Thursday, 23 March 2017

Life Through A Lens

I don't normally say much about current events on the blog. That's not to say I don't pay attention to the News. I do. I devour it, from as many different sources as I can. I never used to be hugely interested in politics until a few years ago and now I'll pay as much attention to that as I used to pay to the Entertainment section as a teenager.

I don't usually bring it up on the blog, because this just isn't that sort of place. I talk about it in real life, I don't need to talk about it here.

But walking Tara yesterday, I was playing things round in my head, and I realised that there was something that I wanted to say, and my blog is as good a place as any for that.

Yesterday at work we watched the awful events unfolding at Westminster on Sky News. First there was the Breaking News banner which flashed up on the screen announcing that gunshots had been heard outside the Parliament building. Then there was some more information about a stabbing. Then the news about the car being used to attack people on Westminster Bridger.

We continued with our work, of course, but there was discussion of the events and we kept an eye on what the latest news was saying, trying make sense of what was going on.

Gradually the picture of the events came together and while we still didn't truly know or understand what was going on, the media gave us a sense that we were there in the event.

On the one hand, I think this was a useful thing. When big events like this happen, it's very easy for fact and rumours to get confused. I think that having the media on the ground, reporting events as they happen, is probably a good thing. Having multiple media outlets covering the same event means that you can switch between the different sources of information and get a different perspective, which is useful, especially if you're somewhat able to filter out the bias.

On the other hand, I have to disagree with the way that Sky News was reporting on the attack.

I don't know exactly when the image of the person lying on the ground, face blurred but body clearly in an unnatural position, lying where they had landed where they were thrown by the car, but it proceeded to be shown again and again over the course of the afternoon.

At first that was the only picture of a victim which they shared. Then later there was some blurry footage of a blurry shape lying on the road with some equally blurry people rushing towards them. Then a photo of a man in a suit, seated on the ground at Westminster Bridge; his face was blurred out but his hands, outstretched to the people around him, were bloody.

There was also the footage from the helicopter circling over the bridge. Down below tiny paramedics could be seen working on equally tiny shapes, manoeuvring them onto little trolleys and wheeling them towards ambulances.

And I couldn't watch it. It was macabre. When did other people's pain and suffering turn into a spectator sport?

I hurt for the people who were involved in the trauma of the event who would later find themselves splashed across newspapers and social media. For the people who might be turning on the TV because they knew a friend or relative was in the area, finding themselves squinting at a half blurred photo of someone they might know. For the people who could potentially learn from someone's photo on TV that a loved one is seriously injured.

And I couldn't help but be torn about who to get annoyed with. Sky News for showing these photos, or the people who see an awful scene like this and decide to whip out the camera.

I think it's wonderful that modern technology allows us to record our lives the way we do. I enjoy going places, safe in the knowledge that with one swipe of my phone I can snap a photo for posterity. I'm even aware that the police are asking members of the public to pass on any recordings or photos of what happened to help them build up a broader picture of just what went on. A digital recording is a whole lot more reliable than a human memory. I get that.

But I like to think that most of us, when faced with a person injured or bleeding on the ground, would think twice about pulling out that phone camera and taking a photo.

Sadly, yesterday's news demonstrated that there are more than a few people who don't share that attitude.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017


... in the middle of charger central.

To my left is my phone, charging after I was playing with it at work today and then used it to track my evening walk with Tara. On the left hand side of my laptop is my Fitbit, on the right is my powerbank.

I'm charging everything up ready for a trip to the mainland tomorrow. We're off on a shopping expedition (and for the car to be MOT'd).

... to buy a printer.

I got £31 worth of vouchers at work a few months ago so I've been planning on putting them towards a printer. I'm fairly certain that I know which one I'm going to get and hopefully with the vouchers it'll cost me less than a tenner as well. Bargain!

... The Young Ones.

Well, not right this minute, but as soon as I'm done with this post and head to bed. Since we've finished watching The Muppet Show The Young Ones has become our bedtime viewing. I wasn't too keen on the first episode, but three episodes in and I think I'm liking it a little more.

... to bed. Early.

We've had a few late nights. Well, I say we, I mean me. I've been staying up far too late reading for far too long and we have an early start in the morning, so I should really stop here and head for bed.


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Books 35 & 36 of 2016: His Other Lover by Lucy Dawson & A Child's History of England by Charles Dickens

After reading some relatively highbrow collections of essays I moved on to some lighter material (and almost instantly regretted it).

His Other Lover by Lucy Dawson came to me in a big bag of books given to me by a family member and I figured it looked like just the right sort of fluff to follow up the heavier stuff I'd been reading. Also it was next on my bookshelf to read, and I like to follow the order of the books on my shelf, so it was an easy choice.

Things seem to be pretty good for Mia and Pete. They live together with their dog Gloria and everything is good. Except Mia begins to suspect that her boyfriend is having an affair after seeing a text on his phone. Faced with this shocking news, she decides to track down the other woman and exact revenge.

The book is written in first person point of view, from Mia's perspective, and I didn't really like her. Honestly, I felt bad that her boyfriend was cheating on her but her response was so crazy that I couldn't help but root for Pete and Liz. She would have been so much better just to call Pete on the text and his behaviour and then just leave him, since as the book went on I just got the impression that she pretty much wanted Pete so that Liz (and anyone else) couldn't have him and didn't actually care about him all that much.

It took me a ridiculously long time to read this book (given the fact it's only 262 pages long). It was over a week. I think some of this was because I was just so annoyed by Mia! It took me a while to get a grip on the story as well because in the beginning it felt as though it jumped around a bit and then I kept on stopping and not feeling like going on because Mia just wound me up so much.

And don't get me started on the ending. It just made the whole thing feel sort of pointless. Nothing changes. I'd have liked to have seen Mia decide to leave and realise she can be happy without Pete, or Pete reveal that he's definitely not been seeing Liz and Mia was being totally paranoid. Neither of these things happened and it disappointed me.

After this I decided I needed something completely different so turned to my Kindle and pulled up the most different book I could find: A Child's History of England by Charles Dickens.

This is exactly what it says on the tin. A complete history of England, written for English schoolchildren, by Charles Dickens.

I found this to be really interesting, if somewhat slow at times. I started it towards the end of August and I finished it on my work awards trip when I read over 30% of the book. Because what better way to spent your time travelling across Scotland?

It was admittedly written in a way was blatantly biased towards some historical figures and very much in favour of others. Other writings that I've read have suggested different viewpoints for certain monarchs so it was interesting to see a different perspective.

I also felt like it went into loads of details for some eras or royals, but then less for others. Presumably this was to do with what information was available for Dickens himself but that didn't make it any less frustrating. The fact he was able to go into such detail in those areas made me expect that level of detail for everything.

I really liked the fact that it quite literally covered everything. It went right back to the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, then worked forwards to Queen Victoria. Even though that's where it stops, I still found it a really interesting history book and I'd recommend it to anyone, but especially those who might have a slightly shaky grasp on English history.

Monday, 20 March 2017

#atozchallenge: Theme Reveal

Today is an important day in the A to Z Challenge calendar, it's Theme Reveal Day!

Not everyone who takes part in the A to Z Challenge adopts a theme, I'm sure that a number of people who will be blogging every day in April (except Sunday, except for the last one) will simply be revealing today that they have no theme, but I've always found that having a theme actually makes it easier to come up with topics for my posts (and keeps me from writing about completely random stuff that I know nothing about for X, Xylophones and xylocarp anyone?) so here I am!

In the past I've blogged about Infertility (2013), favourite songs (2014), and IVF treatment (2015). I'll admit, my 2013 and 2015 attempts have been my favourites, I got a fantastic response to them and looking back at them (especially 2013) shows how much I've learned myself. There wasn't really any question about what I was going to write about this time, but I wanted to avoid rehashing ground I've already covered as much as possible.

This year my focus is going to be on the embryos we were able to create during our most recent round of IVF with the posts taking the format of:

Letters to my Embryos

That probably sounds a little weird, but work with me here. I'm optimistic that one of these little bubbles currently in the freezer might one day be an actual person who will be able to read these posts and will get some idea of just how loved and wanted they have been since before they even first drew breath.

I've got about 20 posts planned so far, including all of my posts for the first week.

Check back on April 1st to see what I've got to say to my little bubblesicles.

Are you taking part in the A to Z Challenge? Have you got a theme? If you have, feel free to link to your theme reveal post in the comments.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

TV Series Review: The Muppet Show

Many years ago we picked up the first and second series of The Muppet Show and started watching it. At some point we stopped and never actually got any further through the series but a little while ago we decided to pick up the third series on DVD and start over.

Seventy-two episodes later and we've finally watched the last episode available on DVD (sadly series four and five have never materialised on DVD). And I'm really going miss our bedtime viewing.

If you've never had the pleasure of watching The Muppet Show, you don't know what you've missed. It's basically a variety show, hosted by Kermit the Frog and his crew of *ahem* interesting individuals. Oh, and they're all Muppets. Together they put on skits, shows, perform songs and generally entertain everyone (with the exception of Statler and Waldorf, the two theatre hecklers).

Each episode has a guest star paying them a visit and there are some real gems here. Everyone from Peter Ustinov to Julie Andrews, from Bruce Forsyth to Sylvester Stallone. There's really no guessing who will turn up next on the show. I actually got to the point where I wasn't letting myself look ahead on the DVD because I didn't want to spoil the surprise of what was coming next!

Honestly I couldn't pick just one episode as my favourite. There were so many bits in each episode which were funny and enjoyable which I could probably watch the complete series over again and would pick out totally different bits as my favourites. One of my favourite episodes was the one with Julie Andrews, primarily because what is better than Julie Andrews singing The Lonely Goatherd with a bunch of Muppets?

I will say that I thought the second two series were better than the first because they seemed to have found their feet and were more confident in the format of the show. I think there were more people I actually recognised or knew of in the two later series.

I do think that a special mention should go to Alice Cooper as well. I think he's probably top on my list of people you don't expect to see on The Muppet Show:

One of Mr Click's favourite episodes was the one with Sylvestor Stallone because he went all out with the singing, which neither of us were expecting:

What's kind of funny is the fact that you sort of forget that you're watching a bunch of puppets and get sucked into their world and all the goings on in The Muppet Theatre. Even when everyone starts turning into chickens, it's not really that weird.

I couldn't help but think about who I'd want to see on a modern version of The Muppet Show. I think it's a format that would still work today because there's jokes and things for the kids but there's also more adult one-liners for the adults too.

It's definitely worth watching. And our bedtime routine just isn't going to be the same now we're done with it.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Word of the Year: Succeed

I thought I'd blogged about this before, but I've had a scan back through my past posts and it turns out that I didn't ever get around to it. Oops. This is why I should keep a record of what I'm blogging about. Anyway, I planned to blog about my alternative approach to New Year's Resolutions way back in January and I'm finally getting to it now. At least I'm still getting to it before halfway through the year!

Last year I noticed that a popular theme in the Bullet Journal community is to select a 'Word of the Year' to work towards. As someone who likes setting challenges for themselves, but struggles to stick with resolutions, this seemed like a good idea.

It's kind of tricky to find a word which you want to inspire you throughout the year. I wanted something which would resonate with me and I knew I wanted one which had a positive sort of feeling, but other than that, I wasn't sure which word would be the right one for me.

As it happened, my word came to me quite easily. I thought about the sorts of things that I wanted to happen in the coming year. The big one was the IVF treatment, I wanted that to be successful, obviously. I wanted to achieve certain things at work. I had some personal stuff I wanted to work on, like taking care of myself physically, mentally and emotionally.

The immediate word which sprang to mind for all of this was Success; since I wanted success in all these areas. It was after rolling this word around in my brain a little that I realised that perhaps Success was a little too passive, that's what happens afterwards rather than what I was working on.

Succeed seemed like the natural, active, version to work towards. Succeed felt like something I could do, rather than just sit and wait for. So that became my word for the year.

I've blurred out some of the text on the page above because some of the stuff I'm working on is kind of personal (ironic, I know, considering some of the stuff I share on this blog).

While I've not given myself any specific resolutions, I've highlighted some of the things I'm hoping to succeed in and made some notes on what that might look like, for example for IVF my notes look like this:
Successful IVF/ICSI
Healthy baby in 2017
Frozen embryos for the future

Three months into the year and I've already succeeded in one and a half of those! So far, so good.

I've set myself a couple of targets for work, but these just take the form of:
Set achievable targets at work
Achieve them

That's mainly because I'm using a similar approach in my work diary. I've put a big quote on the front page of my work diary and under January 1st I wrote down a similar list of areas I'd like to succeed in at work. I don't take my bullet journal into work so it seemed kind of pointless to duplicate those in this one.

I'm enjoying this approach because it's giving me measurable goals but they're a lot more flexible than a hard resolution. The most concrete targets are the ones I set for the IVF, others are a lot more general, like using colouring in to relax, or finish some knitting projects.

But you're probably wondering how just picking a word is going to change anything, well it's pretty simple.

Whenever I'm considering something, I try to ask myself 'will this help me succeed in [whatever area it would be classed as]?' It's not a foolproof method, but I do feel like it's changing the way I think about things.

So for example, when I was waiting to find out how our embryos were doing, I basically spend the full five days doing nothing but knitting. This probably wasn't the best way to spend my time, but in terms of my emotions and physical state at the time, this was exactly what I needed. I asked myself 'will this help me succeed in healing?' and the answer was most definitely yes!

Asking whether all that knitting was going to help me succeed with work or household stuff or my blog, the answer would probably have been no, but at that time the priority was focusing on myself so in the future I would be well enough to focus on all the other stuff.

And that's why it's helped change the way I think about things. Because whenever I'm considering my options in different areas I'm having to think about my priorities. And sometimes I'm coming to the realisation that something I thought was high on my list of priorities just isn't, and that's useful too.

Do you pick a word for the year? What's your focus this year?