Posted in Acting, Creative, Family, History, Life

Careers I could have had…

The book I’m reading on my Kindle at the moment (and have been for a long while…I’ve not had much time to sit down and read since having children!) is called “One more year on Facebook” by Naomi Rettig, and it’s more-ish.  I was sat here on my laptop twittering and being far too disctracted by Facebook and remembered the book; and that I’d been meaning to look up the source – someone in the Extras Facebook group had mentioned she’d written a book and had linked to it so I’d downloaded it; and all the while I’ve been sneaking in five minutes here and there I’ve meant to look her up again and tell her how much I’m enjoying it.

Anyway, now I have (looked her up, not told her yet!), and discovered her blog.  And the most recent blog post was this one entitled “Careers I could have had (if it wasn’t for a few things)”; and even before reading the rest of the post, I thought it was a fab title, and subject.

So, here’s mine…

Actor – Because…  The funnest part of childhood was play-acting.  Make-believe games.  Be other people in other places. Hey, I grew up alone on a cargo ship with no one but a younger brother (and everyone knows how anoying they can be!) for company.  Pretending to be someone else comes naturally to me now.  I went to Youth Theatre (as long as I could get there under my own steam…walk, bus etc).  I wanted to take Drama GCSE.  I was steered away – the old story of “get useful qualifications”; that’s not a ‘real’ subject’; there’s hardly ANY future in that. The only other subject I wanted to do was English, which was compulsory anyway.  So I chose subjects just for the sake of choosing them.  And naturally, didn’t do that well. (OK, well, I got an A in French without trying, but I had travelled a lot, I think that was mainly for my grasp of the acccent!)  By the time I got to A level subject choices, I put my foot down.  The only one I really wanted to do was Theatre Media & Drama.  And they let me.  I suspect it was only because there were only three others wanting to do it and they were trying to make up the numbers.

Sailor – No, really.  even 20 something years ago I didn’t think there was anything wrong with being a female at sea.  Obviously these days more and more stories like this one are cropping up.  But when I was doing my GCSE’s there was a poster up on one of the noticeboard in school about P&O (I think) cargo apprentice crew scheme, or something of the kind; and for a while there, I actually entertained, for more than a fleeting second, the idea of actually going to sea like my father.  I can’t remember what put me off, whether it was the thought of having to do A Level maths, or the fact that it really would put pay to my acting/writing/directing dreams once and for all…

Marine Biologist/Oceanographer – Yeh…fleetingly, this one.  Mainly because I was fascinated at the time by SeaQuest DSV (for that, read, I had a crush on Jonathan Brandis since Neverending Story 2).

Film Director – I wanted to Act. Until I realised that the person in charge of the actors was pretty much the director.  I wanted to be Stephen Spielberg for most of my teens.

So, this, and Oceanographer, were the two things I went with when it came my turn to see the Careers Advisor during GCSE decision time at school.  I think I stumped him.  Now, if he’d said something creative like, “OK, well how about you go into camera work, learn about underwater filming, and become an authority on marine underwater filming for movies and documentaries…and here’s some ideas on how you could start out in being a camera…person …”, well, then, I’d be doing that today.  As it was, he shrugged, and said, “Well, they’re both so different.  Do all sciences for Oceanography.  And there’s not really any university course you can do to be a film director.”.  And that was that.  Most unhelpful ‘advice’ session I’ve ever encountered.  In fact, has put me off asking for advice in general for anything!

Writer – Because I just managed to do that all the time with pretty much no help and got some pretty good responses to stuff I wrote for English assignments (like incredulous looks from my English teacher on occasion as she appeared to be trying to figure out if I really wrote that…); And I realised, that Acting required auditions.  The thought of which terrified me; and so, the Director being in charge of the actors (and not having to audition!) seemed inviting; but that required a set and crew and budget and producers; none of which I had a clue how to get; but writing ….ah…well…..paper, pencil…and you’re away!  Into your own world … write…write….write… and …rely on the same crippling fear of auditions to creep in to take effect in the event of anyone getting close to reading anything I wrote.  Drat.

Midwife – New country, new normal, new career?  I dunno, I toyed with the idea for a bit when we moved back to the UK.  I love babies and the whole pregnancy and birth process fascinates me; but it’s impractical to keep having them yourself.  I love nurses and the angels who do that; but the thought of doing a job where the majority of people you see might be at the end of their life….well; midwifery at least erring on the side that the majority of your patients were at the beginning … not the end…

Air Hostess – It seemed to be everyone else’s goal, dream, when I was working as ground staff, to move ‘up’ to cabin crew.  At that point it never appealed to me.  Later, it occured to me that a job which was a perfect combination of Passenger services AND Cabin crew, you know, like a whole-journey thing, not just cabin service and safety, would be a perfect role.  And just like that, as though someone pulled it out of my head, Air NZ introduced them!  In-Flight Concierges.  On board purely as Passenger services, info point, Liaise between reservations and check-in and cabin crew and passengers, travel with them, be an expert on the destination.  I applied.  Heart set.  Failed . Still wonder what might have been. But the time has passed.

Pilot – Another whim.  While I was working at the airport.  When I was single and carefree.  I did actually start having flying lessons.  Then… rent needed paying, and bills.  And I got distracted.  I’d still love to learn to fly and get my PPL.  That’ll be a ‘if I win the lottery’ thing.  I think I’m way past being paid to do it for a living.

So, what do I do?  What am I?  For all the umm-ing and Ah-ing; and the ‘get a real job instead of pursuing Drahmah …

I’ve drifted.  I’ve fallen into line and had ‘real’ dead-end jobs.  I’ve given up my own aspirations and followed someone else’s around the world.  It’s been fun, but I’ve felt like I was waiting for something the whole time….waiting for the ‘one day’ from ‘one day, I will write and act’ to come around.  Of all the things above I fondly remember that I once wanted to do (and probably could have done any of if I’d set my mind to); the two I want to do and be known for, are writing and acting.  I have the ability to do both. I just need the confidence and the shove in the right direction …

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Posted in Family, Home, Life, Nails, Women's Issues

Stuff My Grandmother Taught Me\.

Well, technically, it’s grandmotherS (plural); and a few more things from other relatives, thrown in for good measure.

But, given the nature of my commitment to take this opportunity to blog about me while I still can … in case the day comes where I can’t pass on snippets of wisdom to my children, or grandchildren, this list has been turning over in my mind for a couple of weeks.

Without further ado, and in no particular order:

  1. Always write in black ink.
  2. Always carry a spare pair of tights in your handbag, in case of ladders.
  3. Immediately remove or repair chipped nail polish.
  4. Only prostitutes paint their toenails.
  5. Never go out with wet hair
  6. Never put the milk in the mug with the teabag before the water.
  7. Always warm the pot.
  8. Wear sunglasses / Always protect your eyes from UV rays.
  9. Always say please & Thank You
  10. Don’t start shaving your legs. Wax them. (Wish I’d known that before I started shaving them…)

Before anyone starts picking holes in the list….I haven’t researched any.  Most are more likely to be old-fashioned snobbery.  But hey ho, this is the way I was brought up.

I stick by most of them when I can.  Sunglasses, mainly.  Tea, always – there’s only one way to make tea. Oh, and by not painting my toe-nails I save myself a heck of a lot of time/money/hassle!  They get filed and cleaned and buffed and that’s about it 😉

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Posted in Christmas, Family, Home

Christmas tree; Oh Christmas tree

OK, this draft was started 3 months ago!  I did mean to post it during the run up to Chriustmas.  Obviously.  It’s about a Christmas tree.  The Christmas tree in the picture was still up.  I was staring at it while typing,  I couldn’t avoid it! And then … well, life happened, stuff happened.  It always does when I’m trying to write something meaningful.  Or alcohol fuelled.  Although the case with the latter is that said alcohol invariably runs out and I’m left with random traces of what I was intently thinking when the thought process began…
I’m pretty anal when it comes to doing things properly, particularly around the house.  everything has to be done just-so.  Organised.  Planned.  In the same order each time.

If I’m out, working or whatever, and O/H decides to ‘help’ by doing the laundry, it ends up being more work.

If I have a laundry day, I have all the laundrybins emptied, bedrooms scouted for socks and pants hidden under beds and down the sides of cupboards; everything washed according to colour/material/owner/importance; at suitable temperatures and speeds; dried in a suitable method corresponding to the labels/requirements; then folded/ironed/flattened; and all put away carefully, all in the same day.

If O/H decides to ‘help’ ; it’s a hotch potch of things all washed at 60 on the ‘quick wash’ setting, chucked in the dryer; and piled into a washing basket and left to crease until the “cleaning fairy” comes to sort it out.

So, recently, now that I’ve been working my Christmas Job for a couple of weeks, I’ve been out of the home more than I’ve been in it.  And when I’ve been in it I’ve been trying to sleep.

And last year, he complained he was left to ‘do it all’ (i.e. wrap the presents) himself.  So, we’ve already had a present wrapping evening.

He brought the 4 (yes, 4, very large) boxes of Christmas decorations (that we’ve collected over the years in our various countries and locations around the world) and set up the tree (that’s 5 years past its 10-year guarantee and still looking good; so we’ve saved cutting down 15 perfectly innocent trees) ; and then, with the help of the children (ARGH!), and now, the Scout Elf (don’t shoot me, it’s our first year; and I have a friend to blame for introducing the idea); have been helping…D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R

Years ago, I was a stickler for everything being red and gold, only, on the main tree.  And NO LAMETTA!  (Mother had a phase of chucking far too much – although ANY is far too much as far as I’m concerned – lametta, very randomly, all over the tree after meticulously placing every other ornament; no I’m allergic to the stuff.  Emotionally.)

When we moved around; it was nice to have the odd ‘special’ ornament placed with pride to display, amongst the carefully selected co-ordinating decorations.

And, I have my preferred order of placement….you know….lights first; then all the gold ornaments, each varying size/shape group done seperately, then all the red ornaments, in a similar fashion, standing back in between the placement of each group of ornaments to ensure the feng shui is just right and the placements look even and equally distrubuted around the entire tree (from each angle from which the tree can be viewed, of course); followed by the intentionally clear and consice placement of the special, one-off, family heirloom ornaments, showing our family life over the years and around the globe.  Some represent family members who can’t be with us.  Others show images or are themselves reminders of the children as they have grown up, from their different Christmasses, to particularly delightful hand made ornaments from school.

Finally, any large expanses of green remaining (not much), is filled with some classy looking, thick and sumptuous tinsel, in corresponding colours to the rest of the decor.

And, last but not least, the angel we’ve had since our first Christmas together is then places atop the tree.

Not this year.

Nope.  I ended up coming home to the ready decorated tree that the children and O/H had decorated themselves.

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And I lacked the energy all season to bother removing everything and starting again.

So, I spent all December looking at it.  And it drastically reduced my Christmas viewing pleasure of “Christmas 24” and other such sappy seasonal film channels, since the tree was positioned in very close proximity to the TV.

(Incase anyone’s wondering, the tree train track is usually there, since it was given to #1 for his first, or second, Christmas; it’s just usually blended in better and more effective and pleasing to the eye.  Also, you really have to have the train running on it to enjoy the full effect…)

Lesson learned.  Stealthily decorate the tree in the middle of the night next year before anyone else gets their hands on the decorations boxes …

Posted in Acting, Christmas, Creative, Family, Holiday

The Christmas Kitchen is open!

Last year, when we were all higgeldy-piggeldy and made the last-minute, unplanned move back to the UK, and O/H was having trouble a) finding work and/or b) holding it down once he’d found it; I saw an ad looking for Mrs Claus for a local large hotel’s Santa’s grotto.  Not sure how I stumbled across it but, well, it just seemed like fun.  I thought, what the heck? I applied for it on a whim. Of course, I expected them to be looking for white-haired ladies with a few more years behind them. So I was surprised to say the least when I was actually offered the job.   Of course, I’m going for more of the “Santa Clause 2” Elizabeth Mitchell version of Mrs. Claus, than the Angela Lansbury or Judy Cornwell version …

It was the first year they’d had Mrs Claus at their Grotto, so it was pretty much a chance to make use of my acting and improv skills … which I hadn’t used in so many years.

Basically, Mrs Claus at this grotto, runs a ‘kitchen’, baking gingerbread.  Children, while waiting to see the big man, come in, sit by a table and get to decorate a gingerbread christmas tree with icing and dolly-mixtures. A far more fun and participatory experience than standing in line, probably in rain, or snow, for ages.  Of course, there are always people who find something to complain about.  But, as in any of my past experinces in face-to-face customer service, we tell ourselves through gritted teeth, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.  If someone had a problem with one aspect, it would be corrected.  Very soon, someone would have an issue with that correction.  If someone felt there was too much ‘waiting around’ (the word Queue is banned at Christmas!!), then procedures were put in place to streamline the process; then someone would feel that the new procedures were ‘rushing them through’ the experience…

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This year, there are changes; some of the ‘old’ things I miss; other changes are welcome, to both staff, and more importantly, wide-eyed excited visitors who constantly enquire when they will see Santa.  Nothing like building anticipation!

On Christmas eve last year, Santa asked me if I’d consider coming back {this year}. I thought about it for  a moment, and decided I would.  (Luckily, he said he would too, so, along with two of las year’s elves, I’m not the only returnee!)

For all the difficulties, discomforts and downfalls the job brought with it, spending the month of December watching, smiling and laughing, and interacting with countless amazed and excited children really is the best way of filling you with the Christmas spirit!

That, and watching Elf and Frozen on repeat for a whole month …

“Let it go….let it go….”

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(Update – amusingly, someone reviewed the grotto on a rather well known review site, part of which stated Mrs Claus didn’t look like Mrs Claus – which amused me since how does one not look like an imaginary character?! – and the majority of the review reduced things the reviewer didn’t particularly like to “stupid” and “boring”.  Yes, just those two words.  over and over again.  Great use of vocab, there, nothing like constructive criticism, is there?!)

 

Posted in Family, Life, Medical, Women's Issues, writing

The last time I saw Paris …

I haven’t been to Paris for 20 years. And I haven’t posted here for a few days.

Last night I was reminded with a jolt why I began blogging, properly, I mean – rather than signing up, writing one post then forgetting about it.

I’m not going to write yet another lament about Paris.  The attacks.  Those terrorists. I’m not going to speculate on who was responsible or what their cause may have been.  Yes, we all know, and have shared in countless tweets and Facebook statuses (stati???), how horrified we are; how we’ll all stand with the people of Paris; how we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.  Yes, we’re all devastated.  Yes, it’s scary and awful and should never have happened …

Last Thursday should have been my LLETZ appointment at the Colposcopy Clinic. Remember? I wrote this blog entry about being told I’d ‘failed’ my cervical smear test; and got sent for a biopsy…

I ended up having to cancel it … turns out it’s that time of the month . And the letter said to call and reschedule if that was the case.  I called twice, the day before, when it was obvious I wouldn’t make it.  I got an answermachine, and left a message.  It said “If you wish to cancel your appointment, leave your name and address; if you wish to speak to someone in the clinic, leave your name and phone number and someone will call you back”.  I left my name and number and message…hoping that I would get a call back to reschedule. I called later and got the same answer machine.  I called the next morning – the day of the appointment, and got the same message, so I left the same message, still expecting a call back.

That was two days ago.  I have resigned myself to the fact that, if they got my message, they will just send out another appointment letter.  I was hoping they wouldn’t do that.  I was hoping they would call me back and actually make an appointment with me, so I could check my diary.  Because it’s almost December.  And December this year, as I did last year, I will be living in Christmas again.

Last year, on a whim, I applied to play Mrs Claus at a large hotel.  it really, truly, was a magical, fun, happy experience.  Of course the pay was crappy and some of the people one had to work with were … well … lacking people skills, and the Christmas Spirit.  Some of the masses and masses of crowds of people jostling for their chance to see the big guy also lacked the spirit of Christmas; there were instances of nastiness and meanness from various sides that could have brought one to tears; BUT, Santa asked me, as we neared Christmas Eve, if I would consider doing it again; and I had little doubt in saying yes, almost immediately.  He agreed.  There were instances, people, occasions, that COULD have ruined Christmas for us all; but there were SO many more magical little instances that made us want to risk coming back.  The happier, smilier, most amazed of the children (and the adults, a surprisingly large number of whom displayed amazing Seasonal spirit!); the individual stories we would hear about, and from the mouths of, certain visitors … someone who had just lost a parent or grandparent; someone who wanted a nice photo with Santa because it might be their last photo; Someone who was so full of amazement and wonder because they’d never seen anything like this before; a group of school children whose class elf had disappeared a week before, then suddenly found his way into my sack of dolly-mixtures … all made the downsides of the job almost disappear.

I wanted to speak to someone and make my appointment in person, so that I could know the date, and not have to worry about another letter with another inconvenient date, dropping through the door.  Because with all the ‘not knowing’, something known and definite would be nice.  And it would be nice if they could at least let me have Christmas, without having to worry about it.

Like for a while, I’ve imagined I could feel a difference between one breast and the other.  The other morning I happened to mention it to the Other Half.  And with all this not knowing he leaped on it and immediately made an appointment at the doctors.  They had a cancellation, so I was there within 20 minutes.  The GP was reassuring, and happy – well, it was first thing in the morning, he hadn’t had the rest of the day to drag him down yet, I suppose – I apologised and explained about the abnormal smear and the waiting for the LLETZ appointment and that O/H, and me I suppose, were on heightened Cancer alert I suppose; anyway, I put it down to my right hand being a lot stronger than my left hand and it being very difficult to tell if both sides were the same; or very different; and in all honesty, I’d been breastfeeding up till a few months before; not to mention had 3 pretty close together; so couldn’t recall what ‘normal’ really was anyway.  He put my mind at ease, had a check (with a chaperone) and was pretty confident he couldn’t feel any difference in tissue on either side.  So, one minor weight, which I hadn’t really mulled over much anyway, off my mind.  But it did awaken me to the fact that it really is always there, in the background, affecting every decision I make.

Which brings me back to last night.  And this post.  And why last night made me remember to post.

My first post when I began this blog was a wake-up call.  A relative had written an autobiography of sorts.  Other relatives, although still with us physically, are, for all intents and purposes of learning from them, their philosophies, their history, their lives, are all but lost to us.  And then, there are relatives, remembered fondly, with whom I wish I could still chat. Now I’m older, and have children, and have had experiences I could have shared with them, there are more things I would have liked to have asked them, and learned from them.  And it makes me sad that I won’t. And in most of those cases, it wasn’t sudden.  They were old, and ill, or we could see it coming. And I committed to writing something of my life, even if just here, in a random corner of the internet that most people will never stumble across; so if there ever was a question my children wanted answered; or wanted my opinion on; maybe they’ll find some answer from me.

Photo courtesy of Catherine Fryer
Photo courtesy of Catherine Fryer

Last night, people went out for dinner, or to a concert, or to a sports game.  And never came home.

They didn’t live in a war zone; or in a region regularly terrorized by hurricane scale weather patterns; they didn’t even live in a country under military rule or in a permanent state of civil unrest.  They lived in a country in which I have one close relative already living an idyllic lifestyle; and this week another, even closer relative, has been driving around checking out peaceful places and  properties with a view to settling there within a few years.

In 2013, a helicopter crashed into a pub full of people who had, simply, gone to the pub for a quick pint.  Even crossing the road or sitting in your car are not things people think of as being dangerous. But events like a trucks breaks failing or driver error, to the families of people who are now no longer here; have this devastating effect as a shooting, or a bombing, or a typhoon … someone dies.  And more often than not, people die, for no reason, in the middle of their lives. No matter how many times they went to the gym; how many cucumbers they ate or how many chocolate bars they didn’t. Far more people seem to die when they didn’t ‘plan’ to.

So don’t worry about trying to live forever.  Just make sure you live, while you have the chance. And take pictures, and keep a diary. Leave something.

Stay safe, readers XXX  I’m off to hug my baby.

Posted in Family, Halloween, Holiday, Home, Life

Halloween

It’s never been as big a thing in the UK as the U.S.A.; not from what we can see from watching movies.  I think it’s catching on more, but the general idea of it, the way it is today, is pretty much an American invention.

I recall going to a Halloween party at Youth Club; and trick-or-treating a couple of times, when I was younger.  And then there was the BBC’s “Ghostwatch” prank which freaked my cousin and me out completely; as we were home alone babysitting her little brother, in our mid-teens.

Apart from that, it wasn’t much of a big thing.  Particularly because at this time of year, the UK had Guy Fawkes Night  to contemplate; which the U.S.A. doesn’t.

These days, however, far more than when I was young; there seem to be more Halloween discos, more fancy dress costumes for sale in the shops; pumpkins for sale just about everywhere; another hint as to our Americanisation – since they’re native to North America .

In our house, we’ve become more involved in it since living very close to the U.S.A., surrounded by Americans, while living in The Bahamas for a couple of years.  We’ve collected enough Halloween decorations for the container to almost (not quite) rival the Christmas Decorations box.  And the O/H has discovered a talent for carving.  So, in honour, today’s post has more of a visual theme to it.  Here’s some of his creations from the past few years:

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Amazing what you can do with stencils and a pumpkin carving kit from the supermarket …

Posted in Creative, Family, Halloween, Life, Nails, Women's Issues

Nails

Purely because I’ve been suffering from a mild migraine type affliction today so haven’t been feeling like concentrating on much.  Therefore those things which demand my attention every day regardless used up what little care I had to spread around!

So today, whilst doing this to my nails in a few minutes of down time …

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… it occurred to me to let you know about this little hobby of mine.

I’m not too shallow when it comes to clothes or shoes or make-up.  I have a penchant for handbags; well, bags and luggage in general.  (I think I spent too long working with baggage at the airport a few years ago).  I’ll dress up when I need to – I love a good party and dancing the night away but rarely get a chance to anymore – when I do I like to make the effort.  Make-up I use for, well, making myself up to appear on something; or performing as something.  For example, I’ll be digging out the blusher big time for Mrs Claus’s rosy cheeks next month.  But I’m not one of these who will just die if I have to leave the house without make-up.  In fact, I frequently do.  But Nail Art is something I find fun.

I won’t go to a salon and pay someone a fortune to ‘do’ my nails.  It would be a fruitless waste of my time (if I had any to myself) and money (ditto) , since when I wasn’t there, the nails, be they fake or well manicured; spend the vast majority of their time immersed in liquid….soaking nappies; washing dishes; or being put to good use scraping dried Weetabix from the breakfast table. But, I’ve found that with any addiction I may have succumbed to, the easiest way to overcome it is to replace it with another, slightly more palatable one.  So, many years ago, I trained myself to stop biting my nails by spending more time taking care of them and decorating them.  This was fine when I was working in my first ever full-time regular job, which was in a call center.  In fact, they became a little amusing talking point at team meetings.  A couple of years later, after traveling the USA and Brazil, I started working at the Airport and became subject to uniform regulations (Yup, there was a rule book for that too), which demanded we be ‘well manicured at all times’.  Which was fine, as far as care and attention went; but did restrict my creativity to a few very similar colours that ‘matched or complimented’ the colours of the uniform.  And strictly no stripes, patterns or glitter.

Having babies is another chink in the armour of keeping one’s nails interesting.  They just NEVER stay asleep long enough for the darn things to dry.

Now, I’ve already mentioned how I didn’t know what to blog about, I’ve tried before and failed.  I’ve searched and searched for a ‘thing’ – some people blog about children; some people blog about travel; some people blog about Nail Art… I could never settle on just ONE aspect of my life to blog about.  I’d be leaving so many interesting things out!  So, I’m not claiming to be an expert at it or anything; or anywhere near as good as some of the video tutorials or real Nail art bloggers out there.  Nor would I want to be.  I’ve got far more important things to do with my time than JUST do my nails.  But, since it replaced the chewing and biting and generally uncomfortable and ugly habit, I did, and still do, feel half undressed if my nails are not ‘done’.  I don’t mean ALWAYS having bright garish colours or crazy patterns, or even any colour at all, on them.  I mean, if they’re not neatly filed, or evenly trimmed;  If I’ve managed to rip one whilst doing housework, or chipped one doing the gardening; then it continuously bugs me until they’re sorted, neat and tidy and with at least one coat of clear nail varnish or nail treatment on.

Regardless, over the past few years, have managed to get up quite a nice collection of pictures of nails I decorated. So, without further ado, here’s some of my favorites.

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Posted in Acting, Family, Movies

Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon

Not a long post, really.  Just thought it might amuse a few readers to mention:

I had a night in with my sister and a mutual friend for my birthday this year.  Which is by the by.  But at some point during the drinking, sis mentioned to friend how I was usually pretty good at Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon; based on my random yet extensive film knowledge.  Not sure I can live up to her lauding, but I CAN do 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon with myself.

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Kevin Bacon was in A Few Good Men with Demi Moore, who was in St Elmo’s Fire (which has an awesome title track, by the way); which also starred Andrew McCarthy (who I adored in Mannequin, incidentally), who did a movie called Dead Funny, which was exec produced by my grandfather.

Which I think is 3, or 4 degrees.  Depending on how you count it.  Or 5.  Definitely not 6.

The end.

Posted in Family, Home, Medical, Women's Issues

It is unlikely that you have cervical cancer…

It’s always nice to receive mail that’s not a bill.  Right?  Especially when it contains a line like that. How reassuring.

I’m sure that’s what their intention was when they formulated the bog-standard automated response to be sent to people who’s regular routine cervical smear test returns ‘abnormal results’.

Except, it’s not.

The ONLY reassuring answer when waiting for the results of being scraped by a nurse at your local surgery or clinic or other chosen location would be the other bog-standard automated response; namely “Your results were normal.  See you in 3 years”.

Definitely not “In some women these abnormal results can develop into cancer”; or “Only about one out of three women would develop cancer in the future”.  Or even on the most recent leaflet  “Treatment is nearly always 100% successful”.

It’s not so much the actual results, or the wording of the letters that’s the worst thing.  It’s the waiting.

I’m sure every woman, in whichever country they experience their regular screening, feel that tinge of ‘What if…’, even if just for a fleeting moment; between the run-of-the-mill appointment at their GP surgery, and waiting for that letter telling you your smear test results are normal.  And then experiencing that wave of relief you never even realised you were waiting for when you do finally receive that normal results letter.  Even the time between those two moments seem endless.  If you stop to think about it.

I’m in my mid-thirties.  I’ve had my fair share of smear tests.  First in the UK, then when we moved to New Zealand, now back in the UK again.  I’m used to waiting around for a few weeks, pushing the “What if..” to the back of my mind; then feeling weirdly elated when that letter finally drops on the mat telling me I’m fine.  Even though I’d felt that way and been living as though nothing was wrong, until they told me nothing was wrong with me, anyway.

When you're waiting for that letter ...
When you’re waiting for that letter …

But this time was different.  There was the reminder from Cervical Screening Wales to make my cervical smear test appointment.  So I did.  Then the surgery didn’t remind me about that appointment, so I missed it. (OK, OK, I know … It had skipped my mind to add it to my calendar on my phone – my usual means of organising my life these days, and hadn’t looked at the kitchen diary – the usual means of organising everyone else’s lives – in a while; and for some reason I was still in a New Zealand frame of mind when it came to GP appointments.  They used to text a reminder out.)  Sometime in November it suddenly struck me…”I’m sure I made a smear appointment for November” I said out loud to the OH one day.  I made a mental note to check.  Sure enough, there it was in the kitchen diary for about 2 weeks prior.

No biggie.  I made another mental note to call and make another appointment.

Which I, of course, forgot to do.  Until the next reminder came in the post.  This time I made the appointment, and made sure I noted it in about 3 different places. The nurse was only a little concerned that my last recorded test had been in 2005, after I said we’d been living abroad, and I was pretty sure I had one in at least 2009 after #1 was born. (I’ve since found the “You’re OK” letter from that test, it was actually dated sometime in 2010, so must have been after I had #2).

And that was that.  And eventually the letter arrived from the NHS. Ah, there we go.

You know when you open a letter you’re pretty much expecting and just scan it quickly to assure yourself it’s what you thought?  Well, that’s what I did. “Your Colonoscopy appointment?  what bloody colonoscopy appointment?” I muttered.  OH looked equally puzzled. “What?” he said, or something along the lines. “Oh, no, Colposcopy.” I corrected myself. And set about actually reading what it said.  The results of my smear test were abnormal.  An appointment had been made for me at the colposcopy clinic. Along with a leaflet explaining stuff.  sort of.

The initial screening test leaflet said something about 1 in 10 women showing abnormal results.  This one said about 1 in 20.  So me having abnormal smear results made me double abnormal as I would have been before?  Great.

I’d made the mistake of consulting Doctor Google before going.  So I read a lot of stuff and some of it kind of made sense, when viewed from a certain angle.  But there was a lot of it.  I joined a Facebook support group.  And they all seemed to chat using far more complicated and unfamiliar terminology than I’d already read about; so it appeared even more daunting.

By the time I went for this colposcopy appointment, I was expecting all kinds of things.  I was expecting the doctor to look up in alarm and check me straight in.  I’d even thrown a travel toothbrush and spare underwear into my handbag incase I went in and didn’t come out again.

But I they didn’t subject me to all the LLETZ and scrapey and pokey things the others on the Facebook group had been talking about.  They took a biopsy. Not even the scary sounding “Cone Biopsy” type I’d been reading about which would have meant going under and being kept in.  A mild (yet very sore) scrape, taking barely minutes, a bit of pain killing stuff added; then he wipes his hands and says ‘thanks very much, I’ll write to you with the results’.  And I’m left wandering aimlessly to the changing area on my own, feeling a little let down that the whole visit hadn’t seemed to reach any kind of crescendo.

The day or two following were a little uncomfortable; but nothing much to write home about in themselves.  The first two weeks, however, I was dreading the outcome.  Every day I expected THE phone call or THE letter, letting me know my days were numbered and there was nothing they could do.  Every time I picked up my phone I prayed it was the agency offering me a days work, somewhere on location or a set where I could make believe I was someone else, somewhere else.

By the third and fourth weeks, it had sort of been pushed to the back of my mind.  Although I did put together a little more of an emergency overnight kit than I normally kept in my work bag.  In quiet moments – what there are when you have three small boys running you ragged – I would ponder my rich tapestry of a life a little more; take a little more stock of what I had, where I’d been and what I’d done with my years.  And, what I hadn’t. I started a simple list of “Stuff I love” and “Stuff I hate”, in the weird little mindset of – how will they plan my funeral if I don’t leave them a list of my favourite songs and movies and colours.  How will they decide where to scatter my ashes if they don’t know where my favourite place on earth is?

Then, the waiting and the wondering seemed to drop off completely.

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve barely thought about it.  I think it goes back to a post on the Facebook group, asking how long it took everyone to hear back their results from their appointment after being told they had abnormal results.  Nearly all of them had their LLETZ (Loop Excision, AKA other things.  If you really want to know, I’m sure you’ll find out) or whatever treatment, at that first appointment.  I felt a little put out having only had a  biopsy, and having to wait for results.  But from what I could gather, it was roughly 4 weeks.

I suppose that since 4 weeks had passed, I’d figured everything was fine and when I finally got the letter, it would say I was fine after all, and they’ll just do a 12 month follow up smear instead of 3 years, just to be on the safe side.

Until this morning.  When the letter arrived.  And it appears that “the biopsy that was carried out has indicated that {I} will need loop excision of the transformation zone carried out”.

And another one of those informative (!) leaflets.
Apparently, “This can be done in the outpatient clinic using local anaesthetic. This is very much like your colposcopy and takes about 10-20 minutes.”.

I think I’ll take the emergency overnight kit.  Just in case.

But at least the waiting for that particular letter is over and done with.  Just 3 weeks until the appointment.  Followed by … whatever comes next.

waitingmail2

I’m wondering if all the waiting around in between these letters and appointments is their way of preparing you to deal with the worst possible outcome.  And making you feel all the more elated if what you actually end up with is the best news.

Posted in camping, Family, Holiday, Staycation, Theme Park

Summer holidays!

Yesterday we got back from our ‘Holiday’, a camping trip to Devon.blogpic1 Ok, I know, everyone is doing it now, ‘Stay-cationing’, instead of going abroad.  The perception is that it’s supposed to be cheaper.  It’s not.  Not really.  You end up spending as much in petrol as you would on a plane ticket at today’s prices.  You still have to buy food and eat out when you can’t be bothered to cook (if you go self-catering).  You still have to entertain the children, and go and see the local sights which means paying entry fees for the privilege of feeling like a tourist.  Not to mention, camp sites; once the bastion of cheapness as far as accommodation is concerned, have cottoned on that the almighty tourist pound could now just as easily be heading their way than to the Costa-Lotta-Money; added slightly nicer facilities and wi-fi access and doubled their prices (plus extra if you take a child/dog/want electricity).

So, no, we didn’t choose to go camping to save money.  It’s just that over the years we, and the children despite their young ages, have already done the traveling thing, as it relates to planes and hotels and exotic things, many times over, and more intrepidly than most.  To the point where camping, especially in the good ol’ British climate, is a novelty.  Plus the camping equipment collected over a long period really needed an outing.  So, it was all packed up into the van and off we went, to a campsite we’d pre-booked a couple of months ago (when we had the money available to pay for it); I’d noticed in the 2006 edition of the AA Camping and Caravanning guide we had gathering dust on the bookshelf.

It seemed ideal… Woodlands Grove, complete with theme park next door with zoo farm and falconry center, indoor and outdoor play areas to keep the children occupied.  And it was!  Of course it was a little tired…it’s been there 26 years all in all, with new things being tried and tested and added all the time; and it’s not Alton Towers or Thorpe Park, and a million miles from Disneyworld, but for what it needed to be – a family orientated entertainment area for all ages in all weathers, it’s perfect!  The almost 2 year old had as much fun climbing, sliding, playing, shouting, throwing ball pit balls and chasing around as the 5 and 6 year olds did; and there was still plenty there to occupy those older (and certain rides and slides that only adult sized people could attempt…should they wish to)

It’s on hilly ground, so expect to get tired out just walking from area to area but with that said, there’s not much distance between the ‘zones’ anyway; and plenty of places to sit and rest and eat and drink.  And really, as with other theme parks though maybe not to the same extent, more to see than you can fit in to one day.

As it happens, spending more than 2 nights in the campsite entitles you to free entry into the park; and since we wanted a leveled pitch with electric hook up (Sorry, Glamping this year..not in the mood for completely Bear Gryllsing it just yet), and the minimum booking for High Season (Read = any time it’s a school holiday) was 7 nights, weekend to weekend, we booked Saturday to Saturday and therefore knew we had the theme park entry as a back up.  We saw everything, tried everything, tired out the boys, spent as much time as they wanted on different things, and they STILL weren’t bored by the end of the week.  All in all I think we spent 2-2.5 days away from Woodlands, exploring local sights and towns of interest, spent an evening at the Salcome Regatta nearby; but were easily entertained and suitably nourished by 3-4 full days within the theme park and its choice of food outlets and refreshment booths.

We have one boy who’s more into thrill rides so found enough to excite him; another who loves any creature feature (he was thrilled to be able to help collect the chicken eggs – every day at 5pm – and watch pig racing, and hold a giant snail and a tarantula and a cockroach; and see bats and other nocturnal animals in the dark; and a fearless toddler who would love to do what the other two do…and had the chance, because the toddler areas were safe enough for toddlers but still fun enough for the older two to participate and find the fun in them too.

Of course, it’s camping, so there’s enough mud and dirt and bugs to go around, but as with most camp sites these days, there are unisex/family cubicles and washing up facilities and coin-operated laundry, and on-site shop for bread and milk and a selection of bits and bobs and camping accessories.

Highly recommended…in all honesty, I was expecting a little less from the theme park but it more than lived up to expectations.  And we had a couple of ‘hot’ days (by UK standards!) to make the most of getting soaked on the water slides and not freezing to death afterwards!

Just in case anyone’s interested, our tent (pictured at the top) is one like this although not sure about UK retailers, we acquired it while traveling in the USA.  Other items we’ve gathered over the years from various camping outlets like Go Outdoors, and Ebay and car boot sales.