Sunday, 30 June 2013

Project 52: Week 26 - Delight

I've been coming to enjoy these slightly more abstract prompts because it gives you a little bit more wiggle room than, say, Cambodia, which doesn't give you many options. That said, delight proved to be a little bit tricky purely because I didn't know exactly what I could use to capture it.

If I had small children I think I'd have taken a close up photo of a child laughing, you know the way small children do, with a big wide grin and their hands stuffed in their mouth. This wasn't really an option and I don't really have anyone close to me whose child I could steal for the afternoon to take a photo.

Luckily this theme coincided with a couple of things that have 'delighted' me, so that made the perfect photo opportunity this morning.

To celebrate a couple of things, such as getting my exam out the way (and hopefully passing it) and having an interview at work for a place on a new team (which I got), Mr Click treated me to a new Kindle. There's method in the madness here, my Mum-in-law's birthday is this week and she's wanted a Kindle for AGES, so in getting me a super duper Kindle Fire HD, we can give her my e-ink Kindle Touch. I think she's going to love it.

I've also been making noises about needing a new bag. My old bag is lovely and is still in very good condition, normally I use them until they pretty much fall apart, so I decided that I needed to get something a little bit roomier. I've suddenly become completely and utterly addicted to knitting so I find myself needing something which is big enough for book journal, a book/ereader, the small pharmacy that I carry with me at all times (because you never know when someone might need a plaster or an antihistamine) and also had a little bit of free space for a ball of wool and some knitting needles!

During a trip to our local independent bookshop, Print Point, I found a lovely bag which is just the right size. It's made by a Glasgow artist and has 'I found my family in a book' embroidered on it. As soon as I saw it, I was in love. It's so perfect. Slightly more than I might normally spend on a bag, but I love it so much that I'm willing to overlook this teeny tiny flaw.

Week 26: Delight
So my photo this week of the two things that have made me feel happy. I couldn't work out the best way to show them both and so settled for this; one on top of the other. It was pure coincidence that when I turned the Kindle on it happened to show a screen with cameras on it!

I set the focus to call on the bag, I just couldn't get an angle where the focus would be on both the book and the Kindle so I decided I'd rather have it so you could kind of see what the writing said. I cropped it pretty close as well, mainly because this was taken on the fleecey throw on our bed and you don't really need to see that!

Next week's theme is lakes which I'm guessing I'll have to go on a walk to get a photo of. Of couse, I live in Scotland, so technically my version of the theme will probably end up being lochs!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Film Review: Labyrinth

As I mentioned last week, we picked up The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth on blu-ray, mainly because I was feeling nostalgic. Growing up I was a bigger fan of The Dark Crystal than Labyrinth, but I think that Labyrinth is probably the better known of the two. It's sort of become one of those cult films which is kind of timeless (if you don't concentrate too heavily on the eighties hair and music).


It tells the story of Sarah, a girl who lives for the fairy tales and fantasies of her books, who lives with her father, step-mother and step-brother. If you read into the backstory of the film, her mother was an actress who ran off with one of the men she was working with (look at the beginning of the film and you can see some scrapbook pages and photos of her mother with Jareth/the actor). On the night of Labyrinth, Sarah has been left home to look after Toby, her baby brother, she's feeling put upon and tells the screaming baby that she wishes the goblins would come and take him away.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what happens. David Bowie shows up and waves his magic balls under her nose before spiriting her brother away. Sarah realises that she has to get her brother back and will have to travel through the Labyrinth to find her baby brother at Goblin City. She's working against the clock though and if she doesn't making it in time, her brother will stay there as one of them. Along the way she makes friends in Hoggle, Ludo and Didymus, and finds that nothing in the Labyrinth is quite as it seems.

I feel like each time I watch this film I spot something else. We watched this film twice within about four weeks and by the second time I was remembering things that I had forgotten to look out for during the first go around. It's fun to spot things in Sarah's room at the beginning which crop up throughout the rest of the film; you can see an Escher picture pinned beside her bed which is the same as the staircases at the end of the film, there's cuddly toys of Sir Didymus and Ludo, a music box with a doll wearing Sarah's dress, I could go on and on.

There's also hidden faces throughout the film. The first time we watched it I forgot to look for them until I spotted the really obvious one, so the second time we watched it I made a point of looking out for them. I think I caught them all.


I love reading all the little facts and things online about the making of the film. I'm yet to watch the special features on the blu-ray, but I expect there'll be loads of interesting things to learn on there. It's little things like the fact that the baby is called Toby because that's his name (and he's the conceptual designer's son) and he wouldn't respond to anything else; or the fact that the magic tricks that Jareth does with the glass balls were actually done by a specialist who was behind David Bowie in most of the scenes so not only was he doing these fantastic tricks - he was doing them without being able to see what he was doing.


The cast is fantastic. A very young Jennifer Connelly plays Sarah, and of course David Bowie plays Jareth, then you've got a huge cast of puppets of various shapes and sizes. The Labyrinth itself is almost a character as well, it's certainly got a mind of its own and is full of talking statues and creepy 'helping' hands.


And then there's the music. The soundtrack isn't exactly expensive on Amazon so I'm promising myself it when I've finished buying other essentials like my new Kindle Fire, cases and accessories for it (not to mention all the knitting books I've got my eye on). I think the music really adds something to the film. It's all part of the zany, strange world and I think the songs help to make it feel all familiar, so you can watch it again and again and again.

Oh, and this one has to be my favourite:


Friday, 28 June 2013

Tara's Minty Fresh Breath

Two weeks ago, when I was minutes from going into my exam, Mr Click treated me to two packs of Polos. I like to have something to suck on during an exam (I like to think that it helps to inspire me) and Polos tend to me my go-to sweet for these situations. I've taken a pack into virtually every exam since my Standard Grades.

They're perfect because you don't have to worry about rustling and annoying people, they've got a nice strong taste and they sit in that little groove that most desks have so they're less likely to roll off onto the floor. In the exam I got through over half a pack (partly because they helped to take my mind off the fact that I was bursting for the loo), which I then finished at work the following week.

The second pack I kept in my bag, usually having one or two mints after my lunch while I was at work. A week on from the exam I still had around half a pack left. I anticipated them lasting me another week or so and then I figured I'd buy some Mentos from the vending machine at work to replace them.
Tara, pretending to be sleepy and innocent but probably really plotting which sweets she'll steal next.
Tara, on the other hand, had some different ideas. Last week I was in the kitchen sorting laundry with the door closed (to prevent Trouble with a capital T from trying to make off with any of the socks) when I heard a thump, a yell and the sound of dog and husband racing up the stairs.

I came out of the kitchen to see what the fuss was about to find said husband pinning the aforementioned dog to the stairs with his hand in her mouth, fishing out bits of Polo mint and wrapper! Being the genius I am, I'd left my shoulder bag on the floor, perfectly within reach of the hoover/labrador cross-breed and she'd decided that she needed a breath mint, or ten!

I'm pleased to report that Mr Click was able to get all of the wrapper out of her mouth, and most of the Polos too. She sat at the top of the stairs happily crunching away on the little bits that he'd missed. She didn't suffer any adverse effects from them and I've learnt a valuable lesson about keeping the contents of my bag zipped safely away from prying labrador noses!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Day Zero Project: Make a Photo Wall

There used to be someone I chatted to only who had a fantastic photo wall that I was very much in envy of. One whole wall of her room was completely covered in photos and as time went on they were creeping across onto a second wall. Each photo was up there for a reason and had some story behind it.

Ever since then I've really wanted to get together some photos and pin them up on my walls in the same way. I've not done it yet, though I've signed up for dozens of free trials on photo printing sites. I'm yet to actually send off to get any of my photos printed. I think part of it is that I just don't know where to start.

I think it would work best if it was an organic process, gradually coming together as I add special photos to it. I want to get them printed in all different sizes and shapes as well to make it really interesting. As you can see, I'm spending rather more time planning this than I probably should.

Kind of what I imagine my photo wall looking like, but with less random photos!
Right now I'm just trying to decide exactly where the photo wall should go. Originally I'd imagined it running down the staircase, at about eye level so you could see it when you're going up and down the stairs. But as we tend to keep the spare bedroom and bathroom doors closed (to prevent Tara from going all Andrex Puppy on the toilet roll in the bathroom) it's quite dark (I'm lazy and rarely turn the light on when I'm going up and downstairs if I can avoid it) so I worry that it might make it seem darker.

The other option is the wall at the head of our bed. It's a big blank space of wall at the moment (though I do worry about marking the walls with blu-tak). I'm also a bit concerned about how I feel about having photos of family members right over my head while I'm sleeping and *ahem* other stuff. That might feel a bit weird. Plus the sun shines in through the window opposite. I'm not sure about whether that might cause photos to fade. Maybe I'll be rotating through different ones often enough for it not to make a difference.

As you can see. This is a project that is kind of in progress. But it needs a little more thought before I can do anything truly spontaneous!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Another Blog Stats Post

I've been meaning to do another blog stats post ever since I completed the A to Z Challenge because it definitely helped to boost my page views and I thought it would be interesting to have another post to make that milestone.

And then I forgot about that. Then I hit 15,000 page views and it seemed like that should be occasion enough to make a post showing my current blog stats. But once again it got overlooked until now.

Pageviews for the week, from 23/06/13
I'm now fast approaching 16,000 pageviews so now seems like a good time to share some of these stats. The picture above was captured on Sunday so things will definitely have changed since then. The little spike you see on the 18th is because I posted a review of a Terry Pratchett book that day. Any post that mentions Terry Pratchett or Game of Thrones is guaranteed to get twice as many pageviews as any other post that week!

Most popular posts to day (23/06/13)
As you can see, the top spots for most popular posts are still dominated by my very first Game of Thrones book review and those ever popular film reviews. I have no idea what it is about them, except that the Christmas film posts seem to largely attract Russian and German viewers. I'm pleased to see that a couple of posts from this year are sneaking up the list in terms of popularity. Hopefully by this time next year there'll be a few more 2013 posts on that list (and a few less 2011 ones)!

Traffic since the blog started (23/06/13)
And that's how things are looking on my blog for number of visitors since I started. I love how much it's grown since my first post way back when! I like how whenever I have a little dip it's followed by a spike. I think some of that increase in traffic is due to the fact that I post every day now (and that back in April I was posting twice a day on most days). It's fun to see how it just keeps growing and growing!

Search Keywords (23/06/13)
And finally, my personal favourite page to check in my stats, the keywords. I'm yet to find something as interesting as 'men having a wee', which is probably a good thing. My favourite from this one is the one third from the bottom. I'm guessing it led to the post about my haircut. This also probably demonstrates just why my Game of Thrones post remains at the top of the list for popularity.

Do you check your blog stats regularly? Have you found any interesting keywords which have led people to your blog?

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Book 23 of 2013: Dancing At Lughnasa

Dancing at Lughnasa is a play by Brian Friel and was the penultimate text to be studied on my OU literature course. It's set in Ireland during the 1930s and is narrated by Michael who is looking back on two scenes from his childhood. Although Michael narrates the scenes and is present as a child, he isn't really there; the child in the scenes is just imagined (although the other characters interact with him as though he was there). The story is focused on the women of the family, the five Mundy sisters, and their interactions, as well as two men; their older brother, Jack who is just returned from missionary work in Africa, and Michael's father who stops by to visit.


I rarely read plays unless I'm actually having to study them for one reason or another. I used to be involved in the local drama group, so obviously I would read whatever play was being performed, but I struggle to read them just as a story on their own. So had it not been for my course this wouldn't have been something that I would've chosen to read myself.

Something about it reminded me of Sunset Song. I never studied it at school, but we did go on a trip to see it when I was at school (although I remember more about the shopping in Edinburgh before the play than what actually took place on the stage). I think it was just the fact that it was during a time of hardship in a different way of life to now, but I was kind of picturing the stage the way it had been for that play.

It was fairly easy to follow. There are some play texts that I've read over the years which seem to take a lot of work to figure out how things are unfolding on the stage, but this wasn't one of them. I was able to picture what was happening on the stage fairly well. In fact I think it was probably clearer for me because I was able to imagine the child-Michael in the scene, whereas in performance he wouldn't have been there.

It would probably be interesting to see it in performance, purely to get the full effect of it. I always find that when I read a play before seeing it you can miss some bits because on the page it's just text but then the actors take it and turn it into something more. I wonder if I would struggle with the absent child-Michael. I imagine I might find that distracting, though he's not really in the scenes a huge amount.

The play is all about adult-Michael looking back to his childhood and remembering these two separate events. As soon as I started reading it I could immediately see how it was connected to the course book (which was looking at Memory and Mirgration for this particular section). It was a very quick read, at only 71 pages. I think I read most of it while Mr Click was in the bath!

It's unlikely to be something I revisit again and I'll probably stick the book on eBay once I've got confirmation that I've passed the course and don't need to retake the exam. Come to think about it, if I did have to retake the exam I probably wouldn't pick this as one of my texts to write about. I'm pleased I've read it and it was a good way to spend an hour or so but I do much prefer to see plays performed rather than just reading them by myself.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Puss in Boots Knitting Pattern

Back at Christmas a relative sent me some money to put towards something for myself and after a bit of debate I treated myself to some of Jean Greenhowe's knitting pattern booklets (as well as Terry Pratchett's Snuff). I'd been singing the praises of Jean Greenhowe's patterns to a friend for a couple of months but didn't yet own any myself so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to rectify this situation.

I spent a lot of time choosing which booklets to get and in the end I selected Knitted Animals, Knitted Toy Collection, Knitted Hedgehogs and the MacScarecrow Clan books. The Knitted Animals book was chosen partly because it had two patterns for cats and I knew I wanted the first thing I knit to be a gift for the cat-loving relative who had funded my purchase.


The patterns in question were Puss in Boots and the Kitten. I went with Puss because he looked fun and quirky and like more of a challenge. He was actually knit up and finished before Grandma Humpty Dumpty but I didn't want to show him off until I'd sent him off to his new home.

Until these books arrived I'd been knitting toys from the Knitted Toys book by Sharon Welch who has a similar style to Jean Greenhowe but I still went through a period of adjustment. Different authors phrase things in different ways or lay out their patterns differently and that can take some getting used to.
 

I originally knit all his bits and pieces first then sewed him together but I've since found a better way to work is actually to follow the instructions and if it says to sew something up then do it when you're told to save confusion.

My first bit of confusion came when I knitted the tops of Puss's boots. His body, legs and head were all knitted in one piece with everything else added on. I thought I'd found a mistake in the pattern and did a knit row when I should have purled. The purl row was actually to help define the scalloped edge once you'd folded the rectangular shape it was formed from. It's not a huge difference though.


I also made a mistake in that I didn't read all the making up instructions for the body before I started doing them so I sewed up the back of Puss's head when I should have left it open to anchor the details of his face in the stuffing. Luckily Puss has his jaunty little hat so I was able to pull the threads up there and hide the ends beneath it. Not a bad save, I think!


I love his hat and the feathers. They were one of the bits of magic you often find in Jean Greenhowe patterns. As you knit it you can't see how on earth it will become whatever she says it is. Then you follow the instructions and it just works! The feathers just seemed like a mess as I was knitting them, but when I sewed them up they took shape straight away!

My lack of embroidery skills show on his face. I'd have liked him to look a bit happier. I'm getting the hang of embroidery gradually though so I'm getting there slowly.

I haven't heard what the relative thinks of him but I'm pretty proud of him. And the fact he turned out so well boosted my confidence and prompted me to carry on knitting patterns from the other three books I ordered (and I've just chosen two more to splurge on).

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Project 52: Week 25 - Sunshine

This week's theme was sunshine which shouldn't really have posed too much of a problem. Unfortunately as the week has gone on the skies have become decidedly more cloudy and overcast. So I've had to adapt to get a picture representing sunshine.

I've gone a little bit more abstract with this one as a result of this. Trying to take a photo of the sun shining would be a little bit boring anyway. I'd considered trying to catch one of a sunrise or sunset, perhaps reflected on the sea, but then I started thinking about other things that kind of suggested sunshine.

I decided to go for flowers, specifically yellow ones because that's a nice sunny sort of colour. In the garden next door to us are some lovely giant daisy flowers. I thought that they would make the perfect photo. I've always liked that the name 'daisy' came from 'days eyes' because they open and close with the sun. Unfortunately it's been pretty windy here recently so when I went out to finally take a photo of my sunshiny flowers I found they were all bent over double and so that option wasn't going to work any more.

Week 25: Sunshine
These were the sunniest looking flowers I could find. They're from one of the bushes in the car park outside our house. There were some slightly yellower ones but it was really windy when I was trying to take the photo and the bush they were on were blowing around all over the place so I couldn't focus on them, so I settled with this particular flower. Lots of them were looking a little bit tatty so I must have looked a bit strange scanning all the flower blossoms while I looked for exactly the right one to snap.

I did adjust the saturation and colour tone on this photo. It was a bit grey because it was really cloudy outside so I did what needed to be done to make it look like it was being taken during decent daylight. It's maybe not the photo I would've originally taken but I'm pleased with how it's turned out. It's nice and simple.

Next week's theme is delight. I have no idea what I'm going to do for that but hopefully something will come to me before the end of the week.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Film Review: The Dark Crystal

Back when we watched the Star Wars films a couple of months back I mentioned to Mr Click that we really needed to get Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal and so a couple of weeks later he surprised me with both films on blu-ray. The Dark Crystal is a Jim Henson film from 1982 and it's one that I have vivid memories of growing up watching. It was made four years before I was born and it was a firm favourite from an early age.

It's a fantasy film which features several different races; the Skeksis and Mystics are kind of parallels of each other, evil and good, who were once one race which split when the Dark Crystal was damaged. The Skeksis bring about the almost complete obliteration of the Gelfling race (which is a sort of almost-human in appearance) with the exception of Jen, who is found and raised by the Mystics, and Kira, who is found and raised by Podlings (who are sort of little potato people). Together they have to journey to restore the Crystal to bring harmony back to their world.

It's notable for being one of the first films to be a live action film without any human actors visible on screen. The blu-ray has some really interesting documentaries about the making of it and the processes it went through that shaped it into the film it became. It's not a Muppet film at all, though there are some characters in it who look similar to characters from Labyrinth. There are a variety a characters ranging from little Fizzgig (who is about 90% mouth) right up to these big rabbit creatures on stilts.

I'm not sure exactly what it was that drew me to it as a child. I've always had a healthy love for all things fantasy so I suppose that probably played a part. I remember loving Fizzgig and we named our cat Kyra after Kira, the female Gelfling.


It still has the power to scare me. One of the baddies in the film, working for the Skeksis, are a sort of giant bug with a bunch of tentacle-y legs and even now they send a shiver down my spine. I remember it being one of those films that I wanted to hide through bits of it. I'm sure it gave me more than a few nightmares, but I was a bit of a morbid child and I kind of enjoyed that.

So many films that you love as a child lose some of their magic when you rewatch them as an adult. I watched it for the first time with Mr Click several years ago and I don't think he enjoyed it so much then, but since buying it and watching it together recently we've gone back to watch it a second time too, so I think he's feeling whatever I felt all those years ago.

Considering its age, the 'special effects', such as they are, are pretty special and I think it has aged well. I'm glad that we've got it in our collection because I know that it's one I'm going to watch over and over again. I can't wait to introduce my children to it and I've only just scraped the surface of the special features. I'm looking forward to playing the quiz game that you can play on the blu-ray as you're watching the film, it looks like good fun.

Friday, 21 June 2013

A230 After the Exam

This time last Thursday I was sitting in a dressing room at Rothesay Pavilion, furiously scribbling out everything I could remember about the poetry text I'd selected to write about for the first question. The exam on the 13th (thankfully not a Friday!) was the culmination of a nine month course with the Open University known as A230, or Reading and Studying Literature.

My last exam was on (the now defunct) U211, Exploring the English Language, course and I had sat that in Glasgow (at the concert hall) with about twenty or thirty people sitting the same course. This year was slightly different. As I live on an island, making travelling to exams a little tricky, I was allowed to sit it at a local venue; that being the Pavilion where I have performed on several occasions with the local drama group. In a way it was quite nice to be sitting in the big dressing room there because I have many happy memories of rehearsals and hurried costume changes there.

What made it slightly less nice was the fact that I was a) sitting an exam, and b) the only person sitting an exam that day.

Imagine sitting in an exam room. The silence, the ticking clock, the invigilator sitting at the front of the room keeping a careful eye on you, the rustling papers and scratching pens of your fellow students. Now take away those students. I was the only one in the room rustling and scratching.

It did make me feel rather self-conscious. Particularly when I stretched my leg about halfway through the exam and my knee gave an almighty crack. A little bit distracting in an exam room full of people; slightly mortifying when you can't pretend that someone else's body parts are protesting.

Photo from BBC.co.uk
Where the dressing room is at the back of the building meant I had a background soundtrack of the children playing outside at the local nursery. They were laughing and doing that happy screaming children thing which might have been a distraction for some people, but in an otherwise silent room I quite welcomed it. It wasn't particularly loud and it made for some nice white noise which actually helped me to focus on the text.

The exam paper itself wasn't that bad. I'm reserving judgement until I actually get my results back but I felt it went okay. The first section was an analysis of either a play, poem or piece of prose, the extract being given to you. The second and third were questions looking at the themes of given texts from the course. As we were given the texts that would be covered in each of the questions in advance (though not the questions themselves) I'd picked which questions I was going to answer before I even went into the exam.

My usual exam technique is to read the paper as soon as I get in and select the questions I'm going to answer, so I was able to dispense with that this time around and get straight down to answering the questions. I had considered revising one main question to answer and one back-up but abandoned this in favour of knowing each subject really well, as opposed to potentially missing points which could lead to me not having enough information to talk about either.

Of course I'd 'budgeted' for time at the beginning to read the whole exam paper and so by jumping straight into answering the first question I was finished with it after forty-five minutes. I was a bit shaky with this one at the start (I chose to analyse a poetry extract) but the more I wrote, the more I found to say.

The second one I could probably have written about for the whole three hours. Despite finishing the first question earlier than I'd planned to I was careful not to write about the second one for longer than I'd budgeted for (about 45-50 minutes). My answer for this one was the longest of the three because I just found that there was so many things I could say about it and I think I made the most coherent argument here.

The final question stumped me a little bit. It didn't seem to match up to any of the themes that I'd revised and I couldn't decide exactly what angle I wanted to approach it from (unlike the second question which I figured out straight away). This answer was shorter but I just kept on pulling things out that I could talk about so hopefully some of it is correct.

I ended up with about twenty minutes to spare at the end and so I carefully went back through my answers and managed to catch some 'typos' (what do you call handwritten mistakes where you've written completely the wrong words?) and also went over some words I'd not written so clearly. I don't want to lose any marks for the marker not being able to read my handwriting. I ended up finishing about five minutes before the end and just told the invigilator that I was done.

Probably the worst part of the exam was the fact that about ten minutes after it started I started kind of needing the loo, despite going before I went in. Of course the more I thought about it, the worse I needed to pee and a couple of times I considered asking to go to the toilet, but I was worried about not having enough time at the end of the exam.

My next, and final, course will be Children's Literature which doesn't have an exam, but I don't think I'm going to miss not having one too much. I'm glad I've got this one out the way and suddenly I feel like I've got so much free time. Between Thursday afternoon and Sunday I managed to knit a foot tall Scottish bagpipe playing scarecrow (I'll show him off in a future blog post), sewed on his face and got a fair chunk of his tartan trousers done, as well as reading about fifteen chapters of A Dance With Dragons and half a film magazine. Oh and I played The Sims and caught up with a knitting forum I haven't been on in years.

But it won't be long before I start feeling like I need to be studying again. I'll be registering for my next course in the next few weeks and buying some of the books I'll need to read for that (I already own a couple of them) and I'll soon be enjoying getting my teeth stuck into essay writing and stuff again!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Day Zero Project: Change maiden name to married name on all official stuff

I really need to get a move on with this. I mean, I've been married three and a half years now and with the exception of my bank accounts, work and some online stuff I've still not updated my name on lots of official and important things (like my library card, then again, I've still not told them I've moved).

It does complicate things slightly when I need official ID. Most places are happy to accept my passport and marriage certificate, however when I went for a job interview at a local nursery they said that it wasn't good enough and I would've needed proper photographic ID.

At the moment though I don't plan on having driving lessons for a while, so I might as well wait to renew my provision license until after it's expired this year, and ditto for my passport. Both expire this year so I'll get those done then.

It can be so complicated to get names changed on things. Honestly, the easiest one to change was the bank. We went in the week after we'd been married with a couple of copies of the marriage certificate and our passports (mine obviously in my maiden name) and they gave us a couple of forms to complete (one for my account and one for joint one) and that was it.

The hardest to change was PayPal. They wanted me to send in proof of my marriage certificate as well as photographic ID with my new name on, a utility bill with my new name on and probably a sworn statement signing over my first born to them as well. After a bit of googling I found out that a far easier way to change my name was to simply set up a new account linked to a different email address to the original, switch the old account to a different email address and then change the new one to the address I was wanting it to be linked to. The old PayPal account has just been left dormant now, you'd think that if the bank can change your details so simply, PayPal would be able to be a little more flexible. I can't see how abandoning one account and setting up a new one is any more secure.

I'm glad that I took my husband's name though. One of the first things I did after we were married was update my name on Facebook. It seemed symbolic somehow. Now I feel like I'm part of his family and I always feel a bit weird when I look at my passport or provisional driver's license, it's like it belongs to someone else now, and that someone isn't really me.

Did (or would) you change your name? How long did it take to update everything?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Music Post: Mean - Taylor Swift

Do you ever find a song that just sort of speaks to your soul?

When I got Taylor Swift's album, Speak Now, I found just one of those songs, Mean. It's a song about being bullied and put down and overcoming that. You've heard the saying 'sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me'; this is about how wrong that statement can be, how hurtful words can be, how sometimes they can feel exactly like someone's pummelling you, and how that can be worse in a way because a bruise in your own mind can take a lot longer to fade than a bruise on your skin.

Today is the anniversary of escaping from a situation just like that, though I don't really think I realised that I felt that way until afterwards when I was seeing a counsellor. This is a great song for that sense of self-empowerment. I dare you to try listening to it turned up as loud as you like and to resist the temptation to sing along to the chorus at the top of your voice. I don't think it can be done. (I particularly enjoy the bit around the three minute mark, it's like musical therapy).


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Book 22 of 2013: Snuff by Terry Pratchett

I treated myself to a copy of Snuff by Terry Pratchett way back at the beginning of the year when a relative sent me some money for Christmas. It's the last book in the Discworld series that's currently available and so I'd held off reading it for a while because I didn't want it to be the very last one. I started reading it on my birthday because they seemed like a good day to start it.


In Snuff Sam Vimes is taken on holiday to his wife Sybil's country estate. It's supposed to be a relaxing holiday but of course he stumbles into a crime which he has to go about solving. The action in the countryside links back to strange happenings in Ankh-Morpork. This book introduces the race of Goblins, who were sort of touched on in Unseen Academicals, and is a pretty close study of racism as Goblins are being treated as a sub-human race.

I enjoyed having a whole book of Sam Vimes. He's my favourite character; I've always been a huge fan of the books featuring the Watch. I love how he's developed throughout the series. You can see that he could easily be one of the bad guys, but he's taken a different route and become one of the good guys. He's a proper detective with his little flaws and his own special interpretation of the rules.

This one felt slightly different to the other Discworld books, though I can't think exactly how or why. I think perhaps it was because it didn't have quite so many different plot strands. There was the main story in the countryside, plus a sub-plot which took the reader back to Ankh-Morpork. Normally the Discworld books have a handful of sub-plots which all gradually come together. This was a simpler sort of story.

It was also missing Death. I really missed him as he's one of my favourite characters. I like how he normally just gets a passing mention. I kept on expecting him to crop up but as far as I could tell he didn't show up. I did enjoy Wilikins, Sybil, Young Sam and Miss Beedle. Particularly in the case of the first two, we've seen them before, but haven't seen as much of them as in this book. Young Sam has just about reached a point where he's a proper character and I did find his rather obsessive interest in poo quite funny, especially Sybil's responses!

The end of this book had extracts from both Dodger and The Long Earth, Terry Pratchett's latest non-Discworld novels. I'd really like to read Dodger which is set in Victorian England and features Charles Dickens. I'm not sure if The Long Earth would really be my sort of thing, but it's definitely intrigued me, and Amazon recently sent me an email adverting the sequel, The Long War, which I think is some sort of sign that I should really give it a go.

It's strange to think that I'm at the end of the Discworld books in my collection. I've checked and seen that there will be another one, Raising Steam, and I'll obviously be adding that to my collection as soon as I can. In the meanwhile I've still got The Science of Discworld to read as well as the Johnny Maxwell trilogy and some of his stand-alones and collaborations. So I won't be done with the Terry Pratchett books for quite a while yet.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Nurse Appointment at Glasgow Nuffield

As I said yesterday, on Wednesday we took a trip into Glasgow for our appointment with the nurse at Glasgow Nuffield. When I found out the date for my exam at the beginning of the year I took off the day of the exam itself as well as the day before, just on the off chance that I wouldn't be able to sit it on the island and so I could stop the night before in Glasgow to save the stress of travelling there on the actual day. That way, if I didn't need to go to Glasgow I could use the day before as some last minute exam revision.

Then we needed to book our next appointment for the IVF stuff and that seemed like a good day to go. So much for last minute revision! The hospital was very helpful and scheduled both our joint appointment and Mr Click's test for the same day because they knew how far we had to travel (much better than when we went to the GRI and we were told that we couldn't go for our joint appointment until Mr Click had gone for his).

We decided to give it a go by public transport this time, rather than taking the car as we'd been off the island by car the week before for my eye appointment. As this appointment was unlikely to involve people sticking stuff in my eyes it seemed like the cheaper option.

Map from Google Maps
It was an early start (5:30am for the third day in a row!) and we arrived at Wemyss Bay with enough time for me to visit the secondhand bookshop before our train (I picked up a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Book Thief). We had planned to take a later train but after a bit of last minute consideration we realised that the earlier one would give us more time to grab lunch in Glasgow before we headed out to Hyndland train station.

We'd looked up online and it told us it was about a fifteen minute walk from there to the hospital but we came out the wrong entrance and couldn't figure out where we were going, so called a taxi instead. At £5 each way it still works out cheaper than taking the car so we'll definitely try going by public transport whenever we're able to in the future. As we'd caught the earlier boat we got to the Nuffield at twelve; Mr Click's appointment was at 1pm so that gave us plenty of time to nip to the loo, have a drink and relax in the waiting room.

Obviously I didn't go into the room with him for his test, but he gave the hospital a big thumbs up. Considering at one of the hospitals he had to produce a sample for they didn't have a room so he had to do it in the toilets, the room the Nuffield has set aside is a big improvement! He said that the nurse was really helpful and reassuring.

We were reunited in the waiting room and then had our joint appointment at 2pm. From the letter I'd been sent I was expecting this to be a fairly quick appointment. We'd been told to bring our passports and passport photos (for our records) and that we would be given our consent forms to take away and look out before our next appointment. I figured we'd go in, hand stuff over, maybe answer a few questions and then be given some paperwork to take away.

I couldn't have been more wrong! Our nurse, J, was lovely. She was so friendly and welcoming and it didn't really feel the way that most medical appointments feel. We sat chatting about ourselves and where we came from before we got down to business which gave the whole thing a sort of relaxed feeling.

She had some information about what my drug protocol will involve based on the results of my AMH test. As mine was over 24 I've got a different regime to someone who might have had a lower level (and so would need greater stimulation). J went through all the stages of that treatment explaining what would happen, when I would need to visit and what would happen at the various appointments.

She also had all of our notes and so saw the letter from our GP which said that our local health centre could do some of the blood tests for us. Due to embryo storage (and obviously for the health and safety of the medical staff) we have to be tested for things like HIV and hepatitis so she said we could speak to our health centre to get those done, provided we could produce the lab copies of the results. I like that even though it's private treatment and we're paying for it, I don't feel like they're trying to make us spend extra money; they could so easily have said that we had to have them do the tests, even though we were prepared to have them done there if need be.

Because of the egg donation programme we have to have a few extra genetic tests which we'll get done at the Nuffield and while J was out getting some more information about those for us the embryologist came by to give us Mr Click's results. I wish I could remember her name, she was just as lovely as all of the other staff members we met, but it just went in one ear and out the other. Next time we go I will make more of an effort to remember who it is I'm speaking to so I can mention them properly.

I couldn't believe that they could have results from Mr Click's test so soon, it had only been about an hour since he'd produced it! She recommended that we might want to consider ICSI as opposed to IVF due to good content but low volume. Basically that differs from IVF in that rather than just putting the sperm and eggs into a petri dish to have a party, an individual sperm is selected and injected directly into the egg. She explained that this could increase the risk of genetic abnormalities by about 0.5% due to sperm being used which might not otherwise have succeeded in fertilising an egg, but it did also offer a slightly increased chance of fertilisation.

She said that it was entirely our choice and that we could make the final decision on the actual day if we wanted; some people have qualms about it for ethical reasons. Or that we could do half IVF and half ICSI if we wanted. Mr Click and I discussed it and we're happy to go ahead with the ICSI, at least that way we'll know that X number of eggs will have been introduced to a little swimmer, whereas IVF alone would be leaving things more to chance.

We went over lots of other things with J as well, and she explained that we should be able to get our next three appointments all on the same day. That'll be for my extra screening, the counsellor and then to go over all the consent forms. We have a massive stack to look over so that we can think of any questions before we go next, rather than being completely overwhelmed by questions when we're actually supposed to be there signing them. They all seem fairly straight-forward; things like what we would want doing with potential unused embryoes, whether we would consent to using them for research and things like that.

All in all we were in there for two hours! But it didn't really feel like that long, though J was very thorough and at no time did I feel like we were being rushed. Now that I've got all the paperwork it feels like this is something we can actually do and that's a very exciting thought indeed.

Now we've just got to get the blood tests done and get out next batch of appointments booked.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Project 52: Week 24 - Flight

I was really clutching at straws for a photo this week. Normally a theme like flight wouldn't faze me at all. I live on an island with millions of birds and flying things so it would usually be a question of taking my camera out for a walk with me and snapping the first thing with wings that I saw.

But this week I had my Open University exam on the Thursday, as well as a trip off the island to Glasgow Nuffield the Wednesday before (more about that tomorrow), so my head was kind of in other places. I've been trying to take a photo of the pheasant that keeps on visiting the holiday cottage garden next door to us, and I thought that this would be a good excuse to try snapping him. Of course he only put in an appearance once and I wasn't quite quick enough with the camera.

I was really at a loss by the time today rolled around and I still didn't have anything to show for this week's theme (with the exception of a bunch of photos of the Scotsman I'm knitting, but he's not flying either). Mr Click suggested paper aeroplanes, which seemed like a brilliant idea, except it turned out that neither of us can actually remember how to fold a paper plane so that plan backfired somewhat.

He suggested I bring my camera to my in-laws' house because they get all sorts of wildlife in their garden. This turned out to be a really good idea and although the picture was kind of taken as a last minute thing, I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

Week 24: Flight
It was one of several photos I was snapping of the seagulls flying overhead and whereas my other favourite was just blue sky, I prefer this one for the contrast of the blue sky and white clouds. I touched it up a little, just to make the seagul appear slightly darker so it stood out more. I toyed with the idea of making it completely black but I prefer it this way, rather than as a sort of seagull-shaped cutout.

Next week's theme is sunshine which hasn't been too much of a problem recently, though we've a couple of really wintery days so who knows what the weather's going to be up to this week. I may have to improvise by drawing a picture of the sun or something!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Blog Spotlight: Random Ramblings

Another month, another blog spotlight. This month I'm taking a break from the blogs of friends who are taking part in the nail art challenge to spotlight my friend Mark's blog, Random Ramblings (or to use the blog's full name, Random Ramblings, Thoughts and Fiction). I know Mark through HTV and we have a similar sort of taste in books and TV series. His tastes tend to run in the same sort of vein as my husband, so when Mark mentions a film, book or series that he likes there's a fairly good chance Mr Click will like it too; this makes buying birthday and Christmas presents for Mr Click quite easy!


As the name suggests it's something of a multipurpose blog. Mark covers pretty much anything and everything from book, film and tv reviews, to a variety of *ahem* photos. Unfortunately I don't often get to visit his blog properly because due to adult content my phone won't load it (despite Vodafone assuring me that the content control was being removed). Luckily I have an app on my phone which isn't quite so picky about what I'm allowed to look at, so I'm still able to read his posts.

I have to admit that some of his posts are lost on me; Mark appreciates the female form and there's a good reason why 'bums' is one of his more popular tags. I have on occasions passed my phone over to Mr Click because I know he's a fan of those sorts of posts. I keep on telling Mr Click to just follow Random Ramblings because it would save me a lot of time having to pass on these interesting posts. ;-)

Mark is a pretty creative guy. He not only writes, but also produces painting and drawings. Some of my favourites include Thomas the Photographer and Columbo. He also regularly participates in the HTV Writing Challenge and often posts his own fiction on his blog as well as pieces of fan fiction too. If you're checking out Mark's fiction posts be sure to check out Sapphire and Steel and also Cold Calling.

As I said above, Mark and I share a similar taste in books. Case in point, we both reviewed The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at roughly the same time! He was also the one who put me onto Moriarty and has recently been reading Kim Newman's Anno Dracula books and so has given me yet another set of books to add to my 'To Read' List.

If you're only stopping by to check out one thing, visit Mark's Out On Blue Six posts. They're all about songs that he likes and although I don't always get to listen to all of the music that he posts during these but it's great for finding new artists who you might not have previously liked or listened to. He's got quite a wide range of tastes in music so it's always interesting to see what he's chosen to blog about each time there's another Out On Blue Six post.

If you stop by his blog you'll see that there's loads of other posts I could link to. I've not even mentioned his movie and tv series posts. There really is something for everyone on Random Ramblings and Mark's even more regular about posting than I am, so there's always something new to read.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Scrubs Review

One of my main presents from Mr Click at Christmas was the complete box set of all nine series of Scrubs on DVD. I had no idea that I was getting this. I’d been dropping hints for ER and Friends (the latter of which was also one of my main presents) but hadn’t mentioned wanting Scrubs (although I really did). It was such a surprise to unwrap the gift and find Zach Braff’s face staring back at me.

I watched the first few series right from the start. I’d heard about it online and read the advert in the TV guide and thought it seemed right up my street. I remember the night of the first episode we were out at someone else’s house and people wouldn’t stop talking so we could leave. I kept looking at the clock thinking ‘it’s starting in twenty minutes, it’s starting in ten minutes’ and worrying that we wouldn’t be back in time for it. We were, by just a couple of minutes!


It follows three new doctors as they start out their careers at Sacred Heart Hospital; JD and Elliot who work on the Medical ward and Turk, who is a surgeon. It’s a really quirky sort of series, told from JD’s perspective, about the patients and people he encounters in the hospital. JD narrates most of the episodes, though there are a few where he passes the narration on to another character, and occasionally it breaks for a little fantasy where JD imagines what would happen in certain scenarios. The ninth series is sort of a spin-off with new characters, though some of the old ones hang around too; the narration is largely handed over to the ‘new JD’, a med-student named Lucy.

In the past my brother and I used to watch odd episodes of Scrubs but Mr Click could never really get into them. I was really surprised when he suggested we watch Scrubs in bed at night when we’d finished with the Charles Dickens set. He ended up really getting into it; the problem he’d had before was that by just watching random episodes he didn’t get how the series was set up (with the different characters and the fantasy moments).

I’d previously owned the first two series on DVD so I’d watched all those as well as seeing most of the episodes up to about series four on TV (though not necessarily in the right order). So once we got into series five and beyond there was a lot that was new to me. I liked the way that it followed the progression of the doctors through the series as they went from interns, to residents, to chief residents.

The series has a fantastic cast of characters. You can’t talk about Scrubs without mentioning the Janitor. He’s scary and funny and I love that watching the special features you can see just how much of his character was Neil Flynn just improvising and playing around with things. I love Sarah Chalke as Elliot as well; she’s ditzy and crazy and one of my friends at school used to call me Elliot at times so I guess I can kind of relate to her.

As the narrator JD is wonderfully human. The opening credits end with ‘I’m no Superman’ and JD isn’t. Sometimes he’s a downright jerk. He’s always trying his best for his patients but sometimes he wants to do what’s best for himself too. I love the way that he narrates the episodes; after a while of watching them in quick succession the way that we did (sometimes three or four episodes in a night) you can’t help but find yourself narrating moments of your day in a similar style. He’s loveably geeky too, plus he looks like Zach Braff which is always a bonus.

The series itself has a brilliant balance of laugh out loud comedy and moments of surprising pathos. I remember back when I first watched it there was an episode where Elliot was feeling really overwhelmed and at the end one of the nurses brings her a drink as JD’s voiceover says something along the lines of ‘sometimes you realise that where you are is where you’ve belonged all along’ and that really got to me at the time. There are episodes with patients facing death (and their doctor’s having to face it alongside them) and there are moments when characters have to make big life-altering decisions. It’s a very clever show that can go from one emotion to another so smoothly.

I have too many favourite episodes to list them all here. The very first one is right up there, as is the last episode of series eight (I honestly wanted to cry). There’s one where Dr Cox is telling his son a fantasy bedtime story featuring all the people from the hospital and there’s a fantastic musical episode with a woman who has a condition that makes her think that everyone is singing. Plus dozens and dozens of others.

The eighth series was supposed to be the last so everything gets pretty much wrapped up. So the ninth series is more like a spin-off series. I enjoyed it more when I thought of it that way as opposed to Scrubs: The Ninth Series. It basically moves the action to a new hospital and JD is only in it for about half the episodes as Lucy takes over as the new starring character. Pretty much everyone comes back for at least one episode, with the exception of the nurses. Because it’s not the original Scrubs it was a little harder to get into, but it finds it's stride around the middle of the series and I got really into that too. It’s different but in a good way.


I actually think I would’ve enjoyed it more if they hadn’t made such an effort to have all the old regulars come back for a visit. It was good to see JD and Elliot but I think it might have been a smoother transition if they’d gotten them out of the way closer to the beginning. It’s a shame that they didn’t take it any further because I think Scrubs: Med School might have found its feet in a second series and would’ve filled the regular Scrubs gap nicely.

It’s a really good box set (although some of the DVD cases are a little bit flimsy and the bits that hold the discs in snap so they don’t hold them secure any more). We made a point of watching all of the bloopers as we went along as well as some of the alternate lines (which shows you the actors improvising their lines, the best of which was then used in the episode). I’ve watched most of the special features from series one and two in the past, but I’m really looking forward to watching some of the later special features. I’m planning on watching the episode commentaries at some point but that could take a while because some series have a commentary on every episode. Not that I’m going to complain about rewatching Scrubs again, it’s a firm favourite in our house now and one I’m sure we’ll revisit again.

Now our night-time viewing is The Sweeney which I’m actually rather enjoying. It’s surprising how well it’s aged (with the exception of the clothes, hair and cars). We’re onto the second series already so expect a review of that soon.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Day Zero Project: Update blog at least once a week

I’m am pleased to say that I have absolutely smashed this Day Zero target, by about 600%! You have to remember that at the time of writing this list I was only getting online once a week, on a Sunday, so to update my blog meant writing the post on the Sunday while I was at my in-laws’ house with an internet connection.


Then I started scheduling the odd post throughout the week and started trying to find a routine for my photo blog posts and my book review posts. There were a couple of times when I planned out a routine I might follow; a photo post on this day, a book post on this day, another sort of post on this day, but I always abandoned it because I didn’t think it would be practical.

Getting an iPhone helped because that meant I could post from home as well. We still don’t have broadband here but I can get a decent enough signal for updating my blog (even if I do have to put my phone on the shelf in the bathroom if I want to get a good enough connection to upload a photo). I also got a bit better at scheduling blog posts as time went on. Something that numerous NaNoWriMos have taught me is that I’m by no means a ‘pantser’, I need to plan what I write and blogging is the same.

I started keeping a little list in the notes section of my phone of things I could blog about and as of this year I was pretty successful at posting at least one thing each week. In fact I think I was averaging about three posts a week during January, which was definitely progress from my erratic, maybe-once-a-week-if-I-was-lucky posting style from before.

And then the A to Z Challenge came along.

I realise I’ve harped on about this Challenge rather a lot in recent months, but that’s because it really did change my approach to blogging. I’ve seen blogs that post every day but I never thought it was something I’d be able to do with my lack of an internet connection, these people were stay-at-home mums (so obviously have more time on their hands, please don’t shoot, that’s sarcasm, honest) who were infinitely more organised than I am so had fitted blogging into their uber-organised routines.

But I thought I’d have a go at planning blog posts and then writing and scheduling them every day, but without telling anyone, so if I failed no one would really know. I thought it would be good practice for April when I actually did need to post every day. And suddenly I had a routine. And my blog was getting updated every day!

I made a list in my phone of all the dates I wanted to post on (which was all of them, of course) and then things I wanted to post about, and then I wrote the posts. And suddenly it wasn’t such a huge challenge any more. Suddenly I had more posts than days in the month because I kept on finding things I wanted to blog about. Suddenly I didn’t have to use a list of prompts to come up with things to mention because real-life was supplying them for me.

And then April came and I didn’t want to disturb my routine so I blogged twice a day, which probably annoyed some of my followers but it was good fun, if a little bit tiring trying to write thirteen posts a week. Luckily I got into a routine of scheduling them so I was able to get well ahead of myself.

Now I’ve gotten pretty well organised and I even have spare posts which I’m writing which I don’t have dates for yet. They can just sit on my blog until I need them and then I’ll get them scheduled. Meanwhile real-life keeps giving me things to write about, other blogs I read give me ideas and so do the comments on my own posts. It’s nice to know that I’ve got people who read my posts and that I’m not just shouting into the ether.

Oh, and you know how I was never really able to get into a routine with my posts way back when. Have you noticed a pattern emerging: Sundays are my Project 52 posts, Tuesdays are book reviews, Thursdays are Day Zero Project posts and Saturdays are rapidly becoming film review posts. That happened by accident; it just sort of naturally evolved!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Keeping a Journal

I first started keeping a diary when I was twelve. I went out to America to spend Christmas with my Uncle and his family over there and I was determined to keep a record of my experiences over there. I vividly remember going to Rajani’s, this massive cash and carry type place that sold pretty much everything you could imagine and picking out the notebook I wanted to use. It’s a hardback with a bright geometric pattern on the front and lined pages inside.

At the very beginning of it I copied out the questions from the beginning of Jacqueline Wilson’s Tracy Beaker story and then I stuck in photographs of my family and dutifully kept a log of events running up to my going away and then life when I came back. I wrote it in pencil, which means it’s gotten a little bit faded now, and the cover’s virtually come right off. I also didn’t write dates, just what day of the week I was writing on so it’s hard to know exactly when I was writing certain bits.

I’ve not revisited it for years now; there’s quite a lot of really personal stuff from my life as a twelve-year-old and I’m a little bit scared of looking back at it. But it’s safe upstairs, ready for me if I ever decide to take a trip down memory lane.

It lives in a big box with some of my other diaries. There’s a Lord of the Rings notebook which I took to Russia, there’s a pink one which I only wrote a few entries in before abandoning because I didn’t like the paper in it. Plus some others that I’ve probably forgotten.

I’ve pretty much kept a diary of one form or another since I was twelve. When I was about fourteen or fifteen I started using my computer a little more. I’d carry around a big A4 notepad during the day, writing things down, and then typing it up when I got home. There was a Lord of the Rings site where I kept a diary and then later moved over to LiveJournal (which still exists, I still visit it sometimes though I’ve not updated it in nearly two years). I think there was another journalling site before LiveJournal, though where that was and what my login details would have been are lost to time. I’ve also written notebooks in a Rune-Script I adapted from Tolkien and also my adaption of an Elvish script to prevent other people from reading what I wrote. At times my journal has just been a word document or a folder on the computer; a series of letters to people around me which I never would have thought of showing them. Even this is my second blog.

Pretty Journal
But there’s something nice about putting pen to paper (or pencil to paper in the case of my twelve-year-old self). Way back last August we took a trip to Ayr and I picked up a lovely purple notebook with a silver pattern on it. I thought at the time that I might use it for recording how I felt during the IVF treatment (at the time it wasn’t something I was planning to blog about); but the book was so pretty that I didn’t like to not use it for all that time.

At the end of the year I started thinking about keeping a journal again. I made the decision to start it on New Year’s Day, only to break it within a week and started on December 24th, our wedding anniversary and (obviously) Christmas Eve. I remembered starting my first diary in the run up to Christmas and writing about the things I’d received. And I was also worried that if I put off starting until the beginning of the New Year that I would lose momentum and not bother doing it after all. So I started writing.

And I’ve written in it every day since then. Sometimes it’s little more than an account of the things I’ve done that day. Sometimes it’s my fears, my worries, my frustrations about things in my life. More often than not it’s a record of the things that have made me laugh or smile or feel happy; progress with a knitting project, something our pets have done, a book I’m reading. It’s probably no more personal than this blog, it’s mostly things I talk about on here in one way or another, but it’s a lot more personal than this place somehow because I don’t share it.

Not even Mr Click has read it, even though it lives on my bedside table (or more recently on the bookcase in the living room). I love that he understands that it’s something personal and doesn’t go prying. Sometimes I think about sharing some of the entries in it; maybe not whole entries but little extracts. I’m trying to keep myself from looking back on past entries until I’ve been writing it for a year. It’ll be interesting to compare my entries for Christmas Day last year and Christmas Day this year.

The pretty purple notebook is starting to get a little full now so I’ve treated myself to a quirky one decorated with sheep. It doesn’t look quite as serious as the current one so I’m wondering if the cover will change my attitude towards it. At the moment I write using multicoloured pens, changing the colour each paragraph and writing names and certain things in other colours to highlight them. I wonder if I might need to go for a plain colour in my next journal just to tone things down a little bit. It’s going to be interesting to see where this next one will take me.

Have you ever kept, or thought about keeping, a journal?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Book 21 of 2013: Notes From The Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I needed a letter N for the HTV Spring Reading Challenge and as I didn’t have any book-books that would fit the bill I turned to my Kindle. I had a few on there (I downloaded several free books beginning with N as part of the Winter Challenge) but I decided to look for something from my 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die category. I don’t think I had a huge amount to chose from but Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky was one of the shortest choices, so that’s what I went with.

Image from Wikipedia
(Not the edition that I read)
Having read, and not particularly enjoyed, The Idiot during the Winter Challenge I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Looking back at this a month and a half later, I’m not entirely sure why, after disliking the last Dostoyevsky book that I read, I went for this one over something that might have been a longer read but which I might have enjoyed a little more. I don’t remember very much about the actual plot of this one, other than the fact that it’s a kind of philosophical, stream-of-consciousness story, talking about society. I think.

It was divided in two with the first part being largely written in a sort of stream-of-consciousness style. It was rambling and I quite enjoyed it. The way it was written was just as though someone was talking, as a writer of long rambling blog posts I appreciate it when someone is happy to sit and read something like that. I disliked the second part which was sort of where the action was. I did find the whole thing very hard to follow though and I often felt like I wasn’t understanding what it was on about.

In the second part the narrator was just not a very likeable person. I couldn’t help but wonder if he had some sort of mental health issues. He was very dramatic and self-centred; nobody liked him and I couldn’t help but think ‘it’s because you’re a horrible person’!

The narrator behaved in really strange ways; like inviting himself to a going-away party for a member of a group of friends who he didn’t really like, insulting people and being weird and then being upset that he’d upset them. He behaved like a child having a temper tantrum and I just couldn’t warm to him at all. My opinion of him did change slightly around three-quarters of the way through the book when he met Liza, a prostitute, and was quite nice to her for a while, encouraging her to get out while she still could. But then he did a complete 180 and became a jerk again.

I’m glad that this was a short book because I was able to get through it very quickly but I really didn’t understand what it was supposed to be about. I can’t say that I’m likely to try it again. I’m determined to not let my dislike of Dostoyevsky’s stories put me off Russian writers, I’m just going to keep looking until I find a Russian novel I can enjoy.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Eyeball Freckle

Did you know you can get freckles in your eyeballs? No? Neither did I until a couple of months ago when I had a routine eye test and midway through the optician announced ‘you’ve got a big freckle in your eyeball’. She said in all likelihood I’ve had it for years but that it’s just because they’ve got better equipment now that they’ve been able to spot it.

Regardless of how long it’s been there, it meant that I needed to get referred to an ophthalmologist to get it checked out. Just like a mole or blemish on your skin you need to keep an eye on them to make sure that they’re not growing or changing. Obviously you’re going to notice fairly quickly if that innocuous little freckle on your arm has doubled in size, but a freckle inside one’s eyeball is slightly harder to monitor.

I’m not a big fan of hospitals and doctors and things. I’ve kind of resigned myself to the fact that having IVF is going to involve quite a few invasive procedures and I’ve come to terms with that (but I’ve had over a year to get used to the idea), the eyeball thing has been sprung on me suddenly. My biggest worry about the eye appointment was that they were going to want to put drops in my eyes. And they did!

I’d only been in the waiting room for a couple of minutes and Mr Click had gone off to fill in a form on another floor, when a nurse called me in to the treatment room. She gave me this thing to cover one eye and had me read the bottom line of an eye chart, then again with the other eye covered, and then, as I removed the cover from my eye she suddenly loomed over me with eye drops in hand and said ‘I’m just going to put these eye drops in your eyes, they’ll dilate your pupils and make everything go a bit blurry’. My first thought was ‘I’m just going to be going then’ but I thought I’d look a bit babyish if they had to drag me back into the room kicking and screaming about having some eye drops put in.

Honestly though, I wanted to cry. They really stung and made my eyes water and then I had to go and sit in the waiting area with things getting blurrier and blurrier waiting for Mr Click to come back. It was a very strange sensation because they made my eyeballs feel warm, that’s really the only way I can describe it.

Luckily Mr Click came back quickly and held my hand. Then when the blurriness had reached such a level that I couldn’t read anything on my phone any more I was called through to get my eyeball freckle photographed. The nurse actually struggled to find it so after about ten minutes of staring at this blinking flashing light while a big dazzling white one snapped and flashed away she seemed to get what she was looking for.

Except it wasn’t. When we were called through to see Dr M he said it was just a photo of the back of my eye and not the freckle at all. He and a student had a good look at both my eyes though. It appears that the freckle is only visible when I look right up and they both kept saying ‘look up, look up’ while I tried to stare at my eyebrows. You try doing that for ten minutes, it’s hard work.

Dr M took me back through for another photo and found the freckle right away. He even printed out a copy of the picture for me to show off. It’s kind of gross and reminds me of photos of Mars.

My Eyeball Freckle
And that’s me for five months. I’ve got to go back for another photo (which’ll be worse then because I know I’ll get the eye drops again, whereas this time I wasn’t expecting it because the optician took her photo without putting drops in). And then providing there’s been no change then I won’t need to go back again for a while.

The eye drops were easily the most unpleasant part of the day. It was lovely and sunny outside and so of course the moment I left the hospital I was blind. I just couldn’t stand to open my eyes more than the tiniest fraction. We had to made a quick course to a petrol station so Mr Click could buy me some sunglasses which I then couldn’t take off for the rest of the day. I even wore them at home until we had the sense to draw the curtains to make things easier on me.

At least that’s out the way now and I’ve got my gross-but-cool photo to show off to people.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Project 52: Week 23 - Chairs

I have to admit that I missed a fantastic opportunity for this photo way back at the beginning of the week. There were a couple of folding chairs left out on the grass at Kerrycroy for a couple of days and every time we drove past them I thought ‘that’d make a really good photo for my Project 52’ but I didn’t have my DSLR on me. I don’t know why this should have stopped me from taking a photo since I always have my phone (which has a camera) and I have a little (slightly worn-out now) compact as well. Either way, by next time we went past there were no more chairs.

I’ve been a bit lazy about taking photos this week. Mainly because I’ve been focusing on revision for my exam this week (yikes! So scary to think that it’s this week now!) so when I’ve been getting in on an evening I’ve been throwing myself into my course books and then I’ve just been wanting to read or knit instead of take photos. I’m sure I’ll get back on track once I’ve got the exam out the way.

We don’t really have many chairs at home. We have a couple of the folding beach ones ourselves (though they tend to be used for spare seating when we have more visitors than seats) and then I have a comfy armchair. We don’t have a dining room table or any outdoor seating (yet, this week I’ve been longing for a beach lounger to laze on out in the sun with my course books) so I felt like my photography options were slightly limited.

Luckily my in-laws have chairs galore, and Mr Click wanted me to take my camera with me this Sunday so I could take some new photos for his Facebook and Twitter profiles so this seemed like the perfect excuse to hold off trying to get a good photo until this weekend. And this is what I’ve ended up with:

Week 23: Chairs
I realise that this is a singular chair, rather than a plural one. If it makes it any better, its twin is round the corner of the house, so it does exist, it's just not in the frame.

I'd actually taken a couple of photos in my in-laws' dining room of the chairs there, but the light in there wasn't great. We were out in the garden taking photos and I just snapped this one of the allotment that my father-in-law has been making. I fiddled around with the lighting a little bit because I wanted to make it look a little bit old-fashioned. It was just a quick photo but I quite like it.

My Mum-in-law's asked me to take a photo of my Father-in-law in the garden at some point as well. The weather is so nice at the moment that I'm hoping to get lots of photos out there. I might even let Mr Click take my camera occasionally so maybe we'll get a few photos with me in them as well.

Next week's photo will be flight which will probably give me another opportunity to try and take some photos of birds flying around, or other things that happen to be up in the air. Hopefully once my exam is out of the way I'll be able to get some more interesting photos.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Film Review: Original Star Wars Trilogy

To celebrate Star Wars Day Mr Click and I cracked out the original Star Wars trilogy. We don't have the newer prequel films and we don't have any of them on DVD or blu-ray. About a year ago Mr Click found the VHS box set in Oxfam for 75p; a bargain at 25p per film!

Ours looks like the picture above. It's a gold box with the three films on tape. This set was released to coincide with the release of the first of the prequel films. The films themselves are the 'updated' ones, the special effects have been tidied up with the modern (at the time) technology. At the beginning of each tape is a little featurette about the re-editing process and how they went about bringing things back in line with Lucas's original idea.

We settled ourselves down to watch them after walking the dog and worked our way through all three, one after the other. By the time that we watched the final one it was after 10pm, but it made for a good day.

I can't really write a proper review of these films because they're such an institution and I love them. It would be like trying to write a serious review of the Lord of the Rings films. I've seen these so many times now that I know them backwards and forwards.

I wasn't really particularly interested in Star Wars until the first of the prequel films came out. We went to see it in the cinema with the whole family. My baby brother was absolutely spellbound and after I think I watched these films for the first time. I don't remember my thoughts of my first viewing now but I think what I really liked was the scope of the films. It's not just a world that's been created, it's a whole universe (one far, far away...). I can't say I've delved much into the expanded universe, but I like that there's so much for other people to play with there.

There's a lot of contention amongst older fans about the changes made to the more recent edits of the film. I can't say I feel quite as strongly about this as some people do. This is the version of the film that I've seen so I don't feel quite as close to the original edit as some people do. One of the featurettes on one of the tapes has George Lucas talking about wanting to make the film the way he'd envisioned it and the way modern technology was allowing him to do it.

On the literature course I've studied poetry and the way that some poets continue to edit and edit and edit, making it hard to establish exactly what is the definitive version of a text. I kind of think of these original Star Wars films in the same way. Lucas wanted to keep on tinkering with them to make them exactly perfect. It's like when you're writing an essay, you can keep on editing and revising it but eventually you're going to have to give it up and submit it. But how many people, given the chance, wouldn't take that back if they could and make just a few more changes?

Image from Wikipedia
I like the characters in the three films as well. I have to admit that Leia is kind of my favourite character. In the first film of the trilogy she's a bit of a damsel in distress, but by Return of the Jedi she's turned into a bit of an action hero. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the golden bikini though...

I love C-3PO and R2-D2 as well. They're such a great double-act, which takes some work considering that Artoo can't actually speak English. You get a pretty good idea of what he's saying based on Threepio's responses. He's clearly a bit sarcastic.

Something I found interesting, looking into the films (whenever we watch a film I look it up on IMBD and TV Tropes) and I learned that George Lucas was inspired by Metropolis, a film we studied on this literature course. I could see it in the designs of some of the cities, as well as in the design of the droids (apparently Lucas was inspired by the robot Rotwang turned into the False Maria). I love learning about little links in these things. Who would have thought a literature course could give me so many links to the Star Wars films?!

I'm looking forward to when we eventually get the complete box set of films on blu-ray (the ones that are out already at least). We tend to treat ourselves to a box set in the run up to Christmas; two years ago it was Harry Potter, last year it was Game of Thrones, I'm thinking this year it'll be the Star Wars films. I grew up with the prequel films so I feel a bit of an attachment to them. I don't even mind Jar Jar Binks that much because my brother adored him (and did a mean impression, there's something very endearing about a six-year-old announcing 'meesa Jar Jar Binks').

With the announcement from Disney that they're going to be bringing out more films and things, I'm geekily excited about that too. Now that Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter has finished, I've got The Hobbit to be keeping me going for a little while, Star Wars should fill the gap left by that.