Saturday, December 15, 2007

Fox, as promised

It's a little later than advertised, but here's the fox.

And have a few pictures too. It was so lovely, all relaxed but alert at the same time.

I wanted to hug it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Can't seem to shut me up!

Suddenly, I have a lot of stuff I want to say! But I'll restrain myself for now.

I will say hi to Pippa and Rob, who are more people that I know in "real life" and have checked out my blog. Hi guys! Make yourselves at home, maybe even comment or something! Because I need the attention. ;)

Anyone else lurking, can you let me know you're reading? Just so I don't end up repeating myself when I talk to you.

Tomorrow you can have a video and some pictures of a gorgeous fox that was relaxing in the sun in my garden Thursday lunchtime.

Christmas meme

Pete tagged everyone, so here goes.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?

I like to use wrapping paper, and I'm always a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to getting the corners straight, etc. Which is stupid, as they just get ripped up.

2. Real tree or artificial?
I'd prefer a real tree because I love the smell, but I hate the idea of killing a tree just so I can hang baubles on it. So until I find a nice small living tree in a pot that can live outside the rest of the year, I'm using a little plastic job.

3. When do you put up the tree?
When I can be bothered. Certainly not til halfway through December, often only a few days before Christmas. I don't see the point of decorating in November!

4. When do you take the tree down?
When I'm bored of it, usually around New Year's Day.

5. Do you like eggnog?
Never had it.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
Don't remember really.

7. Do you have a Nativity scene?
No, I don't do religion.

8. Hardest person to buy for?
Dad. he's got everything he wants, with the exception of a Subaru Impreza, which is a little out of my price range.

9. Easiest person to buy for?
My brother. This year, he told me exactly what he wants.

10. Worst Christmas Gift you ever received?
A gift box containing shower gel, body lotion and bath foam, from an aunt who seemed to have a selection of similar products as I'd received at least two virtually identical presents the previous years. So I took it back to the shop for a refund, only to be told that they couldn't refund it as it had been bought 4 years previously on sale for £1. Needless to say, I was not happy.

11. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Mail, although I haven't bought any yet this year so they may well go out late.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
Don't really have one.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Mid-December. I'm disorganised like that.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
No. If something's crap, I don't want to inflict it on someone else.

15. Favorite thing to eat/drink at Christmas?
I rather like Christmas cake. Also pomegranates, mulled wine, and those little bacon-wrapped sausages from Christmas dinner.

16. Clear lights or coloured on the tree?
White, definitely. Much classier. I don't mind coloured if they're all one colour.

17. Favourite Christmas song?
In the Bleak Midwinter (the Holst version), but I rather like Hark, Hark, What News (also know as Swain Hark) which is a local Sheffield carol, Infant Holy, Infant Lowly, and In Dulci Jubilo. I like loads of Christmas stuff. But I hate Handel's fecking Messiah.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
I've never been away for Christmas. But I'd quite like to travel.

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
Of course I can. Even if most of them do have stupid names.

20. Angel on the tree top or a Star?
Star. Both are equally religious I guess, but I've always liked the shape of stars.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?
Morning. It used to be very early when I was a kid as my brother was an early bird and couldn't wait, but now it tends to be closer to midday.

I tag... Attila, Kate, Kay, Rob and Sayre. And whoever else fancies it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Seal Day video

Well, I did it.

This is the first, very basic version. I need to add a few pics that didn't get uploaded for some reason, put in some captions and maybe even a soundtrack.

And now, to bed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

YouTube is annoying me

Because I've uploaded some videos from yesterday's seal adventure, and although they looked okay on the computer, they look shitty on YouTube. Bah. I'll find a way round it.

I'm also working on making a quickie video slide show type thing of the photos, because I hate making massive long blog posts with pictures. Much easier to just embed a video, surely?

So I'm trying out Jumpcut, in the hope that it will sort out both problems for me. Looks easy enough. I'm waiting for pics to upload as we speak. Unfortunately, as there are 97 pictures and 5 short videos, I might be here a while.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A fantastic day

Well apart from being knackered because I only got 3 hours of (crap) sleep. Oh well.

Donna Nook is worth it. Seals close enough to touch (touching would be silly, but you could theoretically). Huge scarred ugly bulls, beautifully patterned cows, fluffy white pups. Grey (Atlantic) seals aren't exactly beautiful, but they are impressive.

We didn't get to do the sand crawling thing because access to the sea was completely cut off, as the MoD was bombing over there, as they do. Shame, but the seals were right up by the fence next to the path so there was really no need to get wet and sandy.

And it was a beautiful sunny day, not a single cloud. But fecking freezing, as you'd expect from mid-December.

A few interesting birds, the highlight being the little egret that I spotted in a field during the drive there. It surprised me, let me tell you! I saw a group of curlews in another field, which was also unexpected.

After Donna Nook we moved on to Skegness, because I wanted to have a look at the seals in Natureland. It was nice seeing places I remember from when I was a kid on the way there.

I'm glad we went there as well. Obviously they aren't wild seals, but I really wanted to get a good look at some common (harbour) seals. Now they really are beautiful creatures. I completely fell in love with the two pups in the rearing pool, I could have stolen them. We got really good views of the adults swimming in their glass-sided pool - they are so graceful and fast in the water. We didn't get much chance to take pics there because it was 3.30pm and the light went very quickly, but we did get a few.

Speaking of pics, I'll try hard to post some tomorrow. Maybe a couple of videos too!

And now I'm off to bed, to sleep off the unnecessary amount of Indian takeaway we picked up on the way home.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I'm bored of it.

In other news, we surprised the staff at CCC (big camping/outdoors type shop in Sheffield) today by asking their advice on waterproof over-jackets and trousers. Mostly because we said we wanted cheap and cheerful, and didn't care if they only lasted a day. I think we spent a grand total of £32 for both of us. In a related note, I want an new tent, since my brother (unintentionally) knackered mine and CCC have some nice ones.

I tried on wellies too, but the ones that fit my (evidently small) feet are uncomfortably tight around my (muscular) calves. So I gave that up. Also, wellies are impressively non-supportive, and with my muscles/joints/back/body in general I really need something that's vaguely shaped like my feet.

So why the waterproofs?

Well, since Pete mentioned it a while ago, I've been wanting to go to Donna Nook to see grey seals with pups on the beach. I haven't seen wild grey seals before, only the ones at Natureland in Skegness, and after seeing bottlenosed dolphins and common seals in Scotland this year I'm rather keen to see more mammals.

So we're off to the east coast on Tuesday. Should take about 2.5 hours to drive there. I'm anticipating it will be freezing, and to get good pictures we'll need to crawl over the wet sand to get close to the seals. Hence waterproofs. I'm quite excited - maybe we'll get a few birds too!

In other other news, we decided against the Ikea chairs because although comfortable, they feel like you're leaning back about 45 degrees. Not much use for eating off your knee, or knitting, or anything other than vegging in front of the TV. So the search continues.

And speaking of knitting, I'm knitting a hat. Which I've never done before. And I'm knitting in the round, on double pointed needles (dpns if you want to use knitspeak), which I've also never done before. It took some getting used to, certainly... twice as many needles as usual! The advantage is that there's no sewing up and therefore no seams. Yay! Plus, if I can knit in the round I can now make socks as well. Or little hedgehogs with no seams, which will probably cut 15 mins off the hour each one takes to make.

Okay, so now I'm sleepy. Off to bed.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Here it is, the new sofa

Forgive the crap phone pic, but apparently the light from the window made the pic all grainy and dark. Still, you get the idea.

Only problem is, now my old carpet looks really dirty and horrible. So we need new flooring too.

Waiting for our new sofa

Self-explanatory really.

It should be here any time, as they said early afternoon.

I'm kind of excited, especially as I can't quite remember what we ordered!

It's a fairly standard, modern-but-not-trendy, 2.5 seat sofa, in a pinky beigey fabric. It's been made especially for us, with our choice of fabric and everything, to the design specifications we gave them.

Then we can get on with buying the last few bits and pieces for the living room. We need two chairs......something like this will do the job. Another cupboard to match the ones we've already got, for the corner by the door. And a light of some kind to sit on top of it. And then the living room is finished! So off to Ikea pretty soon I guess.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

My worlds collide

Just thought I'd mention the latest addition to my blogroll, In Which Our Heroine...

I think Kay's the first and only blogger I know who I met in real life before I met online. Did that make sense? It does in my head, if that helps.

Slightly strange story. I met Kay back in 1998, when we both started on the same course at university. Despite there being only five of us on that particular course, and the five of us being in the same tutor group, we don't remember each other. But we must have met. Plus we both remember two of the others.

So then I met her again in 2005, when I joined SingSoc. I can't remember how, but at some point we realised what I said in the paragraph above, probably by finding out that we were the same age. Which was weird.

Kay sings soprano, but don't hold that against her. She's very funny and creative, so go and have a look at her blog.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My first kiss, and how I cut myself - all aboard the thought train

Sometimes, when I'm just randomly thinking (a process I've come to refer to as brain-surfing), I find myself tracing back the links, wondering how I managed to get there. Fasten your seatbelts, you're in for a bumpy ride.

Recently I've added a fair few new people on Facebook, people I used to go to school with. One of which I had a crush on at school (but I'm waaayyy over it now!). I seem to have a lot of FB friends who aren't really friends, just people I vaguely know from school, or SingSoc, or uni in general, or from blogging.

So would it be weird for me to search for a guy (different one) I once had a weird sort of long-distance semi-relationship with, back when I was 15-16, and add him as a friend?

He was the first guy who'd ever showed any interest in me, a fat, relatively socially inept, frizzy-haired, bespectacled, slightly arrogant, annoyingly smart teenager, whose "friends" had by now pretty much convinced her that boys would never be interested in her.

I met him on holiday. I'll call him John, mostly because that's his name. He wasn't exactly my type physically, same height as me (5'6"), not my fantasy tall, blonde, athletic guy (that's changed now, but not the tall athletic bit). But who was I to be fussy? He did have a nice smile, nice blue eyes and made me laugh, and he was smart too.

His friend Mark was in a semi-relationship with my friend Kerry. He stayed on the same camp site as us for 2 days, and Mark and Kerry tried, successfully, to set us up.

He was kind of sweet, two years older than me. I remember we danced together in the camp disco, then when Kerry and Mark disappeared we ended up going for a walk, which cumulated in kissing in a kid's adventure playground under the stars. It was weird, I was very flattered in an uncomfortable kind of way, having never been kissed before. I guess I was infatuated with him.

We wrote to each other (okay, this was 1995, no-one had email then), then met up again the next year at the same site. He'd had a girlfriend in the meantime, and I played it cool. Well I thought I did. Things went a bit further, and he wanted to sleep with me. Being massively inexperienced and therefore a little scared, I declined, and he didn't pressure me.

Of course, he was my "proof" that I wasn't as hopeless as the girls at school claimed. I thought I was in love with him. I did like him. Probably still would, if I spoke to him now.

I don't remember how we stopped "seeing" each other. We wrote for a while, I remember that. He went to university in Nottingham, fairly close to me.

Sometime during all this was when I first remember self-harming. I used a compass (okay, okay, a pair of compasses) to scratch his initials on my left upper arm, deep enough to bleed and scab, deep enough that you can still see the initials in white scars. I don't know why I did it. Maybe to convince myself that I was serious.

I moved to a different school to take A Levels. Made different friends, went out a lot,
had a few encounters with guys. One night I was out with some girlfriends, including my new friend Kaz - I was pretty drunk and probably a little stoned and we were in an alternative music bar, listening to the band. I spotted an old friend from school, Penny, and sat with her in the floor for a while. Someone dropped a glass near me, and I picked a piece of the broken glass up and made three cuts into my ankle, in the shape of an asterix, then some random cuts on my left arm (actually trying to cross out the initials). I don't know why I started. Penny tried to stop me, but she was even drunker than I was so she didn't get very far.

Kaz was more successful. She noticed I'd cut into a blood vessel in my ankle, and managed to stop it bleeding using loo roll, and getting me to lie on the toilet floor with my leg in the air. She was scared to death that I was trying to kill myself, or that I was working up to that.

I stayed at her house that night, and she kept me up talking in the kitchen for hours. I was confused and tired and tried to reassure her that I wasn't suicidal, and that I wasn't intending to do it again. She insisted that I had to tell my parents, which I refused because they wouldn't understand and would just go mad at me.

A few days later, at school, she insisted again that I had to tell my parents and threatened to tell them herself if I didn't. Which pissed me off a lot at the time, but I later realised that she was trying to make sure I got help because she was worried. Anyway, we argued, and a teacher intervened and mediated between us. Kaz agreed that she would keep quiet, if I promised to go to see my doctor, and get treatment if necessary.

I did see the doc, who told me that self-harm is quite common and not to worry about it unless I did it again. Things were a little fragile between me and Kaz for a while, much more so when I slept with her boyfriend while very very drunk. In her living room. Oops. Took her a while to forgive me, but we did make up. She like to bring it up occasionally even now, in a jokey way, like when I met her new boyfriend recently and she said "This is X. No, you can't sleep with him." In my defence, I only have vague memories of the event, I was pretty out of it. Anyway.

I didn't cut again for a while. At almost18 I got my first proper boyfriend, Chris, and he asked me not to, so the few times I did it (always with broken glass) I told him it was accidental, and hid them from everyone else. After a few years, I stopped altogether.

Fast forward to age 23. I'd broken up with Chris, started seeing Michael, put up with living with Chris for four months after the breakup while he saved money and found his own place and annoyed the shit out of me, and finally got my own space when he left. I was working in a school by then, as a lab technician, so I had practically unlimited access to broken glass and often cut myself accidentally. I was suffering from moderate-severe depression, and wondered how many visible cuts I'd need to have before someone asked me what had happened - turns out that for everyone except Michael, it was a lot. More than I dared to inflict. I was testing people, it wasn't that I wanted attention particularly, just wanted to feel that other people knew (and cared) I was alive.

On a few occasions, I used chemicals. Concentrated hydrogen peroxide was a good one, because when you apply it neat to the skin it takes maybe 10 minutes to actually hurt, so it can take you by surprise. You can pretend you didn't realise you'd spilt it, if someone noticed. And it hurts a fair bit, a stingy, burny kind of pain, so it's great as a distraction. I was in a lot of mental/emotional pain, and physical pain could make me forget everything else, even for just a second. It sure as hell was better to cry because of a chemical burn, rather than because you feel like you're in some sort of horrible limbo of blackness and despair with only one way out. I didn't want to go on living, but couldn't be bothered to kill myself. Weird to think that I was ever that bad.

Once my depression treatment started working, I stopped with the self-harm. Possibly because I knew that someone else cared at that point. Michael did, and my psychiatric nurse Lisa and my counsellor Mike did. They noticed, but didn't judge.

And I haven't done it since. Nothing worse than picking off scabs before they're ready, or squeezing spots, or scratching mosquito bites. Maybe I don't need people to notice any more.

I don't tell people, generally, that I used to self-harm. Most people don't understand. Either they ask me why (and I don't really have a proper answer), or they sympathise too much. And also SH has become almost trendy in some circles, particularly with goth and emo teenagers - I'm not going to comment on that particularly other than to say that it's a bit like the boy who cried wolf, detracting from the seriousness of the act - when I tell someone I have the urge to qualify it by saying, "But I did it before it was (almost) socially acceptable, I never knew anyone else that did it, I'm GENUINE."

But I guess you guys know me well enough. If you don't understand, to be honest, I don't much care. I'm not here to make everyone happy. I just am.

So yeah. That's where my thoughts took me this afternoon.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mostly concert and singing

So we had a concert on Saturday.

First time I remember doing a concert where I felt prepared and relaxed, and like we weren't struggling to get everything together during the last rehearsal Saturday afternoon. I guess this was due to our hard work over the previous weeks, and the amazing organisation of the committee. Go us!

And it all went well - about half of the concert was the main chorus, and half Socii Cantorum (the chamber choir), along with some solos. So I sang in everything apart from the solos.

I noticed a couple of things.

I'm definitely getting better, in terms of concentration and memory and confidence and stamina. Singing's hard work mentally and physically, and sometimes I can struggle with it, but there's an improvement. I think a fair bit of it is being confident in myself and my ability, particularly when it comes to sightreading. I don't pretend to be great at it, but I'm happy to sing out now, because I'm no longer scared that people will think I'm stupid. They don't. Jenny told me last night that she'd noticed a massive improvement in me since I first joined SingSoc 2 years ago. A fair chunk of what I sing when I'm sightreading is actually right, or at least if it isn't I'm wrong in a sensible sort of way, if that makes sense.

It's not just me that's improved. Several people (including Pete who conducts the main chorus, and Robert, director of music at St John's and a conductor himself) have commented on how good Socii sounded, so I'm rather proud of us. Especially as a good proportion of Socii members are new this year, so we've essentially only been singing together for seven weeks. I've posted this before, but I might as well put it here as well. This is us last year.

Harriet, who conducts Socii, has been particularly mean this year. I mentioned last year that we weren't allowed to stand with other people in our parts - well she's gone one step further. As well as that, we had to do five of our eight of our pieces from memory, which is surprisingly difficult when there's no-one in your part close enough for you to hear. It's definitely stopped me being so lazy, I have to concentrate and learn everything properly and not just rely on listening to the other altos. I was worried that we'd miss Liz this year (she's working in Edinburgh) because she's been singing forever and she always does everything perfectly and I used to just follow what she was doing - but we're managing fine by ourselves! Anyway, mixing us up and stopping us from hiding in our scores is one of the things that's made a difference to us, we definitely sing a lot better like that. I think we've all improved individually too, and Harriet's definitely improved as a conductor and director.

Anyway, my grandma came to the concert, it's the first one she's been to. First concert of any kind she's been to, I guess. She told me she didn't think she'd enjoy it but she did, and that we were very good. She also asked me to dye my hair blonde, because she likes it that way. I told her I'm not keen on bleaching it because it looks awful when the roots grow in dark, at which she looked a bit confused and said, "But you've always had blonde hair!" Well no, actually I haven't. My current brown is only a bit darker than my natural colour - I was blonde as a young kid but it was always that dark goldy-blonde that turns darker. This prompted Holly to ask me if I was really blonde! Sigh. My own grandmother doesn't know my real hair colour. I wouldn't mind, but no-one's blonde in my family. The lightest is probably my cousin Emma, who's a mousey mid-brown. Her daughter Olivia is blonde at 3, but it's just like mine was, and it'll end up darker too.

I'll add more pieces to my sidebar once I find the programme (I know I picked one up, just don't know where I put it down again). You noticed my sidebar, right? It's almost becoming my musical CV.

So yeah. The concert took it out of me I think - I was all energetic all day and pretty much pain-free, but I crashed on Monday after a bad night Sunday, going back to sleep instead of to my lectures. I woke at 2pm in the end, feeling tired and draggy and awful. I think I'm getting a cold. After some internal conflict I decided to go to rehearsal instead of staying in with a book like I wanted to, and I'm glad I did, even though I struggled with a brain that didn't work properly and a body that wanted to go back to bed, because it would have been much harder to learn new songs next week when everyone else has already learned them. And I did enjoy it really.

I'm a bit better today, but nowhere near dragging myself out of this low-energy thing. I don't know whether to rest, or force myself to do stuff. Oh well. Might go back to the doc.

And it's 3.15am, so I probably should go to bed.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Moaning again...

I'm tired.

Some of you will know what I mean. It's not just your run-of-the-mill could-do-with-an-early-night-or-a-bit-of-a-rest type tired. I could do with sleeping for about a week.

I know the way I deal with my fibromyalgia isn't helping. I do too much and exhaust myself or I over-compensate and laze around - both make me feel worse. After 11 years of fibromyalgia I still haven't worked out the balance.

I'm currently eating crap too - far too much chocolate and biscuits and sweet stuff, when I'm not even hungry. And I can't be bothered to cook sensible food.

I don't want to do anything, but I'm sick of doing nothing. I'm bored and restless but can't seem to motivate myself to start anything, and even if I do start I give up very quickly because I just can't be arsed any more.

I don't feel quite real. I'm grey again, like all my emotions are dulled. I'm never really happy, never really sad. I'm not angry. I just don't really care very much. It worries me a little because without my emotions I'm just a robot version of myself - emotion is such a big part of who I am and how I define myself. I'm jealous of other people because they're getting to experience feelings like love and excitement and joy and fear and lust and pain and I can't touch those things. There's a big fluffy grey cloud in the way.

And I'm very easily distracted. Like just now, when I thought I'd just have a quick look on YouTube and sing through O fortuna. And half an hour later, I'm typing again. On the plus side I did find some fantastic choral pieces on there, with the score as the video! Excellent idea. I'm completely in love with this piece, it's the most beautiful thing ever. I don't like the vocal colour of this version, especially the growly basses - in my not-at-all-professional opinion this should be sung with a very pure tone, simple but expressive, with the eight parts weaving seamlessly in and out of each other. Still, you get the idea of the thing, and hopefully can see why I like it so much.

So anyway. I need to try to get myself out of this. Just need to find some energy to know where to start. I'm trying not to think about what happens if things don't get better. I can't carry on living my life like this.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Trying to catch up

Story of my life at the moment. Bah.

I know, I haven't posted for ages. I really did mean to, and I have quite a few things to post about. I think I'll have to condense them into this post - I just don't seem to have the energy recently.

So. Last weekend (3rd and 4th). The wedding I mentioned before. It was okay, I guess. I didn't think much of the church, but then I'm used to cathedrals and St John's in Ranmoor (link doesn't work right now, sorry) which is a very impressive church, and the pics of beautiful churches that Pete posts. The choir wasn't up to much, the two congregational hymns chosen were uninspiring (Morning Has Broken and All Things Bright and Beautiful, possibly the two most obvious hymns for a wedding). I had a music geek moment when I recognised both organ pieces at the end (Rutter's Gaelic Blessing (which we call "Garlic Dressing"), and God So Loved the World from Stainer's Crucifixion). Both bride and groom cried. And the groom wore a kilt, because his dad's Scottish. No excuse if you ask me.

A lot of fuss was made regarding money, and how much things cost. The groom pointed out several times that his kilt cost more than the bride's dress, his dad couldn't help but casually mention how they're having their already huge house extended (seems a bit silly just for the two of them) and how he complains when he's paid several thousand pounds for a night in a hotel and gets a plastic glass with his drink, and there was probably 5 times as much food and drink at the reception as could possibly be consumed. Seems like they're all obsessed, and have more money than they know what to do with - the worst is they think that it makes them better than everyone else. I couldn't help but be pissed off when the groom confided that he'd proposed because he couldn't think of anything else to get her for her birthday. As Michael said, that's what happens when you have so much money that you can just buy everything someone wants. It's not a problem we have, let me tell you! I wish they'd just donate to charity or something - either that or stop going on about the money thing. Anyway.

The reception turned out to be kind of fun, mostly because there were some people there who I know from my live roleplaying days, and I enjoyed catching up with them.

On the Sunday I'd agreed to sing at the aforementioned St John's, Fauré's Requiem which I've done before and really like. It wasn't until I got to the rehearsal that I realised it was a remembrance service, one they do every year (I sang at the one the year before last) for people who have died. Sort of, "God, these people have died. Let them into heaven please." Like God (I don't believe in a god at all, but hypothetically) needs us to make decisions for him!

Anyway, it made me think of Boo, because I always said I'd sing some of the Fauré for her one day, and I never had chance. She asked me to do all 4 parts simultaneously, in typical Boo style. It seemed a perfect opportunity to sing it for her, even though she's not here anymore, and I don't believe she could hear it. I lit a candle for her, and added her name to the list that was read out. Perhaps she'd forgive me for it being in a C of E church! I remember her saying that she had such a bad voice she never even sang in church - I like the image of her looking down and singing her heart out along with us, either with her new beautiful angel voice, or with her own voice just not caring who could hear her. Sometimes I envy religious/spiritual people because they can believe in something better when we die, so no-one's ever really dead. I comfort myself with the fact that she's still there in our hearts and memories. But of course I miss her.

The Fauré also made me realise how much I've improved these last two years musically. The whole thing went very well I thought.

Other things of note: Tuesday was my birthday, so Michael had the day off and we went to Fairburn Ings, which we've been meaning to visit for a while now since it's our second closest RSPB reserve. It's rather nice, nothing earth-shattering bird-wise (35 species in 4 hours) but a nice walk and well worth another visit. I particularly enjoyed walking through young woodland and being surrounded by a flock of 30 or so long-tailed tits, realising that some of the calls were too high-pitched to be LTTs and tracking down three goldcrests, which are lovely tiny birds. Lots of birds on the feeders too.

My grandma's birthday is the same day, so lots of us went out for a Chinese meal at Chef de Canton. I've been before, it's a sort of all-you-can-eat-for-£13 type deal. You order what you want and they bring it, and you continue to order as much as you like (although they do ask you not to waste food). I don't rate the place really. We were a group of 14 and we were seated on two tables which was not ideal. The food isn't great, it's a limited menu of rather bland sweet English-type Chinese food and very little for vegetarians (or people like me who want a little chicken, some rice and a lot of veggies) - I wouldn't go again. Wasn't my choice to go there in the first place, but it was nice to catch up with family again, as we don't see each other that often.

My brother wanted to go but he was working, so we've arranged for him to come up from Derby on Friday and we'll go out then. I've booked a different Chinese place which also does Thai and Malaysian (yum!) so my unadventurous parents can have Chinese stuff they know they like, we'll have something more interesting and Adam can have a decent choice of vegetarian meals.

Other than that, things are pretty boring, especially as Michael's now in Edinburgh again. Me and Emma took Summer out to Linacre Reservoirs today, which is one of Summer's favourite places as she has both woods to sniff round and not one but three lots of water to swim in! I enjoyed some cracking views of a kestrel and several jays (don't see them often so they're exciting) and a grey heron and a quite confiding little grebe. We had a pretty good walk too.

And that's about it.

Oh, and I have a concert on Saturday which I'm excited about. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 05, 2007

My first Fun Monday!

I've been enjoying reading Fun Monday for a while, and finally decided to get involved.

Basically each week someone sets a challenge or asks a question or similar, and everyone posts about it.

This week is hosted by Deborah, from The Humble Housewife.

And this is what she wants from us.

I want to hear about or see a holiday tradition, recipe or event. It can be any holiday you like or that is special to your family. With Thanksgiving and the Winter holidays coming up, those would be especially apt, but anything that is special for your family is fine. If you have pictures - it's a bonus! Whether it's your Mom's famous stuffing recipe, going caroling on Christmas Eve, Diwali dances, or even the inevitability of Great Aunt Polly having one too many brandies and knocking over the Christmas tree - I want to hear about it!!!

My family isn't big on the traditions really. Being English and atheist, we don't do the church thing and we celebrate Christmas in a eating lots and giving presents kind of way. But we do have out little routines which I suppose you could call tradition.

For me alone, Christmas starts in the couple of weeks before the 25th. Because this is Carol Singing Time. Those of you who know me, know I'm really into my choral singing, so the vast majority of my spare time during those weeks is spent with my choir(s), belting out the carols like none of us will have sore throats at all the next day. This is usually in the form of a sort of pub crawl, doing the old favourites and taking requests in every pub we go to. And collecting money for charity - it's not unusual for us to collect over £500 over a couple of nights. We have mince pies and wine and everything is good.

Now fast-forward to the 24th, and on to the family stuff. I don't remember writing to Santa, but I was taken to see him in a department store to tell him what I wanted, until I was about 6 and stopped believing in him. However I had to pretend for quite a few years because I had a little brother by then. You know, the old carrot for Rudolph and mince pie and can of beer for Santa (my dad doesn't like brandy or sherry).

One year when I was young, Mum decided that cooking the turkey on Christmas day was too much work, with everything else she had to do with two young kids. She wanted time to see us opening presents, so she hit on the solution of roasting the turkey on Christmas Eve, and eating it cold with Christmas dinner the next day. Brainwave.

Because this lead to the ritual of Hot Turkey Sandwiches on Christmas Eve. Actually my favourite bit of Christmas - all the bonhomie but none of the stress. Mum aims for the turkey to be ready around 9pm, we drink, and demolish a leg (never the breast, because if you cut the breast when it's warm it goes very dry) and make unnecessary amounts of sandwiches on white bread cobs and drink some more and eat trifle and chocolate and drink. My brother ruined it a little when he became vegetarian, but we forgive him, and he eats some sort of quorn roast thing instead.

Christmas day sees presents, and more food. When I lived at home we'd be woken by my brother very early (I'm not a morning person), even when I was working in a nightclub and didn't get home til 3am. The presents would be under the tree (as a kid it would be decorated with coloured fairy lights and tinsel and bad taste ornaments that had been given to my mum, a lot of which I'd made, recently Mum goes for bad taste fibre optic trees, loads of that gold stuff that looks like long separate bits of tinsel that I can't remember the name of that falls off the tree all the time, and gold and red ornaments - me and my brother mock it every year). I remember the living room being literally half full of presents when we were young, it's much less so now when we get small presents like DVDs and stuff. But my parents still spend silly amounts of money on us, even though I keep insisting that I'm a big girl now, and don't need so much.

Present opening happens after breakfast, and now we're older, proceeds in an orderly fashion. Someone (usually me) sits near the tree and picks out one present at a time, reading the label and passing it to the appropriate person. I try to make sure I do this evenly, so no-one's sitting for ages with nothing to unwrap. Summer always has a couple of presents too, which we are childishly amused to see her unwrap. Recently she's taken to "giving" presents to us as well - she even writes on the tag (with my help of course!). Silly but fun. We then stack up the presents neatly, and new toys are played with and I try to persuade Mum to let me help with the dinner.

Being Northern we say dinner and not lunch. Turkey, roast pork, sage and onion stuffing balls (the family resists any attempts to introduce more exciting stuffings), little cocktail sausages wrapped in streaky bacon, Yorkshire puddings, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, roast parsnips with honey, carrots, broccoli, peas, sprouts (yuk, but traditional), cabbage, cranberry sauce, apple sauce, mint sauce for my dad who eats mint sauce with everything, and of course lots of gravy made with gravy granules and meat juices. There's so much food, I take a little of everything and still have a massive plateful which I struggle to finish. Afterwards we have a choice of Christmas pudding, more trifle, Christmas cake (made by me) or whatever cold dessert Mum bought. More drinking, liqueur chocolates and cheese and biscuits for anyone who's not already exploded.

Boxing day would see my mum catering again, for people who weren't at Christmas day mostly. Auntie Lorna and uncle Keith, Grandma and Grandad. And the rest of us again. This year the venue was different - I insisted that we move to my house, so mum could have a bit of a rest and Michael could have a drink! And Michael's mum and dad, and my uncle John were added to the guest list.

The food was the same though. Leftover meat, salad, jacket potatoes, cheese, coleslaw, a huge sausage roll thing with hard-boiled eggs in it that mum makes. I added roasted veggies and halloumi and a bulgar wheat salad with feta. Wine, beer, and electronic entertainment, such as a Who wants to be a Millionnaire? game that kept my dad quiet for a good hour.

I like the time with family. Usually we manage to avoid arguing and sniping at each other too much anyway, so it's all good. Just remind me not to eat so much this year.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Pain in the neck

My neck's worse this morning. Think I'm going to go to the doc.

I now can't hold my head straight - it's pulling over a little towards the uninjured side and I can't physically move it back. It's like the muscles don't work. And my shoulder and back are stiff and sore too.

Apparently you can get a pretty bad neck strain or even whiplash just by sleeping in an awkward position.

Again, I'm being a big baby, but I really am hurting a lot. I feel like crying, to be honest.

Right. Off to find an ice pack.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Greek stuffed peppers, for OC

I mentioned this in chat ages ago, and just remembered that I promised to post it!

So here we go. This is very simple, healthy, and probably my favourite veggie meal ever. It serves 2.

2 bell peppers (that's just the normal peppers you get in the supermarket), whatever colour you like - I tend to use two different colours
100-150g halloumi cheese
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 tbs pine nuts
1 tbs dried oregano
1 tbs dried mint
Olive oil

1) Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.
2) Cut each pepper in half lengthwise through the stalk, and remove the seeds and white stuff. Leave the stalks on, as they look pretty. Pop them into an ovenproof dish, cut sides up.
3) Cut the halloumi into small cubes, and divide between the pepper halves.
4) Sprinkle the lemon zest, pine nuts, oregano and mint over the cheese.
5) Pour over the lemon juice, and drizzle some olive oil on as well.
6) Roast in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, until the peppers are tender and the cheese has browned a little on the top.

Serve with rice cooked in vegetable stock, and a green salad. There you go, 3 portions of veg with no effort at all!

I love the way the halloumi keeps its shape when cooked - it doesn't melt like normal cheese. It's also excellent sliced then grilled or fried until brown, and you can even make kebabs with it. But it doesn't make good cheese on toast. ;)


I kept having pain dreams last night. I don't really remember what they were about, just that I kept trying to do something and it kept hurting, even though it wasn't supposed to.

I semi-work up a couple of times in the early hours, and semi-consciously almost thought, "Right, I'll try not to dream that again."

Then not long after dawn I woke up properly and my neck was killing me. I guess I'd slept on it wrong or something. So I slathered on some ibuprofen gel (getting loads in my hair in the process, dammit) and tried to settle down again.

I did go back to sleep, but every time I turned over (and I turn over a lot) the pain woke me up. Consequently I slept late and got up at midday feeling crappy.

The ibuprofen didn't help much.

And my neck still hurts. It's the muscles/tendons on the back left side of my neck, between my spine and my left ear, right from the base of my skull into the shoulder blade. I can lean my head forward a little, but movement in other directions is severely restricted, especially to the left - it seems like the muscles there just won't work, it's not just a case of being painful.

I'm a bit of a baby about pain really. I'm used to constant discomfort and low-grade aches with fibromyalgia, but anything worse than that sees me complaining and attempting to elicit sympathy from all and sundry. Hence this post I guess.

Someone pass the codeine please.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The best houseguest ever

I'm planning a proper post about the Halloween party later, but I just thought I'd tell you about one of the guests.

I hadn't met Louise before - she's the partner of my friend Daniel. They both came to the party and stayed overnight on a mattress in the computer room.

When they arrived (early), she thanked me for inviting her about 3 times, and insisted on helping me with the food and decorations. And she brought me a little goodie bag containing some seashell chocolates and three little bottles of wine.

We collectively went to bed at about 5am after the party (I'm not sure what time it actually was because the clocks went back, so it was either 5am or 4am or something, it confused me).

Me and Michael got up about midday, and were shocked to find the kitchen had been cleaned. The rubbish was bagged up ready to put in the bin, all the glasses and punch bowls had been washed up, and the plates and dishes put in the dishwasher and rinsed. The surfaces had been wiped down, the floor swept, and all the Halloween confetti I'd scattered about the place carefully collected up. We thought we'd had a visit from the cleaning fairy.

Turns out Louise had got up early, cleaned, then gone back to bed.

I thanked her for the cleaning, and she said something like, "Don't be daft! It was the least I could do."

WTF??? Now that's not normal. I mean the cleaning was one thing, not in the least bit expected and very much appreciated, but the fact that she thought she could have done more surprised me a bit.

Plus she's absolutely lovely. Dan's found himself a good one there.

So yeah. Best. Houseguest. Ever.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Nice birdy visitors

Maybe it's just because I've been watching more, but my garden seems to have had more avian visitors than usual recently.

A couple of pairs of greenfinches have been coming to the feeders for peanuts, and I've occasionally seen goldfinches too. Usually all I see is blackbirds, sparrows, starlings, robins, collared doves, wood pigeons, crows, rooks, jackdaws and dunnocks. Not the most exciting of garden lists really.

Tuesday I heard a little cheepy sound I didn't recognise, so I grabbed the bins and had a look outside, to find a female pheasant at the top of a bush.

Friday saw a passing flock of about 20 long-tailed tits (hardly ever see them in the garden) stop briefly at my feeding station - one or two of them had a brief peck at the peanuts as well.

Then I noticed a group of about 8 blackbirds feeding on the fallen apples in the orchard, one of which looked rather pale. A closer look revealed it as a song thrush (another bird I rarely see).

And one that had gone, a tiny goldcrest flitted around the biggest apple tree for a good 10 minutes before I lost sight of it. Such a lovely little bird.

Saturday lunchtime we had a somewhat more flashy visitor, this gorgeous great spotted woodpecker. We had a couple of GSW visits earlier this year, but I haven't seen one since. I hope it becomes a regular - it seemed to be jamming bits of peanut into the bark of the tree, so hopefully it'll be back to claim them later.

And today I glanced out of the window and just happened to look twice at something I thought for a second was a collared dove. But it was brownish, and had a hooked beak, and the tail was wrong. I only saw it for perhaps a minute before it flew off, and Michael managed a quick picture of it. I reckon it was a male sparrowhawk, despite looking brownish (could have been the bad light). It didn't have the "moustache" face markings of a kestrel, and I got the impression of it being orangey underneath when it flew away. And rounded wings.

The black-headed gulls are back for the winter now too. They fly over a lot as my house is on their way from the old village green, where they tend to congregate, to the fishing lake at Holmebrook Valley Park. They make me smile, daft noisy squabbling creatures, but somehow still graceful and beautiful.

Taking a breath

Well, it's been a busy few weeks.

As I've mentioned before, we were aiming to get the house looking like someone owns it (technically looking like we own it, rather than looking like the colourblind tasteless bodge-it merchant that used to own it, owns it) before the Hallowe'en party (which was last night).

Which actually did happen. Here's some before-and-after type pictures.

The walls in the living room, before we decorated. It's okay I guess, in a council-house sort of way. I never liked the dark wood though, it looks pretentious in a 1960s house.

We leave the fireplace dark, but paint the skirting boards and dado rail white. I also clean the carpet and got new curtains. We're waiting for the new sofa to arrive, once it does I'll do proper pics of the room.
A corner of the dining room, and some of my recipe books. Note the awful silver wallpaper and silver dado rail. Yuk. We decide to strip the walls and paint them.

The walls are stripped, and we realised how bumpy they are. Nightmare! My dad comes in and skims them.

Note the tasteful wallpaper over the patio doors, which had just been papered over with the blue/silver.

After some deliberation, we decide on this laminate flooring, and me and my dad start to install it.

Dining room nearly finished, we carry on into the kitchen (they are separated by an archway), and ultimately the utility room.

Kitchen gets floored. The fridge moves into the dining room until the floor in the utility is finished.

Summer tries to find a space to lie down out of the way. Daft dog.

Dad very selfishly goes on holiday, leaving me to finish the utility room floor all by myself.

Summer tests the new floor.

I paint the walls cream, and the silver radiator in sensible old white.

Now onto the hallway/landing/stairs. And perhaps the most distasteful décor in the entire house, with the possible exception of our bedroom.

We rush around and find paint. I start painting the walls. I decide I don't like the new paint. So we get different paint which is much darker than I wanted, but I really like.


I'm going to put up more photos later... this post is big enough already!

And the party was good by the way. :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pimpin' ma bro again

This is funny. Don't think I need to say much else.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I'm so childish

I have to suppress a snigger sometimes when I sing in Latin.

Mostly it's the word fac.

The "a" in fac is pronounced pretty much like the "a" in "father" (not quite, but close). The "f" is as in English, and the "c" like in "cat". It means something like "do it!"

Say it to yourself. Go on.


It's especially amusing when you have to sing it loud.

I remember Fraser conducting Ladies' Choir the other year (we were doing Pergolesi's Stabat Mater if I remember correctly), and telling us something like, "You just have to go fac, fac, one after the other. See who can make their fac the loudest." He then followed it with, "Imagine you're singing fuck. But don't sing that."

While I'm here, and in Latin mode, I thought I'd share this page with you. It made me laugh. And add a Latin phrase to my blog description.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Maybe you're wondering...

... how the MFC rehearsal went?

Maybe not. You're going to find out anyway.

After only 4 hours sleep, we got up at 5 and Michael very kindly drove me to Derby. I caught the first train (to Birmingham) and settled down to study my score while listening to the homework recording CD which I'd loaded onto my mp3 player. I thought it was probably a good idea to do this because I hadn't managed to look at the last three movements at all. It was hard to stop myself humming along (well humming what I thought the notes would be, to check how good my pitching is).

I managed to do everything expect the last movement, then decided to stop as I was losing concentration and wanted to be fresh for the rehearsal.

I bought two books and a piece of carrot cake in Birmingham while I waited for my connection (the next train I caught went to Hereford, which made me think of Boo). The cake was okay, but the topping was far too sweet and I didn't eat it. I always think carrot cake is better plain or with a cream cheese topping made with just a touch of honey rather than something sugary.

So yeah. I got to Worcester and registered and was issued with a name badge with a red dot on it, to indicate that I was an MFC n00b. I met up with a few people I knew from SingSoc, and got cornered by an old woman who talked at me and whom Pete described as "not only mad, but evil". I talked to quite a few people during the day, and everyone else was really nice.

The rehearsal itself was good. Hard work, but fun... and it was worth it to hear how good we sounded! I'm completely loyal to SingSoc and I think we sound great, but close to 250 voices together is something else. And it's always weird but fun to work with an unfamiliar conductor - Malcolm Goldring's an experience, certainly! In a good way.

I discovered that I was foolish to neglect the last movement. It's hard. It starts off fine, but then it's all over the place and will need me to put in some serious work before Saturday.

Had lunch at a pub with the SingSoc people (Sicilian chicken for me, which was pretty good) then the men went back. As us girls had an extra half hour or so we had a wander around the shops, and I bought some funky jewellery - two necklaces and a pair of earrings that match one of the necklaces.

I was pretty tired and achy most of the afternoon, but I was expecting that to be honest, with lack of sleep and the early start and all the singing. Singing all day is physically hard work - I know it sounds like an easy thing to do... you just sing, right? Well it's not. It's exhausting, mentally and physically. I do think that I'm improving because my voice itself wasn't tired at all and could have happily sung the whole piece again with the high notes and fff (that's very very loud to all you non-musicians) bits and everything even if my body and brain didn't want to!

I had cake in the afternoon too, a big piece of home made chocolate cake with my cup of coffee. It was nice, but didn't taste of chocolate at all to me, it was sort of anaemic. I like to use loads of cocoa in mine. But it gave me the energy to finish the afternoon.

After we'd finished, I went back to the railway station. I shocked myself by not getting lost (and I didn't in the morning either). And I found that there was a simpler way to get home, i.e. the reverse of the way I got there, rather than the route the transport website gave me. Consequently I got back to Derby an hour earlier than I thought I would.

On the train I sat next to a nice older man who it turned out was going home to Belper (so a fellow Derbyshire person, who would be on the next train with me too). We chatted for a bit then sat and read in companionable silence until Birmingham where the train terminated.*

As we pulled into the station I heard shouting, and swearing, and a dog barking furiously. And saw five or six policemen on the platform, at least two police dogs, and a load of shouting and swearing blokes, who I guess were football fans. There was a fair bit of pushing and shoving and more shouting - by this time we'd moved to the next platform to wait for the train to Derby but we were just across from them and could see everything. I'm not sure what was going on, but the police got loads of them back on the train we'd just vacated and it left, presumably taking them back to wherever they'd come from. One guy was held up against the wall by a policeman and held there for ages until he calmed down, and was eventually lead away, I guess arrested. It was kind of exciting.

The Belper guy told me that his day had been exciting already - he'd been in a meeting in Hereford and someone had a suspected perforated ulcer and vomited blood all over the newly-carpeted meeting room and was rushed to hospital for an operation. Yikes!

So yeah, the rest of the journey was uneventful. We chatted some more, read some more, and Michael picked me up from Derby. Train journeys are always better when there's someone nice to talk to.

We drove back and I talked pretty much non-stop in the car, because I was still a bit hyper from the rehearsal. We picked up a Malaysian takeaway which was yummy (I'm just about to go and finish the leftovers!) and chilled for a bit. And that was my day. Knackering, but fun!

I can't wait for next week... if you're anywhere near Worcester Saturday night, come and see us. The Stabat Mater is AWESOME, I love it, and we sound fantastic even if I do say so myself. Plus we have the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, which is reason enough in itself to see us.

*This phrase always makes me think of the Arnie film, and I imagine a train engine gone bad, shooting at another engine and wearing shades. "I'll be back... but I'm currently running 30 minutes late due to a signal failure. On behalf of Midland Mainline I apologise for this delay and any inconvenience it may cause you."

Friday, October 05, 2007

More transport issues, and some fame

I knew it was a stupid idea to leave sorting out transport for the Midland Festival Chorus rehearsal until this afternoon. In my defence I have been unnecessarily busy, especially this afternoon (I was producing a PowerPoint presentation on how music affects emotions).

It was also stupid to assume that getting a train there and back would be easy enough to do. It's only Worcester, 100 miles or so.


I checked train times (using the Transport Direct website which is very useful), and found that to be in Worcester for 9:00 I'd have to get to the train station at about 5:00. Then coming home would take 5 hours, with 4 changes. For fuck's sake, it's a hundred miles! It would take 2 hours to drive! I'd get home not long before midnight. Now call me weird, but if I get up at say 4am, I'm pretty much dead by mid-afternoon, never mind midnight.

I've played around with the options on the website and found that if Michael can take me to and from Derby, that makes life a lot easier. We can leave at 5:45 and I can catch a train at 6:30 from Derby, change at Birmingham New Street and be in Worcester at 8:40. Coming home, I change trains twice, and should be back for 22:20. I can live with that I think. I'll take a book or something.

I did check with a few people who I knew would be driving from Sheffield, but no car space was available. Oh well. Public transport it is then.

And in other news... it's a small world. I had a brief chat with another mature student in a lecture on Wednesday. I told her I'm repeating because I was ill last year, and that I have fibromyalgia.

She looked at me for a second then said, "Do you live in Chesterfield?" Slightly confused, I replied in the affirmative.
"I've read your blog! I saw it last year but I haven't been able to find it again. Your hair's different." (She was right, it's brown now and was tied back.)

I was shocked, really. How weird is that? I told her the address so she could find me again. So hi if you're reading. I don't know your name, but hi! :)

And here's a quick recent pic of me, taken with my new phone. Just because my hair looked good on Monday, and that's not normal. Plus I looked like a twat posing in Western Park with my phone and it amused me.

We're on YouTube!!!!!

I'll do a proper post later. But for now I have to share this with you...

This is Socii Cantorum, one of my choirs. Just a few extracts from our last concert in May. I'm clearly visible on occasions (and in case you get confused, we do move part way through) and I have two comments to make. One, I don't look as fat as I think I look, must be the black. And two, I have a bloody big mouth.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The continuing saga

Nic commented on my post yesterday... "it can only get better from here in mate!"

If only that were true.

Admittedly, I had a good evening. I fed the ducks, walked to choir rehearsal, enjoyed catching up with everyone, did some silly exercises and didn't do too badly with the sight singing. Had a fun time afterwards in the pub, but then things went wrong again.

This time through my own stupidity.

I'd planned my route. Bus from near the pub to the city centre, and a short walk to where I'd catch the 22:50 bus back to Chesterfield which conveniently runs almost past my house, getting me home at around 23:45.

Unfortunately I completely misjudged how to walk to the city centre stop, and consequently failed to find it and so missed the bus. In a slight panic I phoned Michael, who checked on the internet and informed me that there was a train leaving at 23:40, so I walked to the railway station.

In all the stress, when I got to the station I had to buy a mint Aero bar from the vending machine.

Michael picked me up from Chesterfield station at midnight, by which time I was completely knackered. My shoulders and neck ached, and I felt exhausted. Michael had kindly brought me a cup of (decaff) coffee to drink in the car, which helped a bit.

I pretty much went straight to bed when we got home, after making the executive decision that getting up at 6:30 for my 9am lecture would be a bad idea in my current state. So I didn't go.

I can't help but feel that it doesn't bode well for the future.

Michael suggested that I might like to come straight home from choir rather than going to the pub, but I'm not convinced that would help. I'd still only get home around 11, and the chances of me getting to sleep before 12 would be minimal.

I'm going to see the disabled student student support people tomorrow, to see how they can help me. Hopefully we'll be able to sort something out.

And on the plus side, I've seen loads of birds in the garden the last few days. Great tits, blue tits, coal tits, blackbirds, sparrows, starlings, a few goldfinches and greenfinches which I'm excited about because I don't see many, and a flock of around 20 long tailed tits flew over the other day. The escaped parakeet is also around - I haven't heard it for a while and I was beginning to think it was dead, but it was on my bird table the other day eating rice. It has a ring, so must have escaped from somewhere. I hope it will be okay.

Right. Breakfast and some work for me I think.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Not a good start

I started back at uni today. Scary.

2 lectures, one 11:10-12.00, one 12:10-13:00. A lab class 14:00-17:00. And Small Groups rehearsal tonight.

To get into uni for 11 I had to get up at 9, catch a bus into town at 9:50, a bus into Sheffield at 10:10, then another bus at 10:45 to the psychology department.

After a night of what must have been back-to-uni-anxiety dreams, I did get up at 9. I did everythng I needed to do and was waiting for my first bus at 9:45.

Which didn't arrive.

In a slight panic, I waited in case it was late. Because the next one (they are every 10 mins) would have only jsut got me there on tme, and I'd have had to run and/or hope the Sheffield bus was late. A bus actually turned up at 10:15. Therefore I missed the Sheffield one.

I settled down to wait for the 10:40 Sheffield bus. I'd be half an hour late for my lecture, but at least I'd get there. I decided I'd take out some cash while I was near a machine, and that was when I realised I didn't have my card with me. Bollocks.

I couldn't remember whether I'd picked it up or not, so I had to go home to check, just in case it had been stolen on the bus or something. Besides, I only had a couple of pounds on me and I needed money for lunch and the bus.

So I got back on the Newbold bus and went home. The bus takes a circular route, so a journey into town for me takes 10 minutes, but the journey home takes 20 - I quickly worked out that in order to get to my 12:10 lecture I'd have to catch the same bus I was already on.

It was actually possible, because I did it. I got off at the village, which is a 10-minute walk from my house. I power-walked to my house in about 8 minutes, grabbed my card (which was on my bedside table after all), and ran back to the bus stop on my road. Caught the same bus, which slightly confused the driver.

And all my other connections went fine, and I was there for my second lecture at least.

At least I'd bought a £5 all day ticket thing so my extra journeys didn't cost me any more.

And I've discovered an advantage to repeating - I already know exactly how to do an analysis of variance (ANOVA)* from last year, in contrast to my fellow second-years who looked rather confused. Same thing in my lab class, I'm pretty competent at putting formulae into Excel, and everyone else... apparently isn't.

I just need to make some friends now I guess.

Right. I'm off to sit in the park for an hour to look at birds and eat houmous with veggies and pittas. And strawberries. Then choir!!! :)

*It's a statistics thing, in case you care. I'm sure you don't.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Slightly overwhelmed

I've suddenly realised how much I have to get done before the party on the 27th.

Not to mention whatever I need to do before starting back at uni.

And I need to learn a whole piece of music (Dvořák's Stabat Mater) by 6th October, for the first rehearsal of the Midland Festival Chorus thing. It's the first time I've sung with MFC, and I'm really looking forward to it and I want to know what I'm doing. Unfortunately I've left it very late to start, so I'll need some serious work to get myself up to scratch. I do have a CD with my part played on keyboard which helps, and an actual recording, but I can't help but think that a recording of a single voice singing the alto part would be much more useful because it would help me place the words properly.

I've spent about an hour and a half on it tonight and familiarised myself with the first (long!) and the second movements which involve the choir. So far I'm liking the piece, it's rather fun (except that the altos have high Fs which I'm not so keen on), even though in general I'm biased against anything that has a lot of solos because I find that many voices sound much nicer than just one (and I get bored waiting until I can sing again).

I'm kind of ambivalent about this music-learning thing. It's the first time I'll have learned a piece entirely my myself, and while part of me is panicking about how much I'm struggling, another part is proud of the improvement I've made with my sight-reading. Pitching is much easier, as well as getting the "feel" for the direction of the music (which helps a lot with the pitching). I'm still struggling with rhythm, but it's better than it was. I guess these things come with work, and I can't expect to be great with only two years of "proper" singing behind me.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

It's not like me to be pissed off, but I am

So my dad asked me yesterday how long I've got left at uni.

I hadn't actually told my parents about repeating, because I knew I'd get hassle.

I told him 2 years, as things had not gone well last year and I'm repeating year 2. His reply?

"Oh, here we go again..." (obviously referencing either my brother, who is repeating year 3 this year, or me dropping out of uni the first time round, and implying that this means I won't get a degree this time either.) "What do you mean, things didn't go well?"

I explained about the not sleeping and the being tired constantly and struggling with mornings, therefore not getting to lectures.

"You ought to have got out of that pattern years ago." Like I haven't tried? "You want to stop all that other stuff."

I asked what stuff he meant.


Oh, so that's the reason why I'm ill! All these years I've thought it was fibromyalgia, but obviously not. Obviously two evenings of choir practice a week stop me from getting to morning lectures. Also obviously that's what's been wrong with me for the past 10 years even though I wasn't even in a choir for 6 of those years. All I have to do is give up my ONE social activity and stay at home every evening studying and cleaning the house and tidying up the garden and all the other things he thinks I should be doing.

Okay. Thanks for the support Dad. Thanks for believing that I can do this, and being so constructive with your criticism. Thanks for constantly approving everything I do. Also thanks for having a clue what you're talking about, and listening to me when I explain how things are, and believing that I'm actually ill.

Of course, you're in complete control of my life, and that's the way it should be. You're always right, and I never am. I need positive people like you in my life.

Anyone detect any sarcasm there?

Winning the pub quiz every week does not make you the expert on Anna. Neither does it qualify you to be a doctor, or to tell me how to live, or how best to get my degree (btw he has no qualifications apart from a certificate in welding or something from about a hundred years ago).

Fuck you, Dad. Shut the fuck up already.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Apparently, new is good

I think I've finally found a good doctor.

Compare and contrast here.

At my previous surgery last year, I got the distinct impression that they were bored of me. I mean, with a chronic illness like fibromyalgia, you do have to keep going back if only to let them know if anything's changed. I kept being told that there isn't much they can do besides give me low-dose amitryptiline (Elavil) at night to help me sleep. They'd tell me to lose weight and exercise and that's about it. I was made to feel like I was wasting their time when I was essentially telling them I can't go on like this.

I mean, they're right. There's nothing much they can do. But still.

I needed a letter from a doctor last year to pass on to the psychology department and the assessment department at uni, confirming my diagnosis and explaining that I need extra time in exams, etc. It took the doc 2 weeks to write this, and they invoiced me £10. (I didn't pay it, but that's another story.)

I need another letter this year, for the psych department so they'll let me repeat 2nd year, and for Derbyshire County Council* so they'll fund me for an extra year. So I went to see my new doc today - I've seen her twice before and found that she'll listen to you and ask sensible questions which is surprisingly rare for a doctor. I told her what I needed, and she did it right there and then. She asked me loads of questions about my symptoms and how it affects my studies, and even asked about stuff I haven't mentioned, like my mood and problems with writing, and got everything into a letter, checked with me that it was okay (unheard of) then printed it and gave it to me. No 2 weeks to wait, no £10. No feeling like I was wasting her time. She even told me I was doing the right things, i.e. exercising and keeping an eye on my diet and trying to push myself a little bit further than is comfortable but not overdoing it.

Nice one doc.

In related news, I'm back in lectures next week. I'm sort of scared. And tired already. Not feeling at my most positive. I'd like a nice cup of redbush and vanilla tea (or maybe some of my "night time" herbal tea) and a nice warm bed and about 12 hours sleep.

*I mis-typed this as "Derbyshire Cunty Council". Strangely apt.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I'm just not in a good mood.

The sum total of my progress today has been grouting maybe 2 square feet of tiles. I fecking hate grouting, it hurts my wrists and it's dull and tedious and boring. I'm gonna leave it for Michael to do I think.

Michael's off to Edinburgh tomorrow with work, for the fourth time in three weeks. It's pretty bad timing, because I'd like him to be getting on with some house stuff here rather than sitting on his arse all night in a hotel on his own. And I'm so used to him doing certain jobs that I forget about them when he's not here, so the bins don't get emptied and the dishwasher doesn't get unloaded, simply because I don't think about it.

It worries me a bit that I don't really miss him. I seem to just get on with it. I think I'm just not in emotion mode right now, as I'm not feeling anything very much, like just emotionally beige or something. I guess it's better than being depressed, and it's probably a result of me not doing anything fun for ages.

Another thing that's winding me up is my left wrist. I had a ganglion removed from it 5 or 6 years ago and I have a lovely little scar and a lump there now, which swells up and hurts a bit occasionally. Basically it's not the same wrist as it used to be, but it's pretty much okay. Took me months to be able to use it properly after the op though. It was bothering me last night, and I noticed another ganglion has popped up to the left of the op scar. It's quite tender and achy and annoying. I don't know whether I want to have it treated or not because of the pain and inconvenience of the op - maybe I'll wait to see how bad it's going to be. And if anyone else tells me to hit it with a Bible I'll scream! First, I'm an atheist. I don't have a Bible. And second... I have no desire to be hit hard on the wrist with a heavy book. Call me weird.

So yeah. I'll try to be productive tomorrow. I certainly feel better when I'm doing stuff. Or am I doing stuff because I feel better? Either way - I'm not happy today. Just frustrated and tired and blergh.

I was going to post this in Pirate-speak, considering what day it is. But I really can't be arsed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Okay, so here's what's been happening.
  • Living room painted
  • Living room carpet cleaned twice
  • New cupboards assembled in living room, with 26 white cardboard storage boxes which had to be put together
  • CD/DVD/video collections organised and stored in said cupboards
  • New curtains hung in living room
  • Living room fireplace re-grouted
  • Kitchen and utility tiled
  • Half of kitchen tiles grouted
  • New bookcase assembled in study
  • Roleplaying books, my uni notes and loads of magazines (mostly New Scientist) stored in new bookcase
  • Clothes which were littering the main bedroom stored in folding boxes, until we get new wardrobes
Now I come to write it, it doesn't sound like much. But we're getting there. Next on the list is getting a new sofa, disposing of the old sofas, decorating the kitchen/dining room/utility and some general tidying and clearing and sorting stuff out.

I'm tired. And I'm back at uni in two weeks. And my scalp, behind my ears and the back of my neck are all flaky and scabby as my eczema's playing up. On the plus side though, I've lost another inch from bust and hips, and an inch and a half from my waist.

I've also created a new blog, where I'll keep track of all my uni stuff. I plan to post my lecture notes there, and my timetable (newly created in Google Calendars and almost completed), and any other stuff related to uni, or psychology.

And on a completely unrelated note, I've recently started stitching again. I found a 3/4 finished tapestry of two dolphins when I cleared out the living room, which I'd actually forgotten I started, and I'm determined to get it finished. I used to do a lot of cross stitch and tapestry and the like, but haven't done any for years. I also ordered a sampler of British tits (that should get me a few dodgy searches over here!) which looks great, and I'd definitely recommend the site if you like cross stitch because they have some lovely bird ones - mostly UK but some American too.

And now I'm off to exercise.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Exercise is sort of working, I guess

I haven't lost any actual weight, but I'm definitely more toned.

I've lost an inch from my bust and waist, 2 inches from my hips and 1/2 an inch from my thighs.

And I'm fitter, as my scores on Kinetic are showing.

I'm not trying too hard with my diet - it's basically healthy with sensible meals and snacks, but I'm still having treats. As I said in chat the other night, if you can't have a treat every now and then you might as well be dead.

So yeah. Progress.

I don't know if it's just coincidence, but I'm generally in less pain recently too.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sorry for the silence!

I've been so busy the last week, haven't had time to blog. And I haven't been reading blogs either - hopefully I'll catch up in the next week or so.

The source of the busyness? Decorating.

Mostly because I'm having a party at Hallowe'en and I'd like my house to look like someone owns it, but also because I'm sick of it. So far we've managed to decorate precisely 3 rooms in the 3.5 years we've lived here, one of which is the bathroom.

Although we have a new kitchen, it looks a mess because there's no floor (bare concrete) and no wall tiles. The dining room needs the wallpaper stripping and decorating, the hallway is a horrible yellow with an orange border (I hate it), our bedroom is the messiest room in the world and consequently is filthy because there isn't room to clean. The whole house is full of stuff that doesn't have a home and needs sorting out and storing. Oh, and dog hair.

Mostly I just put up with the fact that I hate it, because I'm too lazy/tired to actually do anything about it.

But not now. The exercise thing is working I think, I actually feel like I have energy. Some energy at least.

So I cleared out the living room. I planned what it will look like - the colours, the furniture, everything. It was decorated with wallpaper - okay wallpaper I guess, but not what I'd have chosen. A beige-ish background with green patterns above the mahogany-coloured dado rail, and green stripes below - to be fair, it looks like a council house living room. The sofas (one two-seater, one three-seater) came with the house, they are a kind of tapestry effect of mostly yellowy-beige with greens and pinks mixed in.

But not any more. I've painted over the wallpaper, a creamy colour on the top and a pinky-brown underneath. All the woodwork's now white. I've bought new fake suede curtains which are a similar colour to the lower walls, and we're giving the sofas away to an organisation which redistributes unwanted furniture to those in need (e.g. families rehoused because of domestic violence). In their place we'll get a nice new two-seater in brown or camel or similar, and two chairs like the comfy wooden ones they sell at Ikea, as most of the time there's only the two of us here anyway and two sofas take up too much room. We're getting some cupboards as well, to hold all our videos and DVDs. And when it's all done I might have a nice calming grown-up room that I'm not ashamed to invite people back to.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Another meme

How to make a silverleaf

3 parts mercy

5 parts silliness

5 parts joy
Stir together in a glass tumbler with a salted rim. Add a little cocktail umbrella and a dash of emotion


Personality cocktail

Again stolen from Sayre. I love cocktails!

Hehe, I said cock...