Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Bottle Is Still Unopened!

I was really looking forward to having a couple of glasses of wine last night; I thought that I deserved it. But it didn't happen.

I had a lovely day doing exactly what I wanted without having to worry about deadlines or anything. I watched some television and did some knitting (I have started a new shawl and it is already starting to look quite good), and then I made the mistake of putting my feet up and before I knew what was happening I was asleep. It wasn't a catnap either because I slept for nearly four hours and it was approaching 10pm when I woke up.

First of all I needed to get myself something to eat, so I made a cheese sandwich and a cup of tea. It was far too late to open the bottle of wine, so it is still sitting there waiting, unopened, for the right moment. I watched television for a couple more hours before taking myself off to bed where I had little problem getting to sleep.

Today, I am having an attack of the 'lazies'. It is a day for doing nothing that requires too much effort and I am enjoying it. I have finished a scarf that I was knitting, and started another one which seems to be growing at a good rate and because the pattern is actually quite simple to follow could well be completed today. I have decided to spoil myself tonight and had a fish and chip supper and tonight I will open that bottle of wine. I am sure that the bottle of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz will go very well with plaice and chips and perhaps a chip buttie.

I really know how to spoil myself!

Friday, 27 February 2009


I thought that it would be a good idea to write a post giving my thoughts on yesterday after a good night's sleep, and I did sleep quite well. It took me a long time to get to the stage where I could go to bed and hope to fall asleep because the adrenalin high lasted until gone midnight, but eventually I closed my eyes and drifted off. I woke about 7am to the brightest day that we have had here in London for quite a while and then turned over and went back to sleep again. I have had a very relaxing day so far (not having to get up early to go to psychotherapy meant no anxiety about that) and have done a little bit of knitting and now find myself ready to reflect on yesterday.

In order to reach the university building from the underground station the easiest route involved walking alongside a lovely park. One of the things that occurred to me as I was walking beside the park yesterday was the contrast on its appearance between the three occasions that I have made the journey. The first was the occasion when 'S' was snowbound at home. On that day the park was covered in snow, there were a few snowmen that could be seen in the distance and the extreme coldness of the day meant that there were very few people about. The second occasion, which was just a few days later, and the scene was completely different. It was raining, and had been raining for a couple of days, with the result that the snow had gone and the only remnants were a few of the largest elements of the snowmen that had been built when the snow was fresh. It was nowhere near as cold, but again the weather meant that few people were about. Who would go out in that terrible weather if they didn't have to? Yesterday, however, was completely different. It may have been quite dull, but it was dry and there were lots of people about. People exercising their dogs, and people exercising themselves. But the biggest difference for me was the carpets of purple, yellow and white crocuses that could be seen dotted around the park and as I walked closer to the university building there was evidence of daffodils whose flowers would be bursting open in the next couple of days. Spring truly does seem to have arrived and it was there for me to see yesterday morning. Perhaps it was that which helped me to arrive with such a sense of calm; something that a few days ago I would not have considered possible.

Being able to look back on how things went yesterday now that the adrenalin has gone has also allowed me to give a lot of thought to my emotions about the event. I was not sure before hand whether I would be able to talk of some of the things without becoming emotional and because of this I had changed my introduction to include an apology in case this happened. I knew that talking about events that had induced profound effects on me at the time that they happened were likely to induce reactions again, albeit less severe. But it didn't happen. While I was talking I knew that I was helping the students in front of me to understand some very important concepts and being able to do this actually made me rather proud of the fact that I could find the strength to do it.

Loopy Kate in a comment yesterday hoped that I would give myself a treat after the event, and 'S' said to me as we were parting that I should have a glass or two of wine because I had earned it. I actually did neither of these things. I did consider opening a bottle of wine when I got home, but realized that the adrenalin high would mean that having a glass or two of wine would not be the treat that it should be. Instead I came home, wrote the post about how the day had gone, enjoyed reading all the blogs that had been updated during the day and wrote a comment or two, and then I just lazed around watching television. It was wonderful; for the first time in ages I hadn't got the thought in the back of my mind that there were important things that I needed to get completed to meet a deadline. No studying to do, nothing that I had to write; my time was my own to do exactly as I wished.

So how am I feeling now? I guess that I am very relaxed, far more so than I have been for a very long time. Extremely proud of myself for yesterday. I performed well and what I had to say was very well received. And happy. I haven't been able to describe myself this way for a very long time, which makes all the effort that I put in to preparing for yesterday worthwhile.

Tonight I am going to have that glass or two of wine and I shall really enjoy it.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

A Day To Remember

First of all let me say a really big thank you to all of you who sent me good luck wishes for my big day; I really appreciate each and every one of them. And now, because you have sat through and read about all my concerns about how today was going to be, I'll tell you how it went.

It was brilliant!

My journey across London was not without its problems, but I arrived in good time and as I was almost at the building I received a 'good luck' text on my mobile from Mr Smiley. His timing was perfect. 'S' came down to reception to meet me and we went for a cup of tea to talk over how I wanted to do things and what I had in mind for the seminar after I had done my lecture.

The lecture itself went very well. Having printed out my 'script' I had it in front of me to help me make sure that I didn't forget what I had to say, but certainly for the first part of it I used it only to keep me on track, and I even managed to include important little explanations that I hadn't thought to write down. The second half, which was based on the emails and posts from this blog, were always meant to be read so that the students could get a feel for how I felt at the time that I had written them rather than how I felt about those times looking at them in retrospect. It was a good choice, because I think that the format worked well.

After the lecture I talked a little about my blog. This wasn't in order to get more readers, but as a means of explaining to the students that there was lots of people out there writing about their experience of living with mental illness. The point about reading blogs written by us 'mentals' is that we tell it how it is. It isn't packaged into academic language such as you would find in books about therapy or mental illness; it is raw data. I talked a little about the blogs that I read, and how we support each other when things are not going well. So if you suddenly find your visitors increasing, it could be because the students are reading what we have to say about living with mental health problems.

After the lecture there was a short break before the seminar part started. The discussions that 'S' and I had over our cup of tea fell by the wayside because 'S' felt that I had touched on some very important points in my lecture and thought that we ought to discuss those in more detail. So the exercise in role-playing exploring how to develop a good therapeutic relationship was forgotten and a discussion on these points ensued instead. It went well, with 'S' mentioning a point and then the students giving their thoughts on it and me explaining how each point appeared to the 'user'. I think that it gave them some real food for thought, with the discussion both lively and enjoyable. When we had covered all the points, 'S' thanked me and the students spontaneously gave me a round of applause.

So how do I feel now that it is all over? Well, I feel great. The students seemed to engage right from the start, and I believe they now have a much better understanding of why a good therapeutic relationship is so important and how bad things can get if that relationship is not a good one. They now have a real idea of what it is like for the patient/client/user (personally I prefer the term patient, after all we are ill and therefore should rightly be termed patients) and how traumatic an experience that therapy can be.

The anxiety and nervousness that I had expected never really materialized. I was actually quite calm when I met 'S' and I really enjoyed presenting my lecture and the discussion that followed it. I am already booked for the next time the course is run, and 'S' is going to look to see if there are other parts of the course where I can be involved so that the students understand how these other aspects are viewed by someone with mental health problems. It's just a shame that I don't have a psychotherapy session tomorrow so that I can report my triumph to my therapist. Still, it does mean that I will have something with which to start the session next week, instead of there being a long silence at the start.

The Big Day

I'm sitting in my dressing gown waiting for my hair to dry (it should only take a few more minutes because it is short) before getting myself dressed ready to travel across London to face the ordeal. Actually, that's not fair because I do not really see today as being an ordeal.

I have written what I hope is an informative lecture on what it is like to go through therapy. Some of it has been written at a cost of some pain. Thinking about my first encounter with therapy, and the feelings that it caused me to have, meant that I had to leave the writing for a few days to forget about how horrible that experience had been. Reading it through later, and talking about it with Mr Smiley when we met for lunch last week, showed me that this part of the lecture was likely to cause me to become a little emotional and that the possibility of this happening meant that I would have to change the introduction so that the students would understand why I might suddenly get a lump in my throat or need to grab for a tissue or two.

For the experience of the therapy that I am going through now, I have not had to think about what it has been like and write about it because I have already done that. The second part of the lecture is based on emails that I have written to Mr Smiley and posts from this blog. As a result, what I say in this part of the lecture is much more 'of the moment' because the material was written within hours of the session that it refers to. By using this approach, the lecture is probably a truer reflection of what it is like to experience therapy than would have been possible if I had sat down and written about months after the event. At least, I hope that is how it comes across.

I didn't manage much sleep last night, so there's no surprise there, however, I am not feeling anywhere near as anxious as I thought I would be. Actually, I'm feeling rather calm, which worries me a little. But I will set out in a little while, armed with my folder containing the lecture, plus a memory stick with it in digital form in my handbag (definitely a belt and braces approach for me today), and walk to the bus stop to start my journey across London in the rush hour. I'll let you know how things went later.

Now, remind me again, why did I say that I would never come back to live in London?

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Stage Fright And A Request For Help

Tomorrow is the big day and I have started to develop a bad case of anxiety. I still have a little work to do on the lecture, but it is mostly cosmetic in nature, and I also have to finish off the PowerPoint slides but that won't take much more than half an hour to do and is mostly a matter of copying and pasting information and then changing font sizes or adding in a few words. None of it is going to stretch my intellectual or computer skills. Which is just as well because I only had a couple of hours sleep last night, and the night before, and I am not overly optimistic about how much I shall get tonight.

The strange thing is that although I am building up to a truly horrendous case of stage fright, I am also rather looking forward to giving this lecture. It is the subject matter that made me agree to this in the first place; the user's experience of therapy. The mere fact that a 'user' is being asked to talk to people who are going to be among the therapists of the future to explain what it is like to go through therapy seems almost unbelievable.

Writing the material for the lecture has proven to be quite traumatic at times. My first experience of therapy was not good, and led to me distrusting therapy and therapists as a valid means of getting relief from depression. I have to say that the psychodynamic psychotherapy that I am undergoing at present has helped to change my mind about that. And the reason that I have changed my opinion is because of the massive difference in the therapeutic relationship that I have with my current psychotherapist compared with that which I had with my first one.

One of the things that I have been asked to provide for the students is a list of reading material giving a user perspective on therapy. The problem is that I have not read any books that are written by users; all the literature out there seems to be written by psychiatrists and psychologists and the books are written for the therapist, although some do provide a little useful information for the person who will be undergoing therapy. This is rather a sad state of affairs because it means that the patient/client/user (whatever they may be called) starts off at a disadvantage. They have no clear idea of what the therapy is going to be like, what they will be expected to do, and the kind of effects that it may have on them. I believe that this is part of the reason that so many people give up on therapy when they do actually manage to get it. Nobody bothers to tell us that the process is going to be difficult and that there are going to be times when we feel very uncomfortable talking about things with someone who is a stranger to us.

When I was discussing this with 'S' when we met a couple of weeks ago, he suggested that I might consider writing that book that doesn't seem to be out there at the moment. And it is something that I am seriously considering. It won't be a massive tome, nor will it be particularly learned, but if it can help people to understand what therapy can and cannot do, and help them to prepare themselves for the therapy experience, then it will be worth the effort.

The reason that I am writing about this, is that I need the help of fellow bloggers who have had the experience of therapy whether it be good or bad, and it doesn't matter what sort of therapy it has been. In fact the wider the range of types of therapy the better as far as I am concerned because then it will be possible to help more people. I know that bloggers who write about their mental health problems embrace the anonymity that blogging allows, and I am no different in this. I would like to ask any blogger who would be willing to help me in this enterprise to either contact me by submitting a comment to this post or by emailing me at Because all comments on my blog are moderated, anyone who offers to help by submitting a comment can be assured that their comment will not be published if they ask for it not to be.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Three Rs

I love reading. I learnt to read before I went to school and I have always loved getting lost in a good book. I have pretty wide-ranging tastes, and I will read books that are factual as well as enjoying fiction. One of the problems with doing distance-learning, such as that with the Open University, is that you tend to have less time for reading for leisure because you are so busy reading course material and making notes.

I have, in the last couple of weeks, decided to take a short break from studying with the OU. There were a number of reasons for my making this decision, but one of the bonuses of having done so, is that I now have time for leisure reading again. And my reading is a bit like my knitting; I like to have several things on the go at the same time. At the moment I am reading three books, two fact and one fiction. The fiction is something that I have read before (I am a great believer in revisiting books that you have enjoyed) and that is considered to be one of the nation's favourites - Pride and Prejudice. The two books based around fact are Moondust by Andrew Smith and Bad Science by Ben Goldacre. Moondust has the subtitle 'In search of the men who fell to Earth' and tells the stories of what has happened to the astronauts who walked on the Moon since their great exploits. It makes for interesting reading, and gives an insight into what has happened to those men since the heady days of the late 60s and early 70s. I remember what it was like to watch the huge Saturn V rockets blasting off to travel to the Moon and the nervous anticipation as the fragile little craft approached the Moon's surface ready for landing and the walk on an alien surface that was to follow. I have been reading this book for a couple of weeks now and I'm about halfway through it. Yesterday, Bad Science arrived in the post and I'm afraid that instead of putting it on a shelf to be read at some future time, I started reading it and now I can't put it down. I will, however, have to leave it for a few hours today while I take care of the second of the three Rs.

Writing has been something that has been an integral part of my life for a number of years. When I was working, I had to write a great deal. All of it was writing fact, although I am sure that some who read it probably thought it was fiction, but that is always the way. Writing this blog has been my way of continuing to indulge in the second R, and I love it. As I said earlier, I have taken a short break from studying with the OU, but I have already pre-registered for a course which starts in October, and I consider it to be something that I should really enjoy. I am going to study Creative Writing. The course will give me the opportunity to try several different sorts of writing and I am looking forward to all of them except one; writing poetry. That bit will undoubtedly be a bit of a strain, but I am sure that I can get through it, especially as it only represents a small part of the course.

The reason that I will have to leave Bad Science for a few hours today is that I must finish working on my lecture for Thursday. I have it pretty much written now, all I have to do is go through it, expanding a few bits that I don't think that I have explained very well and adding anything that I have forgotten, and and then I have the job of completing the PowerPoint slides to accompany it.

The third R is one of those things that I have real problems with. Arithmetic is not one of my strong suits because I suffer from number dyslexia. I managed to pass O-level Mathematics when I was at school, and I needed to use some simple maths in my working life; in fact at one point in my advanced training I got 100% for an exam that was based completely on maths (incredible as it may seem). I used to manage the maths by writing down the formula that I needed to use for the calculation and then inserting a learnt example so that I could see what the formula should look like. Then I would determine the actual numbers for each of the terms in the formula and from there I could manage to work out any of the unknowns. It was probably long-winded but it worked for me and I continued to use the method for years very successfully. Knitting, one of my favourite leisure pastimes, does require one to count things occasionally. This is easy stuff and doesn't bother me at all. However, I love knitting lace and that does require a bit more than a simple ability to count, because if you are trying to scale up or scale down a design you need to be able to work out the number of stitches to the inch that you require and the size of needle to achieve this. Then there is the problem of having to work out how to decrease or increase a set number of stitches evenly across a row. I find that I can do this all relatively easily these days but I do remember the problems that I have had in the past.

The Victorians set great store on the three Rs and I can understand why. The ability to read, to write, and to do arithmetic meant that you could improve your position in life. The same is true today, but they can do more than just help you to get on. The three Rs have proved to be things that have allowed me to have an enjoyable leisure time too.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Sleeping For England And Other Stories

My depression is lifting and for the first time in a number of months I am feeling quite bright on a regular basis. Yes, I sometimes wake up and feel that I don't want to get out of bed, but it's laziness speaking rather than depression. And it is laziness, and a bit of lack of inspiration, that has meant that I have not been updating this blog as regularly as normal.

Saturday saw me sleeping for England. As with most people who suffer with depression I have problems sleeping. I usually don't have too much of a problem getting to sleep, but I have a tendency to wake after a couple of hours and find it impossible to get back to sleep. After about a week of this I am usually like a zombie. However, as my mood has been improving over the last couple of weeks, so has my sleep pattern. I still tend to wake after a couple of hours, but I am finding it easier to get back to sleep. Saturday was a bit different. I went to bed relatively early on Friday night and fell asleep almost immediately, I woke up for a call of nature, got back into bed and fell asleep, carried on sleeping until a reasonable hour, wrote an email, read a few blogs, went back to sleep, woke up, turned over in bed and went back to sleep again.

I probably slept for about 30 hours during a 36 hour period, but my body obviously needed it and I slept well Saturday night and again last night. So if the talent scouts are looking for prospective members for the Team GB Olympic Squad for Egyptian PT then can I put my name forward?

I have been taking a rest from knitting complicated lace patterns over the last few days and have managed to knit a scarf (yes, I know that winter seems to be over but it will be there for next year), and knit the back of a jumper and start the front of it. I find that taking a break from knitting complex patterns for a few days can revitalise my zeal for knitting. And it was so nice to read in the week that research has shown that knitting can help to delay memory loss. As someone who has been a knitter for all her life this is indeed good news, all I have to do now is remember where I put my knitting.

Today, I am going to write the last part of my lecture and finish the PowerPoint slides. I should really have done it over the weekend, but with sleeping for England on Saturday, and deciding to have a relaxing day yesterday with my knitting, it didn't get done. But I am feeling quite enthusiastic about it today and I am hoping that it won't take me too long to finish drafting it. Thursday is the big day when I give this lecture and while I am a little bit anxious about doing it, I am rather looking forward to the occasion too.

And I have decided to try to get back to posting everyday. I miss writing about the things that I am doing, how I am feeling, and the crazy things that I see about me. I can't promise that there will be something everyday, but I intend to do my best. And there will be more photos of the things that I am knitting so that you can see how I am getting on.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

More Difficult Than I Thought

I have been a little slack in posting over the last couple of weeks. In part this is because my writing has been aimed at a slightly different venture. And it's proving to be more difficult and emotive than I thought it would be.

What is it that is proving so difficult?

I am trying to write a lecture that I will be delivering next week to some postgraduate students on the 'user's experience of therapy'.

I have been giving presentations on a computer system that allows patients to have access to their GP medical records for some months now in conjunction with 'B' who was my GP until his retirement last year. I consider this to be quite an important project and although I am always anxious before a presentation I find that I enjoy the experience once it is over.

Giving presentations to international audiences was an integral part of my job while I was working and it allowed me to make numerous visits to the US, Canada and Australia over the years. I never gave the same presentation twice, which meant that a lot of time was spent drafting the presentation and creating the visual aids to go with it. But drafting this lecture is proving to be much more difficult and the reason is that it is about me and how therapy has impacted on my life.

My first experience was not a success. This was about a year after I was diagnosed with depression and I found the therapist abrasive and unsympathetic. I was very nervous about the experience of baring my innermost thoughts to a complete stranger and when that stranger left me feeling worse when I left each therapy session than I was when I walked in I started to have suicidal thoughts, something that had not happened before. Fifty to 60 minutes each week for about six weeks constantly going over the circumstances of my husband's death was not conducive to my mental health and my GP decided that the therapy should be stopped before my suicidal thoughts were translated into a reality.

For a number of years after this I had a very informal form of therapy. This was regular chats about anything and everything with a very dear friend. He helped to make my life bearable and it was he who broke the news of my mother's death to me and helped me again when my Dad died. He still provides support by providing a friendly ear to this day.

Last May I began my second round of formal therapy and this time I have a much more sympathetic therapist. The result has been than I have discovered a lot about myself and the reasons for my being the way that I am. I still have periods of depression, but I am better able to cope with them, and while the therapy itself can still be traumatic at times, I have never felt the way that I did during and after those sessions with the first therapist.

My lecture will be about all of this, and having now drafted the section about my early experiences of therapy, I am about to draft the rest of it about all that has followed. Not only will the lecture cover the talking therapy that I have had, it will also include the difference that I have found through writing this blog, and the kindness that there has been in the many comments from other bloggers. Sometimes a talking therapy does not only include the spoken word. I have found that the written word can make a huge difference too. So for all of you out there who read my blog and take the time to drop me a comment once in a while, I am sending a heartfelt thank you. You are all helping me to find life bearable again.

Now I suppose that I had better get back to drafting the lecture and finishing off the PowerPoint slides.

Friday, 13 February 2009

What To Write For My 250th Post?

After I had written yesterday's post and published it, I noticed an error in it so I decided to edit it. There's nothing unusual in that because even though I read through each post a couple of times the odd error still slips thorough. Anyway I corrected it, but while I was going through the process I noticed that it was the 249th post on my blog. I have written more, but a number never got published; so my next post was going to be number 250. Well, I had to make sure that it was something memorable.

I have spent most of the day puzzling over what I could write and I have not thought of anything that is either memorable or earth-shatteringly interesting. So you will just have to make do with this instead.

I have been getting more and more annoyed over the last couple of weeks by a particular advert on television. It's actually quite a clever advert, but the jingle that is used on it is driving me mad. What's the advert? It's the one with Aleksandr the Meerkat complaining about people confusing his website '' with ''. The other night after the advert had seemed to be in every advert break, no matter what channel I was watching, I had one of those silly moments. Was there really a Compare the Meerkat website?

Believe it or not, there really is. Have a look for yourself if you don't believe me. As an advertising ploy it is absolutely brilliant. It's just a shame that the jingle is so annoying.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

A Busy Week

It's been a busy week this week, and it hasn't finished yet. After my successful meeting with 'S' on Monday and the lovely lunch, Tuesday was a rather quieter day. I sat at home trying to decide what I was going to include in the lecture and making some notes and gathering material for it. Actually, I was procrastinating a bit because I could have started writing it but I just couldn't face doing that.

Yesterday I was out to lunch again. Yes, I know, I'm getting to be a lady who lunches. I met one of my friends from Corfu. She is English and married a Corfiot and has now lived in Corfu for more than 20 years. My husband and I met her the first time that we went to Corfu and over the years a lovely friendship grew. She was one of the people who helped me during the first dark days after my husband died. Anyway, she comes home for a couple of weeks every February to spend some time with her Mum and when she is over we always go out for lunch one day. We found a lovely little restaurant not far from Westminster Bridge a couple of years ago and we always go there for our meal, sitting at the same table each time.

We had a lovely meal, a bottle of wine, and sat and talked for about two and a half hours. Although we talk on the phone occasionally, there was a lot to talk about this time because I have not seen her for a year. This is because for the first time in 20 years I didn't make a visit to Corfu last year. Up until then I had been every year since 1988, once a year when my husband was alive, but two or three times a year since his death. Anyway we caught up on all the news, and had a lovely time. On leaving the restaurant, we told the waiter that we would be back the same time next year. I'm not sure that he believed us, but it is true, when she is over this time next year, my friend and I will be back there for another meal.

Today I have actually managed to do some real work on the lecture. I also have to dream up some practical work for the students to do, and I think that I have found the perfect exercise so now all I have to do is write to 'S' and see that it meets the course requirements. As far as the lecture itself is concerned, I have started to create the PowerPoint slides that will go with the lecture and done some work on the script itself. I've come to a bit that is going to cause me a certain amount of angst to write, so I have decided to call a halt for the day. I'm quite pleased with what I have done so far, but need to really buckle down to it tomorrow.

However, before I do that I have to go for my Friday morning psychotherapy session. I never know what direction that the therapy is going to take before we get started, but one of the things that I might see if we can discuss is the thing that is causing me the angst in writing this lecture. We have touched on it a couple of times in recent weeks but perhaps now is the time to really thrash it out. Maybe once that is done I can view it a little more dispassionately and it not cause me so much of a problem. It is something that I have to come to terms with if it is not going to cause me problems when I actually deliver this lecture. It's not going to look too good if I end up in tears talking about something that is the real focus of the lecture, especially as I have been asked to make this a regular part of the course module and I will be delivering it several times a year.

Anyway, this evening I am going to do some knitting and not worry about the lecture. The Shetland lace shawl is growing slowly, but at the risk of regretting my words, I have not made any mistakes on the lacy borders and I am now half way to completing them. I have a few complicated rows coming up, but nothing that I can't handle, so with a bit of luck by this time next week I should have finished the borders and be working on the lacy edging. I need to get a move on with it because the baby who it is for was born last week. Still, it is an heirloom piece, so a few weeks late shouldn't matter too much.

Monday, 9 February 2009


I set off this morning to meet 'S' in the full knowledge that the meeting would definitely take place this time. How could I be so sure? Well 'S' had sent me a text message to say that he was in work and was looking forward to our meeting.

I arrived a little early, but there is nothing unusual in that, and sent a text message to 'S' to let him know that I was in reception. A few minutes later a text message came in to let me know that he was on his way down to meet me.

After a quick handshake in reception we set off to a little Italian restaurant a short distance from the university building. We had a lovely lunch, a glass or two of wine and enjoyed a great deal of conversation.

I am now feeling a little more confident about doing this lecture and the next couple of days will see me trying to get it clearly formulated so that I know what I am going to say. I already have the structure clear in my mind; it's just the meat of the piece that needs to be sorted now. I now have just over two weeks until the big day.

On a slightly different tack, I am pleased to announce that There and Back to See How Far It Is has written her first post for a few months. There and Back and I communicate on a regular basis and we have discussed her posting again, and today is the big day. Please welcome her back if you can.

Trying Again!

With a bit of luck I should be meeting 'S' today. After the slight disaster last week when he forgot to phone me to tell me that he was stuck at home because of snow so wouldn't be able to meet me, hopefully today will be a little more successful.

I'm feeling a little anxious again today, but nothing like last week. I suppose that part of the reason that I am not so bad is because I know how to get to my destination this time, having carried out what turned out to be a dummy run last Thursday.

Considering that I am a London girl born and bred, I do find travelling about a very anxious experience. I suppose it is having spent more than 30 years away from London that makes me this way; at a time when I should have been visiting the hot spots and the super shopping areas that London has, I was living in the country, much of it in a small village. It's not just travelling in London that I find induces anxiety. I'm like it wherever I travel to, and at airports I am an absolute nightmare, not being able to stop looking at my watch or stay in a seat for more than five minutes at a time. This is all made worse by the fact that I have a thing about making sure that I am never late, so I always arrive anywhere much earlier than I need to so add to the problems of waiting at airports. I've travelled the world, very often on my own, and yet I still cannot stop being like this.

However, this morning I shall leave the house a little later than I did on Thursday and hopefully I won't have too long to wait for 'S' when I arrive in reception. I can almost hear his apologies for Thursday as I sit here typing this. One nice thing about today is that 'S' is taking me out to lunch to make up for Thursday, and I do think that this might make the meeting a slightly less anxiety-inducing occurrence. It's so much easier to chat over food.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Yesterday Was Not A Complete Success

Yesterday was a bit of a failure. As far as my travels to the other side of London were concerned everything went really well. I arrived at my destination almost exactly one and a half hours after I left home, which all things considered was not too bad. It meant that I arrived rather early for my meeting with 'S', but I went to the cafeteria and had a cup of tea before going back to reception to wait for 'S'.

This was where things started to go wrong; very wrong. The very nice gentleman on the reception desk rang 'S's' office and got his voicemail. I was not concerned because it was likely that he was lecturing so I sat down in the reception area to wait for a while. I should have been a bit more concerned because 'S' had emailed me the previous evening asking for a contact number as there was a risk of heavy snow where he lived and he may get snowed in. So over a series of emails we discussed the weather, exchanged mobile phone numbers, and 'S' said that he would let reception know that I was visiting, so that they would be expecting me. What should have alerted me to yesterday's problem was the fact the reception desk were not aware that I was visiting.

When the students started streaming from the building as morning lectures came to an end, I thought that it should not be long before 'S' was back in his office and would come to collect me. Several more telephone calls still did nothing more but go to voicemail. It was then that I decided to try the mobile number that 'S' had given me; it went to voicemail so I left a message, 'Hi S, it's Madsadgirl, I'm in reception so whenever you are ready, I'll be waiting'. I hate leaving messages on voicemail, but I thought that I had done a pretty good job considering how nervous I was about this meeting. My phone rang a couple of minutes later. It was 'S', and the tone of his 'Hi Madsadgirl' told me that this was a very embarrassed gentleman. He apologized profusely and admitted that he had been so concerned about getting material together and emailing to the colleagues who would be covering his lectures today that he had completely forgotten that I was visiting and that he needed to ring me to let me know that he was snowed in.

The result of the conversation is that I am now going to meet with 'S' next Monday, and he is going to take me out for a 'very nice lunch' (his exact words). When I got home (this time the journey took about one and three-quarter hours door to door, I put on the computer and there among the emails that had arrived during my absence was one from 'S' telling me how embarrassed he was when he heard my voicemail message and realised that he had forgotten to ring me to let me know that our meeting would have to be cancelled, and how anxious he had been about ringing me to apologize.

That brief phone conversation was the first direct contact that 'S' and I have had, all previous communication having been conducted by email, and although I had a wasted journey there have been some benefits from yesterday. First, I managed to get to my destination easily, and the instructions that 'S' gave me for finding the building after leaving the tube station were excellent so I won't have any problems going there in the future; secondly, it got me out of the house for a few hours; thirdly, I have the promise of a nice lunch on Monday; and lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I am a lot less anxious about meeting 'S' on Monday than I was yesterday.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Travel In London - Not As Easy As You Might Think

I'm sitting here nervously waiting for it to be time to leave to travel to the other side of London for my meeting with 'S' about my lecture and the seminar to follow it.

Everyone always assumes that getting about London is easy, and quick, but I can assure that is not always the case. Much will depend where you are travelling from and to, and my journey today is a good example of this. I live in a part of London that is not served by the Underground. Apparently it will be here in a couple of years, but we don't have a connection at the moment. This means that the cheapest way for me to get across London is to use a combination of bus and tube; both of which enable me to use my Oyster card which means that I pay less than the standard single fare if paying by cash. I can't use my Oyster card on the rail network, and the cost of travelling into the centre of London on a train can be ridiculous.

I decided to check the Transport for London website for the best way to get to my destination. It suggested a method whereby I had a 10 minute walk to a bus stop, caught a bus, changed buses (probably with a wait in the cold), then got off at a particular tube station and completed my journey by tube. That would be one tube fare and two bus fares that I would be charged for each way. I have found a different route (by using my rudimentary knowledge of London (I was away for more than 30 years and things have changed a bit in that time)) and by using my way I still have a 10 minute walk to the bus stop, but in a different direction, and I need only wait for one bus, which will take me to a major transport terminus in the centre of London, and then a shorter journey on the tube. This means that I am saving at least £2 on my travel costs, and I will have less waiting in the cold for buses.

All that is left for me to do before I set out is get myself into some really warm clothing so that I don't freeze to death waiting for a bus, and then set out on my adventure.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Anxiety, Depression, And Writing An Essay (Or Not)

I should be writing an essay at the moment but I cannot raise any enthusiasm for it. I have a few ideas of things that I want to include in it but it's being able to find the words to express what I want to say that is causing the problem. I'm not sure whether it is the material that I have to work with and the subject of the essay itself that are causing the problems or whether it is because of the way that I am feeling.

I have not been sleeping well; I drop off to sleep all right but wake in the early hours of the morning and I am just not able to get back to sleep again. This doesn't help much with my mood, and at this moment in time I can feeling it getting lower. I've had a little crying session this morning and I have absolutely no idea why it happened.

I'm also starting to get anxious about a meeting that I am going to have tomorrow with the Senior Lecturer for the course that I will doing a lecture for in a few weeks time. No matter how much I tell myself that I have nothing to worry about, I can't help but get anxious. I want to give this lecture, I think that I can do quite a good job with it, and in a strange way I am quite looking forward to it, but it doesn't stop me getting very anxious about meeting someone new and having to talk about myself.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Why Can't We Cope With The Weather?

So it snowed overnight, and has continued to do so most of the day and into this evening, and this is apparently the most snow that has hit London for 18 years. Most of the buses are off the road and schools are closed; Boris Johnson has said there will be no congestion charge today. I have noticed the lack of aircraft around because the house is either under the flight path for aircraft going in to Heathrow, or if aircraft are landing at Heathrow from the west then it is aircraft from London City Airport that overfly the house.

Questions have been asked about why we were so badly prepared even though we have known for days that this weather was coming. It seems that we have become a nation that gives up at the slightest bit of bad weather. It wasn't like this in the past. I am old enough to remember the Winter of 1962-63 when London suffered pea-soup fogs in November and December and then it snowed on Christmas night so that we woke up to deep snow on Boxing Day, and it snowed and snowed and snowed.

We went to school each day during the fogs that were thick enough that you were unable to see much more than an arm's length ahead. I don't remember us not going to school each day once the Christmas holidays were over. We lived about a mile away from my primary school and I had to cross two major roads to get there. Wellington boots were the order of the day with shoes in the ubiquitous shoebag carried over your shoulder, so that you had something to change into once you got to school. The school was housed in a group of Victorian buildings and each of the classrooms had a coal fire which provided the heating for the room.

I had a bike that Christmas and I wasn't able to use it until about Easter. The snow stayed for weeks, and trees in the local park were coated in white and seemed much larger than they really were because of the layers of snow. Yet with all this bad weather I remember buses running and cars on the road and people went to work because that is what you did.

So why can't we manage it today?