Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Hat of Power...

I've been feeling a bit uninspired with regards to blogging recently, though that's not to say I haven't been on and tried to write. Every time I sit down it seems to lead to a massive personal rant about genuinely insignificant things that have been ticking me off. But then something happened yesterday and I cannot help but mentioning my astonishment.

The thing that happened didn't happen to me. In fact it had nothing to do with me. It happened down in London and was broadcast via the BBC right into my television set. The thing that happened was...

 When the Princess first stepped out of the car the feed cut back to the Queen in the Abbey, and I couldn't quite bring myself to believe what I'd just seen...I wondered if it was a trick of the camera angle but...did she have a pair of antlers on her forehead? When she later reappeared on the camera, and showed her profile to the world, my worst fears were confirmed.

I'm not a fashion expert, you can ask anyone who knows me well. But whatever is or isn't in fashion, some things just don't look good. There's no doubt this extravagent piece is expertly err...sculpted...but with the greatest respect to Beatrice (because hand on heart, I love the royals, I love everything about them and I love watching them go about their perculiar little lives and wouldn't wish any of them ill) I would sooner imagine that particular little motif (I say's bigger than her own face!) as a piece of plaster molding on the wall of some great and extravegant palace. God knows it's the right colour for it!

There are bigger problems in the world than the poor taste in headgear that seems to plague this poor princess (who has a bit of a reputation now for wearing everything but the kitchen sink on her noggin) but I do have to wonder...what were you thinking? Didn't you know it's rude to try and upstage the bride?

I also wonder whose idea was this. The milliner responsible for the eye catching creation was one Philip Treacy, who kitted out 36 guests with their headwear including Mrs. Beckham. She apparently had a hand in the design and it was rather sleek and elegant considering the event (a royal wedding is just prime candidacy for the wierd and wonderful in hat wear after all.)

I mean just look at's a world away from that monstrosity gracing Beatrice's forehead (and it is her forehead, just how it passes for a "hat" per se is also beyond my fashion retarded brain). There can only be one conclusion...that she herself must have said "I want something that sticks from my forehead like a pair of antlers".

Well anyhow. Other than that I quite enjoyed watching the wedding yesterday and wasn't the Bride just lovely? According to my sister, mum kept going on about how much her wedding dress was like mine but to be fair I had a full lace overcoat as opposed to Kate's short bolero type thingy....All I can say is...I'm the wedding hipster, I was wearing lace over my dress before Kate Middleton :p

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A lovely birthday weekend!

So I got back from the  very much unfrozen north last night feeling very happy and bouncy after a lovely weekend away. I'll admit I'm feeling a little under the weather today but that's because I woke up at 3am this morning with an almost completely numb left hand..or at least, my fingers at any rate. At first I thought oh dear, I'm coming on with a migraine, but since it failed to materialize and the numbness remains I'm assuming it's some sort of repetitive strain type thing (because, you know, I have a medical degree and know all about these things, obviously...haah). At the minute the numbness has reduced down to my index finger and thumb and kind of down the edge of my middle finger but it's still odd. So I'm feeling quite as bubbly or bouncy right now because I've got my hand all strapped up and it's just freaky, but in general everything is good and Ben and I both agree that weekend away was just what the doctor ordered!

We didn't do too much because the folks had pre arranged appointments (must have been pre arranged a loooong time ago....) but we had a lovely time with my Granny, who seemed more than happy to have us there. My birthday was lovely and I got lovely gifts. From Ben I got a lovely heart shaped locket, I got a beautiful new shirt from my Gran. From the kids I got a recipe journal and from mum and dad I got a kindle, which were all wonderful and means I've been able to cross them off my 101 in 1001 list ;)

Whilst I was up I decided to finally get a start on the task of taking 1001 photos in 1001 days, which I added to the list because I never take pictures and I really wish I did more! Sadly I forgot to pack my camera but I used my phone instead. It doesn't really have a good zoom function or anything and I don't think it has a flash but for taking pictures outside in the sunshine I think it's generally much better quality than my camera (being that said camera is now 6 years old). I managed to take the first 58 piccies, but of course I'm not going to put them all up here ^_^. I've been uploading them to a select few friends and family only album on facebook for the purpose of verifiying that I actually did it and because I know my dad isn't exactly enamoured with the thought of being plastered all over the net. But for the sake of sharing my challenges with you guys, here are some of the nicest photo's from the weekend ^_^

We also built a sandcastle with a moat which I was also able to cross off my list :) It's more like a space age fortress though hehe

Haha, Spice is such a camera whore!


Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Here's to the weekend!

I've not had too much to post about this past week and I always thought that unless I were trying to NaBlo, you shouldn't just spurt out random rubbish. Still, I've missed typing away so I thought I should probably pop my head in and say "hey, I'm still alive!"

Tomorrow is the start of my weekend as we board the coach for County Durham. I've got a million and one things that need to be sorted but I'm so very hot and I can't open the windows to cool off...hayfever season is well and truly here and I've burnt up about three forests worth of tissues today alone! Plus I've been awake since half five when three young *ahem* gentlemen crashed a car into (I assume from the looks of the scene) the school gates opposite my bedroom and woke me up before fleeing the scene (leading to the initial conclusion that the damned thing must have been stolen but who knows huh...).

Alas, despite the fact that I'm tired and streaming mucus and wanna just curl up in bed with the fan on me, chores need to be done. For one, I need to pack (not too an arduous task) and I need to run through the kitchen and bathroom with the bleach and a scrubber...not that either is particularly horrendous, indeed I've actually grown a taste for this housekeeping gig...but I always have terrible visions of coming back from time away to find creatures growing and/or breeding in the flat.

This isn't helped by the fact that for all I know there already are little creatures growing and/or breeding in the place while we're already here. Ben swore that he'd heard scratching in the walls for a while and then on, I think, Thursday night last week, we heard an almighty loud SQUEAK...oh yes, we had mice and they were fighting amongst each other.

Ben named "the mouse" Benedict. It's a little tradition we's not the first time we've had mice in here and last time I believe we had Sir Cuthbert and Count Friedrick von Squeakenburg. A lot of people are afraid of mice, and when they appear out of seemingly no where and dash at lightening speed accross your living room floor it can be quite startling. Naming the mice was one of the ways in which we managed to overcome our anxieties and illogical and ill placed fear of them. It is a good technique right up until the point you have to dispatch them and find yourself even more illogically emotionally attached to them. Sadly we've no place to let them free without putting others at risk of an invasion, and that to me is irresponsible considering the disease they potentially carry. Sending them as humanely as possible to mousey heaven by hand was usually the only option (when for example the snap trap only caught their leg or they found themselves in a glue trap and unable to move but very much alive). We've both spilled a few tears over those furry little darlings.

Saturday, shortly after posting my last blog whilst Ben was at work, something caught the corner of my eye. I turned to see Benedict staring up at me from under the desk.

Look at him...taunting me with his mousey eyes...

 He made a few more appearences from there. I groaned inwardly, but when Ben got home we decided it was probably high time we moved the desk out from its resting place and take a peak underneath which hadn't happened since we rolled it into place the first time two and a half years ago, and something which filled us with trepidation since it is up on wheels and has a solid shelf bottom on which to place the other words there was quite a considerable area of carpet that hadn't seen the light of day for a looong time.

What we found was more or less as bad as we expected and Ben got to cleaning. I'll admit I had to step back and allow him to do the lion's share since the dust was making me ill, though despite what he will say I did do an awful lot of decluttering and sorting and organizing of various belongings which had over the years migrated to that part of the flat. Behind the desk is a small shelf like skirting board which I presume acts as a cover for the hot water pipes leading from the boiler to the kitchen and bathroom... it had a few little mousey presents on it so we scrubbed it with bleach (you may or may not have guessed, but when it comes to making sure things are SUPER CLEAN I will automatically reach for a cleaner containing bleach. I love the chlorine smell...makes me think mmmm clean...). We also cleaned out a cubby hole by the desk underneath the kitchen counter (our flat is open plan so this cubby hole is in the back of the kitchen cupboards if that makes sense...) where the pipes emerge and the mice seem to have been using as an entry point. We had been storing old games and VHS's (which we no longer have a player for so go figure) which I have been begging Ben to get rid of since we were still in a shared student house. We also bleached the hell out of this, especially around the presumed mouse holes. We hoovered and dusted and chucked old junk out and bleached some more for good measure, hoping that the strong smell would discourage any further emergences of the little beasts.

We looked upon our achievement with pride, cleared and decluttered and dusted, we had managed to clean up and clear a not inconsiderable area which was previously unusable (and space in our tiny flat is at a premium).

And then little Benedict came waddling along the freshly bleached skirting board, looking at us as if to say "wow chaps, thanks for the room service!"

So we've set the traps. He made very public appearences all throughout the weekend right up until yesterday...I've no doubt he's still around, just biding his fear is that "while the cats are away the mice will play" and especially fear that he may end up in the trap and start to stink the place out while we're away. Still, we can't just leave him to it. Sigh.

Well anyway, tomorrow whether or not he be around, whether or not the bathroom be pristine, whether or not my nose is running like Niagara Falls, we'll be headed up North to celebrate Easter and Birthday merriment and I am very much looking forward to it!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Six Word Saturday - Birthday!

I'm so excited for my birthday!

It's the most excited about a birthday that I've felt probably since I turned 18. Since everyone outside of my family pretty much forgot that particular day of mine I think I started dropping my standards from then! And it's's not that I don't like recieving gifts or doing something that I want to do, but I hate rubbing it in people's faces or making them feel obliged to do something for me. And then there's the fact that the past few years have been very lean...we really couldn't do anything much for the occassion up until last year, and that was such a spontaneous thing that I didn't have time to get excited about it!

Anyhow, comfortable old habit has it that at Easter we usually go down south to stay with Ben's family for the weekend but this year the Easter weekend is really late and lands slap bang on my birthday. So I thought well, we usually go somewhere over Easter, since it's my birthday we should take a break from the norm and go up north to see my family.

And now I'm all excited ^_^ We're staying with my Granny this time round so as to avoid the nasty effect that cats have on me but it's only for the weekend and we'll be up at the folks no doubt every day anyhow (my poor Gran will need her rest time from us no doubt after all :D). I really really really hope the weather stays good and we can go to the seaside or something...there's no seaside like the north east seaside (Sorry, Blackpool, personal taste I guess) and I can get to work on task 62 hopefully with the help of Nat and Chiz (hopefully that is, if Nat isn't too busy playing with his lamePod or some such thing...stupid kids growing up in to stupid adults...should be illegalized). And of course I can get started on my photo's too. I would have already done so, except there's nothing really too exciting to photograph here in my flat :p

So yes, for now I'm feeling really really very excited for my birthday and I can't wait to see the folks and please oh powers that be please make next weekend up north lovely and sunny and warm ^_^


Friday, 15 April 2011

Assassins Creed Annonymous: My name is Bex, and I hide in haystacks

So yesterday, CVG launched its WRONG Campaign against "Witless and Ridiculous Opinions Of Non-Gamers" in response to the comments of Anne Diamond and Matthew Wright on that bastion of British opinion, "The Wright Stuff" on FIVE. You can follow the link and see what sparked the vitriolic hate filled rant of a campaign against the tarnishing of gamers and the games they play. 

Alternately, you could stick around here and read another point of view. The view that, perhaps, these people really are blessed with a keen insight which allows them to see the truth* about a gamers soul damning habit. The truth which the rest of the gaming world would rather keep hidden for fear that their next "hit" may be taken away from them should it ever be revealed to the world at large.

I'm not a huge gamer. I don't really follow the news or the trends, I don't trawl wikis or look into the extra content. It's a rare thing that I really get into a game. This isn't so much because I'm uninterested in games, but it's because I know the truth and take steps to protect myself, like shunning games from my life. It isn't easy, especially with my husband being entangled in the gaming industry's web of lies; it makes it all the harder to keep their evil influence out of my home. We have bookshelves absoloutely full of the accursed things. Just looking at them makes me break out in a cold sweat, and then when I inevitably break and peel a disc carefully out of its case, I get hooked to the point of dependence. I mean, it gets really really bad. I can't sleep, because all I'm thinking about is when I can get back on the Xbox. This is something that happens to 99.9% of gamers**, and is possibly the root of all the evil

Despite the addictive potential of such games I thought I'd managed to strike a good game-life balance. I restrained my gaming to only 17 hours of each day (pretty good going compared to some who spend some 32 terrifying hours every day*** of their lives playing games!) and even managed to tear myself away for long enough to cook wholesome food for my husband and I to fuel our forrays into Cyrodil as opposed to the traditional but wreckless gamer diesel: Hot Pockets. I even invested in a Wii Fit so that I could turn some gaming time into active workout time too, so that what little time I had with my consoles would at least be somewhat physically healthy. Playing so long left little time for other activities such as sleeping or finding a job or going to the toilet. Modern medicine provided the answer to that last one, and the threat of witholding certain physical marital acts kept Ben going to work each and every day to pay for our habit (not that we had time for that either mind you, but the male brain works in strange ways and the threat of me actively witholding the stuff from him was enough to get him running).

So all in all, compared to other gamers who eventually die penniless and covered in layers of their own excrement**** we had things going pretty well.

Until we got Assasins Creed Brotherhood with its multiplayer games...

Now, hand on heart, I didn't even have a Gold Account till this point, but watching Ben play (when he was back from work earning me money of course) "Wanted" had me enthralled - he was running around assassinating real people!!! I wanted in on the action! I immediately went to the bank to take out the massive loan needed to pay for the premium account needed to play online***** and began stalking my prey.

I struggled after this to keep my life-game balance in the equilibrium that I'd enjoyed for so long. It didn't take long for Ben to realise that I was taking up way more time than I used to, and he became violent and aggressive towards me. Having his precious gaming hours trimmed away was just too much for his over worked and under gamed brain to handle. He confronted me one evening when I had failed to prepare his dinner and demanded that I seek help for my problem. I, being so enthralled by the game, merely grunted in response to his demands. At this point, things began to get really scary.

He stormed out of the living room and into the bedroom. I barely noticed at all, but when machine gun fire smashed the television I was brought up short. I confronted him as to where his weapon had come from.

"I've been keeping it under the bed!" he mocked me.

"What, with our N64?"


"You monster!"

What followed was the most unbridled act of domestic violence Merseyside Police have ever had to deal with and eventually they had to shrug and admit the RSPCA should probably be called out. It was also the very first time a couple have been begged by the authorities to just get a damned divorce already. When the case was taken before the courts, an epic year long battle over who should get possession of the Xbox was fought and eventually I was given weekend visitation rights.

Shaken over the breakup of my marriage and the loss of custody of my precious Xbox, I was at my lowest. The worst time for game withdrawl to hit me. At one point I found myself shopping in Liverpool city centre when a young child taking a merry stroll with its mother rushed towards me, probably chasing a duck or other such wild creature that frequents the city streets. That's when the hallucinations kicked in. What I saw was not a small, gleeful child but a vengeful Llama of death, and its happy laughter was the screeching call of Satan himself. And then the worst...a great flashing neon red arrow appeared above its mighty head...the creature was a templar, hired by abstergo to kill me...

At this point I may or may not have lost control of my bowels, but my gaming instinct kicked in and my many hours of training for this moment clicked into place. I would not let the Abstergo Llama fiend get me, for I was trained in the way of avoiding such a horrific death. I reached in my pocket where, for some reason unknown to any but God himself, I found a stash of smoke bombs. I threw it at the Llama who was instantly stunned. Then I took my chance and rushed forward, kung-fu chopping the beast accross its neck, screaming my war cry of "PWNED MUTHAFUKA!"

I stood, surveying the carnage around me, hands on hips and chest inflated with pride. When the smoke finally cleared a child lay twitching at my feat covered in Red Bull and urine, its horrified mother weeping inconsolably. There was no sign of the hellish Abstergo Llama, who had obviously brutalised the poor mite****** however the police were charging towards me.

I behaved as any law abiding citizen would at this point and, seeing the end was near, bloody legged it till I found a convenient haystack which I promptly lept into. As my breathing decreased and the rush of adrenaline finally began to ebb I found myself not to be within a sweet soft haystack (and in the middle of Liverpool, what the hell was I hallucinating haystacks for anyway?) but in the back seat of a blue Ford Focus, the glass from its shattered window littered around me and leaving forensic evidence everywhere. There was no escaping it. I was apprehended and brought in.

And so it is from here on the inside that I'm finally telling my REAL story to you, to warn you of the dangerous mind altering powers of game addiction. Pay no heed to the fools and CVG, their WRONG campaign is aptly is indeed very very wrong, and wise and sage men and women such as Anne Diamond and Matthew Wright should be applauded for their depth of insight and knowlege of the games industry and the evil devil pressed discs that they peddal.

And a note to parents; don't let your children go through what I went through. Don't let them play video games. I know that'll mean you have to actually pay attention to them or hire an actual babysitter but surely that's better than falling prey to the devastating effects of game addiction as I have. It's only a matter of time before they begin stashing machine guns under their beds with their nintendo's.


* It's the truth because I say it is.
** Figures taken straight out of my big fat backside, much like Anne Diamond realy...
*** Scientists have proven beyond doubt that the Xbox warps the fabric of space-time
**** It does too happen, have you never been to Korea?
***** They don't like to flash it around, but gamers have to take out loan upon loan, sometimes even remortgaging their parents houses behind their backs just to afford to pay for the Xbox multiplayer gold service
****** My counsellor has now helped me work through my issues and I know there was never any Llama, so rest assured you can sleep safely in your beds without fear tonight

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Wee bit wednesday (1)

{one} have you ever fainted?
Once, when I was getting blood taken. My veins were, usually for that period in my life for some reason unknown to all, rather dry and not feeling too generous. I don't like needles, though a slew of hormonal tests over the past five years has toughened me up to them now. Back then it was a rare and horrific occasion. The nurse prodded and poked and twisted and squezed. Eventually she got a pump out to pump the blood right out of my arm! At this point I'd had just about enough and that was that.

{two} what is your favorite casino game?
Never been to a casino.

{three} do you have a good sense of direction?
Yes, although I will admit there have been a few times when it has failed me!

{four} laptop or desktop?
I prefer the setup of a desktop but currently my laptop is the better of the two and I haven't even touched the desktop since the laptop came into our care at Xmas.

{five} what is your go-to hair style when having a bad hair day?
Push back my fringe with a hairband and tie the ends back in a ponytail.

{six} do you read the newspaper on a daily basis?
No, but I watch the 6 o clock news every day and usually have the beeb's news site on in the backround when on the internet.

{seven} do you have a favorite celebrity chef?
Probably Jamie Oliver, though I think Gordon Ramsey is more entertaining.

{eight} what tv show would you like to make a guest appearance on?
True Blood. I'd make an awesome Maenad.

{nine} do you have satellite radio in your car?
Nope. I don’t have a car.

{ten} what was the last movie that made you cry?
I watched "Anna and the King" yesterday while doing some repair work to Ben's rain coat. Can't count the number of times I've watched that film, and can't tell you how little of it I actually saw since I was concentrating on sewing in a straight line, but I still bawled like a baby when Princess Fa-Ying died, and again when the King asks her to dance at the very end and the voice over is all "yeah he's dancing with the woman he loves but she's just a teacher so they can't be together" *weep*

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Day 26 - What kind of person attracts you?

Once again this could be a pretty ambiguous, in what way do you mean attract? That said, I'm assuming it means romantically. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to list the things, and that makes me giggle a bit because it makes me think of the song "21 things I want in a lover" by Alanis Morissette.

I remember when the album Under Rug Swept first came out. A friend of mine got hold of it and we listened to it through. We thought it was odd. I'm sure we weren't the first people in the world to think Alanis was odd, though with age I began to appreciate what she was singing about. At the time, however, I can't even describe it, something about it just sat strangely with our young brains. Most of all 21 things. We, for some reason, thought this was a very pretentious song, and the things she listed seemed very particular indeed.

Hmm. I'm going to have to dig the album out and give it another listen now methinks.

Anyhow, todays topic most definitely reminds me of this song, so here is my list of 21 things that I want in a lover
  1. Be able to take a joke. Sometimes I take no prisoners. Sometimes I'm just a dufus and don't think before I speak, so it's very important that you can take it!
  2. Have a thick skin. Not just to be able to deal with me but because weak people turn me off. I need to mother and protect such people, and whilst I'm not saying I can't or don't mother and protect my beloved (because I clearly do) it will only go so far before it gets in the way of my ability to ever see someone that way
  3.  Be flawed. People who present a "perfect" picture of themselves are usually too wrapped up in being perfect to actually pay attention to anyone else but themselves, and sorry, but I can't abide with being sidelined by someone elses ego when I have to so constantly work at curbing my own!
  4. Be a good listener. Ok there are times when Ben will start going on about something or other. Some racing series I give a shit about, or wrestling or something and I'll totally blank him. And then there are times when I'll start talking about "oh my god my virtual horses are dying! Oh my!" and he will blank me. But when it comes to the important stuff, we're very attentive. This particular point is none negotiable. I've tried to make it work with people who were less than attentive to what I had to say and, well, obviously it just didn't happen.
  5. You have to be ultra patient because I'm very trying, and I couldn't cope with someone who hasn't the patience to put up with some of my bad habits.
  6. Can't be too skinny. I like to cuddle, and I don't like it when bones stick into me :p
  7. Gotta have an interesting accent. This stems from the fact that I listen more than I talk (generally) and I like to listen to something pleasant :p
  8. Gotta appreciate creativity. I never really thought my parents appreciated mine (except, golly gosh, anything to do with music!) and so now that I'm an adult and don't have to hide it away I can't be dealing with anyone who has the same attitude as them in this regards.
  9. Gotta be able to hold an intelligent conversation.
  10. Never mind just being able to talk about it, you need to be intelligent full stop. Once again, I've tried out the alternate and it ended up really bad. For him.
  11. Some people who are intelligent try to sit on the fence and dont seem to have any opinions. It's as if they're afraid of offending or getting it wrong. No no no no no. You need to have opinions, even if they're not mine.
  12. And with regards to said opinions, you have to be able to realise that arguments or debates surrounding differing opinions really don't matter and you shouldn't take them personally. Agree to disagree and all that jazz.
  13. I'm not bothered about a "perfect body". What I do require, however, is some nice arm definition. Mmmmm....
  14. You have to give a shit about your fellow man, I couldn't ever see myself with anyone who just didn't care for the human condition.
  15. The same old same old need to be able to make me laugh!
  16. You need to have an appreciation for the "finer" things in life. Good food especially. I don't mean all of the time, I'm not that kind of person anyway, but so long as you are partial to partaking in such wonderful things then we're going to get along famously.
  17. You need to be able to socialize at least SOME of the time! 
  18. You need to be politically aware. That's straight from Alanis's list I admit, but it's the truth!
  19. You need to be up for experimentation. I don't necissarily mean in only one particular area.
  20. Along with that, being adventurous in general is desirable.
  21. Send me flowers once in a while!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Day Twenty Five

Well, getting back on track with the 30 day challenge, today the task is to write about someone who fascinates me and why...

 That's an interesting but ambiguous question. I could say that Ben fascinates me, and that living with him is like observing a strange and mysterious beast from right under its nose. I could say that any of my good friends fascinate me because otherwise I wouldn't spend time with them. I could say that "such and such an inspirational character" fascinates me because "I wanna be just like them!" but I really don't have any such heroes or role models.

Truth be told, whilst there are aspects of peoples personalities that I may not understand, beliefs that intrigue me, view points that I just can't stomach and ideas that I hold to be wholly inappropriate, I can't actually think of anyone who fascinates me. I get hooked on ideas and concepts and areas of interest, these fascinate me. The closest any person ever gets to fascinating me is if they do something that I think is stupid (Did I ever mention that I'm rather judgemental?) or if someone does something wrong by me, because then I have to follow them through for days as if being unable to peel my eyes away from a car crash.

Perhaps some people will think this "is so very terribly sad" or that I'm some kind of evil bitch. Sorry, people just don't interest me. If this means that I'm missing some great and deep influence in my life that makes me all the poorer for it then I'm all the poorer for it.

In the meantime I'll thank you never to accuse me of being a stalker, for it just would never happen!


Friday, 8 April 2011

Day Zero

So, a number of bloggers that I follow have a list of 101 things that they want to do in 1001 days. I always thought it was pretty twee and cutesy...I'm a cynic and a pessimist and think that writing lists of lifetime goals that include things like "visit x country" are nothing more than pipe dreams for show. The truth of the matter is that in my life time I may never see enough money to buy a plane ticket to Thailand, let alone in the next 1001 days.

I found the site from which the 101 in 1001 originated and saw the "rules" so to speak and the reasoning behind it, it seemed much more grounded than the list of pipe dreams I'd read elsewhere. You can read the rules and reasoning Here. Anyhow, being that I told myself at the beginning of this year that I was going to make an effort to improve upon many aspects of my life, including health, time management, getting some good habits under my belt etc...I saw this and thought well, why not start doing it now cause I sure as hell haven't done much towards it so far, and we're a quarter of the way in ^_^

So here is my 101 things I shall work to achieve over the next two and three quarter years.

Start Date: 8th April 2011
End Date: 3rd January 2014

Personal Goals

  1. Get a job
  2. Buy myself some lovely new clothes just because
  3. Move out of the flat
  4. Put £20 into a savings account every month for a year (0/12 months saved)
  5. Read 30 new books (0/30)
  6. Get back to college for some course or another
  7. Participate in and win NaNoWriMo (not just the word count as I did last year, but finish off the story too!)
  8. Write a love letter for Ben and send it in the post (Although he will now be expecting it…I shall have to be super sneaky!)
  9. Write down my worst memories and burn them
  10. Write a short story
  11. Join a campaign group for something I’m passionate about
  12. Write a letter/email to my MP about something I feel passionate about
  13. Obtain and watch last two seasons of Battlestar Galactica
  14. Hang up fresh mistletoe at Christmas
  15. Say yes to everything for a whole day (and make it a day that counts!)

Spiritual Goals

  1. Successfully give something up for lent
  2. Go to confession
  3. Pray the entire rosary
  4. Finish reading the RC Bible (5/73 books read)
  5. Attend some kind of religious study class
  6. Learn to meditate, and do so for at least 20 minutes a day for at least twenty eight days (0/28)

Health and Fitness Goals

  1. Loose 137 pounds from my heaviest weight (132 to go)
  2. Sign up for the gym
  3. Work out for at least 30 minutes every day for twenty eight days (0/28)
  4. Attend a fitness class (eg Zumba, Yoga, Pilates etc)
  5. Take my vitamins every day for at least twenty eight days (0/28)
  6. Find out my blood type
  7. Drink only water for at least 28 days (0/28)
  8. Eat fruit every day for at least 28 days (0/28)

Shopping List Goals

  1. Sofa
  2. Brand new computer
  3. Kindle
  4. An actual bed (as opposed to a mattress on the floor!)
  5. Buy seven new items of clothing – one in each colour of the rainbow (0/7)
  6. Nativity scene for Christmas
  7. Heeled shoes that are comfortable

Arts and Crafts Goals

  1. Make those new cushion covers I bought all the gear for
  2. Make wedding album
  3. Complete spiral bracelet
  4. Make weight loss tracker bracelet
  5. Go to Laila’s for a crafty day
  6. Start a scrapbook
  7. Complete bathroom embroidery sampler
  8. Make matching friendship bracelets for me and my closest friends
  9. Complete Unicorn cross stitch
  10. Draw a self portrait (and make it good enough to put it on the blog!)
  11. Make my own cosmetics
  12. Use my bead loom to create a beautiful wall hanging
  13. Take 1001 photographs (0/1001)

Good Deeds

  1. Volunteer regularly somewhere (for the sake of definitive goals, say at least 3 months) (0/3)
  2. Donate Blood
  3. Donate £5 to charity for each item on this list that I do not complete (£505 currently to be donated)

Fun times to be had

  1. Go to a concert
  2. Go to see an opera
  3. Go to see a ballet
  4. Go to see a musical
  5. Go on a weekend break to an as of yet unvisited city on the continent
  6. Take Ben to Holy Island
  7. See a movie in The Gallery
  8. Take Ben to Blackpool for the weekend
  9. Host a Murder Mystery Party
  10. Build a big fancy sandcastle with a moat
  11. Have someone else read my tarot cards for me (you know, just for a change!)
  12. Attend a BTCC race day
  13. Go camping
  14. Visit five new museums (0/5)
  15. Host an afternoon tea party
  16. Visit a new art gallery
  17. Go to the movies with my family
  18. Listen to 26 bands I’ve never listened to before, starting with each letter of the alphabet (0/26)
  19. Complete the Assassins Creed games (this only counts for the first three…I’m pretty sure they’re bringing more out but I’ve never played more than two games in a series before, let alone completed them!!) (0/3)

Food and Drink

  1. Try six new cocktails (0/6)
  2. Cook ten new recipe’s (0/10)
  3. Take Ben’s sisters to the Jamie Oliver Italian
  4. Try some French Cheese that I haven’t tried yet
  5. Learn to make Granny’s corned beef and potato pie from scratch
  6. Try 5 different tea’s that I haven’t before (0/5)
  7. Go on that picnic I’ve been meaning to with Dee and Becky!
  8. Make a birthday cake for someone like the ones I used to for my baby brother and sister
  9. Get a blank journal and turn it into a personal recipe book to be handed down and added to through the generations

Classics that I haven’t read but wish to read

  1. Dracula
  2. Frankenstein
  3. Pride and Prejudice
  4. Animal Farm
  5. Brave New World
  6. Wuthering Heights

Movies I still need to get around to seeing

  1. The Godfather series (0/3)
  2. Fight Club
  3. Gone with the wind
  4. The Breakfast Club
  5. Das Boot
  6. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  7. Fiddler on the Roof (or better yet, see it on stage?)
  8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Blogging Goals

  1. Reach 100 followers
  2. Host a giveaway
  3. Host a blog swap event
  4. Make a Vlog
  5. Write 30 reviews (0/30)
  6. Complete “50 questions that will free your mind”
  7. Write 350 new blog posts (1/350)
You may or may not have guessed but when I got to number 81 I kinda ran out of things to do (and even then I'd been filching ideas off of other people's lists haha) that I thought I actually stood a chance of doing (though I have included some things that may be a little bit more difficult thanks to financial constraints, gives me something to work at!) and started writing down books and movies I haven't read or watched yet, and things I might like to do on the blog!

If anyone fancies helping me out getting a head start with the list, give me a buzz you know where I am! I know at least two people who read this who can read tarot cards, at least three who I can think of who would be willing to go camping and at least one who will happily and without reservation go to see an opera with me. I will do favours in return for helping hands!


Thursday, 7 April 2011

When is the worst time to have mumps?

I'm sat at home in my dressing gown, thinking longlingly of the shower and building up the courage to face it. If I get any water in my ears, it's going to (as my hubby puts it) "absoloutely cane". Still, I have to go see the doctor yet again in two hours time so I ought to get moving soon.

I've been prone to ear infections for many a year and I know I've been complaining about this particular bout for a while now, but I never expected to be put so out of action by one. I feel drained and I look flushed. I'm probably going to need some oral antibiotics to shake this thing off (which whill no doubt have their own lovely side effects). Absoloutely hate being ill like this.

Normally, ear infections aren't particularly nice, but we've all had them at one time or another, get over it. A little ear spray and on your way. Except this time, the swelling around my ears and into my throat and the resulting effects on my ability to open and close my jaw properly, ability to speak, to lie down to sleep (I cannot sleep on my back), to eat, even just to hold the phone up to my face causes pain like fire to radiate through my ears and accross my face, into my cheeks and jaw and neck. It's as if I've caught mumps again only the centre of the pain has been moved back from just behind my cheeks into my ears. The pain is the same, the actions that exaccerbate the pain are the same.

The comparrison between this and mumps however leads me into a little amusing tale for those who do not know me so well.

That is a picture of me and the lovely Becky and Dee when I was down with mumps. I look like a Mrs Peter Griffin. Or, as my parents so amusedly told me when I sent them the pictures, it's more Mrs Jabba the Hut.

I know what you're probably thinking, and any sane person would. If she has mumps, why the hell is she out drinking champagne (and any and all other manner of intoxicating substances) and getting generally sozzled? Shouldn't she be in bed resting up and getting better?

Well in answer to your second question, yes, yes I should have been doing just that. In answer to your first...

It was my hen party.

We'd been planning it for a few months and it was exactly four weeks before my wedding. My maid of honour, Laila, had travelled to Liverpool for the occasion, and people had been making a lovely effort to get things set straight for me.

I knew I was ill, but it came upon me so fast! On the Thursday before the party, I came down with a nasty sore throat and thought well great, this is gonna wreck things up. On the Friday, I noticed two massive lumps in my jaw, and two in my face just behind my cheeks. On the Saturday, said lumps had swollen to Bullfrog sized proportions...and that was the night of my hen do. The speed at which it went from being a sore throat to swollen glands to...well...THAT! It was quite frightening.

I didn't even think it was mumps. My mum is a nurse and she made sure by hell or high water that despite the autism controversy surrounding the MMR jab that me and my siblings were all innoculated with it. Of course though, these things are never 100% effective (I was one of the unlucky 1% or something daft like that) but the chances just ruled it out for me in my mind despite all of the classic symptoms.

The party was supposed to be started at my friends place, followed by a pub crawl of, naturally, epic proportions. Never happened though. We went to the first pub and I was absoloutely shot so we stayed for a few drinks then went back to base camp as it were. We still had a relatively awesome time though, even if I was the first to give in and say you know what...I need to go home and sleep now!

The next day I was in hospital because the pain was just so bad and my throat was closing up at a frightening rate. The doctor prescribed me some powerful antibiotics and signed me off work for the week. I spent that week taking every painkiller I could get my hands on and living on a mostly liquid diet. The antibiotics, naturally since mumps is viral, didn't touch the damn thing and a week later I was back at the doctors begging for something to help. That's when I finally got diagnosed with mumps. My face by this point was even worse than the lovely picture above.

I was really worried, it was three weeks before my wedding at this point and I was frantic...being a big girl anyway I've always been a little self concious about the puffyness of my face and this made me look even worse than I already was. Still, by this point I was beginning to recover (even if it didn't feel much like it) and the doctor, bless her, could do nothing but give me some stronger painkillers to help me through the last few days of it. The swelling in my face eventually went down and I was left with some irritating flu like symptoms which, blessedly, decided to leave me be by the time the big day came around.

 I know you've all seen this picture before but I think when you compare it to the one above, it's amazing that they were only taken a month apart. I can tell you now for certain that it wasn't down to any magical weight loss...after I recovered, I put weight on since I was finally able to actually eat proper food again!

But yes indeed...that time with mumps was probably the most ill I have ever felt and this is edging up on it in the pain factor. Thankfully the timing isn't so bad this time round...I mean it's my birthday in a couple of weeks but I should hope that by then it's resolved itself. Until then, I'm slurping down the soup and I hope to the powers that be that in a couple of hours the doc can give me something that works to kill whatever it is that's living in my ears and causing so much pain!


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Frustrated on so many levels

Warning, what you are about to read ammounts to no more than a self pitty filled 'oh woe is me' type rant. However, I just need to get it out to clear my head.

So, after my last post I decided to do something proactive and look into my options for getting back to University, even if it means going back to the source of where it all went wrong and address my shitty A Levels through perhaps doing an adult Access to Higher Education course.

I got an email through today telling me the course fees are, well, just too high. I looked at their installment plan and found that their installments were on the first four consecutive months of the course, no way of spreading it out over the year (which would still mean an extra £140 a month going out which we just don't have). This leaves me with four options

  1. Beg for the money. I put this in here just because, you know, it is an option after all, but not one that will likely bare fruit nor one that I'm at all comfortable taking.
  2. Borrow the money. Another one I've put here because it is, of course, an option...but once again, not one that will likely bare fruit, nor the most sensible one either.
  3. Save the money. The most workable and sensible and likely plan. But realistically it would take a few years for us to save that kind of money up, and God knows what inflation will have done to the price of the course by then. I mean, that's going by our current financial situation. Of course if I managed to find a job any time soon, it would make things much easier and saving time much shorter.
  4. Just apply straight to University. Of course this is an option...and again a more likely option than the first two...but you need references (if not academic then work place...there's that job issue again!) and to write a personal statement. Without the guidance of a tutor this isn't exactly easy, and going back to University after having left my last course without finishing and without doing anything particularly remarkable to show that I am necessarily any better mentally equipped to deal with the pressures of academia this time than I was last time. Also, because of my poor A Level grades, I'd be very limited in what I can apply for and where. Hence the idea of the Access course.
So, it's annoying but it's the way life works. Clearly the powers that be have decided that now just isn't the time. They then decided to hammer their point home with a nasty piece of news regarding the hubby's employment that I'm loathed to speak of here in public just yet, but whilst nothing is set in stone it has the potential to set us back again...way, way back.

So I find myself in the situation where, despite looking for jobs every day, often nothing new is posted for days on end aside from one or two bits that are usually unsuitable for whatever reason (Asking for specific professional qualifications or x many years experience etc) and I feel it could be improved if I could just go to college to get a hold of said qualifications but I can't because I can't afford it till I get a job...and then our financial security is completely thrown in the air and God knows where it'll land. As if we weren't already stuck in a rut as it were, all our plans will have to be put on hold yet again.

I'm by far the only person in the world in this situation right now, and my situation is far from the worst ever suffered. I don't want your pity, or charity, or sympathy. What I want, which I think most people want, is to be able to help myself, to work and earn my own cash and dig myself out of this hole. But how am I supposed to do that when with one hand the recession is killing off new jobs and with the other hand the government decides to strip thousands of people of their jobs and make spending cuts which experts around the world have said will only fuck the country up even more.

I think "frustrated" is most definitely the word of choice to describe my current state of being. Not sad, upset, depressed or anxious. Just frustrated.


Monday, 4 April 2011

The little girl who wanted to be an Egyptologist.

When I was 7 years old, I decided I wanted to be an Egyptologist. That's something rather specific for a seven year old, but it's what I wanted to do. Those bloody Egyptians absoloutely fascinated me, everything about them just appealed to me. I became obsessed. I soaked up every documentary on television that I possibly could. I read books and books and books, anything I could lay my hands on. I think I must have bored my mother to death with it all.

The next year at school, Ancient Egypt was on the curriculum, along with Ancient Greece. Whether it was the epic teaching skills of Mrs Stamp or just that I was so engrossed in the Egyptian theme I'll never know, but that was probably the most favourite year of school I ever did have. The year before, we had studied the Romans and Vikings. The Egyptians and Greeks were, to me, much more fascinating than the stuffy old Romans who seemed much too preoccupied with counting things for my liking. As for Vikings, who needed them? Egyptians had Mummies! And cats! And magnificent Pyramids! Not boring old long boats and funky pottery filled grave sites.

Being a few miles down the road from Durham's small but, in my opinion (being a local lass and all) awesome Oriental Museum, we borrowed some artifacts for class. Everyone else thought that the little wooden man dug up somewhere in Egypt and dating back thousands of years was boring. Not me. I found it amazing. It touched me to be holding something so old. Who had made it so? Why did they do it? We visited the museum a few times, and I just couldn't get my head around the fact that here was a real dead Egyptian. All wrapped up in bandages, of course, but that tightly packed thing was a real Ancient Egyptian who had lived a life seemingly so exotic and mysterious to me. If only they were still alive to tell their tale...

This was a fascination that would stick with me throughout my Primary School career and well into my first few years of Secondary School. But then we began to learn more interesting things. Like, when you put potassium into water, it does something real pretty and exciting. Geography too became more interesting. I discovered Volcanoes. And then our Biology teacher got the microscopes out for us to play with...

By the time we were fourteen and had to choose our GCSE's, all of my teachers had me convinced that I had to choose my career there and then. I don't think they ever actually said that, but that was the impression I got. The subjects I'd pick would determine the rest of my future. Thing is, I had all these years been adament I was going to be an Egyptologist. Yes, I still held on to all of that, but going to "the big school" had opened my eyes to the wonderful world around me, and I loved it all. Not every lesson was thrilling, but asside from two subjects (maths and PE and ok I suppose briefly German because of a rather nasty incident with the teacher I wish not to get into here) I couldn't claim I didn't like school.

So, I decided that after our end of year 9 tests, whichever test I did the best at would obviously be the subject around which I would base my future career. The test I did best in was Geography, and the modules had all been about Volcanoes and Earthquakes and Tsunamis. I decided then and there I would not be an Egyptologist after all, but would instead become a Geologist.

Everything I did from then on was based around this fact in my head, that I was the master of my own destiny (not my mum, who seemed to have designs on me going into music. I quickly put an end to that little theory when I put music as my least favoured GCSE option and quit my flute and piano lessons in an act of outright rebellion against her single minded designs) and my chosen destiny was; Geologist. Specifically specialising in volcanology or seismology, whichever I seemed to be best in.

Actually, what it turned out I was best at was identifying rocks and paeloenvironments, but at the age of fourteen I didn't even know what a paleoenvironment was so, you know...

Then six form college came and it all fell apart. What happened at University happened, that was a shame, but tonight as I realise that with the few paltry qualifications I have I'm going to find it difficult to work anywhere more significant than poundland unless I get really lucky, I am kicking myself for not doing better in my A levels.

I've been looking into going back to college or university, juggling a whole lot of considerations. Do I do something practical? Do I do something I'm interested in, knowing that if my interest isn't held I quickly slip away (as with the music lessons when the dreaded onslaught of scales marched upon me) but that it won't necissarily get me anywhere further in my career aspirations. What are my career aspirations? What do I actually want to do? When I bring up ideas all I can see are problems, and when I bring up solutions they seem to be shackled by monetary or geographical limitations.

More irritatingly, they seem to be held back by the very fact that, in the past, I failed to live up to expectations and eventually left University with nothing to show for my name but a mountain of debt.

When I left, I went to the school office to fill in the forms, admitting my recent 'escapades' and that I was leaving due to the related health concerns. One of my favourite lecturers, a dumpy old lady called Jenny (though I can't for the life of me remember her last name!) who taught soil science came up to me and comforted me. She knew what I meant by "health" concerns as she had tried to offer me some help only weeks before.

"It's a shame to see you go, you've been a joy in my lectures. You always have something to say, that's so refreshing!"

I smiled weakly as I scribbled down my excuses onto the form. I'd had a similar conversation a year and a half ago with my TESOL lecturer as I switched courses from Spanish to Geoscience. In this case, I sneered inwardly to myself, perhaps always having something to say was what got me into this mess.

"Well don't worry. Give it a few years and you can come back and finish. I'll vouch for you!"

I wish that she could. After an unsuccesful few days of job hunting (as in I've applied for everything possible and nothing new that I'm qualified or experienced enough to do is being posted) I decided to give it a wee peek tonight and discovered that my course, or anything related to it, is no longer offered by my old university. The only comparable subject now seems to be Geography, and even then only in the general Geology, no Geoscience, no Paleontology, no Physical Geography...

I decided to look for the languages just out of interest, but there were none. Any trace of any subject I'd ever studied there was gone. So there was no going back for me to complete my degree. I'd either have to start a new one from scratch or transfer my credits to a different University. Only trouble being that the only other University near by doing anything like my course is Liverpool University, an institution which demands a much higher standard of A level than I have.

I looked at the other University, Liverpool Hope, and saw they do a couple of interesting looking courses. I may yet decide to see if I can get onto one of those, for the sake of having a degree and trying to make something of my life. I could see myself studying religion and theology there just to fulfill an interest of mine, then going on to be a teacher. It's more than I have now for sure. It's more than I'll ever have, so it seems, unless I go back into education of some sort.

I then decided to look at Liverpool University's prospectus, just to amuse my fantasy of completing my Geoscience studies. As I scrolled down through the alphabetical list of undergraduate programmes, I noticed something, something I'd always thought since a careers advice meeting when I was twelve (I wish they'd give us careers advice now when it could actually be useful!) could only be taken as a post graduate degree.

Egyptology: BA (Hons)

I laughed and wondered how things might have turned out if I'd known back when I was choosing my GCSE's what I know now. And then, since I was having trouble putting my mind to rest over it all, I decided to write the story of a seven year old girl who wanted nothing more than to be an Egyptologist.


Sunday, 3 April 2011

Day 24 - Your favourite movie (and what it's about!)

I've a bit of a confession to make. My "favourite movie" changes each and every day. One day, it's an old classic. The next, it's that amazing piece of cinematic brilliance that I just saw the other week at the Odeon.

Still, there are some mainstays, some films that I hold closest to my heart for one reason or another. From my childhood I recall forever having Labyrinth and The Land Before Time whirring in the VHS player. Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid were my Disney favourites that I can still happily watch today. I remember when Beauty and the Beast and Aladin were released, and though I was very young (aged five and six respectively) there was big talk about the cutting edge animation techniques used. Even today the magic carpet ride through the crumbling Cave of Wonders never ceases to thrill, Belle and the Beasts touching and iconic scene in the ballroom still stands up to scrutiny.

Then there are the films that came out as I grew up and hold their own special places in my heart for the milestones which they mark. In 1996 at the tender age of nine, a friend and I took our first tentative steps into the world of the musical when we went to see Evita. A bit hard hitting for a nine year old perhaps, but it's stayed with me all these years. That year I got it on VHS for Christmas. A couple of years ago I replaced it with the DVD version. It gets played at least once every couple of months, and the soundtrack is wrecked courtesy of yours truly. In 1998 to mark the end of my Primary School years my dad took me and my cousins to see Godzilla. We thought it was pretty amazing. Nowadays my husband, a true Kaiju fan, holds it with a little less awe than me (oh, it's an entertaining film, but it's not 'really' Godzilla!) but let him think what he thinks! In 2001 at the age of fourteen my school friends and I started taking regular trips to the cinema together and one of the first we saw together was American Pie 2. I wouldn't otherwise class that particular film amongst my favourites, but it was particularly memorable as it was the first 15 rated film we went to see together, and being that none of us were 15 we were all quite proud of ourselves for getting in (we were all geeks and teachers pets...that kind of thing was really something to us!)

As I got older still, films turned from just a social activity to something to use in the ever tricky world of dating. Some dates were succesful, others not so much. Films that hold this particular badge of honour include Around the world in 80 days, Team America, War of the Worlds, and my personal favourite, The Chronicles of Narnia. That one in particular was very succesful as it ultimately landed me with a husband!

The past few years haven't been too bad either. I'm a great lover of the monarchy so films such as The Kings Speech and Young Victoria have made a great impression upon me. The Sci-Fi lover in me has been thrilled by movies such as Inception, Star Trek, Children of Men and Serenity. I never was much a lover of comic books, but Watchmen captivated me in ways that I never expected, and Hellboy, Ironman and the X-men series have had similar results. Fantasy hasn't had a bad run recently. Lord of the Rings anyone? Though of course, to say that was the only great fantasy of recent years would be wrong. Stardust, in my mind, was quite exquisite. And it would be criminal of me to forget to mention the Harry Potter series.

Of course I'd be wrong to ignore the great classics. I love a good musical, and all the oldies have their special place in my heart. Specifically, however, I would have to name The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady and The King and I as my great favourites. It's not all pretty ladies in frilly gowns though. The Lost Boys is an epic classic, and whilst we're on the theme of Vampires I personally love Bram Stokers Dracula with his sexiness Gary Oldman in the lead role. I don't care what anyone else says, I love it!

Which brings us nicely to the end now. Out of all of it, what is my favourite movie?

No, of course I don't mean it, what are you, high?

Truth is, I cannot place my finger on any one film. I could say Lord of the Rings, but as epic as it is, and it is epic, there are better films out there. I could say Stardust, but this would be for purely sentimental reasons that only Ben really understands. Some films stick in my mind as "the most...." such as Paranormal Activity, being the most scary ever, thus some sick masochistic urge within begs me to watch it over and over again, but it isn't my favourite.

I'm going to say that if I had to choose one film, and I wasn't allowed to watch any other film ever again, it would have to be this. It makes me smile, it makes me tear my hair out at points, it reminds me in ways of my own family and it reminds me of a certain happy day of my life. It entertains me, I don't need much brain power to process it. It isn't the best film in the world, it isn't the funniest. It isn't the most epic, it isn't the cleverest. It isn't even that clever at all... but it makes me happy and I can watch it over and over again. It can only be....


Friday, 1 April 2011

Becoming Empowered

So, a week and a half ago I wrote about my struggles with weight loss, more specifically the mental ones. The lack of will power, the ingrained habits, the reliance upon it as an emotional crutch. All issues that many women of my size face when trying to shed the spare baggage.

I promised myself when I wrote it that I would take each day as it comes and I can say with confidence that so far it's helped me immensely to take on that attitude. I've also started drinking all my water (Well...sugar free fruit squash anyhow) and I'm seeing again the improvements that I first saw when I first started out back in August last year. I feel a bit foolish having to do it all again but this time I have the benefit of experience on my side. I know what does and doesn't work.

I've had two particularly delicious victories this week. The first was Wednesday, when Ben managed to get an impromptu day off work. He wanted to take me out on a date (yes, we're married and still dating, it's the best way to do it!) but not too pricey, so we ended up deciding on Pizza Hut. Normally this would mean me 'taking the day off' so far as the diet goes, but knowing the day in advance what we were doing, I was able to get online and take a look at their nutritional info and plan not only the meal but the rest of our day (so far as food goes) in advance. What's more, my reignited enthusiasm for this seems to really have rubbed off on Ben and he did it too, which made things much easier for me; it's always difficult when eating with people who aren't restricted as you are, and he has always been the strongest of the two of us when it comes to will power vs food.

Anyhow, it all worked out pretty damn well as we figured out our current calorie allowance would enable us to have starters, the main, and a dessert. Of course as the weight starts to come down, so will our calorie allowance, but the adjustment seems to be nice and easy and slow.

The next victory was yesterday. Becky called an impromptu coffee evening, but it was so impromptu that this time I didn't have time to plan ahead. Still, instead of grabbing a huge hot chocolate with lashings of cream and marshmallows and a heavy chocolate cake I went for a cup of tea and a lighter cake.

Well, I thought it was a lighter cake. Victoria Sandwiches, in my experience, are usually made with a whipped cream filling and what my cookery teacher of old called a "fatless sponge" which sounds like a dieters dream but is actually just full of sugar. Nevertheless, to make it work it is usually whipped into submission and is 99% air so I thought hey, a wee slice of that will be an indulgent treat that I don't have to feel too guilty about. Only, it wasn't fatless sponge, it was just a regular old cake the way that anyone would make with margerine, and the whipped cream filling wasn't whipped cream, it was lemon flavoured butter icing. It was rather delicious, but I felt a little cheesed off as I thought I was getting something completely different.

Anyhow, I later did cave in and had a bag of crisps too, but it was still a victory day. How? Well I knew the cake would be, maximum, 700 calories and the crisps is about 200. That is an awful lot of calories, yes, but once more, since I'd been tracking them so diligently and knew what I was having for tea (and knowing I'd been caught short before I could leave and so hadn't had lunch) and knowing that I could happily skip out on my bananas and custard dessert I'd actually be fine. I was; I came in 584 calories below my daily goal, even with the cake and crisps after all was said and done.

So, compromise has become my weapon of choice. Compromise and planning. I know this might sound really silly, especially at this early point in the process, but I feel really quite empowered by this. Before, the meal out on Wednesday would have marked this week as "ruined" and I would have gone straight for the cake and hot chocolate last night. But it was not, and so this week is a total victory week! I'm going to look at it like this; if every week of working out a body builder becomes stronger in the arm, then every week I do as well as this, passing these challenges in such a manner, I come out of it a stronger person with a stronger will power. I'm building up my self control "muscles"!

I did something else quite empowering today too. Now I feel a bit odd about it, maybe a bit embarrassed and squeamish as if waiting to be told off for it, even though I know that's actually completely ridiculous...I have problems with asserting myself and standing out from the crowd to have myself heard, so that's why I feel a bit odd. I never used to, but I think years of having the shit ripped out of me for it makes me feel a bit foolish and stupid and shy. Well anyway, however I feel about it now, today I kind of took a step towards breaking free of those particular mental restraints and emailed my local MP about the reforms that are being planned for the NHS which will, apparently, lead to a more privatised system. Not as in you need private health insurance to be seen to or anything like that, but what has been proposed has caused some concern amongst many people.

Anyhow, a few months ago I got involved with a group called 38 degrees regarding the selling off of acres of our national forests. I was actually rather enraged by the proposition, and found this group compiling a petition against it. I opted in to keep up to date with their various campaigns, and when the government did a U-turn on the selling off of the forests they held a vote about which issues we should campaign for next. The percieved privatisation of the NHS was one of the issues that a lot of people felt strongly about, and I amongst many added my vote that this should be something we should try to have our voice heard over. It came out way ahead, and a petition was formed, which I put my name to. Then they asked us to write to our MP's.

Now, they asked us this regarding the forests, and another campaign regarding the UK's position on EU human trafficking laws they'd been supporting. Indeed, I think they always do. Normally I ignore those requests. For a start, like I said, it's one thing to put your name on a petition, but to actually step up and write, speaking personally and voicing my own concerns and asking my questions. It always made me feel uneasy. I know it's probably really stupid and I shouldn't feel this way, but I think it's a fear of looking stupid. Even a fear of being wrong. What if, actually, all the hype is over nothing? What if I don't have all the facts straight?

My friends and I aren't known for keeping our opinions to ourselves, especially politics. They say you shouldn't bring up money, religion or politics at the dinner table, and I think that if my friends and I were to be invited to such a fancy dinner we'd be kicked out for doing just that. It doesn't hurt us though, it's good to belong to such a group of friends who can stand up to such discussions. And when one of us doesn't have the facts right, it doesn't really matter. We all have a laugh. It's nothing really. A minor embarrassed flush of the cheeks is the generally the worst thing to come out of such discussions.

But that's my friends, we're friends for a reason. It's intimidating to write to some stranger for whome this is their job, their very livelihood. I'm a bit of a coward underneath it all, and fear rejection probably more than anything else in the world.

But then, as I disregarded the request and went to check my inbox, I happened to see an old email from Liverpool Anti Fascists sitting there and it begged the question; If people like Nick Griffin can preach the hateful horrible racist nationalist crap that they do and get elected as MEP's for it, why can't I spout off to my MP who is as accountable to me as anyone else in my constituency about what I think? We're a democracy after all. Everyone is supposed to get heir say, apparently.

So I decided to go ahead and wrote an email to him expressing my concern about what is supposedly going to happen to the NHS and asking what he thinks of it all. I'll be pretty chuffed if I get a response. I hope I do!

I know it's not much and I know I didn't exactly do it off my own steam, but it's a start, and despite now feeling like "oooh what's he gonna think about me just emailing him a load of shit about that when he probably has a million and one other more important things to worry about" I still feel pretty empowered by it. It's not the biggest issue in the world right now, and it's not the one I particularly feel the most passionate about but I do feel concerned and now that I've taken a step in this direction who knows, I might finally get the guts to actually step out and get my voice heard about the things that really get me riled up.

Like the fact that penny sweets are no longer a penny. I've never been so enraged in all of my life.