ensuing hysteria. Andy Murray is a proud Scot, a Dunblane survivor , world's number 2 tennis player, Olympic gold medalist and of course a Brit. Many of our Celtic citizens are keen to be designated by their individual nationality (Scottish or Welsh mainly - the Northern Irish, ironically, want to be British whilst seeming to dislike The English intensely). I can understand being proud of one's roots - I am after all a Yorkshire lass, through and through.

However, for those of us who choose to designate ourselves as English things can get a little tense - largely due to the unpleasant behaviour of the English Defence League I suspect. It seems that things may be changing, a recent article in the Irish Times indicates that  more and more of us English Brits are referring to ourselves as English first and British second - perhaps the worm has turned due to perceived injustices in the tax and education systems, who knows? And is it a good thing? I am not sure. A sense of national identity is important - but surely no-one wants to be perceived as a 'Little Englander' - even if they are anti-Europe.

In conclusion it seems that as an English Brit I find accepting a compliment difficult, but, understand that it is good manners to do so graciously; despite appearances to the contrary many of us do still think good manners and courtesy are important and, finally, it is OK to say that I am English first and British second - and doing so does not make me a racist. Glad we sorted that out.

Friday, June 28, 2013

World's Worst Blogger?

Perhaps I am, or maybe not. Maybe I am just like millions of other people out there who think blogging sounds like a great way to express oneself, who quite like the idea of writing stuff down, but for whom the reality is somewhat more difficult.

The trouble with the internet is that it is The World's Biggest Time Waster. Ever. Today I am supposed to be finishing up an assignment, on the Benin Bronzes since you ask.

In the mornings I like to drink my coffee whilst checking my course groups and forums, doing the crossword and generally checking that all is right with the world. And therein lies the problem. Inevitably someone posts an interesting item, a funny video - this morning it was a flash mob of an extract from La Traviata - which was all well and good, but then comes the overwhelming urge to check out all the other flash mob videos on YouTube. Two hours later my assignment still isn't polished.

By the time I am on my second cup of coffee I discover that my Lovely Daughter has blogged and that she is trying something out called bloglovin which, apparently, replaces Google Read. Now I am not a techie, I don't know what Google Read is or what it does and I am quite sure I will never understand what bloglovin is or what it is for (much like Instagram - another one of my daughter's 'things') - that didn't, however, stop me going over there, looking around and signing up. Which means I now have quite an array of useless online.....things? activities? web page interests? I don't even know what to call them but so far we have......
Now, I know a smart phone, or a tablet, aren't online things, but rather bits of technology to further enable the myriad of online things we can and, apparently must, do in order to live a life full of fulfillment and joy.

But, dear reader, I am sure you see the problem. The internet is supposed to make our lives easier, when in fact all it does is fill them with what is, let's be honest, a whole lot of useless, time wasting activities which do nothing more than kill our brain cells. Stone Dead.

I saw this somewhere the other day
And I have to agree, but, I also want to add that since 'the internet' has now overtaken television, or so it seems to me, as our activity of choice during any free time we happen to have laying around then surely those books are in even more danger. Certainly I firmly believe that too much screen time, of any description, dulls the brain and has a detrimental effect on concentration and memory - and I think that research indicates that as well.

So what to do? The horns of a dilemma is never a comfortable place to sit.

Get rid of the electronic items that feed the compulsion to read and share information of all kinds, no matter how inappropriate for some people. Try to limit one's online time? What, I wonder, would happen if someone pulled the plug? What if we woke up one morning and the internet was just gone? Would we remember how to communicate properly? Some younger people probably can't remember a time when text speak didn't exist, when phones were fixed line and most people only had one - in a shared room in the house. Who writes letters anymore? Few of us. We can't go back - but perhaps we can all try to have a smaller cyber presence and a greater physical one in the lives of those around us.

So what started as a blog about, well, not blogging, has finished as a blog about the pervasive nature of online activity and technology. Huh. would it have been more fun as a face to face conversation? What about if I had written it, by hand, in a diary?

One final thing to think about. I play Facebook games - yes, yes, I am that annoying person who fills your wall with requests for all kinds of weird and wonderful things. Like a lot of people I play it as a way of relaxing, switching my brain off, all of those things. The people I play with are mostly, like myself, women of a certain age, and a few husbands who have been roped in by their wives. Anyway, last week *all the games on Facebook* crashed, completely, couldn't get into the farming games, candy crush, words with friends etc etc. The reaction was, not to put too fine a point on it, hilarious. As if the world was going to end.  So what would happen if someone turned the internet off? Worth thinking about.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Ranty Blog Entry

Dear Reader, I am feeling quite irritated. Nothing major you understand, but, a conversation had in the Social Media Sphere this morning has got under my skin.
It took place in my module group - the module being Arts Past and Present, for which we had to study the play Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe. We will also be looking at the Dalai Lama. This morning one of the other students asked what beliefs the rest of us had. The discussion that followed was enlightening to say the least. I reproduce the gist of it here, some of it is direct quoting, some of it is the highlights, I left out the profanities and sarcasm. Please note that questions remain unanswered and the sense of hostility when a person says they believe the bible.


Live and let live

Respect the beliefs of others



Don’t criticise those with other beliefs


Religion is controlling, causes war and is full of paedophiles and get rich quick con artists, it does more harm than good. Ritual for ritual’s sake.

Religion is intolerant and prevents people from doing what they want to do

Creation completely contradicts scientific fact and shouldn’t be allowed in schools

I am a good person and am polite, well mannered and respectful, compassionate towards others

Treat others as you want to be treated and do not deliberately hurt others

*Takes a deep breath* I don’t believe in Religion. BUT I do believe the bible, all of it. And consider myself a saved or born again Christian. I don’t believe any of us are born as being of any particular faith - it is a choice we make and should mean that our lives change. I do believe in the creation theory rather than the evolution theory - simply because it makes more sense. Evolution isn’t a scientific fact; it is based mostly on guess work. The evidence can equally be applied to both theories and in fact the theory of creation is compatible with the second law of thermodynamics (I know! get me). we homeschooled our children, and when it came to science I thought I better find out what I believed regarding evolution since I had always assumed it just kind of fitted in with what the bible says - not true. the point of communion, speaking as a protestant is to remember what Christ did on the cross - those are His instructions, do this in remembrance of me until I come again, we do NOT believe the bread and wine are the actual flesh and blood but rather symbolic. One last point - interestingly, to me at any rate, biblical Christianity is the ONLY world religion based solely on what God has done for us rather than on what we can do for Him. The difficulty I have with saying 'as long as I am good' - is who defines what is good? Something that is acceptable to one and seen as good may well be seen as the exact opposite by others. So, if we are to live 'good lives' who makes the decisions? It is easy to see that none of us are born 'good' - never had to teach my kids to be naughty, don’t know about anyone else!


Religion is a crutch just like drugs and alcohol. You can't trust any of them when they have you under their influence....... if the end users can't be brainwashed into thinking they possess the faith then religion can't exist

homosexuality is wrong, what about eating pork, mixing fibres, smiting, God condones slavery and instructs men to treat women like animals; don’t like being told what to do. Homosexuals can’t enter heaven

O.K., tin hat on and even deeper breath taken. At no point does the bible condone slavery or that women are to be treated any differently to men. In fact, quite the opposite. the instructions that men are given regarding their wives is that they are to be cherished and beloved, in a loving romantic way, wives are told that their husbands are to be loved in a respectful way - in my experience this is what most of us want, whether we are men or women. Men are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church - which is an amazing thing imho. as for the whole don’t wear different fabrics etc - that stuff is all part of the ceremonial law, completed on the Cross and therefore no longer applicable, nothing to do with the times we live in - which is why unsaved, orthodox Jews still hold with this kind of thing. The bible doesn’t say that homosexuals can’t enter heaven, what is says is that sinners can't enter heaven, and, at the end of the day we are all sinners. It is not a sin to be gay, what is sinful is sexual immorality - whether that is hetero or homo! interestingly the commandment 'thou shalt not commit adultery' covers all sexual sin and the Lord Jesus said that even looking at someone in lustful manner breaks that commandment - so, that is something that most of us are guilty of I’m sure, whether straight or gay. Biblical Christianity teaches that ALL of us need Christ to get to heaven; it also teaches that He accepts ALL of us; it also teaches that we are ALL equal but have different roles, so the woman is the help meet of the man and the man is the head of the house and the provider.

Heaven will be boring with no pets, who would want to go there. Even if I got to heaven I would get thrown out.Why is this omnipotent being so engrossd in being worshipped all the time. Surely he'd be above all that?

‘There were dinasaurs too, the earth is only 6000 years old lol Sorry Jools Not taking the p, just don't believe in any of it. Good luck to you if you do but I think a lot of people are going to be bitterly disappointed when they draw their final breath.

I would say more like 8,000 - the evidence for it being any older is theoretical at best, and there is a lot of evidence for the existence of dinosaurs alongside mankind. We are created to want to worship - that is why, with the decline in spirituality, there is so much other kind of worship going on, we need to fill that void within us. it is also interesting to note that when any new tribes are discovered they invariably have some form of worship of a an unknown deity, and in many cultures there are loads of indications that in ancient times they had knowledge of the God of the bible - ancient china for e.g.

sorry Jools that's just toal bunkum we have evidence of humans going back hundreds of thousands of years. I'm going to stop now because I might say something I might regret and I don't want to offend you

Lol, never get offended, especially online - it’s too easy to misread what people say, so I always read in neutral. What evidence is there that shows humans have been here for thousands of years? Many people accept evolution and all that goes with it without proper investigation and yet have difficulty accepting the bible with the same premise. Not suggesting anyone here has done that, more of a general observation.

And RE: evolution. I refer you to the principals of animal husbandry and breeding programmes. No, i'm not going to respond. I'm outa here. it's getting ridiculous. I'm with you. When I saw the original post I thought we would get to this stage quicker. Adieu good people. May the force be with you.

microevolution - no probs with that, it is clearly seen. macroevolution on the other hand......
And to finish, from me at any rate.....
Ha, there was I thinking we are all grownups, that we believe in live and let live and each to their own. Just goes to show

Thursday, March 14, 2013

When your faith is weak and feeble

So it occurs to me that My Reader may well have forgotten that I am a Bible Believing Christian - since most of my blog posts of late have been of a more secular nature. I thought I should take the opportunity to redress the balance a bit.

I usually say that I am a Bible Believing Christian because I am not, currently, a member of any church and don't choose to align myself with a particular denomination - largely because they all have their faults and as we all know there is no such thing as a perfect church. And if there was, my attendance would ruin it. Since almost all churches appear to take this approach - I am wary of wear to hang my hat.....

Part of the problem for me is that I am quite easily convinced of more or less any point of view and am A Bear of Very Little Brain, although long words don't necessarily bother me.

A long time ago, when I first became a Christian, I attended a fairly standard Anglican church. For a variety of reasons I felt it necessary to leave and became a bit of a nomad for a while, eventually I started attending the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster (as opposed to the Wee Frees of Scotland). Now, generally speaking I was happy enough with this church, the teaching is good, the politics doesn't affect me and whilst I don't necessarily agree with everything - their position on baptism for example is wishy washy to say the least - I was fairly happy there.

As with all things, eventually, A Terrible Thing happened, which I don't want to go into here, but, which did dent my appreciation of the denomination - particularly since it involved the wife of a minister. Then I met a young man who is a wonderfully godly young person, who really loves the Lord and who explained to me the reasons why he chooses to attend an Anglican church. And, of course, I agree with him. Generally.

These are the things I think are important in a church -
  • The preaching - it must be good sound teaching from the bible, presenting Christ in all His loveliness and clearly showing the way of salvation.
  • No pointless repetition of liturgy - I know for some people it is a useful tool, but, it just reminds me of Matthew 6:7 -
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
  • No rock and roll - if I saw a drum kit in a church I would turn around and leave. I have a half finished blog post on this subject, I should finish it I suppose.
  • No women in leadership roles other than for women and children - I know, controversial, and perhaps I am wrong, but, it's what I see in the bible
  • Ladies to be modestly dressed and preferably with a head covering - by which I do NOT mean a £300 hat covering a man's hairstyle
  • Men to be modestly dressed and to be real men. 
  • Biblical teaching regarding family and gender
  • Encouragement from the front for private prayer and bible study
  • Dedications for infants and Believers Baptism for those who are saved - again I know this may be controversial but, it is what I understand the bible to teach
  • Plain teaching regarding Creation, young earth and why we don't believe in evolution
  • Outreach to the unchurched and those on the fringes of society.
This last point is, I think, where the Free Ps fall down somewhat. Whilst they are pretty hot on preaching the Gospel and having Missions there seems to be little outreach on the street. No engaging with those who never darken the door of a church. Perhaps this is a cultural thing, in Northern Ireland most people know what it means to be a Christian, they understand that those who 'get saved' undergo a life changing experience. Here on the mainland that isn't the case. On the mainland most people believe themselves to be 'a good person', generally speaking people believe there is no such thing as  sin, other than child abuse. Certainly most people on the mainland would be left confused and somewhat perplexed if they were told that a Christian doesn't go to the cinema, doesn't go to the pub, doesn't watch tv. doesn't do the lottery, must wear a suit/smart dress for church etc etc. The church is viewed as being irrelevant whilst millions rush about their daily business trying to fill the spiritual void in their life with so much dross.

There is no possible way we can, any longer, think of England as a Christian nation - so many people do not know the true meaning of Christmas or Easter, so many think of Jesus Christ as nothing more than an expletive - they don't know Who He is or What He has done for us.

When I read the bible and read about my Lovely Saviour I see Him meeting people at the point of their need, whatever that need maybe. Certainly that is where He meets me. Indeed this is something that the Free P ministers often preach about and yet, it seems to me, that very often the needs, as seen from the Free P pulpit (and others I am quite sure) are only for those in the grip of vices such as alcohol, cigarettes and gambling. In reality, for most of us, our needs are not that extreme. In fact I would even suggest that we are all struggling with the same sin, however it manifests in our daily lives, we don't love Jesus. Surely it is this that needs to be addressed for those millions who never enter a church unless someone is being hatched, matched or dispatched - and even those occasions are becoming fewer and fewer.

So, what is my conclusion? Only this, I am a Christian, I believe the Whole of The Bible, I believe Christ is the Only Way to Eternal Life, and, other than that, I haven't a clue anymore!

*waves goodbye*

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Smoking and Smells

In an earlier post I talked about our impending house move and the reasons for it. One of the things I forgot to mention in the list of things I dislike about our current residence is the smell.

We didn't notice it straight away, but, we soon began to smell cigarettes. Quelle Horreur. As an ex-smoker I find the smell of cigarettes particularly obnoxious - even though it is more than 20 years since I smoked. As an ex-smoker I am also quite sensitive to the smell. At first I thought I was losing my marbles (even more than usual) or had a brain tumour or something (I have read of people who had weird things happening to their sense of taste and smell - turned out it was their first symptom of a brain disorder). When sitting in a particular place in our living room I was sure I could smell smoke, but none of us partake in that disgusting habit anymore. So, on smelling stale tobacco in the bedroom of The Ginger One, who suffers with asthma, you can imagine my indignation. We eventually decided the smoke must be seeping through the walls of our house from next door! Goodness knows how many cigarettes the residents of that abode smoke for that to happen!

 Eventually we found it so unpleasant I rang the environmental health department. To give them credit where credit is due, they did come and have a sniff - they could smell it clearly in the bedroom. And recommended that I seal up the cupboard! Since the house next door belongs to the council they did say they could come and have a look if things didn't improve - but seriously who wants that hassle?

So, what is the moral of the story? Several things. Be aware that next door's smoking habits may affect you and your home. Surprisingly there are still middle aged women who smoke heavily and smoking still kills, so, if you smoke I suggest you stop. Now.

*waves goodbye*

Silence Really is Golden

My Regular Reader will, no doubt, be aware that I am a little bit more rock and roll than other people, a few more sandwiches short of a picnic, more nuts than a bar of Wholenut in fact. In short I am slightly eccentric/insane/dippy/nutty as a fruitcake/any of the above.

I am not yet at the stage of Crazy Cat Lady - largely because I don't like cats, and Crazy Non-Shedding Allergen Free Dog Lady doesn't have quite the same ring to it really.

There are a number of reasons for my 'Mental Health Issues' - as my GP likes to call them, not least overwhelming mental and emotional exhaustion. And, apparently, this kind of thing affects a great number of people, probably more than any of us realise.

Probably the most stressful thing for me is something that many of us complain about but which we rarely seem to address - I know that I contribute to the problem as I have a voice like a foghorn, not to put too fine a point on it. Yes, Dear Reader, I am talking about that bane of modern living

Actually, I don't know which is worse, noise or technology and its increasingly intrusive role in our everyday lives. Let's stick with noise for today. Sometimes there is so much noise it actually makes me want to cry - when I have to visit the Health Centre, or hospital for example, and there are people chatting, phones going, babies crying, children making all the noises they make, beepers beeping and of course the incessant mobile noises. All clamouring for space in my head and, quite frankly, I don't want them there. I prefer my head to be an oasis of calm, a place of babbling brooks, fields of tulips, daffodils and poppies, lush green forests where I can sit and read a book and drink tea. 


Yes, yes I know, totally unrealistic, but, a Crazy Lady can dream can't she? Anyway, the point of this post is to share something interesting I noticed in a daily newspaper.

Selfridges have instituted a quiet policy in some areas of their stores - it is called the No Noise Campaign. Reader, what an absolutely wonderful idea. It seems that it has really caught the imagination of some people as a number of big companies have issued what I am guessing are limited editions of their products which harmonise with the minimalist approach to shopping that Selfridges are taking in some parts of their stores.

What a great idea! And one which I wish I could implement in my house. A quiet zone is something I would really enjoy. I do, on occasion, wear ear plugs in order to read and block out the sounds of the TV, the Ginger One on his various screens and his breathing, plus of course my neighbour's very loud music, the car alarms and Charlie my dog who never, ever, stops barking.

So, that's my thought for Saturday.

*waves goodbye*

Sunday, March 03, 2013

The Tale of a Gas Cooker

So, we have been living in rented accommodation for about six years now, the first house was a new build with a lovely kitchen complete with integrated oven and hob. The one we are in currently was a bit of a last minute thing and has a pretty rubbish kitchen with a dreadful Belling cooker - somewhat similar to the one in the picture, but not as new, or as clean for that matter.

In fact, when we moved into this property the oven was so disgusting it was unusable and I got one of those professional oven cleaning companies to come in and sort it out.

In the two and a half years we have lived here The Gas Man has been three times to do the official Corgi check on all the equipment, including the cooker as it is mentioned on the inventory. This time it was a different guy and he condemned the cooker!!!

Now, Dear Reader, I am a woman who does like to cook - admittedly the dire state of such a basic cooker has meant that not much cooking has been done of late, but, there has been enough to prevent Dearest Ginger Son from eating his own arm! When The Gas Man called my landlady to report the condemned and unsafe nature of the cooker her reply was thusly -

'It's not mine, I left it there as a favour, it belongs to the tenant. If she rings the council they will take it away'.

Quelle Horreur as they say across the channel.

Well, at first I wasn't unduly perturbed. After all I didn't like the cooker anyway, here was an ideal opportunity to buy one that I did like. That is until I measured the space - 57cm. The only cooker that would fit in that particular space is, you guessed it Reader Of Mine, the same Bally Belling already in situ!!! And they run at around £300!

Then I started thinking about all the other stuff I don't like about this particular house -
  • The bathroom leaks into the kitchen unless I keep a towel wedged against the bath and has a mouldy ceiling
  • The electrics need rewiring - several things give an electric shock when plugged into a particular socket and if I have the washing machine on I have to pause it in order to boil the kettle
  • No dining room
  • It is in the middle of a big estate
  • It's expensive
  • It now has no cooker
There are probably more but you get the gist. Then my Beautiful Daughter heard our tale of woe and, well, she Blew A Gasket. And immediately started looking for another house for us to rent. And we found one.

So, March 21st will see us take possession of our third rented home in six years - we lived in our own home for over 25 years. I handed my notice in for this house and informed the landlady that the cooker is not, in fact, ours but hers and so I will neither be taking it with me nor arranging for its removal. So, she is coming to take it away in the next few days - which means we shall be cooker-less. Ah, well, I have a slow cooker, a microwave and a George Foreman Grill - I daresay we won't starve, but how Dearest Ginger Son is going to cope without his daily fix of oven chips I do not know. Perhaps he will eat his arm!

I have, already, started to pack boxes and am thankful that when  we left our home of 25 years we did get rid of a lot of stuff. Plus most of my books are still packed away - the new house has plenty of shelves which is wonderful.

So, we are becoming like nomads, but, since my home is not on this earth but rather with my Saviour I don't really mind.

*waves goodbye*

Friday, March 01, 2013

Regularly Irregular Blogging

So, it has come to my attention that I am, in fact a terrible blogger. Despite my best intentions I never seem able to keep a good flow of witty and interesting posts coming. Ah well. I don't suppose it matters.

Several things have happened in the last few weeks - the silence from my blogspot was, in fact, somewhat deceiving. 

Firstly I made myself a study space, the early stages of this excluded a computer, I now have my own which is especially marvellous and may well mean more blog posts for you to peruse Dear Reader. 

I liked the idea of a compact study space since I do live in a small house. So, when you google 'small study space' there are lots of wonderful suggestions, including these -

How lovely! Of course the reality is vastly different - for a start off, my space is in what I like to, euphemistically, call my 'Utility Room'. This means my first attempt at creating an oasis of calm in which I can diligently read, study and compose looked like this -

Note the absence of a a computer, books, files etc. Also, what you can't see here is my Lovely Son's very expensive pushbike. Eventually I was taken to Ikea, another story in itself, where I bought a bookshelf, some file/storage solutions and a couple of chairs. Then I did a little bit of moving around and ended up with this -

Here you can see the bike, just, but not the fridge/freezer! On the plus side I am seated right by a window, everything is in easy reach - including the kettle and coffee making supplies.

So, there you have it - my reality version of a small, compact study space.

Unfortunately, or not as it happens, we are now moving house - which means I will once again have to find the ideal spot in which to assume my student persona. That's another post entirely.

*waves goodbye*