Tuesday, 30 June 2009

MadSadGirl Is One Year Old Today

I can't believe it. One year ago today I decided to create this blog. When I started the process I had absolutely no idea what I was going to blog about, whether I would be able to write something on a regular basis, whether anyone would read it, or whether it was going to be a long-term project or something that only lasted for a couple of weeks.

Happy Anniversary

Finding a name for the blog was the first bit of creative thinking that I had to engage in. I wanted something that was catchy; something that would describe me and yet hide me at the same time. I'm still not sure how MadSadGirl came to mind, but it felt good so MadSadGirl it was. It wasn't long before someone had shortened it to MSG and that is how quite a number of commenters address me.

Writing the first post proved to be a bit difficult. I wanted to write enough that should anyone chance across it they would find it interesting enough to perhaps come back again, but I also wanted to make sure that I didn't give too much away so that it would be easy to find out who I really was. I didn't have to worry about what my employers might say because I couldn't work as a result of mental health problems. But I knew right from the start that it would be possible for someone who was truly determined to discover my identity to do so.


Amazingly, I had my first comment within hours of creating the blog. After a few weeks I had a number of regular readers. I wrote about whatever took my fancy. Sometimes it was something that was in the news and sometimes it was what I saw around me. Sometimes the blog was my place for writing down how I felt about things and how I was feeling.

Like many bloggers I diligently wrote something everyday, but I knew that it might not be possible for me to keep this up. I decided that it would be a good place for me to express how the discrimination and stigma associated with having mental health problems affects those of us who suffer in this way. The blog was only three weeks old when I wrote what I still believe to be one of my best posts. How To Deal With Meeting A Person With Depression was written from the heart and actually seemed to flow from my fingers with no effort at all. This post attracted four comments, not many when compared to other bloggers, but each of them complimented me on a well written post and that really did wonders for my self-esteem. The post was also linked by Jobbing Doctor and this linking led to a number of other doctors reading my blog on an occasional basis.

This blog has seen me through some difficult times. I have written about being in the depths of despair, I have written about holes in the ground, I have written about how hard it is to go through therapy, I have written about my experiences and worries relating to talking in front of strangers, I have written about my knitting and how it keeps me sane, I have written about the friendship that has developed between myself and another blogger, There and Back, and how much that friendship means to me. I have written about a life; my life.

I don't have a huge regular readership, I don't attract lots of comments, I don't write everyday, but I do try to make the posts that I write, entertaining, informative, and occasionally amusing. I try to celebrate my good times and I try not to dwell too much on my bad times. While I moderate comments, I have never refused to publish one. I hope that I write well enough for anyone who finds their way here to enjoy what they are reading. But most of all I write because it fulfils some inner need and helps me to keep focused on managing to live with depression.

Here's to a second year of blogging.

Clapping Hands

Monday, 29 June 2009

Another Hot Day

It's nearly 10.30am on this Monday morning and it is already too hot to do any more work in the garden. I've managed to finish the job that I was working on, but there is still more work to do and the rain on Saturday night coupled with the hot weather means that the grass is growing at an alarming rate. I guess it will be out with the lawn mower early tomorrow morning.

Moving back indoors to get away from the heat of the sun means that I will probably have time for more knitting today than I would normally have. I'm still being very naughty and not finishing the summer tops that I have been working on. Instead I have been concentrating on the shawl that I started last week.

There are eight charts that make up the pattern and I have just finished the fourth one. I now have something like 560 stitches on the needle and each row is taking longer to knit as the number of stitches increases. There are still 82 rows of the main shawl to be knitted which means that there are still another 328 stitches to be added to it. By the time that I reach that stage each row will become quite slow going.

I still have not decided what sort of edging that I am going to use on it. I think that I will wait until I have actually finished the main pattern so that I can work out the best way to finish it off. I'm thinking of making it quite a deep edging as it seem that I will have a fair amount of wool left for the finishing off, but it will require some careful calculations for me to determine how many 'points' the edging should have on each side and on each of the corners so that it gives a pretty edging that will ripple a little. The problem with this is that maths is not one of my strong points. I have number dyslexia and find it very difficult to work these sorts of problems out so there will probably be a lot of numbers being written out on paper and drawings of how things break down before I reach a successful conclusion.

This will be the first time that I have designed anything like this. While I have adapted patterns a little in the past, I have never created something like this from scratch. However if the it turns out successfully, I intend to try to design a lace shawl from scratch and if it works out well I may see about getting it published. Lace knitting is increasing in popularity again and with so many beautiful yarns available to do such work, there seems no end to what can be achieved.


Sunday, 28 June 2009

Good Intentions

After the thunder yesterday evening, things quietened down again until about 8.30pm when it started to rain again and it carried on for a couple of hours. I sat watching television and later a DVD while doing a bit of knitting. I decided that I would try to get an early night as I was planning to be up early this morning to do some more hedge trimming before it got too hot.

I actually slept reasonably well once I finally dropped off and woke when the alarm sounded this morning. I opened my eyes, reached out to cancel the alarm and promptly fell back to sleep again. By the time that I woke again it was almost midday and it was far too hot for me to go and do the work on the hedge.

Alarm Clock 3

I had fully intended to put in a good couple of hours work this morning. This would have seen the worst of the trimming jobs finished and would have meant that it would not need to be tackled again for a couple of months at least. The fact that it didn't get done this morning means that it will have to be an early rise tomorrow morning to finish the job.

This time I will put the alarm across the other side of the bedroom so that I have to get out of bed to switch it off. Hopefully this will enable me to throw on some clothes so that I can get out to do the work and then come in for a shower when I have done it.

I'm a bit upset that yesterday's good intentions fell by the wayside this morning but I am determined that tomorrow the work will get done. The only reason that it didn't get done a few weeks ago when it became obvious that it needed doing was because my sciatica was so bad that I couldn't stand up for long enough to be able to do it.

Smiley Hedge

Saturday, 27 June 2009


About an hour ago it went very dark and the rain teemed down, and for the last half an hour there has been thunder rolling around in the distance. The problem is that it doesn't seem to have cleared the air very much.


Too Hot To Work

The rain that was forecast for yesterday didn't materialise. And the forecast for my area of London on the BBC website says it should be raining at the moment but it couldn't look less like rain if it tried. Yes, there is some scattered cloud at high level but the sun is shining and it is too warm to do any work outside.

I was up early this morning and out in the garden by 8am. I was doing some shrub and hedge trimming as this was desperately needed, but had to pack the tools and gloves back into the garage by 10am as it was too hot to work any longer. I have a couple more hours work to do on the biggest of the hedges but that will have to wait for tomorrow. I shall get up even earlier tomorrow so that I can make the most of the cool morning air. The work doesn't require any power tools so I won't be disturbing any of the neighbours.

I'm going to spend the rest of the day indoors in the cool. Fortunately, the house does stay relatively cool even in the hottest weather. I find it difficult to understand how I can cope with hot weather when I am in Corfu but find it impossible to live with similar temperatures in this country. Staying cool means that I can spend this afternoon doing some knitting and watching a DVD or two.

Yes, it's lovely to have some nice weather, but does it have to be so hot.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Difficulty Sleeping

As though I don't have enough problems trying to get a decent night's sleep, it now seems as though we are heading for a heatwave and that the temperatures are not going to drop significantly at night.

Today has been very hot and humid and we are still waiting for the thunderstorms which were forecast for London today. I live in hope that it rains later this evening or tonight, so that the air is a little fresher tomorrow. I know that it is nice to have some summer weather for a change, after all the last couple of summers have been pretty awful, but I have problems dealing with the humidity and I can do without it.

I've been very naughty as far as my knitting is concerned. I should be working on a couple of summer tops, but having started work on the shawl/blanket on Wednesday, I have been working on that and I have now completed something like 85 rows. There is still a long way to go though, and the rows are getting longer; there are almost 400 stitches to a row at the moment and the number will continue to rise as I carry on knitting. I've moved from working on double-pointed needles to a circular one and I have just had to change from the shortest circular needle (50 cm ) because of the number of stitches, so I am now using one that is 80 cm in length. This should be suitable for quite a while now as there is room for lots more stitches on it. I still have to find a pattern for the edging of it, but that can wait until I am ready to knit it because I need to see how much wool I will have to work it. If I have a lot, then it can be a deep edging that is very fancy, if there is not so much then a narrower edging will have to suffice.

I did actually manage to take a couple more photographs of the shawl as I was changing from the short circular needle to the intermediate one. It doesn't really show the shawl to best advantage but it does show how the pattern is progressing and how the colours in the wool are starting to build into small areas of each colour. This pattern will obviously change as the rows get longer but whatever happens this is going to be a very colourful object when it is finished.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

From Hank To Ball And Beyond

On Monday I ordered some wool from my favourite online wool store. I knew that I was going to have to wait a couple of weeks for some of it because it is not yet in the country, but the rest of the order arrived yesterday. In the package was a hank of wool that is to be used to knit a shawl/blanket and a knitting pattern for a tunic-length waistcoat that incorporates a stitch that I have never done before. I don't have the wool yet for the waistcoat because I needed to see the pattern so that I could see the finished measurements and determine how much yarn was needed for my size.

These days, most of the knitting yarn that you buy is pre-wound into balls, but when you buy yarn produced by independent dyers who use hand-dying techniques it is usual for the yarn to come in the form of a hank. This was also the way that yarn was often bought when I was a child and I well remember the hours that I spent sat on a stool in front of my mother or grandmother with the hanks of yarn stretched between my hands as they wound the yarn into balls so that it was ready to knit with. As I grew older and my hands became larger sometimes the roles were reversed and it was I who wound the balls while my mother or grandmother held the hanks.

In those long ago days the yarn was bought in hanks that usually weighed one ounce each. If the yarn was double knitting weight, then it didn't take very long to wind each hank into a ball; 4-ply, being somewhat thinner, took longer. I'm not at all sure what the length of yarn in each of these hanks was because in those days manufacturers didn't give this sort of information. The hank that I received yesterday was laceweight (this is significantly thinner than 4-ply), weighed 8 ounces and comprised 2400 yards of yarn. You can see what it looked like here although I should say that while this is the colourway that I have chosen my hank has more orange and blue in it than the one shown; but that is the glory of hand-dyed yarns, no two are the same (I didn't buy here either, my favourite online store is the Woolly Workshop).

Yesterday evening I decided to have a change from knitting and crocheting. I decided that I was going to wind this hank into a ball. I have had a number of hanks of this yarn in various colourways over the last couple of years and I have tried various methods of carrying out this task. It is not easy having to do it one your own, and on almost every occasion I have ended up in a mess and had to break the yarn and have ended up with either two or three balls. I've tried doing it with the hank placed over the back of a chair but I find this is very wearing and because it requires me to stand for the whole time that I am winding the ball, it does cause me some discomfort in my back and is likely to end up with a recurrence of the sciatica from which I regularly suffer. I have found that the best way for me is to sit on my bed propped up with pillows and with my knees up in the air. This means that I can place the hank of yarn over my knees and move them apart until they are at a suitable distance for maintaining the hank in place while I wind the yarn from it onto the ball that I am creating.

Yesterday evening things went very well and the ball grew quickly but as it got larger it became more difficult to hold. While I have fairly large hands there is a limit to how far my fingers will stretch over an object and after about two hours of winding things slowed dramatically. However, I persevered and I was approaching the end of my task when a catastrophe occurred. As the hank now only comprised about 30 yards of yarn, it had no appreciable weight to it and when I somewhat carelessly forgot to move my arms around my legs as I was winding, the hank came off my knees and in a matter of seconds I was left with a knotted mass.

I could so easily have reached for a pair of scissors and cut the yarn, after all there was only a small proportion of the 2400 yards in this mess, but my stubborn streak was determined to unknot it and ensure that there was the full amount on the ball. It took me more than an hour but I succeeded and ended up with a ball 16 inches in circumference.

An Absolute Giant

Having managed to create the ball of yarn to work with, I couldn't resist sorting out the needles that I would need to knit the shawl. It starts with double-pointed needles and moves on to various lengths of circular needle as the shawl gets larger. The pattern that I am using is the one for the Shawl KAL that I did a few months back. However, this time I am adapting the pattern so as to create a square shawl rather than the more normal triangle. The pattern is also a lot less lacy in appearance than is normal for a shawl but I think that this will allow the wonderful colours that make up this yarn to be shown to their best advantage.

After a couple of false starts caused by the complexity of creating the initial circle of stitches that allow for the end to be pulled after a few rows have been knitted, thus creating a tight group of stitches at the centre with no visible hole, I managed to get things going. The shawl is growing at quite a rate at the moment because the pattern is relatively simple at present and easy to follow without much difficulty. As it is being knit 'in the round' it means that every row is a knit row which also helps to speed up growth. The pattern is only worked on alternate rows and on these rows an additional 8 stitches are added each time, 2 at each corner. It shouldn't be long before the number of stitches becomes too many to handle easily on double-pointed needles and I make the first transition to a circular needle. This will actually make it slightly easier to handle as I will no longer have to keep changing which needle I have in each hand, but at this point it becomes really important to make sure that I have stitch markers in place to indicate where the corners are, and more importantly which stitch is the start of the row.

This is going to be a project that only gets worked on occasionally at the moment. So it may take a while for it to grow appreciably larger. But I thought you might like to see what it looks like at the moment, so the photographs below show the shawl in all its present glory at approximately 4 inches square and against a background of the ball of wool so that you can see each in relation to the other.

A Multicoloured Beginning

An Indicator of Scale

While I have been drafting this post I have received email notification that some more of the yarn that I ordered on Monday (the sock yarn for the tunic) has been dispatched to me and the postman will probably be delivering that tomorrow. I do like having plenty of yarn in my stash and hopefully over the next couple of months I should be able to build up a supply that will last me through the winter and into next spring.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Monday Blues

After just three hours sleep last night I am not feeling at my brightest today and I have to admit that it is making me feel very down. However, in order to cheer me up a little I have been doing a bit of shopping online.

A knitter can never have enough wool, so I have visited my favourite online wool store and ordered some yarn to make some shawls. And the owner of this yarn shop is so brilliant that part of my order is already winging its way to me just an hour after ordering it. I'll have to wait for the rest of the yarn because it isn't even in the country yet; it comes from the US which has lots of independent yarn dyers who produce yarns in fantastic colourways.

I've also ordered some wool from a supplier that I have not used before. This time the wool is to make a long-sleeved tunic which will look great with trousers. I found the pattern for this on one of the knitting forums to which I belong and I've been looking for some yarn to knit it in for some months now. Incredibly, it is knitted in sock yarn and it has taken me a while to find a supplier with a colourway that I like that doesn't look as though it is meant for socks. I have also had an email from them (within half an hour of ordering) to let me know that they will need to order in fresh supplies as I want rather a large quantity (12 balls, most buyers would only be looking for a couple of balls at a time to make a pair of socks). This means that I will probably have to wait about a week for this yarn, but as this is a project that I wasn't thinking of working on for at least a couple of months the wait is not a problem.

The tunic pattern is also somewhat unusual in that not only is it knitted in one piece (which is great as I hate having to sew things up after I have knitted them) it is worked from the top down. The benefit of this is that being in one piece it is possible to try the garment on to check for size as you are knitting it. I am intrigued to have a go at it but perhaps it is just as well that I will have to wait for the wool because that means that I can finish the things that I am working on at the moment and not be tempted to try something new.

I have three summer tops sitting in my work basket waiting to be sewn up and another knitted top on the needles and a crocheted top in progress too. I also have enough wool for another couple of summer tops waiting to find its way on to the knitting needles.

Thank goodness that I was taught to knit as a child because it is one of the things that keeps me going when I am feeling down. I suppose it is seeing the knitting grow and have something useful at the end of it that makes it such a rewarding, and sanity-saving, hobby.

Wide Awake

It's 1.15 in the morning and I ought to be fast asleep but it is obviously going to be another one of those nights where sleep just won't come.

This is one of the aspects of depression that I have most problems with. I try to switch off but thoughts continue to whirl about in my mind and nothing that I do seems to help me to achieve a level of calm where I can lie down, close my eyes and just drift off.

If you were to ask me what the thoughts are I couldn't tell you. There doesn't seem to be any one particular thing that I am thinking about, in fact I am trying not to think about anything, and yet my mind seems to be far too active for this time in the morning.

Sometimes I feel as though I am afraid to go to sleep because of the things that I might dream about. There have been several nights recently where I have woken from a frightening dream with the sweat pouring off me. Yet I am unable to remember what it was that I was dreaming about.

I've tried reading but I can't concentrate. I've tried listening to some music but I can't find anything that I really want to listen to at the moment. I've even tried listening to one of my relaxation recordings and that didn't help either.

I shall probably lie in bed trying to sleep for hours yet and finally drop off just as it is time for me to get up.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Space, The Moon, And Memories

I have an admission to make. I am fascinated by space. Not room-type space, but that area above our atmosphere. I suppose it comes from being a child of the 50s who vividly remembers such things as the impact that Sputnik had on the world. I remember listening to my transistor radio when Apollo 8 went behind the Moon and we waited to hear from the astronauts again. The choice of the passage from Genesis about the creation of Earth was inspired.

Apollo 11 held me spellbound and seeing Neil Armstrong step out on to the Moon with the words 'That's one small step for man, a giant leap for mankind' will remain with me forever. Then there was the worry of the problems that befell Apollo 13 and the hopes of the world that the astronauts could be brought back safely.

Later Apollo missions gave us the Moon buggy which bounced across the Moon's surface in what appeared a most dangerous manner. And because the buggy remained on the Moon it was possible for the camera onboard to be pointed towards the lunar lander and we were able to witness it taking off for a rendezvous with the command capsule. The multicoloured sparks are something that I can clearly see in my mind even now.

Only six missions with lunar landings took place. That meant that only 12 men walked on the Moon, and only 9 of them are still alive. One of the things that the astronauts who walked on the Moon did while they was there was to collect rocks for examination back here on Earth. There is a piece of Moon rock mounted in perspex in the Natural History Museum. But far more exciting is the piece of Moon rock that you can touch in the Smithsonian Institute's National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. This is my favourite museum in all the countries that I have been fortunate enough to visit and something that I always did when I visited was to touch that piece of Moon rock and think about the journey that had to be made to collect it.

Tonight I have been watching the programmes on BBC2 and BBC4 that James May made about going to the Moon and his flight to the edge of space in a U2 aircraft. Seeing him getting into his space suit in preparation for the flight brought back memories of my time in the RAF. I was fortunate enough on a couple of occasions to be able to visit USAF bases in the UK and see aircrew preparing for flights in U2 and SR-71 aircraft.

It is amazing to see the U2 travel along the runway and on reaching take-off speed lift into the sky and the pogo undercarriage drop from the wings. Watching the aircraft land again hours later, one couldn't help but be impressed by the skill of the pilot in keeping the aircraft's wings level until it had slowed enough for it to safely slew over onto one of its wingtips as it came to a halt.

But for sheer exhilaration there is no aircraft that can beat the experience of standing on the edge of a runway when an SR-71 takes off. Because an aircraft that flies at the height and speed of the SR-71 expands when it reaches altitude and full speed, it is made so that its panels are not fixed but allow for that expansion to take place. This means that it leaks fuel while it is on the ground. It would taxi to the end of the runway and then start to move. As it gathered speed and approached the area where we were standing the sound of its engines would become louder. Our hosts would always try to ensure that we were standing near the spot on the runway that the aircraft would start to lift from the runway and by this time the sound was deafening (we were given ear defenders) and it would actually start to be possible to feel the effect of this sound in our bodies. The effect would slowly dissipate as the aircraft moved off into the distance and climbed into the sky. Watching an SR-71 come in from a mission at night was also something that I was fortunate enough to witness on a couple of occasions. Night-time landings were the best because it was possible to see the aircraft glowing red as a result of the airframe heating up as it travelled at more than twice the speed of sound. Although the aircraft had slowed to more normal speeds for its landing it was still very hot and with the right conditions the red glow was visible from some considerable distance and I often wonder if it was sometimes responsible for sightings of UFOs.

All this is now long ago and yet these are memories that can clearly come back to me when something such as tonight's television programmes are shown.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Presentations To The GP Registrars

Sorry for the delay in writing about my day with the GP Registrars. After a bit of a high immediately after the presentations I sunk into darkness again, but I am now ready to reflect on the day.

I arrived just before lunch which gave me the opportunity to touch base with 'B' with whom I do the presentations and we established the pattern that we would follow for each of the three workshops that we would be presenting. That gave us time to decide whether I would risk attempting to use the 'live' system or use the PowerPoint presentation that I have created for such occasions. We decided to settle for the PowerPoint; this would mean that there was less likelihood of there being any problems.

Then we joined the attendees and organizers for an enjoyable buffet lunch. It gave me the opportunity to say hello to a couple of people who I had met at the first presentation that I had given in this establishment way back in November last year. Then it was time to make our way to the room in which the workshops were to be carried out and await the arrival of the first group.

'B' gave the background to what we were going to be talking about and how it was possible for this system to be used by 60% of the GP practices in the country, and then it was my turn to speak about patients having online access to their medical records and the benefits that could accrue from it. After my presentation it was time for the attendees to ask questions and to give their viewpoint which led to some lively discussions.

The reaction by each group to the presentation was different. The first group included several in their number who were openly hostile to the idea that patients should have access to their medical records, let alone be able to see them online. Even the reminder that I, as a patient, had a legal right to see my medical records could not dissuade them from their views.

The second group seemed to be fairly neutral to the idea at first, but after listening to what we had to say in the presentation and what came up in the follow-up discussion seemed to understand how there could be significant benefits for both the GP and the patient.

The third group were in general quite open to the idea before the presentation and became very positive towards the concept as a result of it and the discussion afterwards. Perhaps the difference that was seen in this group was as a result of most of them being in the final stages of their training whereas the other two groups had many more who were at earlier stages, or perhaps it was just the attitude shown by a few of the more vociferous members of those groups that led me to these conclusions.

After the workshops there was a break for tea and biscuits before the final session which included a quiz and the final roundup by the Professor who was head of the group who had organized the study day. Then we were invited to join the attendees in a glass (or two) of wine and informal chat. 'B' thanked me for joining him in making the presentations which he believes benefit from having a patient doing most of the presentation and being there to give the patient's point of view. He then had to leave because of other commitments but I stayed and joined one group of GP registrars with whom I spent a most enjoyable hour discussing the relationship between GP and patient and how best to achieve a good relationship.

On the whole I found these GPs in training lovely group of people, but I did have concerns about one or two who seemed to have little real idea about the patients that they would be treating in the future. There were several who seemed to think that just because their future patients had not been to medical school that they were of low intelligence. I can't help thinking that this is a very dangerous and stupid way of thinking for people wanting to work in general practice. I pointed out to one of them who made a comment about the intelligence of their future patients that there was no way of knowing anything about a patient's background or education from an initial glance at their medical record. I am quite sure that someone with a PhD in astrophysics for example, is not going to like being spoken to as though they were some sort of intellectual midget. I can only hope that this particular doctor learns a bit more about how to communicate well with patients before they are allowed to deal with those patients on a full-time basis.

Fortunately ideas such as these seemed to be restricted to just one or two of the doctors present and the rest were a really lovely group of individuals many of whom I would be more than happy to have as my GP in the future. It was great to be able to talk to them after the study day and to ask them about the presentation that I had given and whether it had changed their view on the subject. One thing that I did learn was that they had found it a very worthwhile experience to have a patient as one of the presenters at the workshops and that it had allowed them to see something from the patient's point of view rather than from that of a doctor. I have a couple more presentations to give in the coming weeks. One of them is to a Strategic Health Authority and the other is to a PCT. I just have to hope that they go as well.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

On Tenterhooks

I'm sitting at home waiting for it to be a reasonable time for me to set out to go to a medical educational establishment in London. It's not the first time that I have been there so I know how to find it, and the presentation that I am to give (three times) is one that I am very familiar with having delivered it a number of times over the last eight months. But familiarity with my subject does not stop me from being very nervous.

I have been booked to give these presentations since my first foray into talking to doctors about the benefits of patients having access to their medical records. It is not yet a year since a chance conversation with my GP led to him asking if I would be willing to talk about my experience with being able to access my medical records online, something that was pioneered by the GP practice that I am with. I described my feelings about that first experience here and here. Since then I have given several more presentations on the subject, and I even feature as a voice over on an online demonstration of what I, as a patient, can see on my medical records and the benefits that can accrue from this.

For those readers who may not have read all my previous posts, I should say at this point that giving presentations at large international conferences was something that I did regularly when I was working. And the delegates at those conferences could be pretty difficult to deal with as it was possible that I was saying things that went totally against their beliefs in the subject areas that I dealt with. But familiarity with my subjects and confidence in my analysis meant that I could deal with hostile questioning without hesitation. However, the severe depression that I suffered from, and which caused me to have to take early retirement on medical grounds, has left me with a complete lack of confidence in myself and I was very nervous about speaking in public again even though my GP reassured me that the audience of doctors would be kind to me.

On the first occasion that I gave the presentation everything that could go wrong, did. It was planned that I would do the presentation using the live system to show how easy it was to use. Unfortunately, between setting everything up for the demonstration and actually having to stand up in front of the audience of doctors, the server at my GP's surgery went down, so no live records, and it became necessary for me to make the presentation using screen shots of the system which I had only seen once and the order of which I was not altogether certain.

Since then I have developed a PowerPoint presentation that allows me to give the presentation tailored to the audience and time available to me. There are nice transitions between the slides, and some nice refinements that have been built in as a result of the sort of questions that the presentation generally elicits. I am familiar with the order of the slides, I know what I have to say about each of them, and I have a slide at the end which sums up the benefits to the patient that such access allows. I know from experience that doctors are a nice audience to make a presentation to and they are especially appreciative of the opportunity to hear the patient's view on the subject.

Yet, I still have butterflies the size of pterodactyls blundering their way about my stomach and an attack of the shakes that would make a withdrawing alcoholic look steady as a rock.

Monday, 15 June 2009

The End Of A Typical Summer's Day

The sun has shone for most of the day although there have been clouds, some of them quite menacing in appearance, and the air has been heavy and humid. But that has all changed and we now have the end of a typical British summer's day even though it is still only early evening.

The sky is now a uniform dark grey, bordering on black, and it is so dark that lights are needed to see to do anything. The rain is pouring down and the sound of thunder rolling around.

Let us hope that the rain will clear the air and tomorrow will be a little fresher. I hope so, because tomorrow I want to do some work in the garden and I really hate it when it is humid.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

World Knitting In Public Day

Today is world knitting in public day. Something that so many of us do in the privacy of our homes is being celebrated by being undertaken in public.

There are a many events being organized around the country and I am sure that many fellow knitters will be taking to public areas to knit in large groups. The knitters will undoubtedly be of all ages, and one hopes that a large number of male knitters will be joining in. And many of these events will be raising money for charity too.

I was hoping to be joining one of the events that is being held in London but as it involves a fair amount of walking from one location to another I am having second thoughts. I have had another sleepless night and as I am also suffering from sciatica (a problem I suffer from intermittently) and I am not sure that I could cope with all the walking.

So I am going to be thinking of all those knitters who are out and about today showing the world the pleasure that they get from this wonderful hobby. I'm sure that many new friendships will be formed and I hope that many people will be inspired to take up this hobby or to pick up their needles again after a long break.

While I won't be out there knitting in public, I will certainly be spending some of my day with knitting needles and wool and whiling away a few hours in a relaxing way.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Feeling Abandoned

It is now five weeks since my last psychotherapy session and I still cannot sleep properly on a Thursday night.

I understood the reason for my not sleeping when I was actually going to therapy; I often started to become anxious on a Wednesday and that feeling just increased as the hours passed and by Thursday night I was often in a real state. Sometimes I managed two or three hours sleep, sometimes none, before I had to get myself ready to go to catch the bus to the hospital.

I can perhaps understand why I continued to have problems sleeping on Thursday nights for a couple of weeks, but to still be suffering in this way is starting to concern me.

The problem seems to be with the way that the therapy terminated. There seemed to be no proper ending. The resulting feeling of abandonment seems to have left me in a permanently depressed state where I find it difficult to do anything meaningful.

I seem to manage to pull myself together sufficiently to make the presentations that I am asked to do occasionally, but the recent cancellation of one of these, and the cancellation of the summer course that I was to be lecturing on, seems to have made the feeling of abandonment worse. I'm back to crying for long periods of time, finding it difficult to do anything that requires more than a minimal amount of concentration, and wondering why I bother carrying on with life.

There And Back To See There And Back

Sorry to have taken so long to write about my day out with There and Back last Friday. I have no excuse other than that I really haven't felt like writing anything, but tonight I am forcing myself to write a few words.

My train left Waterloo on time and I arrived at my destination just a minute late. The arrangement was that I would meet There and Back at the station. She had a doctor's appointment and hoped that she would arrive at the station in time for the arrival of my train. We exchanged a number of text messages while I was on the train and I knew that she would probably arrive at the station a couple of minutes after my train arrived, and that is exactly what happened.

I saw There and Back walking towards me as I stood near the station entrance so I started to walk away from the station to meet her. And when we actually met there was a minute or two where we just stood there hugging each other and saying how lovely it was to see each other again. We had already decided in our daily emails that we weren't going to do anything too exciting, but rather just take the opportunity to sit and chat about whatever crossed our minds.

So, we headed off for a coffee for me and hot chocolate for There and Back. While we were drinking and talking I gave There and Back a few little presents. There wasn't anything really special, just a few bits and pieces that I thought she might like. I gave her Hat No 1 (well a girl really doesn't need three hats that are similar), a small piece of rock with amethyst crystals embedded on it, a small coaster made from a slice of purple agate (purple is There and Back's favourite colour) and a really cute, baby diplodocus cuddly toy (it was only about 4 inches in length and really cute, and as a vegetarian dinosaur it was the perfect gift from the Natural History Museum for There and Back who is also a vegetarian).

Then we went to a department store so that I could buy some tapestry needles and once they were purchased, the pair of us went to another area of the shop to drool over the knitting wool. I have to feed my knitting habit and There and Back has become a real wool junkie since I bought her a book on crochet and a crochet hook for her birthday. After a bit more wandering while chatting away we headed for the shopping centre's food area and made our way to Pizza Hut for our lunch.

We found ourselves being taken to a table, our drinks order was taken and we opted for the lunch-time buffet. This meant that we could eat as much as we wanted of the pizzas, salads and pasta on the buffet, but more importantly take as long as we wanted over our lunch. And we did; both of us having two platefuls of pizza and salad. We finished off with a visit to the ice cream machine.

After lunch we went for a walk to the park and sat in the sun on a park bench for about an hour. At this point I gave There and Back the other present that I had for her; the afghan that I had made once I knew that I would be seeing her. She was thrilled with it and I knew that she would like the colours because she had commented on how much she liked the photograph of my afghan that I had posted on the blog when I was knitting it some months ago.

When the sun disappeared and it started to get a bit cold, we headed back to the coffee shop where we had enjoyed our drinks earlier in the day. We had the same drinks again and chatted some more before heading for the station so that I could catch my train home. After having spent something like five and a half hours in each other's company we parted with a big hug and a goodbye. We had both enjoyed the day and are looking forward to meeting again in the coming months; it will be in London next time with the probability of a visit to a matinee performance of one of the musicals that are on in London.

Friday, 5 June 2009

A Lovely Day

Just a quick post to let you know that I had a lovely day with There and Back. It was a long day with all the travelling but we both had a great time. I'll write a longer post tomorrow telling you about my awayday and what we got up to.

Raring To Go

I have been awake since dawn; mainly because I didn't sleep much last night. I am like a coiled spring, just waiting to be released. It will soon be time for me to get myself ready to leave the house and make my way to the bus stop to start on my long journey for my awayday.

It is absolutely ridiculous, but I feel like a five-year old waiting to go on their first school trip.

There is no evidence of depression today; just a strange feeling of excitement and expectation. No sign of nervousness is apparent. I cannot believe that a woman of my age can feel like this.

Isn't it silly? Just because I am going to get on a train and go and see a friend that I haven't seen for a few months. And that opportunity to say 'Hi There and Back' and to give her a hug.

Thursday, 4 June 2009


I'm having an awayday tomorrow. Not a trip into London to visit a museum or another place of interest. No, this is an honest to goodness day away from home that necessitates me going to one of the London mainline stations and getting on a train to another part of the country.

My awayday has been planned for quite a few weeks now and I am really looking forward to it. I'm visiting a city that I haven't actually been to before, although I have visited some places that are not too far away from it. But I don't suppose that I will see much more than the railway station and a few shops because I expect most of my time in this city will be spent in a restaurant having lunch and talking with the person that I am going to see.

Although I correspond with this person on a daily basis, we have not seen each other in person since the beginning of November when we met under the clock at Waterloo. Yes, I am going to meet There and Back tomorrow, and it is she who will be the recipient of the afghan that I recently completed.

So, it will be an early night tonight, then an early rise so that I can get myself ready for my big day out. I'll let you know what we get up to and how There and Back is when I get home, and maybe I can persuade her to start blogging again.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Coals To Newcastle

I know, another post that mentions Newcastle, but as you all know the expression means taking or sending something to the area that it comes from. A couple of days ago I wrote about the post which had been read most often and today, as usual, it has been visited at least twice as a result of a Google search.

In case you are wondering why I should be linking 'coals to Newcastle' with my most read post, it's because, today, I have had a visitor from Lerwick in the Shetland Islands who Googled 'shetland haps'.

My Pet Hate

We all have pet hates; things that for us are intolerable. It could be a food item, it could be a type of clothing, it could be a television programme, it might be a person who we don't really know but for whom we develop a strong dislike. In my case it is an accent.

Yes, that's right, an accent; the way in which people from a particular part of the country speak. And the accent is ...


Anyone who has known me for many years will see the irony of this pet hate. You see, my husband of more than 20 years was born at Wallsend, and lived the first 18 years of his life in the area of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. And always north of the Tyne, for that is where real Geordies come from (that's what he always used to tell me) not these southerners from Durham and South Shields who call themselves Geordies.

The Geordie accent can be very difficult to understand for those who do not come from the area. Understanding it has never been a problem for me so I can't give that as the reason for disliking it, but dislike it I do. Perhaps it is the sing-song quality to the accent that I don't like, but it is a fact that I will often turn off the television or radio if the person talking is a Geordie.

Just in case you are wondering why I have suddenly decided to tell you about my pet hate, it is tied in with something that I have been watching on BBC television over recent weeks and my annoyance about the way that programmes are shown, or perhaps it would be better to say the way they are repeated.

I have found that Sunday evenings have been packed with excellent programmes on BBC1 and BBc2 for the last four weeks, and I have been very grateful for BBC iPlayer which gives me the ability to watch these programmes again and to watch programmes that I couldn't watch when they were broadcast because of time clashes. The programmes in question have been South Pacific and The Incredible Human Journey on BBC2 and Inspector George Gently on BBC1.

I watch the BBC2 programmes when they are broadcast and then resort to BBC iPlayer for Inspector Gently. It is set in the north-east of England in the 1960s, and while most of the stories seem to relate to the Durham area or South Shields, the locals are referred to as Geordies. And while I will usually turn off the television or radio, as I have already said, at the merest hint of the accent, I have really enjoyed watching this series. Perhaps it was because it was tempered with Inspector Gently's London accent. I didn't see the first series of Inspector Gently (I'm not sure why, perhaps I just wasn't aware of it being on) but I have enjoyed watching the second series although I would have liked to have seen the first series because it would perhaps have explained a few things that I didn't understand about the two main characters. So I was very pleased to see that the programme that was going to be shown last night was from the first series, unfortunately it wasn't the first episode, but the second one.

Why on earth would the BBC put on the second episode of something without showing the first one, especially for something such as this series when it is likely that the first episode provided an introduction to the main characters? The answer is simple. There must be something big on next Sunday and they only wanted a filler programme for this week. And that is what it looks like for I see that the final for this year's 'Apprentice' is being shown next Sunday.

So I have had a taster of what had gone before, but only a taster, so I will have to add it to the items that I will be buying later from Amazon. I have to say that I have checked Amazon a couple of times just recently; originally in the hope of being able to buy some of the Inspector Gently books written by Alan Hunter, and latterly looking for the DVD. While I appreciate that these books will be somewhat dated now, I would have liked the opportunity to read at least some of the books, but few are available and then only in used copies. While I am not averse to buying used copies, the prices being charged for some were totally ridiculous.

So there you have it. A rambling post that started out with me talking about my pet hate, an accent, and finishes with me talking about an enjoyable television series that had most of the characters talking with that accent. Isn't life strange?