Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happiness is...

Something a bit mellow to share with you, I just thought this was beautiful both visually and in message to end the year with - and hope the new one brings peace, love and happiness to all

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Sale away

Over the past few days I have eaten chocolate and cake for breakfast and supper, justified drinking before noon, given and received, and watched more crap television than I usually do in the whole rest of the year. So that was Christmas. Now what? Well in true tradition of the consumer society of course we are usually encouraged by 'them' to spend spend spend some more in the sales. I have never been a big post Christmas saler, the cost and hassle of all that pre-Christmas Day shopping tends to be more than enough for me. Plus if I really really need something (not just want it, lust for it, or panic buy because it's a *bargain* - proper need is my new buying barometer) there's this handy thing called the internet now. Nothing (bar a brand new Mercedes for a fiver, okay everyone has their price) would make me queue up outside a shop.
But having said all that- the one thing I always fall for are lovely luscious notebooks. Many moons ago my favourite bit of going back to school was buying new stationery, going to the local newspaper/book/stationery/toys/random gifts shop in our small town and choosing a new pencil case, pencils, pens, and notebooks. I still can't resist them - smart or snazzy, posh or quirky, oversize or tiny - I love notebooks. These are my latest, bought on a Christmas present shopping outing when I spotted them - already reduced in price - bargains! I couldn't resist getting them for myself and I do have my eye on a nice moleskine which I'm sure is going to come down in price really really soon. But I will use them (eventually), they are practical as well as gorgeous - so they definitely pass the 'I need and not just want' test...

Monday, 12 December 2011

Tree-mendous traditions

It's that time of year, Christmas, one of life's constants appearing on the same day year after year. Except it does of course change as life moves along, family changes, children grow up. As my son's got older I no longer need to leave Rudolph's hoof prints outside, although I do still leave a mince pie and tot of whisky out for Santa but that's really for my benefit - my son is 16 and no longer believes in Santa Claus. He does however still go to the panto with his grandma, insist on a Christmas CD playing in the car from 1 December, come with me to get the tree (always 'the biggest' - I'm sure it's a boy thing) and, once he's left me to do the decorations, he will appear in the living room and grace me with his presence to switch on the lights. Long may it continue!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The blame game

In April Im going on a charity trek to Peru to raise funds for Breast Cancer Care. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology I'm now in touch with about a dozen of the other trekkers most of us have signed up solo to do this. Theyre a wonderful sounding bunch of women all doing this to raise money for a cause that will affect us all in one way or another - if you're not directly affected as one in eight now are, you'll undoubtedly know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. It's great to get to know the others, not least as we'll be spending time together under extremely challenging and unusual circumstances. It's also fascinating to find out why others are doing it - some of us have had breast cancer diagnosed, others have mums, sisters, aunties, friends affected. One thing it really does bring home is the total unpredictability of this disease, it can affect anyone at all, at any age, and whatever your lifestyle, eating habits and general health. One of the things I did when I was diagnosed, at least initially, was to give myself a hard time questioning whether I had 'done' or 'not done' things that could've caused me to be one of the one in eight who get this. And the answer is - I will never know.

So to see yet another report baldly and badly stating that nearly half of all cancers, including breast cancer, can be prevented by living a 'healthier' lifestyle makes me more than a little cross. Yes of course a healthier lifestyle can help prevent all sorts of things, is good for you, is the best way to live and should be encouraged. But to give a general impression that it's your own fault if you get any cancer is disingenuous and dangerous.  As any oncologist will tell you, cancer is not just one simple disease, it is complex and there are many different types which affect people in many different ways and need different types of treatment. There are other issues not really mentioned in this report such as genetics, environmental factors, chemicals put onto and into food, cosmetics and more, that all could also possibly in some way contribute. Or not.

My disappointment with this report was matched by the fact that on the same day there was news that cancer patients who are going through chemotherapy treatment are going to have to be assessed to see if they 'qualify' for welfare benefits rather than automatically get them. You can read about this here. Anyone who has been through or been close to anyone who has been through chemotherapy can tell you that even if you don't feel ill when you're first diagnosed it can be the treatment itself that can make you ill. Bizarrely cancer treatment can be as life threatening as the illness itself. To suggest that people going through it are some kind of 'benefit scroungers' as this latest move implies borders on something like a Chris Morris spoof story. 

Sadly it's fact not fiction - even sadder is that out of these two news stories today, one got big headlines in pretty much every media outlet - the other was tucked away in some and ignored by many. Guess which was which?

Monday, 5 December 2011

Learning curve

So there goes November in fact here we are now well into December. There goes my first time taking part in National Novel Writing Month - how was it for you?
Well for me my total word count was 22,673 words, not quite halfway to the magical 50,000 words. But that is 22,673 words more than I may have written otherwise. I joined it for a bit of a kick start, a bit of fun and to see if I could do it. I'm not going to say I 'failed' or didn't do it, hey I was in the rebel group from the start due to writing a memoir, and I have learnt such a lot from just having a go.

I discovered surprisingly that the best time for me to get a lot of writing done undisturbed and undistracted is early morning, setting my alarm earlier and having an hour from 6-7am was a great kick start and revelation. But as I also discovered if you have a tendency for insomnia then getting up at 6am is not always feasible especially if you've only got to sleep two hours beforehand.

Of course I have to earn a living too and a couple of unexpected work related trips away also ate into the writing plans. And I found that once I was behind on my self imposed daily targets it was difficult to catch up- the plan B back up plan of whole day(s) dedicated to just writing never happened. I do however now know that I do need a plan, some structure and targets to work with to give some kind of impetus and measure of progress. Just waiting for the muse to strike and words to flow won't work for me.

On the positive side thanks to NaNo:
I have written 22,673 words of a memoir that I want to carry on with
I have been to and enjoyed my first ever writing workshop
I have started this blog
I have been writing other things too including an article published on another website
It's helped me realise what I enjoy and what I'd like to be doing
It's helped me realise that even though I enjoy and like to be writing, distractions are many and discipline is needed!

Would I do it again? Yes, definitely. But not just once a year, I think I'll have my own kind of NaNo every month from now on (here's another 422 words added to December's total!)