Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday Picture

Just to remind myself that spring is on the way despite the fact that the lurgy is back. I'm cold and shivery and feeling decidely miserable and disinclined to humour.

This lovely picture is by the very talented artist and lovely husband, John Morris. The iris was grown by the very talented and lovely wife, me.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Different Strokes

Today is something of a milestone; after talking about and dancing around the subject for a couple of weeks the Painter is finally back at work. He has sold another painting and it is the start (well, almost) of a new financial year.

It is difficult to imagine all of this, remembering him so lifeless in the hospital back in September, contemplating the recouperation he had already made and the one still to come.

In those dark days it was friends here and family that sustained me. Help was also found in the uplifting stories of young stroke survivors on the Different Strokes website.

I have contacted Laura and include her story below with her permission.

My thanks go to her for her permission to reproduce her story, and especially to the wonderful team at Mount Gould Stroke Rehabilitation Unit in Plymouth who have helped this day happen.

Laura Wood

After reading through other survivors' stories on Different Strokes, I truly just realised that I am not the only one! I suffered my stroke in the August of 2005, a few months after my seventeenth birthday. Ever since it feels like what should be the happiest year of my life - in my last year of school before uni - has been a nightmare. It is reassuring to see that others have been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale. So here's mine, as I distinctly remember it:

I felt completely fine on the day, I've never been to hospital in my life and was fit and healthy and had no reason for concern! As one of those energetic sorts while I was in the living room that afternoon I, as I usually do, flipped over and rolled off the side of the sofa onto the cushions. I lay there for a moment, watching a bit of BBC, and then when I stood up I felt a sudden agonising ache down the right hand side of my body. I stood there for a while, slightly swaying; off balance and uncoordinated. My frame of mind suddenly and completely switched, it was as if it had separated into two - one half was telling me I was fine and that it was just a weird occurrence, the other urging me to 'just go to sleep'.

In a kind of trance I haphazardly threw myself into my room and onto the bed. The other side of my mind came into gear again telling me 'Laura that's weird, you usually put on the radio' but my other side overpowered it, 'no no just go to sleep'. Obeying the latter command would have been a whole lot easier had the left hand side of my head not being pounding, and the right hand side of my body excruciatingly aching and numb. Instead I opted to read. It was a book I had previously read so finding that I couldn't make sense of the words or even hold the book in both hands alerted me that something more than definitely was wrong!

The other side of my mind kicked in and reiterated its point that I should just endeavour the pain and sleep. I managed to uncomfortably sleep for around 45 minutes before I was called for tea. When I awoke I had quite forgotten the other 'weird' occurrences, and when I stood up I struggled to gain balance and felt completely dazed and severely lacked coordination - however, I put it down to merely getting up too fast! This 'weirdness' continued when I found I could not grasp the door handle or coordinate my right-hand side at all. 'That's weird' I thought. I somehow drunkenly went to the kitchen where I sat, and shook my head - still feeling dazed and trying to rid myself of the feeling. I reached out for my glass with my operating left hand and took a gulp, only to find it spilled out the right hand side of my mouth. My mum turned round at this point and laughed "Laura what are you doing?!" as she chucked me a tea towel, "nothing" I thought as I dabbed my face. But as I dabbed I laughed, somewhat uncontrollably, thinking 'god that's weird'. I continued in my plight to actually have a drink and took another gulp from my glass, only to find the same dribbling to happen again. At this my mum looked a little confused "are you okay? what have you been doing up stairs?", yet again I dabbed my face, but as I was doing so I started feeling stupid and started laughing nervously again, not quite understanding what was going on. Mum asked again what I was doing upstairs, and I had my reply clear in my head, my mind after all was completely focused - 'I was asleep' - but I just couldn't seem to coordinate anything out of my mind, like my speech. My laughing ceased as I began to realise that I could not speak. I started to cry, but I felt stupid doing so as I didn't understand why I couldn't speak, so I was still laughing. Mum asked what was wrong and I stopped my laughing immediately, instantly realising that this was no laughing matter!

Although I was completely clear headed, I felt as if I was completely mentally disabled. I couldn't coordinate my right-side limbs; I couldn't speak; I couldn't communicate, I couldn't remember any short term thoughts; I couldn't do anything. It was the most terrifying feeling knowing that my fully functioning body, which I had always taken for granted, was for no obvious reason breaking down and ceasing to function.

My parents took me to A&E in Elgin where I was seen to straight away. It all seemed very surreal as I lay there thinking - "what? A stroke?! That's what old people have!" I recall crying myself to sleep that night, not just because of my excruciatingly thumping headache, or because I'd not be able to go out that weekend, but because I knew from then that things were going to be different.

I refused to believe that my body was weak and from the following day onwards I convinced myself I was fine, when really all I wanted to do inside was curl up and cry. I was transferred hospitals and was carted from test, to test, to test, until consultants at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary eventually confirmed that I had indeed suffered a childhood stroke, and that it was because of a newly discovered hole in my heart, which I have had from birth. It was this hole that let a clot that was passing through my heart at the time to pop through and into the opposite atrium, which sent it to the brain. Apparently the chance of this ever happening is so tiny that I'd probably have had a far better chance of winning the lottery!

During my weeks in hospital I had convinced myself so deeply that I was fine. I didn't want to be 'The Ill One' that stays in bed while everyone else is back at school, or out having fun. I felt vulnerable and lonely, I just wanted to go back to normal - how things were before. I was in severe denial and locked up my true emotions in favour of a false 'fine, fit and healthy' persona.

Each day felt like one long slog. I tried to laugh along with everyone's jokes and pretend nothing happened but it was killing me on the inside. What made matters worse was that I had no one to speak to - my friends never even knew what a stroke was, never mind how to converse about one! This went on for months, each week I just told myself 'no no I'm fine, get on with it, there's people in the world worse off than you are' and ended up pushing myself too far and taking on more than I could handle (not that I'd have ever admitted that!). I was plagued with headaches, migraines and an insatiable tiredness, yet I was persistent in wanting to be respected for being brave rather than pitied for being ill. It eventually got to the stage where I was too proud of my self-belief to let my guard down and complain about my problems. But the reverse occurred and the tension, the pressure, the pain, and the months of wanting someone to talk to got the better of me, leading to stress and a lot of tears!

It has now been nearly 8 months since my stroke and everyday I am still filled with the fear of 'what if I have another stroke?', or if I have a slightly funny turn I will suddenly think 'oh no its happening again!' I have fears of it ever happening again, which is desperately unfair for a young seventeen year old to worry about, but I am obviously not your normal teenager anymore! Which is not a bad thing.

I am very fortunate to have been treated within three hours, otherwise I could - like many have - been left half paralysed or unable to speak or communicate. I had physio during my time in hospital for my right arm, and my use of speech improved naturally day by day. My short term memory came right back up to speed within a few weeks, and apart from those minor implications, only my isolation and migraine have proved problematic to me in the aftermath.

After seeing the cases of other survivors I now realise that I am not the only one, and I can get through this. I only wish Different Strokes was brought to my attention at the beginning. I have learned so much from only being involved a matter of weeks. I am now aware of how I tried to ignore the 'invisible side of stroke', and I can now make changes to help towards taking my life beyond being a stroke survivor. I am currently set to undergo another heart operation in a few weeks to fully close the hole in my heart. I underwent a procedure in December but this led to various complications, hopefully this time it will not only see to closing the hole but to the closing off a part of my life that I want to draw an end to. In September I am going to Edinburgh University to study Business where I intend to restart and look back on this past year on an experience that has made me stronger, despite taking me to my weakest.

I may have had a more fortunate recovery than others but I know now that it did not make mine a one to just forget about and neglect. I may have put my problems down to be uncomparable to other medical marvels of the world, but I do not recommend doing it! Embrace your problems and take advantage of those who are there to listen and help. Every recovery is different, every victim is different, every stroke is different - but all survivors are the same, in self belief and strength.

Thank You.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Searching for free knitting patterns on Saturday I came across lots of lovely things none of which happen to include the picture on the left. I'm not sure wheter the ears are real or are stuck-on felt ones and maybe this is a chimpanzee handler's helmet. The V and A have a fabtastic knitting collection including some groovy original 1940s patterns all available to download. So if you want to get in the groove head over there and have a look.

Mark Warren ...

... where are you? Go on google yourself, I dare you, and find this post and let me know what you are up to.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I never thought that I would be

No, not "fighting fascists in a Southern Sea" but making friends in cyberspace.

I started this blog in May 2004 over on aol hometown. Over there (and in real life) I was Billy no mates and thought that I would be the tree falling in the wilderness of blogdom when I started on blogger. I found blogexplosion and some other kind sympatico people found me.

I have never met any of these lovely people (although I have some nice invites now: KW, Ally). I check in with them every day even when I'm in that particular headspace that prevents me even from saying "Hi", worry about them, think about them and feel involved with them in the same way I would if I lived next door. This would, of course, be a virtual next door as many of us want to live in the middle of nowhere surrounded by vegetables (it's sounding more and more like Plymouth, this utopia) and sundry domesticated animals.

I thought having the little genius would help to reconnect me with the world through the medium of mother and toddler groups etc. I have discovered that these seem largely to be a thing of the past now as many new mothers go straight back to work - I'm sure there is probably a scoial sciences PhD in there somewhere - but oddly, given my fascination with the interweb - I have found myself connected again, to people from all over the world, that I would never otherwise have met.

Cheryl - Charles - Erin - Mary - Vickie - Annie/Cat - Steggy - Graeme - Last Year's Man (well I already knew this one) - Susan

The worst of times ... the best of times


From a standing start, from our little genius' birth which coincided rather nicely with the Painter's 40th birthday, the Painter has been plying his trade as a professional artist. He has had to endure terrible pangs of uncertainty, scepticism from some quarters and, as some of you know, two major strokes and the consequent rehabilitation.

In the middle of all this we have been evicted and rehoused in a notably unsalubrious hovel, fondly known as Urine Towers.

The last year have seen the Painter go from struggling to sell one or two paintings to selling 10 of his lovely paintings. At the moment we are planning for the forthcoming year, setting targets and generally dreaming about the way things might be in the year to come. For those of you who might have missed the Painter's work I showcase all his sales below and sincerely thank all of his clients: your belief and patronage have made things that seemed like a pipedream begin to become a reality.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Rosa Jacqueline Du Pre

Petals like thirty pieces of silver;
stamens the colour of
crushed feelings
and leaves gloss green,
reflecting the sunlight
like monster eyes in that garden.

It took the place of the apple tree.
Its fruit:
scarlet hips
full of syrup sweet goodness
and cruel white fluff
tipped with barbs to make you choke.

Friday Picture

Pouting "Arty Daughter" - more work from the Painter at or at minigallery.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Nutter on the bus

Yesterday I had my interview for teeny job number two and was wondering about the oddness of people and questioning my expectations of people when, standing at the bus stop, I was accosted by "the nutter on the bus". I was quite alarmed. The man came and stood inside my personal space leaned into within about four inches of my face and began telling me jokes. The corners of his mouth, his fingers and his hair were all stained with nicotine and his breath reaked of the cigarette smoke that swathed his head like his own personal smog.

I was waiting for the jokes to turn dirty - he had a dirty old man mac on and his fag free hand jammed deep into his pocket. He called me darling at the end of every sentence. He obviously thought I was hgetting on the bus for Torpoint because he kept making jokes about Cornish people.

The bus came along and that would be the end of that, I thought. I sat on the outside of the seat but he asked me if I minded him sitting next to me. I was still waiting for the tone of the conversation to change or for him to grab my leg but he didn't he kept telling the most awful corny jokes. About five minutes into the journey he thanked me for talking to him.

It was a turning point. His jokes were still awful but their bombardment slowed and we started to have a real conversation, about the stuff going on outside the window, the weather: all very British. Then he told me his wife had died. His darling Stella. He was obviously very sad and lonely. He asked me my name and told me he was Ted.

He got off at the stop before me and thanked me again for talking to him and then despite myself, I thanked him back. When did I stop being the Good Samaritan and become the person who crossed the road?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Friday Picture

Well a collection of Friday pictures actually, taken shortly before SN2, in situ in the Art Garden Cafe on the Barbican, Plymouth, home of the Mayflower Steps, birthplace of modern America.

If you are American and thinking of coming to see the steps, you may well be surprised to find them lapped by rather foetid brine and polystyrene chip boxes. Don't worry this is just a British thing. We have so much history which take it foregranted.

Anyway, thank your luck stars you've been saved the dubious pleasure of the sight of my bare naked bottom again.

The Painter's paintings can be found at John Morris Art and at Mingallery.

Brain Constipation

I have been a bit quiet this week. I have just coined this new phrase in honour of the stuckness I have been experiencing. Work has been a pig; a constant stream of anticipation and failure both making me feel like I'm underperforming and letting people down, rather than it being the fault of the real culprits.

So, knowing that this job is really doomed to failure, I have applied for and been shortlisetd for another in the same place, ostensibly working for different people but really subject to the same kind of stresses and strains.

The idea behind me toeing the water of the world of work was to try and rebuild my CV which, after two breakdowns, is not easy. One post was supposedly very titchy, supposedly only 75 hours a year - I had already done two thirds of it by Christmas and only started mid November. The second job was, is, an attempt to get something a bit more marketable on my CV. I'm not kidding myself, the work will be no more or less challenging than anything else I have done since I graduated, but the job title is "better"; has better prospects, I suppose. In the world of the Admin Assistant, the Project Co-ordinator is king.

According to Cheryl, my feelings of doom and gloom are inevitable at the moment because of a giant cosmic whirl (I'm paraphrasing very heavily now, blame me for that not her); hopefully, if she is right, after the 29th (the day I get my letter of appointment?) things will take a turn for the better.

Tony Blair is probably hoping for the self-same thing following his drubbing from Jack Dromey on Newsnight.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

You must never go down to the end of the town if you don't go down with me ..

Struggling author has a link and the stolen (by me) image (left) on her blog through to a Save Christopher Robin campaign. It seems that the powers that be at the Disney Corporation have decided to ditch CR in favour of a tomboy girl character instead.

If you, like me, think that rattling Disney's cage about this is worthwhile then click here; you may, however, reckon that, on balance, saving the world is a better bet, in which case you can click here.

Hands across the blogosphere

In concurrence with what the baggage said over there, I've been to visit Marmoset and am trying his meme.

What were you doing ten years ago?
Ten years ago, at the College of St Mark and St John in Plymouth, I had just started seeing the Painter after a heady exchange of poems left in pigeonholes; he was wild, arrogant, longhaired and much, much different from the service types I'd been out with before or indeed married. There wasn't the faintest hint of rugger bugger about him. Instead he was funny, sensitive and not a little insecure. I asked him to marry me after four weeks (pathetic cow) and he dithered for another two years - slowly, slowly catchy monkee, as it were.

What were you doing one year ago?
One year ago we had just spent the last few weeks coming to the terms that the Painter had had a major stroke, from which thankfully he made an almost complete recovery. We had endured a very traumatic period before having just been evicted from our family home by a close family member and there was a lot of hurt, bitterness and anger flying through the air at Urine Towers. The days were very dark and our relationship seemed to have crashed into the kind of sharp, dark, holing-below-the-water-line type of rocks you get on the Lizard. In the course of a year everything seemed to have gone bad.

Five snacks you enjoy:
1. Tomato sandwiches with worcestershire sauce and black pepper
2. antipasta
3. tapas
4. cheese in all its many and wonderous varieties (although I could easily cgive cheddar a miss
5. Kalamata olives in rosemary and garlic infused oil.

Five songs to which you know all the lyrics:
1. The Wheels on the bus gour orund and around (and around and around and around)
2. Flower of Scotland
3. Anything by Rogers and Hammerstein
4. The Abba discography
5. Like Soldiers Do by Billy Bragg

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
1. Buy a smallholding in the Orkneys
2. Buy houses for my children held in trust until they are 30
3. Start my own home made soup and preserves business a la Baxters
4. Buy a tractor
5. Learn to drive on one of those intensive driving course and spend the summer before we start our smallholding touring through Fance in a Morgan with my husband.

Five things you like doing:
1. I won't be as coy as Marmoset, I love making love, having sex and even shagging with the right person at the right time.
2. Writing
3. Eating
4. Taking long rambling walks
5. Loving my family

Five things you would never wear again:
1. Prada
2. Gucci
3. Versace
4. Dolce and Gabbana
5. Donna Karan (set aside the fact that I wouldn't get a little toe into most of these things I think it's a realistic list).

Five favourite toys:
1. My kenwood Chef for which I have some new bits acquired on ebay
2. My husband
3. My pruning knife
4. The wireless aerial thingy for the broadband because it lets me talk to you lot
5. A really good cook's knife.

I tag Ally (when you are better) and Stegbeetle. I would also like to tag KitchenWitch but she a) doesn't have the time and b) I'm not sure they are her thing, so the option is open without obligation.

Monday, March 13, 2006

An introduction to...

John Morris Art. It's just a simple site with some information, some pictures and some contact details. For those of you already au fait (sick to the back teeth) with me going on about The Painter's work, I'm sorry but it does as one of his happy customers said, feed our children. It aslo gives me a variety of pretty pictures to put on my blog.

If you are just happening along and want some more information, you can always contact John at

To coin a phrase, that is all. (They used to say this over the intercom when I was in the Wren's so I make no apologies, to Ally or Ms. Mac)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Blame Cheryl

Which Moira Stewart are you?


WTF?! You're not a Moira at all!

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

I didn't get this from her blog but I did get it from the same place that she got "What Art work are you"

Friday, March 10, 2006

Friday Picture

In honour of the fact that it's almost Spring (by my reckoning, bugger the Met Office) , I thought I would bring some blossom into your life for this week's Friday picture - I'm not sure if this one's even over at Minigallery which is featured in this month's Women and Home.

The lighter evenings and brighter mornings are certainly lifting the mood here at Urine Towers and the ground will soon be warm enough to start working.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dim and distant past

For a couple of years I'ved been tinkering with my family history, never really getting that much further than my grandparents. During the past few weeks I have made some real breakthroughs via Genesreunited and Ancestry. Neither of the services is free but they both offer different membership levels depending on how interested you are.
I had gotten to the point where I was spending time and money at the National Archives, that access to all the census records from 1851 to 1901 in a searchable format seemed more cost effective.
It's paying off: contrary to what I had thought my great great grandfather came from Croydon in Surrey. It's likely that he originally went to Liverpool as a merchant seaman and met and married his first wife there and decided to stay. I've also joined the Liverpool and South West Lancs Family History Society, and who knows I might even take a trip up there again, one of these days: there's an intrigue I would like to research!

New template (reprise)

Sorry all, am playing about with the template again; not out of any personal sense of dissatisfaction but the fact that none of you could actually find my wonderful, witty prose was a problem. I felt like I was depriving you. Any feedback about how this one works would be welcome [DUCKS].

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

P*ssing down

Just in time to make my lurgy feel lots better, this morning I wake to find Urine Towers under a cloud. Not a metaphorical one, an actual wet one.

I have decided to enter the Yeovil Literary Prize 2006 with one of my poems. Nothing ventured; nothing gained.
In other news, my lurgy is now official, with a capital L. The doctor told me I have sinusitis (give yourself a degree in medicine) and that it may have been exacerbated by the stress I have been under (no shit, Sherlock) and it is responsible for all my other symptoms. I must have gone in with my cabbage head on.
In fairness, he seems very nice - I might even try my facial hair on him. Past responses have varied between "what facial hair" (I exfoliate, you DH) or "Why don't you save up for a wax?" As I can only infrequently afford a head haircut, a six weekly trip to a salon would be impractical, inaffective and unaffordable (wow, a gaggle of negative prefixes) .
In more other news, the Police have been at it again, bandying words about. This time they are investigating the "victimology" of a case.
In my experience the kind of vocabulary new police officers normally learn is more useful in a domestic setting. "Stupid Bitch", "Fat Cow", "Ugly Useless Fat Cow" all begin to slip off the tongue really easily once the officer gains a certain proficiency in the spiel. But victimology? They'll be forensicating the scene next.

Friday, March 03, 2006

South Penquite Farm Blog

I found this (link in the title) this morning, quite by accident, looking to see if it has, or was about to, snowed on Bodmin Moor (Surrealo Son is off for the weekend for an intro to University taster thingy). I don't think this is where he is staying but it came up in a search for webcams on Bodmin Moor. They don't actually seem to have one but nevertheless I found their blog.

Now, I'm not sure if the green is with envy or with the lurgy which is still all-pervading (I suppose I am atleast able to type now), and I'm doubtful as to whether rubbing my own nose in it in this way is healthy.

I do want to run away to the country and well, not farm exactly but croft. Two years ago this all seemed within reach, if at a stretch, but now it seems almost out of touch. I have looked at stroke provision in the Highlands and Islands (cheery and optimistic as always) and outcomes there are as good as in urban centres.

I don't want anything intensive, or indeed real farming, as I say: subsistence level is fine. I just want to live somewhere, grow my own food and love my family.

Oh, and give T*sc* a great big V sign.

I found this and it seems like a great idea but would mean giving up Urine Towers - not so much of a sacrifice, you would think but council houses are rather like hens' teeth in the South West. And I'm sure I would come across as the worst sort of hobby farmer. I know nothing about animal husbandry (except domestic cats). There is another smallholding to let in South Devon for a limited period but this presents the same problems and of course we are fairly immobile at the moment and rely heavily on public transport.

At the mo, I can't work out how to solve any of it or even what I really want: I seem to be reluctantly slipping back into the world of work and worse than that, low grade office work. Oh yes, I concede, I am at the top of the pile of low grade office work but nevertheless ...

I am entirely unsuited and unsuitable, leave aside the fact that I am told that I'm the best X, Y or Z that A, B or C has ever had.

I swore I would never go back in an office and here I am with one, potentially two office jobs, albeit tiny.

Moan over.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006