Archive for February, 2010

Book Clubs and Fat Clubs

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m a regular poster on the Downsizer forum, a network of like-minded folk, all as mad as a box of frogs, whose interests range from poultry and pigs to knitting and felting to baking and gardening … the list is endless. Even more so when you throw in the non-downsizery topics of interest, such as everything and anything that I haven’t already mentioned…

As a result, I’ve joined two DS “clubs”, one to broaden the mind, the other to narrow the waistline.

I never got round to reading the first book up for discussion, The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes), by Henri Alain-Fournier, but I have promised myself that I will read Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness by the deadline at the end of March. Really, I will!

On the other hand, Fat Club (not my choice of name) is going a lot better. We’ve only just started, so it’s early days, but I was thrilled to discover that I lost two pounds in the first week. No, I don’t know how either, as I consumed more than my fair share of cake and chocolate. Luckily, the dogs need lots of exercise!

My aim is to drop a stone, which is a lot better than the four stone I lost the last time I gave my weight any thought, but even more annoying as a result. Standing on the scales, I had a strange sense of deja vu but hey, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Hmm, I suspect it’s the cookie that holds the blame!

In other news, the books I bought with my Amazon voucher have turned up and I’ve made a start on Troy: Fall of Kings by David and Stella Gemmell. So far, so good 😀

I’ve also hit some of the charity shops in Taunton, that being the closest Big Town, and bought a load of crime books, from Jeffrey Deaver to PD James, as well as a couple of Robert Harris novels (Fatherland and Archangel, if you’re curious).

And … I bought a few photo frames, so my long-awaited project of framing my old photos has finally started to come to life. All I’ve got to do now is buy another twenty or so – and then make a start on printing off some of my 30GB of digital photos! 😯

Oooh, and being a thrifty sort*, I also picked up a pair of cord trousers (Wranglers, don’t you know!) for the shockingly low price of three pounds fifty in my charity shop escapade. Unfortunately, they’re a couple of inches too long so it’s a case of hoping that She-Who-Promised-To-Hem-Them-For-Me will indeed hem them for me, lest I be forced to have a go myself and end up with one leg several inches shorter than t’other…

But, before you roll your eyes and tut maddeningly, take note: I am going to have a bash at mending the pockets in my favourite jeans – I put my keys in them the other morning and was somewhat taken aback when I felt the cold metal slipping down my leg owing to the fact that said pocket is hanging on by a few threads too few, if you catch my drift?!

Hmm, just thinking about attempting to thread a needle is enough for me for the time being. Please excuse me, I’ve got ten books to make my way through…!

*Cardi, as some of you may being muttering under your breath…

Seven pounds the poorer

It is Saturday afternoon and I’m in my living room, torturing the dogs by refusing to let them in (they’re sitting at the French door, whining and generally being pathetic) and wishing that Talk Talk would hurry up and switch on my broadband as having an internet-less house is doing my head in. Look at all the Twittering I’m missing out on: “12.30pm Beans on toast for lunch, nom nom”, “1pm Wow, the washing machine is HUGE – looks like I can get away with fortnightly laundry days!”, “2.30pm Why do the dogs insist on jumping on MY bed for a better view whenever anyone knocks on the door?!” and “2.20pm Just had flying visit from @chez_ally and B. Lovely to see them. Really must get big comfy sofa”.

Anyway … I’m enjoying the fact that today is turning out to be a damn good one.

For once, I had a decent night’s sleep – I think one of only a handful over the past few months. I fell asleep at half past ten and slept through until half past six this morning – no nightmares, no waking up, just peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. Bliss.

Unfortunately, I woke to a distinct lack of milk and bread in the house (I’ve been hiding at Ally and B’s for the past week) but it was ok – I had a plan. Laze around in bed until 8, get up, have a bath, take the dogs for a walk and then go to the Co-Op in the nearest village and stock up. Eight o’clock came and went. Half past eight. Nine. Nine-thirty. Ten…

Eventually, at eleven o’clock, the lack of caffeine in my blood overtook the temporary paralysis induced by panicky thoughts of going to the Co-Op and I found myself running a bath. Very nice it was too. The snow and subsequent rain stopped by time I was dressed and the sun was shining, so the dogs and I had a lovely meander round the orchards and then I quickly dropped them off at the house, grabbed my keys, wallet and rucksack, jumped in the car and drove off before I realised what was happening.

Sadly, I cottoned on to what was happening before I reached the Co-Op and ended up driving through it three times before I was able to talk myself into pulling over and parking. Of course, despite my anxiety, everything was fine and I came away seven pounds poorer but all the richer for having stuck it out – not to mention the milk, bread, three jars of pasta sauce (tomato and chilli, my favourite, on offer) and a couple of packs of pasta (also on offer)!

The euphoria of actually having done it gave me quite a high, so not only have I devoured some beans on toast (nom nom!!!!), I have also done the laundry and given the flatling a quick tidy (surfaces only, no hoovering) and organised all my paperwork, such as the endless letters from the DWP regarding my incapacity benefit etc.

So far, so good!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the washing machine has stopped attempting to take off, which I assume means it has finished, so I now need to wrestle with a fortnight’s worth of clean socks and jumpers. Etc.

Update at 3.30pm

I’ve hung all my clothes up to dry and in doing so have come up with an additional list of jobs (such as de-poo the garden). But I’ve also been contemplating how drastically things have changed in my life. At university, I was actively involved in the students’ union, so major accomplishments varied from getting a motion passed through the monthly SU general meeting to actually getting my work handed in on time (getting a good mark never seemed as important as the thrill of making it to the administrator’s office before the 12pm deadline!).

Then, when I was an elected officer in NUS, I did all sorts of things, from appearing live on the lunchtime news to public speaking, from writing and delivering training to politicking and hacking. Scary stuff but I did it without thinking, even giving a speech at the Labour Party conference one year.

Being a smallholder meant taking responsibility for animals’ lives and well-being. Newborn piglets, sick chickens … It’s a lot to deal with but I did it. I can kill, pluck and draw a chicken – and then cook it! I can tell you when a pig is ready to go for slaughter and produce them so they have the right amount of fat in the right places. I can load pigs into a trailer without any gates. I can inject them and tag them. And so on. And that’s before I think about dogs, cats, horses etc.

But now … oh, how things have changed.

I felt as much of a thrill for having gone to the shop to buy milk on my own as I did when I got a standing ovation for giving a speech in defence of Holocaust Memorial Day at my last NUS Conference, as much as a thrill as when my first litter of piglets was born.

Funny, isn’t it, how our priorities change over the course of our lives?!

Today, I learnt something important. Doing as much as you can do, giving it 100%, no matter what “it” is, is what counts. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you don’t. But you have to keep trying – because when you do succeed (and you will), you suddenly realise that the trying is what makes the success so sweet.

Here endeth the lesson.

Update at 7pm

Am round at Ally and B’s. Again! This time for deep-fried Camembert. Mmmmmmm 😀

To weep is to make less the depth of grief

I’ve just been informed that I look like “a woman who has spent the afternoon sobbing” … which is far enough, as that’s pretty much how I did indeed spend the afternoon.

I now feel drained, empty and exhausted.

Which has to be better than the agony I was in earlier.

I’m trying to think of a way to describe it but words fail me. It just hurt. As did the crying. Great sobs that racked my body, tore at my throat, burned my eyes.

Ugh, I hate crying. Even if you don’t have a cold, you produce enough snot to drench several trees in tissues. And then you get a headache. And look like shit. And feel drained, empty and exhausted – and unable to articulate how you feel – or understand why you feel like that.

But I thought this would be an interesting experiment to address just that – how do I feel? And why?

I feel … as though I am at the bottom of a pecking order, as though I am a lesser being, that any crap that comes my way is a fair cop, guv. It’s ok for others to treat me as they please because that’s my role, that’s how it works. In any hierarchy, there are those at the top and those who aren’t and what I really feel, what’s at the crux of everything, is that I need to accept this, to learn to live with it, that fighting it is futile, that the sooner I shut up and put up, the easier all this will be…

True or not (and I’m not fishing for compliments here), that’s what I see when I look in the mirror and it’s no different if I look into myself.

In fact, I did that a while ago and saw … well, I’ll leave that for another day as describing it is beyond me at the moment.

The cutting edge of depression

I self-harm.

There, I’ve said it.

*takes large gulp of coffee*

Earlier this afternoon, I published a post about self-harm on one of the web forums I frequent. Having seen the response from my ‘friends’ on the forum, I have decided to take the plunge and be a bit more open on here about some of the shit I’m going through. Why? Because then I can actually write about what I’m feeling, and therefore use my blog as another medium to express myself.

Also, because I suspect that the issue is a lot more widespread than any of us could imagine, but no-one talks about it. Self-harm is viewed as a shameful secret and while I concede it is an uncomfortable subject, a lack of understanding is no reason to make it a taboo subject.

Maybe if more of us who are going through it, or have done so, were open about it, there’d be less stigma? Just a theory…

Without going into details about the whys and wherefores, I suffer from PTSD and depression and as a consequence, am subject to panic attacks and crippling flashbacks that, apart from their incapacitating nature, throw me “off” and leave me feeling emotionally bruised and bashed and generally incapable of doing the most basic things. This morning, for example, I was unable to get up and couldn’t even walk the dogs.

In the past, one of my coping mechanisms was booze and it’s safe to say that I was rapidly becoming dependent on the habit. Thankfully, I was able to stop drinking but over the past few months, I have come to rely on cutting as a means of expressing myself and finding release.

This was working for me but I now feel as though it’s getting out of control. No, scrap that, it is getting out of control and I’m no longer able to manage the cutting itself.

I’ve tried all the obvious stuff like putting my hands in cold / hot water etc but they don’t work. It’s the act of cutting that I’ve been relying on and that’s what I need to address. Even things like going for a walk don’t always work – on Saturday I went for a three mile walk and then walked straight into my bathroom and picked up my knife.

So, the hunt is on the find an alternative way for me to express what I need to express, to articulate the pain, to release the emotions I can’t get out in any other way, without being self-destructive.

Is this possible?

I don’t know.

But I do know that the four month wait for CBT is one hell of a long time, when I frequently struggle to get from one hour to the next…

~Sorry this was such heavy reading for a wet and miserable Thursday afternoon!

Who knew pelicans could be so dangerous?!

I spotted this on the Downsizer forum this morning and it really made me chuckle…

Pelican attacks weather presenter on live television

I like things that make me laugh in the morning 😆

Trust in me

Trust …

What is it? I won’t bore you with the various dictionary definitions that I’ve found on the wibbly web but I like these:

  • the reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing
  • to rely upon or place confidence in someone or something
  • trust, assurance, confidence imply a feeling of security
  • trust implies instinctive unquestioning belief in and reliance upon something

Since getting the wobbles (which is one way of putting it, so long as you’re into understatements) in the winter and then finally venturing into the doctor’s surgery at the beginning of January I have met with and spoken to the following healthcare professionals:

  • Dr R on several occasions
  • Floral jumpsuit woman in Cardiff (a disaster)
  • The CPN with the mad hair (another emotional disaster but with positive outcomes)
  • At least five different members of the Somerset Mental Health Crisis Team on numerous occasions and over the phone
  • My “care co-ordinator”, Sparky
  • Nurse P
  • Dr D

I make that eleven different people.

Of the eleven, there’s only three that I can say I feel comfortable with – that I trust.

But I’ve had to share a piece of myself with all eleven.

And there’s more to come.

I’m on a waiting list for CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) but we’re talking a wait of four to five months. And I’m contemplating the idea of asking Dr R to refer me for EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing).

Whatever I do, that’s a long list.

And yes, I know they’re on my team, I know they are there to help me, that it’s about what I need and what they can offer but I’ve only got a limited capacity of trust and it’s being rapidly used up in a series of stupid errors on their part, such as the whole experience meeting Floral Jumpsuit; when the CPN asked me some inappropriate and invasive questions; when the Crisis Team promised to make the referral for CBT but failed to do so on two separate occasions, turning what should have been a 16 week wait into nearly 19 weeks; and the way that the majority of people on that list seem to treat me like I’m rather dim, a silly schoolgirl, rather than a well-educated, intelligent, articulate, self-aware woman in her thirties who is quite clearly struggling with the notion of asking for help in the first place…

When I’m uncomfortable with a situation, my instinct is to withdraw into myself, to hide. If I’m relatively sane, I can control this. If I’m too far gone, then I don’t even know I’m doing it. I’ve never liked talking on the phone but since going bat shit, this problem has exploded ten-fold. I don’t know how many times I have explained this to certain people on the list but it keeps coming up as an issue. One example is the way I’m constantly told that if I’m in the process of hitting rock bottom, I should ring one of my “team”!

Another thing I’ve been told is that I need to develop a trusting relationship with Sparky.

If my “team” are screwing up the simple, practical things, if I can’t trust them to get those right, then how the hell can I put my faith in any of them? And why the hell should I have to hold their hands while they figure me out? Yes, I know they need to get to know me but it’s taking them a very long time to get to grips with the basics – not to mention the fact that I’m not really in a place right now where I can afford to hold anyone else’s hand without falling over myself!

I’m just finding the whole process to be rather disheartening and off-putting and what I really want is for them to start earning my trust by being pro-active and actually doing something. No more putting their heads on one side and making reassuring noises about how great it is that I’ve moved into a new flat, or that I was able to buy milk or whatever. When I’m feeling like myself, such comments are trite, patronising and embarrassing. And when I’m on a downward spiral, they’re nothing that I care about. Then I’m only interested in survival and anything woolly and wishy-washy is uninspiring at best and destructive at worst.

*takes a deep breath*

Apologies for that rant but believe me, you don’t know how much better it feels to get all that off my chest.

Have a nice day!

Ah, that’s better!

I only managed two hours sleep last night but today is already a better day … my head feels quite clear and I am more or less ready to take whatever the day throws at me.

So … what to blog about?

The pigs, I think.

It’s two weeks since I sent the five Kune Kunes off to the abattoir and ten days since the epic trip to collect and distribute hundreds of kilos of pork. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a Picasso sink to its knees and beg for mercy, but mine came close. The boxes of meat just kept coming … and then there were the bags containing the “bits”. You know – heads, trotters, ribs etc.

Thankfully, we were able to leave three pigs (who shall remain nameless) in Wales and returned back across the Severn Bridge and down the M5 with just two.

I didn’t keep any, still having a freezer full of Bailey, Harold and the last bits from Vicky and Albert, but I have been sampling Ally’s pork and home-made bacon and ham, which has simply reaffirmed my belief that Kune Kunes are the ideal smallholder’s pig. Yum!

I miss my pigs. I miss having pigs. I miss giving them belly rubs and watching them eat. I miss the sound of them snuffling in a fresh bed of straw. I miss their curiosity and intelligence. I miss their friendship.

But I know that I am not in a place where I can look after myself, right now, let alone livestock. I can just about cope with the dogs. But that’s my lot.

So giving them up was the mature, sensible and wise decision.

I can even cope with the thought of selling my Eglu Cube (see here if you are interested) but the thought of selling the pig arks hurts too much at the moment. Maybe I’ll keep them – maybe not. We’ll see.

The five adults and Snipe - 27 November 2009

The five adults and Snipe - 27 November 2009

Curly, Pinky and the piglets - 21 December 2009

Curly, Pinky and the piglets - 21 December 2009

I do know one thing: after delivering all that meat and sampling the end result, my days as a pig keeper are not over by a long shot.

Finally, some news about Fergie and Brini. Gardening girl, who is looking after them has described them as “the BIGGEST time wasters ever 😆 Everyone loves them, they talk to you 😳 The OSBs that are going on Thursday just don’t have such characters.”

Good news!!


Today was a washout.

4am: wake up
4-7.30am: doze, wake up, doze, wake up … repeat ad infinitum (and nauseum!)
7.30am: drink coffee
8am: walk (desperate) dogs
8.30am: finish coffee #2 and accompany Ally as she drops her kids off at nursery. Officially a Bad Day.
9.30am: collapse on sofa with a mug of tea and some toast
10am: get in the bath
10.30am: get back into bed
1pm: get dragged downstairs by Ally for lunch
2pm: Heather, my “care co-ordinator” (job title speaks for itself – an advocate rather than a counsellor) arrives. I’m still in a slump. Lose track of time. Next appointment in a week.

Later: go to doctor’s surgery, see nurse, see doctor, am put on antibiotics. Emergency doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning. Back to see the nurse on Thursday.

Then: more tea, walk dogs

Now: collapsed on sofa with laptop and a promise to feed the hounds at some point this evening


Settling in

Now that I’ve unpacked, the dogs are starting to settle into their new house and routine. Snipe loves the orchards, which my landlords have said I can walk the dogs in. Midge, on the other hand, is in disgrace as she took herself off for a walk the other day … into the neighbouring farmer’s field! So she is now resigning herself to life on the lead, not least because there’s easy access to both the main road and the railway line!

Snipe - 11 February 2010

Snipe - 11 February 2010

Midge - 11 February 2010

Midge - 11 February 2010

I took them on a three mile walk yesterday and was pleasantly surprised this morning to discover that my legs don’t ache at all. I consider this a victory, though I admit I took a downhill route…!

Tree in the orchard - 11 February 2010

Tree in the orchard - 11 February 2010

My bad days consist of hiding under the duvet. Better days involve watching DVDs, attempting to read (I have concentration issues 😦 ) or playing Civilisation IV to distract myself. Good days involve walking the dogs aimlessly, enjoying my new home in the Somerset hills.

Sunset over the orchard - 11 February 2010

Sunset over the orchard - 11 February 2010

Quite what I’ll do if it buckets down with rain on a good day is anyone’s guess!

Thank you, Jennie!

Those of you with long memories will recall that last month, my wonderful friend Jennie gave me a £25 voucher for Amazon and I have spent the past four or so weeks agonising about what to spend it on.

Drum roll, please maestro, as I have finally made a decision!

If you’re interested, I have purchased:

  • Lords of the Bow and Bones of the Hills, the second and third books in Conn Iggulden’s Conqueror trilogy about Genghis Khan.
  • Troy: Fall of Kings, the final installment in David Gemmell’s trilogy about, funnily eough, the Trojan War.
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire, the first two books in Stieg Larsson’s The Millennium Trilogy.
  • Last, but by no means least … a set of dog claw clippers.

Thanks Jennie. I can’t wait to get stuck into them all, though I’m quite certain that the dogs will not be impressed with their share of the haul! xx