My Garden – The Place Plants go to Die…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “A Plot of Earth.”

One thing you need to know about me is that I kill plants. Unintentionally, I hasten to add.  I have a row of half dead orchids sitting above my kitchen sink, that I am willing to come back to life, without much (who am I kidding? – any) success. I have a tendency to fall in love with a plant, whether it be an orchid, a cactus, or a sunflower, and buy it on a whim making all sorts of hopeful promises that this will be the plant that I can keep alive.  Then within a few months the plant deteriorates and dies. Sometimes without any logical explanation as to why. My sister has said before that my home/ garden is “the place plants go to die” which is very hurtful, but unfortunately truthful as well.

That’s why I’m aiming small.  If I had a plot of land and unlimited financial resources I would plant and maintain a beautiful garden filled with live and flourishing plants (and I’d probably need to employ a gardener to keep it that way)!  I’ve always dreamed of having a vegetable and herb garden. But also a wild garden filled with wildlife. I’ve made the effort in my garden at home to install nesting boxes and bug boxes which all sit unoccupied – probably because of the reputation that all the plants within my garden cease to exist within a short period…

A plot of earth, to me means hope and life, not the misery and death that befalls most of my purchases!

RIP to all the plants I have killed in my gardening career.

Anxiety as an “Unexpected Gift”

I read something today that really resonated with me, and as part of my Blogging 101 assignment I thought I would take the concept of that post and express my own thoughts about it. You can find the original post here.

The author, Asher, talks about how his Bi-polar disorder has affected his life in a big way, in both very negative ways, but also really positive ones.  He mentions that the disorder can provide times of extreme clarity, insight and creativity, and that the positives of Bi-polar are often dismissed in discussion.

Asher’s main point is that living with Bi-polar has enabled him to take control of his own life and define success in his own way.  I would argue that the same is true of living with my anxiety, albeit on a smaller scale.

When I first found out I was an anxiety sufferer (although I had suspected for years) I had to take time out from my university studies as I kept having acute panic attacks.  During that time of my life I had placed myself under immense pressure, and was following a career path which wasn’t right for me.  It was a very difficult year of my life, but made me stronger, and changed me in ways I didn’t expect.

  • I got an admin job on a 6 month temporary contract, which although relevant to my studies, was not what I envisaged myself doing long term.
  • I re-evaluated my career aspirations in light of my anxiety – not I hasten to add because I felt like I needed to settle for something else as I was unable to do what I had planned – that wasn’t the case at all.  If I’d decided to pursue that career, I could have done.  But the presence of my anxiety, made me have to address the elephant in the room.  Even with techniques to control it, I still had to live with it.  Was this career aspiration going to suit my mindset long term? Did I actually want this job, or did I like the idea of it? My conclusion: the idea was better than the reality.

I finished my studies and am now, funnily enough, working with my employer from my year out. However, my role has developed in many different directions. I’m now involved in event planning, social policy and research work, strategic planning, fundraising.  These are all things, which my anxiety helps me to do – I know that sounds odd!  One side effect of my anxiety is that I like to plan for lots of different eventualities (usually catastrophes).

Now managed, anxiety doesn’t control my life as much as it did, but I have been able to hone it as a skill for my work.  I’m doing a job that I love, that I never would have imagined doing. So for me too my anxiety is an “unexpected gift.”

Thank you Asher for making me realise!

Elizabeth Is Missing – My (First) Attempt at a Book Review!

So far, I’ve only really blogged about my thoughts and feelings, and I wanted to try something new!  Please let me know if I should stick to the day job!

My all-time favourite book has to be Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM).  I first read it at school and was completely captivated by the plot and the characters.  Part of the reason I loved it so much I think was the multi-dimensional plot, with Scout and Jem investigating the Boo Radley mystery; set against the more menacing rape trial against falsely accused Tom Robinson.

I think part of the reason I love that book so much is because the main character is not an adult.  I liked seeing day to day events and the wider politically sensitive issues in the book through the eyes of a child; whether that be the horror of witnessing Walter Cunningham pouring syrup all over his roast dinner, inadvertently preventing a lynching, or failing to understand the racial prejudice and hatred between black and white people at the time.

Funnily enough the book I wanted to review is not TKAM, but it is similar in its narrative style, which I think is why I enjoyed it so much, and it has made it into my pile of books to keep forever rather than donate to charity once I’m done with it.

The book I wanted to review is called Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.  It’s a beautifully written piece about Maud, a widow in her mid-eighties, who (warning spoilers) thinks her friend Elizabeth is missing.  Maud has dementia and the book gives an accurate and heartfelt insight into the mind of someone with this condition.  It struck a chord with me as my Grandad suffered with vascular dementia and some of the behaviours alluded to remind me of my memories of him.  The narrative is great, it doesn’t tell you about her mindset; you are able to work it out for yourself through her thought patterns and the conversations she has with others.

One of the first (and best) illustrative examples is that Maud has a cupboard full to the brim with cans of peaches.  Her daughter and carers have no idea where they are coming from and neither does Maud.  Later we find out that every day she goes to the shop with a list, can’t find or recognise the items, so picks up the first thing she sees on the shelves by the entrance – cans of peaches.

I found myself close to tears a number of times as you end up falling in love with Maud, and thinking about her even whilst not reading the book.  I think it will affect the way I interact with elderly people with dementia.  It helped me visualise the frustration they must go through in day to day life.  It also makes you question your own mortality because you witness the fragility and deterioration of Maud’s mind in old age.

It’s similar to TKAM is because there are two parallel plot lines and a main character not necessarily aware of all that is going on, so you have to piece the bits together for yourself.  The plots seamlessly intertwine at the end, but I won’t give it away as working it out for yourself is half the fun!

Plotline 1 is Maud’s struggle to find her friend Elizabeth, when she has limited capability for transference between long and short term memory, which, at times, genuinely leave you confused about whether to laugh or cry.

Plotline 2 consists of a series of flashbacks to her childhood, when Maud’s sister Sukey went missing and was never found.  They are a series of memories triggered by various every day events, but her confused mind set begins to bleed these memories into the main story line, much to the confusion of everyone around her.

Honestly, this review does not do the book justice.  It is an unforgettable read, and it definitely made me feel closer to my grandad.  Sadly he is no longer with us, but in his last few years he had no idea who I was unless I showed him a picture of me when I was about 5 years old.  Then he knew me instantly.  He’d instantly perk up and offer us all Worthers Originals about 8 times in 10 minutes.  Then we’d sit and chat a bit about our childhood or his – sometimes he would sing old songs or recite French or poetry he’d learned when he was younger, and after a while when we had to leave he’d offer us all a Worthers Original for the road.

I’d love to know if any of you have read this book, or have any other books you’d recommend for me to read!  I’m always looking for new titles!

Rescuing Worms: Hero vs. Villain

Does anyone else feel the need to rescue worms in peril whilst outside?  Or is that just me?

Ever since I was very small I have had this habit of rescuing worms when they get stuck in dangerous situations.  I think it stems from my grandma (an avid gardener and one of my biggest inspirations) telling me that “worms are your friends” and you should look after them in your garden.

I’ll be walking to work and I’ll pass a grassy spot, and I’ll find myself scanning the area for distressed worms and sometimes snails in need of rescue.  I’ll pick them up, touching them as little as possible, as I read somewhere that us touching them burns their skin, and carefully place them on the nearest bit of grass.  Sometimes when I spot a worm that I didn’t get to in time, I find myself cursing for not getting there soon enough and telling it to rest in peace.  I’ll also loiter for a few seconds just to give it a chance to wriggle – you never know it might be too weak to move and miss its chance of rescue.  I draw the line at prodding every worm corpse I see in case it’s alive.  That would be creepy.

When it rains I usually leave the house a few minutes early so I can make time for the multiple rescues I’ll have to perform and still get to work on time.  I just worry about those worms that I can’t save during the rest of the day and on weekends…

I’ve always suspected that others may not understand and that people might think me odd, so I’ve largely, until now, kept this dark secret to myself.  However, I confided in a good friend the other day and he found it hilarious.  I asked him what was so funny, as saving worm lives was very important to me.  He said that he had visions of an underground worm society building cathedrals and worshipping me as a Deity, like in Futurama when Bender is floating through space and a civilisation grows on his back, or in the Simpsons when Lisa accidentally grows a civilisation as part of her science project.  We’d had a little bit to drink before this conversation began I should add!

He said that worms regularly line the edges of the grass on my walking route, throwing themselves into the pavement in order to see whether they were worthy of being saved.  Those that I rescue, go on to do great things.  He mused that by rescuing them I was creating a vicious cycle of demand for rescues, and that there would always be more worms to save.

He also said that if someone did a scientific study in the area between my home and work, sparrow populations would be dwindling and increasingly underweight.  In their society I am a cruel being that arbitrarily removes the food supply between the hours of 8:30 and 9:00.  He concluded that it’s a matter of perspective whether I’m a hero or a villain.  I told him to shut up and go home.

I’ll leave you to make up your own minds…

Anxiety: Obsessive Crisis Management Planning

I’ve mentioned before that I suffer with anxiety.  Part of my problem displays itself as an incessant need to plan for disasters in everyday life.  Some would say that planning is quite sensible.  By planning you feel prepared for stressful situations and this keeps you feeling in control.  However, obsessive planning is where sensible meets irrational.

I have a number of plans in place for various disasters if they strike.  You know the usual:

  • What to do in a fire
  • What to do if a burglar breaks in
  • Zombie apocalypse – This one is proving problematic. From watching The Walking Dead, it’s clear the only way to survive a Zombie apocalypse is to have a hell of a lot of guns and bows and arrows etc.  Living in the UK weapons aren’t as freely available in an emergency as they seem to be in the USA.  This has presented a few kinks which I’m still ironing out

Probably my most irrational planning occurs when I have to go somewhere I do not know via public transport.  At the end of this month, I am going to my best friend’s birthday party in Brighton via train.  I’ve not been to Brighton before, but for those of you that have used English trains, you may know that they aren’t the most reliable and they do tend to have a lot of disruptions.  Especially in mid-January.  Some of my favourite reasons for disruptions in the past have been “a small track-side fire” and “a swan on the line”.  Anyway, I digress.  This is my struggle when planning to use public transport:

Ordering tickets

  • Check the route ten times to make sure it’s actually going where I need it to go
  • Ask my sister to check to make sure I haven’t misunderstood the route
  • Panic about whether there will be a disruption making my tickets null and void
  • Panic about internet shopping and security
  • Panic that the tickets will get lost/ not get to me on time

When tickets arrive

  • Panic about how many tickets there are – why are there so many? Oh no it’s OK it’s just the seat reservation numbers and receipts as well. Phew!
  • Paperclip tickets together so they show the correct route
  • Panic I’ve paper-clipped them together wrong

Week prior to travelling

  • Constantly checking the weather forecast in case of snow/ rain (twice a day) – not just for my area, but also for destinations along the route
  • Following train providers on Twitter to keep track of train disruptions
  • Constantly checking National Rail website for details of engineering works
  • OH MY GOD WHERE ARE THE TICKETS? Oh it’s OK. They’re where I left them.

Few days before travelling

  • Check the weather forecast a few more hundred times
  • Panic whenever I hear any mention of the weather/ my upcoming trip
  • Write a lengthy list detailing my route, including: departure time, platform it will be leaving from, final destination of train, make of train and destination arrival time, for each leg of the journey. I will then keep this in a safe place.
  • OH MY GOD WHERE ARE THE TICKETS? – Oh it’s OK they’re where I left them.
  • Packing: OH MY GOD, I’ve forgotten X, Y, Z. Oh no, it’s OK I’ve found them. I just packed them like two minutes ago.

Day of travelling

  • I’ll wake up stupidly early after dreaming either about a disruption free journey or a horrendous journey where I was naked/ the train crashed etc.
  • I won’t be able to eat because I’m too busy freaking out
  • I’ll put my tickets in a different purse from my money, in case I get mugged or something and can’t get home
  • I’ll keep my list (see above) on my person so I can check it about 1000 times over the course of the journey
  • Before leaving I’ll check the train sites and weather forecasts again just to make sure nothing catastrophic has happened since I went to bed the night before.
  • I’ll panic I’ve forgotten to pack about 10 things, so will basically unpack and then repack
  • OH MY GOD WHERE ARE THE TICKETS? – Oh no it’s OK they’re where I left them.
  • I’ll get on the train after checking the sign on the front of the train, the time and the board at the station all match what’s written on my list.
  • Once on the train, I’ll then check that the destination list displayed includes my destination.
  • Then I’ll panic I’ve lost my list and have to check about 10 times that it is safe.

Funnily enough, usually the journey is fine and I do make it to my desired destination.  Furthermore if there is a hiccup along the way I am usually equipped to deal with it and not have a full blown break down.  And even more shockingly, when I get to my destination I have a lovely time!

I feel I need to say, I have exaggerated a bit in this post.  I’m not as bad as I make out.  All these thoughts do cross my mind, but I have lived with my anxiety long enough to know that they are irrational.  I just thought an insight into my irrational thoughts might be quite funny/ enlightening for others to see.  Let me know what you think.

Photo Trauma – Future Conversations with my Grandchildren

Why is taking a simple picture so difficult? 

I realised recently that I don’t have very many photos of myself, or the people that I love.  I’d like to take more photos of events in my life so that when I’m old I can look back and enjoy the memories attached to them.  Looking at the sad bunch of images I have now, it will be a depressing album. Here are some of the conversations I can look forward to with my future grandchildren going through my albums:

  • Granny, why do you always have a giant arm in photos?” – I don’t know how this happens. In real life, I assure you that my arms are both normal size.  In pictures it’s like I have one gigantic flabby arm.  Does anyone else suffer with this affliction?
  • Granny, why do you always have a grotesque expression when taking a selfie?” – Well future grandchild, it appears that Granny is incapable of taking a presentable selfie which doesn’t feature slightly cock eyes/ grotesque face. I’m sure I never pull these faces in real life.  It’s quite tragic really – every day Granny was tormented on social media by others’ wonderfully taken selfies.  Often they were taken with seemingly no effort, on nights out when people were incredibly drunk.  Granny endeavoured to take such selfies whilst sober, and couldn’t manage.  So instead Granny decided to take anti-selfies which were a form of selfie whereby she tried to look as repulsive as possible in such images in the hope that people would stop taking them.  However, as you can see, people didn’t.  And tragically, as Granny was not good at taking her own pictures, these are the only lasting reminders of her lifetime.

Maybe I shouldn’t have children, just to avoid these kinds of conversations…

My Best Friend Gigglemouse

As far as friends go, nothing compares to clearing up your best friends droppings after hanging out together.

I’m kidding.  But this is the unfortunate reality when your best friend is a Chinchilla.

Gigglemouse is a complex creature, displaying nothing but affection and love whilst he remains confined in his cage, then disdain and contempt once bouncing around during play time.  He makes it his mission to bite every surface (including me) and to hide in the dirtiest spots, despite his ongoing respiratory problems.  But we make it work.  Still I’m sometimes a bit hurt when I give him his sand bath afterwards and he bathes like there’s no tomorrow; like I’m a disgusting stain to be washed off or something…

I’ve had the little monster for nearly 7 years, and we’ve had some good times. Like the time he bit wood chips off the textured wallpaper in the house we were staying in, and the time he dragged his teeth (like nails down a blackboard) down my parents mahogany bed frame, completely removing the varnish.  I spent a good half an hour disguising the crime using a well chosen eye brow pencil.  Sorry dad!  Then there was the time he escaped under my bed and it took me and Scott (fiancé) nearly an hour to get him out, which he thought was hysterical.  However, probably my favourite memory was the time he got his head stuck in a loo roll tube and we had to cut him out.

Seriously though, we love each-other very much.  He’s always pleased to see me.  Many a time he’s listened to me talk about my day/ rant about things that have upset me, and I’ve compensated him for his troubles in peanuts.  He’s very excited and vocal when we have a chat as long as I keep the peanuts coming.  He’s sure to inform me if he’s not suitably compensated, by noisily chewing the shells until a fresh one is supplied.  Then when we’re done talking he goes home to his teddy bear wife Tinkerbell, until he throws her out of bed in a fit of peanut induced rage.