Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Book 15 of 2013: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

After reading South Sea Tales by Robert Louis Stevenson for my course, I decided that I needed to read some more of his stories. It just so happens that I have a free version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on my Kindle. This was the perfect choice because it gave me the letter S for the Spring Reading Challenge on HTV and it was one of the books on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list which is kind of a personal challenge for myself. Killing two birds with one stone right there.

I do have to admit that part of the reason why I chose this was also because it was one of the shortest S books I had on my Kindle. I was in the mood for a quick read and this ticked that box as well. This was a lovely short read and you could probably get through it in one sitting.

Double Exposure photo of Mr Mansfield who played the title characters in the stage production.
Photo from Wikipedia.
For those of you not familiar with the story of Jekyll and Hyde, it tells the story of a doctor whose experiments lead to the creation of a sort of alter-ego, who is basically all that is bad within him. Gradually he loses control of this alter-ego and it starts to take over; the story is told through the eyes of his friends who observe his change in character and become determined to get to the bottom of it.

The whole way through I kept on thinking that Mr Click would enjoy this book. Last year we both read a book from the Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes which was a sort of Jekyll and Hyde/Holmes crossover. Obviously I kept on thinking of that while I was reading this, but I also think that this reminded me a little of Conan Doyle. I'm not sure exactly what it was about it, but there was something in the style it was written in. Obviously it was also set around the same time period which probably helped a little.

The writing style also reminded me of Dracula at times. I think that's because of the multiple voices telling the story. I'm quite pleased that I've been reading more classic books recently because I quite like finding parallels between them and looking up which came first and wondering whether they were influenced by other writers of the time. I think this literature course is starting to rub off on me. I think I'd definitely like to read more from this sort of time period.

I'm also planning on reading more by Stevenson, particularly Treasure Island which I used to have in a Children's Classics set when I was younger and started a couple of times but never actually read. It'll definitely be bumped up the list for the future.

#atozchallenge - Zero

And so we've made it to the end of the challenge! Z was always one of the letters I kind of found tricky to come up with something to write about. Eventually I selected Zero but then for a while I couldn't remember exactly what I was going to say about it, that would've made this a really short blog post, but it's okay, I've remembered now.

Zero, zilch, nada, nyet. It's such a lonely sounding number. I've had exactly zero positive pregancy tests, zero pregnancies and zero children. It's kind of depressing.

But at the same time, it's not all bad. I've got a few extra zeros at the end of the figure in my bank account since the loan came in. That means we can actually afford to give the private IVF a go now.

I've got pretty much no time left to wait until we start that. That's definitely an improvement on the year we thought we would still have to wait.

Zero will also be the number of holiday hours I'll have left once we've done this cycle. It'll also be the number of complaints I'm going to make about that because they'll all be going to a good cause.

I'm pleased that I managed to make a post for the A to Z Challenge each day this month; I didn't miss a single day. I guess zero could also be for the number of posts I have left to write for this. It's kind of a bittersweet moment because I've quite enjoyed sharing this with so many people. It was a little bit daunting at times, but I made it through.

I'm planning on continuing to blog about the IVF if we're able to go ahead with it this summer. I hope that these posts have helped, or will help anyone who is going through this as well. I've definitely enjoyed writing them, and 'meeting' the new people that the challenge has brought to my blog (as well as the new blogs I've discovered through it).

I'll be back for it again next year, I have no doubt about that, though as yet I also have no idea what I'll write about. Oh well, I have a whole eleven months to come up with a theme...

Monday, 29 April 2013

Trip to Oban

One of my favourite places to visit for a day trip is Oban. It's just up the road from here, a mere two hour drive (not counting the seven minute ferry crossing) and it's a place we became very well acquainted with while Mr Click and I spent six weeks in Appin (just a little further up the road) while I was on a teaching placement in a village (even further up the road) in Ballachulish.

As a birthday treat on Friday we headed north for some retail therapy in Oban. It meant an early start; 5am early to be exact. When the alarm went off I was very tempted to just turn it off and go back to sleep. I didn't, I dragged my butt out of bed and had a shower, but it was definitely very hard work. As we were leaving the dog with my in-laws all day I also had the task of walking her from our house to Kerrycroy (where Mr Click met us in the car and drove us on to his parents' house). Luckily it's a fairly easy walk and with Tara on the extendable lead she tires out quite quickly.

The drive to Oban was nice. We listened to some of my favourite CDs on the way and made really good time. When we arrived we went to this little cafe for a Malteaser slice and hot chocolate (for me, Mr Click had a coffee and a roll), then hit the charity shops.

We have the charity shops there down to a fine art. You go right to the far end where the British Heart Foundation is, then work your way back through the Cancer Research and Oxfam, then through the little Oban Community Charity shop and Mary's Meals. There's also a Waterstones there as well as countless other little shops which are always worth a look.

I had planned to look for clothes and books, but we ended up mostly buying DVDs and spent the most in the British Heart Foundation where we found a bunch of films, a pair of trousers for Mr Click and I found a couple of old cuddly toy pattern books. One is Knitted Dogs and the other Knitted Cats; they're very eighties but I'm looking forward to having a go at them at some point.

We did a fairly big shop too, restocked the freezer (for less than £50 no less) and then headed home, stopping at Inverary for sweets and chips on the way home. All in all it was a lovely (if tiring) day out; just the right way to spend my day off!

#atozchallenge - Yes!

My Y post is another one which I've changed my mind about when the time has come for actually writing it. I planned my list of posts so long ago now that things have kind of changed when I've come around to writing them, some I've kept even though I've changed my mind, but others I've kind of written about in earlier posts, so I've gone with my gut and changed them.

Y was originally going to be for Years, but as with my idea for U of Uncertainty it's something that I've kind of already covered, particularly in the Waiting post from last week. There's no sense going over things that I've already talked about. So instead I've decided that Y is for Yes!

When I started this challenge I was on the waiting list for NHS IVF treatment. I had been for almost a year and I knew I had a year to go. I thought that blogging about the experience for a month would be a good way to pass the time and might help me get my head into a better frame of mind about the whole thing, mainly because I couldn't help but feel negatively about the hospital we'd been sent to.

Ever since we'd visited it we'd discussed going private but it never seemed like something we would actually be able to do. Obviously, that would be really expensive and people like me just don't get to do things like that. We tried to put it out of our minds, but whenever the subject of it came up, we couldn't help but hope that there would be some way we could make it work. The thought of going back to the hospital in Glasgow just depressed me so much, whereas whenever I read something about the Nuffield it just sounded perfect.

I think taking part in the A to Z Challenge has helped the way I think about these things. Thinking about why we don't like the Glasgow hospital and what we could do to change the way we feel has made us realise that if we don't feel comfortable with one place, and do feel comfortable with another, maybe there's not too much thinking to actually do. We'd been saving for a while and trying to sell the van to fund our maybe-IVF treatment.

So I investigated a loan. It turns out we don't need that much money, we've already got a bit saved up and we're hoping to sell the van (but obviously can't rely on that). I punched in some figures on my online banking and everything seemed positive for getting a loan. Meanwhile the Nuffield sent us a couple of dates when we could go for an initial consultation. Everything just came together at the right moment.

The bank said yes to the loan and the savings account is suddenly looking a lot healthier. We've booked (and paid for) our first consultation at the private clinic at the end of May. Everything is coming together. Even if the round of IVF doesn't work out there, I think I'll feel happier having gone there first, and we'll still have our three free cycles on the NHS.

It's funny how much closer we are to having a family now, compared to when I started this challenge at the beginning of the month!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Project 52: Week 17 - Pinhole Photography

This week's photo was always going to be a bit of a challenge. Pinhole photography is something that really interests me, I'd love to play around with 'proper' photography; I didn't really get into photography until digital cameras became cheap enough for me to have one of my own. I used to be fascinated by my Grampy's big SLR film camera which was just too heavy for me when I was younger.

Suffice to say, pinhole photography wasn't going to be something that I could actually do for this week's challenge. So then I just had to come up with something that would be a suitable alternative. I was considering trying to take a photo of something through some sort of pinhole, but I never got around to actually playing with that.

Then I started working on my knitting towards the end of the week. I've mentioned before that I'm a bit lazy when it comes to sewing everything together, but that actually gave me my inspiration for this week's photo. I know that technically they're needles, not pins but I think it's close enough.

Week 17: Pinhole Photography
I too this using the Macro setting on my camera. I forgot that this meant that I couldn't play around with the white balance quite as much, knowing that now I might have played around with taking it with the usual settings because that saves it in RAW so I can fiddle more afterwards. I did take a few in my usual settings but I liked where the focus fell in this one.

It was hard arranging the needles because as soon as I touched them, they all because statically charged and kept on sticking to each other. On the whole though, I'm quite pleased with this. I like that I used the theme as an inspiration for the picture rather than as the actual photo itself.

Next week the theme is Worn Out. I'm thinking that might end up being a photo of Tara. We take her for a good long walk and that's her worn out for pretty much the rest of the day. So I'll have plenty of opportunities for a photo of that!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Birthday Fun

I'd planned a little blog post to celebrate my birthday but never actually got around to writing it. I've had a lovely day and had lots of nice birthday messages.

I've started reading Snuff by Terry Pratchett, received The Good Life and ER complete series on DVD (that's our next year's worth of viewing sorted) as well as a Bop-It (seriously addictive) and The Hobbit on blu ray (which we watched after a trip to the beach for ice cream).

I didn't blog earlier partly because of the Bop-It being addictive and needing to beat my previous score but also because I devoted the day to getting some of my knitting finished. Hobbits like to give gifts on their birthdays and I thought it would be nice to make some gifts on mine.

I'll give them a post of their own some other time.

#atozchallenge - XXX

Apparently X is one of the harder letters to come up with a post for during the A to Z Challenge. Funnily enough it was about the third or fourth one I came up with when I was planning my posts for the challenge. I suppose that probably says something about the sort of person I am.

X just has to be for XXX! That’s what it takes to make a baby.

It’s a little bit funny considering what a grown up and responsible thing it is to decide to start a family, but lots of people on trying to conceive forums don’t like to use the word sex. DtD is a popular acronym, standing for Do the Deed; I’ll admit, I regularly talk about ‘doing the deed’ when the topic of sex comes up in conversation but that’s only when my personal favourite synonym ‘bumping uglies’ wouldn’t be considered socially acceptable.

Probably the worst synonym for sex that I’ve seen online is ‘baby dance’. It’s a verb; I baby dance, you baby dance, they all baby dance. It’s just so twee and kind of immature. Plus it conjures up all sorts of weird images in my mind, particularly when someone posts online ‘my hubby took me for a meal then we baby danced’. I like to think that the baby dance is something like walking like an Egyptian…

Perhaps that’s why I’ve not got pregnant yet, we’re obviously doing the baby dance wrong!

And on that note, I’ll get my coat, not because I’m embarrassed by this topic, but because it’s my birthday and I’m off to celebrate.

No! Not like that.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Wish you were here...

Today we've been to Oban and I would've posted this blog entry while I was there but a, I had no Internet connection and b, it kept showering and I didn't want to stand out in the rain writing a blog post.

We were up at 5am for our trip and I walked Tara!pup to Kerrycroy to tire her out before handing her over to my in-laws. It's a two hour drive from the ferry to Oban and there was one just coming in as we arrived which meant we were able to drive straight on.

We have a set routine when we get there now. We walk round all the charity shops first, starting at one end of town and working our way down to the other. I found a couple of old knitting pattern books for £1.50 each; one is knitted dogs and the other knitted cats. That's been added to my collection. Mr Click found some new jeans and we've both found some new films and DVDs as well.

To make such a trek worthwhile we also did a big shop. Since we've got our chest freezer now we have to keep it stocked, that meant a trip to Farmfoods. I nearly had a heart attack as we were going round and we kept grabbing things. There were loads of things on buy two or three for £5 and it seemed like we bought them all!

We'd anticipated spending about £50 on the frozen stuff but seeing what'd gone into the trolley I was sure it would be nearer the hundred pound mark. I think I actually winced as the cashier rang it all up; so you can imagine how pleasantly surprised it was when the bill came to £46! I think that's enough food to last us a good couple of months.

Now we're in Inverary, chowing down on some chips and chicken from Mr Pia's (easily the best chips in the west of Scotland, seriously, you have to try them).

Today has definitely been a really good Unbirthday.

#atozchallenge - Waiting

Starting a family is all about the waiting.

First there’s the waiting to actually start trying. You want to be sure that you can afford it, that you’ll have somewhere to put a baby, that your car will take a car seat.

Then when you start there’s the waiting for your period to bugger off, waiting for ovulation and then after that the four words you come to hate; the two week wait (that’s occasionally written as 2ww in the acronym language you’ll find on trying to conceive forums). It works on the principle that the average woman has an average cycle of 28 days, with a perfectly average ovulation smack bang in the middle. Of course there aren’t really that many average women around; my own wait period is more of a ten day way, but it doesn’t have nearly as snazzy an acronym and no one on the forums would know what I meant if I started talking about a 10dw.

The two week wait is basically when all your hard work for the month is over; if it’s happened, then it’s happened, if not you’ve got to wait two weeks to find out. At the end of the two weeks you can take a trusty HPT and see whether you’re going to be a parent. If not, you’ve got to start playing the waiting game all over again for another month.

And then when it starts looking like there might be problems in the conception department, there’s more waiting. Waiting for doctor’s appointments, waiting for tests (like the one which has to be taken on the 21st day of your cycle), waiting for results and then waiting for more appointments.

And if, like us, you end up needing IVF there’s even more waiting, though that can depend on where you live. For our area there is a two year waiting list for treatment. As of Tuesday we are halfway through that wait and hoping to get a shot at going private this summer because it’s a very long time to go without trying anything. When the IVF treatment starts, then we’ll get to play the waiting game some more, waiting for more tests, waiting for more appointments, waiting for results. I’m a little bit worried about the idea of my first two week wait in over a year (I’ve kind of given up worrying about them since I was told it wouldn’t happen naturally).

You’d think after all this time I’d be kind of good at waiting. I’m really not. But at least I’ve got plenty of time to practice!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Day Zero Project: Make something with my sewing machine

This is something I've wanted to do since long before I made my list of things for the Day Zero Project. Many, many years ago, when I was in Year 9 at secondary school, I studied Textiles for a term and I LOVED it!

It was my first experience using a sewing machine, though being the only girl in a house with a much younger brother, I taught myself to sew by hand at the age of 11. Before that my mum had taught me the basics of cross stitch so sewing has always been a craft I quite enjoy (unless it's sewing up something I've knitted and then it's a different story).

My first and only project on my sewing machine!
Our first project in Textiles class was to make a cushion and once we'd mastered the rudiments of sewing in a straight line with the thing we were allowed to design something of our own. Most people made another cushion but some of us were more adventurous; there were aprons and bags, I made a rag doll. Her neck was a bit long but the teacher showed me how to make hair out of wool and a dress for her, I was so proud.

I wasn't able to take Textiles for GCSE because only nine people signed up for it. I was lumped into Home Economics which meant cooking and I hated it. I wasn't too bothered about moving to Scotland and having to take up German again. But I did miss the sewing.

So I was pretty thrilled I receive a brand new sewing machine several years ago. A local shop gave me some scraps of fabric to practice on and I made a little clutch type bag after much fiddling and messing things up and restarting.

And then I put the thing back in the box and haven't really touched it since.

I have all these dreams of dressing my children and myself in cute little homemade clothes, making my own cushion covers and curtains. I have plenty of books with ideas and tips and patterns.

So why don't I do it?

Well, for one thing, I'm not very confident about setting the machine up. At school the teacher used to make us all gather round and watch but we weren't allowed to do it ourselves. I think it was probably because there were only ten machines and they didn't want to risk them getting damaged. I know my machine is different to the one I used at school but the principle would be similar enough and if I could do it without someone else's help, I'd definitely have used it more.

The other reason is less of an excuse now I have my own place, but I never had anywhere to leave it set up. I could work on it for a while, then I'd have to pack of all up and put it back in the box. That coupled with the complicated threading and everything just meant it was too much of a chore and I didn't get to use it as it was intended.

Now of course, I have my own house. And more importantly, I have a spare room with a desk in it. The desk was supposed to be used by Mr Click for ham radio stuff, but that's not really worked out for him. Part of me thinks perhaps it would be worth giving the old machine one last shot and seeing whether I can work out how to use it, after all, I do have a home which I can furnish with it.

But if all else fails, it might end up being added to the list of things getting sold to pay for a baby. I mean, I'd rather be the mum who knits cute clothes and toys than the one who dresses the family in misshapen clothes!

#atozchallenge - Vitamins

When I first started thinking about having a baby, suddenly my body didn’t seem quite like my own anymore. I became a lot more conscious about what I was eating and wondering about whether or not I was getting all the bits and pieces I should to keep everything super healthy. I’ve never been a super health conscious sort of person, but I did start taking vitamins.

The main one that you should be taking is folic acid; a nurse at the NHS hospital told me that any woman who has regular unprotected sex should take it. It helps to prevent neural tube defects which can cause serious problems for a developing baby. I’ll admit, I didn’t start taking this right away, but I think I was on a multivitamin which included it by about our second month of trying.

I started off on a pill called Pregnacare from Well Woman. Apparently it’s designed to provide the body with all the extra vitamins and minerals that it might need when you’re trying to conceive. It includes the daily recommended allowance of folic acid and has a delightful side effect in that it turns your pee luminous yellow. There are whole threads on forums for trying to conceive dedicated to discussions about the marvellous pee-changing qualities of these pills. I went with them partly because they’re also safe to take when you are pregnant, and they do have a pill you can then go onto once you’ve conceived.

Of course at £10 a pack (for a month’s supply) they were quite costly, so when we got a chance we saw the doctor who prescribed folic acid for me instead. As I could get the regular folic acid for free I stopped taking the Pregnacare, but I’ve now reached a stage where the NHS has provided me with enough folic acid for three pregnancies and I kind of feel a bit guilty about it. I must be costing them a fair bit already and we’ve not even started NHS IVF yet!

The way the prescriptions work here has changed recently. I used to get 100 pills which lasted me for just over three months. When I got to the last strip of 28 I would order my repeat prescription (as this could sometimes take me two weeks to remember to do it mean I had plenty of time before I would run out). Now they’ve introduced a new policy to prevent drug wastage which seems a little bit backwards; just in case I suddenly stop needing the folic acid that I’ve been taking for the last three years, they’ll only supply me with a month’s worth. I can understand the need to save money, but it’s definitely backwards when they’ll give me 100 pills of a painkiller I’ve never had before which gives me terrible mood swings so I have to stop taking it after three days, but won’t give me a decent supply of something I’m supposed to be taking regularly.

That coupled with my local chemist seeming to forget that I have actually been registered with them for my prescriptions for the last couple of years has led to me returning to the Pregnacare. Mr Click actually started taking the Wellman version himself a little while ago in the hopes that it would help to keep his little swimmers healthy, so now we’re able to buy a combined pack which has both of our vitamins in it. This helps us to remember to actually take the pills as well; when we had individual packs sometimes we’d forget, this way if we’ve got an even number of blank spaces, we’re on track.

The Pregnacare pills are a bit different to the teeny tiny folic acid ones I was taking. These are big and pink (Mr Click’s are black), but I think that they definitely make a difference, aside from the pee thing. I just wish they tasted a little nicer!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013


A few weeks ago I posted that I'd been selling some stuff on eBay, including our campervan (which, alas, remains unsold). The reason for selling all sorts of bits and pieces which are currently residing in our spare bedroom and in cupboards around the house is because we've decided that we want to go ahead with the private IVF treatment.

The one downside to going private is that, obviously, we have to pay for it ourselves. This of course totally outweighs the positives (which include such well thought out points as; they have locking toilets there, they give you loads of information up front, and it doesn't really feel like a hospital there), but as negatives go, it is rather an expensive one.

We've been saving up for a little while, but what we have so far won't cover it all. What would cover most of it would be if we could sell the van. I'm not sure exactly what was putting people off there, perhaps the bad weather on Arran which the news was reporting as though everywhere was affected by it, or the fact we're on the island despite the fact that we're offering to pay for the van's ticket off. Certainly other similar vehicles, in poorer condition or without an MOT have sold for as much as or more than what we were looking for.

In the meantime, I'm selling bits and pieces on eBay to keep adding to the fund. I started off selling some old OU set texts and then hit on the idea of selling some of the actual OU course materials. They went down a storm and I wish I had more I could list. I'm torn because I want to keep the linguistics stuff but I think it would probably sell really well too.

While I debate what to do there, I've made the decision to try selling some of my Lord of the Rings collection. I'm testing the water somewhat by selling a Captain Jack Sparrow figure that I got one day when I'd gone in hoping to get a Lord of the Rings figure to add to my collection but found they didn't have any. He was a compromise because Pirates of the Caribbean was one of my other great loves at the time.

I've also got an old Lord of the Rings duvet cover and pillow set and a full over-the-head, latex Gollum mask. I think it's hand painted and the hairs have been individually threaded. It has lived in no less than three different cupboards in three different properties and it's really not the sort of thing that I'll ever wear myself. I've looked on eBay already and no one else in the UK seems to be selling one so hopefully that'll give me an edge.

I quite enjoy selling things on eBay. There's a bit of a thrill watching the bids mount up, though I find the actual process of listing things a little bit dull. I've got a little template I use now which does make things a bit easier but it's still time consuming and sometimes you feel like you're just not saying enough about an item. That's why I like listing things in boxes so you can just copy the info off the box!

The postal system also doesn't help much. It seems like they're constantly changing things to make it harder to calculate what your postage will be before you list an item. You used to either have a letter or a parcel; now you've got letters, large letters (which some thin books or packets will qualify as) and parcels (which have various different price bandings depending on the size and weight).

The problem is, sometimes you don't know what something will be until you've actually packaged it up. And I don't like packaging things until I know they're sold; I'm always paranoid I'll send the wrong thing to the wrong person! There have been a couple of times when I've used a postage calculator, like the one on the Royal Mail site, only to find I've got to take a hit because the item is a couple of millimetres out on the large letter scale.

Aside from the odd frustration though, I do enjoy getting rid of things via eBay. It's nice to know that they're going to people who really want them, and it's nice to know that I'll have more space in my spare bedroom and cupboards. Not to mention that each pound I get via eBay is another pound I don't need to get via a loan! If you're interested in any of the stuff I'm selling, feel free to check it out here.

#atozchallenge - Understanding

When I made my original list of topics that I’ve been working through over the last few weeks I put the word ‘Uncertainty’ against the letter U, but by about the end of the first week of the challenge I’d kind of changed my mind about what I wanted to say here. I mean, most of my posts have kind of been about the sort of state of limbo I’m in right now with regards to having a family, I didn’t see that there was much point in pressing the matter.

But actually doing the challenge gave me an idea for a different sort of U post, one about understanding. A couple of people have mentioned that it’s been brave of me to pick infertility as a topic to write about during this month and at the time I chose it I didn’t think that was the case, but now I can kind of see where they were coming from with that. It has been hard to write several of these posts, I’m not the sort of person who normally says these things to other people, so I’m beginning to agree. There have been a few that I’ve written and not looked at since because they were so difficult to articulate and others that I put off writing for as long as I could just because I’d sort of changed my mind about this theme and didn’t want to share anymore.

I think it’s been harder to write because it is something that’s so personal and I do hope that maybe someone will find this blog who’s been going through all the same things as me, and maybe these posts will provide some sort of comfort to them because it feels so good to know that someone else understands what you’re going through. I’ve had so many lovely comments, sharing own experiences, sympathising and just letting me know that they’ve stopped by, that it feels really nice.

There will always be people who don’t understand a situation. People who can’t understand why I’m pushing to go private instead of just chilling and getting it all taken care of on the NHS; people who suggest we give it up and just adopt as if that’s an easier process to go through physically and emotionally; people who tell you you’re young and that there’s plenty of time for children in the future. I think I’m coming to accept that there will always be people in the world who will say things like that, and they’re probably saying them for all the right reasons; they mean relax, stop worrying, let things happen.

Maybe I’m just feeling a bit soppy because the challenge is nearly at an end and I think I’m really going to miss it, but I kind of hope that maybe people who have read some of these posts have a better understanding of how I feel about this journey. And I’ve felt quite warm and fuzzy at the level of understanding I’ve had back at me in the comments.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Book 14 of 2012: An Island to Oneself by Tom Neale

I've had An Island To Oneself by Tom Neale in a pile of books to read for a couple of years now. It was passed onto me by someone who thought I might appreciate it considering the fact that I sort of live on a little desert island of my own. I've often read the back cover and thought about reading it, but never seemed to get around to it. But I needed a letter I for the HTV Spring Reading Challenge and this seemed like the perfect choice.

This book documents the life of the author as he lived on a remote desert island, called Suvarov, for six years in two separate stints. There are a selections of photos included in the middle, mostly taken by a journalist who visited the island. The book explains his life before he moved to the island, his first period of living there and how it came to an end, followed by his mission to return and the unexpected neighbours he acquired there.

I really enjoyed this book. Considering how long it's taken me to actually pick it up and start reading it, I got through it very quickly. I always think that a good sign of how good a book is, is how easy it is to put down. This one I even found myself reading it in my breaks at work; if I'd not had to go to work I would have gotten through it a lot quicker!

It was a fascinating way of life. It kept on reminding me of the 'Desert Island' project we did in our first year of secondary school where we had to pretend we had been ship-wrecked. I wish I'd read this book back then, it would've been very helpful when we were coming up with how we would have survived. I doubt whether it would be very easy these days to just give up everything and move away to an uninhabited island, for one thing you'd probably come up against no end of red tape that would stop you now.

That said, I think if you could get away now, it would be a lot easier with modern technology. Neale ends up experiencing a bit of a medical emergency which would have been really deadly, especially considering the fact that he was living well off the route of many shipping systems. Nowadays, with a GPS laptop or something, he wouldn't be quite so cut off.

I do have to admit, I found the idea of running away and living on an island alone a little bit selfish. Not only because if anything happened to him it would be up to someone else to rescue him, but also because of the what he could do to a delicate ecosystem. However, Suvarov was home to other people during the Second World War, and one person didn't seem to have much of an impact to the wildlife there (with the exception of the pigs which had been left to run wild by the people there before Neale).

I found Neale very likeable. I liked the way that he described everything and how the story was framed. At times I did feel quite sad for him when he was having to leave the island, and when he wrote about going there you could almost feel his excitement. My only complaint was that it wasn't long enough. There were some bits that I wished he'd gone into more detail for. I also wish there were more photos and perhaps a map of the island. It was hard to get an exact idea of the scale of things there.

It's definitely a book that I'd like to read again in the future. There's a little island just to one side of Bute, known as The Inch; while I was reading, it seemed perfectly achievable just to drop everything and head over there with a couple of cats and some fishing sticks. I'll try and resist that temptation for a little while yet though.

#atozchallenge - Trying

I can’t believe that this is almost it for the A to Z Challenge. The end is almost in sight! It’s quite a strange feeling to think that I’m managed to go from someone who posted fairly sporadically throughout the week to someone who actually thinks ahead about what they’re going to post, writes and schedules things in a very organised way. I think I’ve got the Challenge to blame for that!

When someone says that they’re Trying for a baby, I always think it sounds so simple. Of course, I know that it isn’t, but that little six-letter word makes it sound as though it’s so easy. I mean, you try and pass a test, or you try and pick something up at the shops. The basic idea is that you put a little bit of effort in and you get a result.

Unfortunately it can also be pretty trying. It was honestly quite fun at first, exciting even, when you think about this scary new stage of life that you’re embarking upon. Then you start reading up on things and learn that there are lots of different tricks you can try to help things along; vitamins and supplements you can take, special gels you can get, not to mention jewellery, positions and when to actually do it.

And when none of that works it can get a bit stressful. And that doesn’t help either!

Knowing there’s a problem doesn’t stop you trying though. If anything it makes you that little bit more determined to succeed. I know that the gynaecologist told me that the only way I’m likely to get pregnant is via IVF, but I’m stubborn and if someone tells me I can’t do something it makes me all the more determined to prove them wrong. Telling me I can’t have children naturally just makes me want to try a little bit harder, because, y’know, I hate to be wrong. ;-)

Monday, 22 April 2013

Game of Thrones Review

It's taken us a long time to watch the first series of Game of Thrones all the way through. When it first aired on Sky back in 2011 I started off using it as background noise when I was doing stuff at home. Gradually I got drawn into it though and found I was paying more and more attention to it.

Unfortunately I never got to watch the last episode because that coincided with us moving house and we weren't able to get it recorded for us. By about halfway through the series Mr Click was well and truly into it too so there was no doubt we'd get it when it came out.

Of course we had other things to watch, so there wasn't a huge hurry to get it. When the special edition blu-ray set came out we preordered it, but didn't get round to watching it until this month.

The boxset we have comes in a nice hinged box with the banners of four houses on the outside; Targaryens, Starks, Lannisters, and Baratheons. It also has a dragon egg in it as well. I was expecting it to be a little lightweight thing, but it's quite heavy. We've not got it on display, but I like taking it out and looking at it, it's like a little mini real dragon egg. I'm resisting the urge to toss it in a fire to see if it hatches.

Since starting to watch the series before I feel like I'm at an advantage; I was able to recognise who was who from the start. Now they're Ned, Robert and the Greatjohn, not Boromir, the donkey kid from Flint Street Nativity and Mike from Casualty. If it's your first time viewing, however, there is a handy pull out in the box which has a map on one side and the family trees on the other.

I've not had a chance to watch more than a handful of special features from the first disc. The ones I did watch are some beautifully animated stories about the histories of Westeros, narrated by the characters. It's a nice touch for those who've read the books and might be aware of, or need reminding about, the extra material that didn't fit into the series. I don't think you need to see these features to enjoy the series, but it adds something to it and you appreciate just how much depth there is to this world.

The series itself comprises of ten episodes, each roughly an hour long. We tried to watch one a night but then as we neared the end we splurged and watched four in one day. They follow the storylines told in the first book in George R.R. Martin's series, also titled A Game of Thrones.

Each episode feels like a little mini movie in terms of the way it's shot and the sheet number of cast members. It's so easy to just get totally absorbed. I found it a lot easier to follow this time around, mainly because I was paying attention from the word go. It's also very close to the book, which the exception of some little changed to things like the ages of the Stark children; I can understand why they needed to do that.

The series is pretty brutal. There's lots of violence, blood and gore. There's also a whole lot of sex and nudity. It doesn't bother me as I'm watching it with Mr Click but if we'd had young kids around it certainly wouldn't have been part of our tea time viewing!

I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who is into fantasy stories. It's got a good strong cast of characters who you'll find yourself loving (and in some cases hating, then feeling guilty about it when you find out what happens to them). Like the books, it's got loads of tangled plot strands, so it's easy to get completely wrapped up in the world.

Plus it has some of the coolest opening credits ever! I especially like the fact that there is a little banner beside each name which shows you which House they belong to. You can't help but love something with that much attention to detail!

The third series is currently airing over here. The second series came out on DVD and blu ray several months ago. We're holding out buying that until we get towards the end of ER (which is the next series we're planning on watching, just as soon as my birthday comes around so I can officially take ownership of the boxset). Our Game of Thrones set did come with a preview disk which has the first episode of series two on it; you can't begin to imagine the self restraint it's taking not to just go right ahead and watch that, but if I do, I'll want to watch that series right away too! I'm being strong and at least I've got the books to keep me going.

#atozchallenge - Swimmers

No, I’m not talking about the Olympics here. I mean one half of a very important combination when you’re wanting to make a baby. I realise that the correct word here is sperm, and I’m perfectly aware that it starts with the same letter, but I always think of them as ‘little swimmers’ and this is my blog, so there you go!

When you’re struggling to have a baby there are four possible outcomes to the tests: there’s actually nothing wrong, there’s something wrong with the woman, there’s something wrong with the man, or there’s something wrong with both of them. We’re lucky in that we fall into the second category; not getting pregnant is all my fault, so Mr Click’s swimmers are off the hook. Men kind of get the easy end of the stick when it comes to their tests. To establish who was the cause of the problem I’ve had no less than three blood tests plus surgery to figure out what was going on with my body. Men on the other hand get to go into a little room by themselves for ten minutes, picture Zooey Deschanel, and enjoy themselves.

I realise that this is just as hard on (no pun intended) the men as the women, although it maybe doesn’t quite seem like that at first blush. I’ve got plenty of online friends going through exactly the same things I am, but their husbands have been very reluctant to produce their ‘sample’. I can kind of see where they are coming from there; imagine being told that your little guys are no good. And they can be no good in any number of ways; they might be swimming in the wrong direction, or too slow, or be a funny shape, or just not be a great quantity, there might not be any there at all!

Men might only have one big test to do in this whole infertility game, but I think it puts just as much pressure on them as on the women. I suppose I can see it from both sides; the frustration of the women who need their partners to go and get intimate with a cup, but also the fear of the guys that there might be something wrong and that it might somehow emasculate them.

I know I’m very lucky that Mr Click felt like this was something we were both in together and has taken it all in his stride. It’s something we’re able to laugh about too which is probably important; I suppose that’s why I call them little swimmers.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Project 52: Weeks 15 & 16 - Migration & Croatia

Last week's inability to post a photo was actually probably a good thing, because hopefully the photo from last week will counteract the awfulness of this week's photo.

The theme for last week was Migration and I was determined to take a photo of some sort of bird. Luckily the good weather meant we got lots of trips to the beach in, unfortunately the birds didn't really want to play ball. There were very few seagulls on the beach and I wasn't able to catch many decent shots of them.

But I'm pleased with what I did find:

Week 15: Migration
I think that this shot more than makes up for the boringness of the photo I've taken for this week. The theme was Croatia. It's a place I've never been to and I don't have anything from there as far as I'm aware. So this'll have to do:

Week 16: Croatia
I added my photo to the list of things I wanted to get done yesterday. Most of my jobs to do involved getting things ready to list on eBay today (which I've still got to do) but I threw on my photo project hoping that each time I looked at it I would think about what I could do.

I'd tried writing out the name and making a little graphic on my computer. I was going to take a photo of the CIA World Fact Book page but didn't get a chance to do that. So I went with something pretty boring, but which was sort of spontaneous.

Next week is Pinhole Photography. As it's unlikely that I'm going to be able to master pinhole photography between now and next week, I'll have to come up with some way of working that into my photo for it.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

What's on TV?

In our house? Not a lot.

We have a TV, a nice flat screen that sits in the corner of the living room. On the roof is a Sky dish, on the opposite side of the room to the TV is a coiled up Sky cable (which is the wrong sort for Sky+ and is too short to reach our TV). We live in an area that doesn't get a decent Freeview signal so Sky is really your only option.

When we moved in funds were tight, so we contacted the TV license people and said we wouldn't be watching TV at home. We figured we'd get settled in, I'd start my new job, then we'd look into getting TV. Where we were living before we had access to the complete Sky package and before that we'd paid £20-ish per month for Sky+ Entertainment and Documentaries package, so we had a lot of programmes we liked to watch.

But we decided that in the interests of saving money, we'd hold off for a little while because it wouldn't just be a TV license, it'd be the cost of getting a new Sky card (a relative offered us a spare box which would've saved us a bit of money), plus getting the cable changed and extended, plus the Sky subscription. Not to mention the fact that if we were getting Sky we'd want a phone line, at which point we'd want broadband. Each little thing would lead to another.

So we put it off until Christmas. We moved in the Summer, so we figured that six months down the line we'd get it. Instead we started watching some of the TV series we had on DVD; starting with Waking the Dead and then Spooks. We have something of a large DVD collection, so we've not been without viewing material.

One of our DVD bookcases
It seemed like the longer that we put it off, the less we felt like we needed to get the TV stuff. The major downside was that I never got to see the last episode of the first series of Game of Thrones (as it coincided with our move), as you can see above, I've taken steps to rectify this by getting the first series on blu-ray (it's next on our viewing schedule).

We are lucky in that we've got my in-laws who let us record Bones on their Sky+ and we catch some stuff on iPlayer there as well. It's funny to think that we've gone from getting in every evening and switching the TV on, watching any old random thing (so many repeated episodes of Crystal Maze and Top Gear as I remember rightly) and adding another programme to the viewing list each time a new series was shipped over from America, to just watching one series straight through at a time.

We've taken to watching two things on an evening; something on DVD/blu-ray in the living room while we eat our tea (at the moment it's All Creatures Great and Small, next up is Game of Thrones), then something else on my laptop in the bedroom before bed (currently the boxset of Scrubs that Mr Click got me for Christmas). It's a good set up.

The one downside is that sometimes there are things on that you really want to watch, but miss out on. We dutifully downloaded all the episodes of BBC's Dancing on the Edge onto iPlayer desktop (an old college friend of Mr Click's stars in it) so we could watch them in quick succession once they were all on; but when the time came to watch them it kept giving us an error message before any we tried to watch vanished. We were able to download them from iPlayer for Windows Media Player, which let us watch the first episode but then stopped the second twenty minutes from the end.

In the end we gave up. Mr Click's pre-ordered it on DVD, so we'll watch it then. And we'll have it for posterity. We'll squeeze it in between the first and second series of Scrubs if it's here on time.

As you can see above, we've got enough viewing material to keep us going for quite a while yet. I'm sure it's working out much cheaper to just keep buying TV series boxset than we would spend each month on whatever deal Sky could offer. I never thought I'd be able to go completely without a TV, but now I can see how many programmes I watched just for the sake of watching. I like our new set up and I'm very glad we're finally getting to watch so many of those DVDs we've acquired over the years.

I'm also curious to hear about other people's viewing habits. Are you TV-free too?

#atozchallenge - Romance

When you're trying to start a family, you can get to a stage where things aren't too romantic any more. I think it comes right about the time when you start obsessing about the results of your OPKs, what your chart reading is saying for the day and what's going on with your mucus (I'm not even going to go there).

Of course, when you realise that making a baby is going to involve not just yourself and your partner but a whole team of people with medical degrees, it could potentially suck all the romance out of things.

I like to think it's the little things that help to keep the romance going in a relationship.

Whenever Mr Click and I get in the car, we kiss. We never start driving without our little kiss.

If he goes off the island without me, Mr Click often brings me flowers. Sometimes he meets me from work with little gifts or a special treat for breakfast; the latest gift was a copy of my friend's book, completely unexpected!

If I know he's going to clean the bathroom, I'll give one thing (like the sink) a quick wipe round, to help make his job easier when he goes in later.

Sometimes I give him an extra five minutes lie in on a morning, or I'll lay in bed reading at the weekend so he can have a long snooze (I tend to wake early and sometimes I get bored and wake him up too).

Whenever we've gone to the hospital for appointments we try to make it into a nice day out. Even when I had my operation we drove home via a garden centre that we like to have a meal. We went there again on the way to the Nuffield the other week. Even when we've gone to the hospital in Glasgow we've done a bit of shopping and had a bit of fun.

I think that the fact that we're keeping the romance alive through all these trials, we'll manage to survive all the things we have yet to come.

Friday, 19 April 2013

April Knitting

When I realised that I wouldn't get my Project 52 post up on Sunday, I thought 'never mind, I'll not bother with that knitting post I was planning, I can post my photo on Friday instead'. This would have been a perfect plan, had I actually taken the photo I intended to use off of my camera and transferred it to the computer to edit and get uploaded with this post.

So this'll have to be about knitting instead.

Except I've not really done much of that either!

I've been working on a Puss-in-Boots doll for a family member, but I made a mistake at the back when I was sewing it up, so I need to try and unpick the stitches to see if I can fix it, or if I'll have to fudge it together some other way. In the meantime I've been sewing the rest of the doll together and it's looking pretty good.

Alas, I tend to do my sewing up in the living room while we're watching TV at the weekend and in the evenings; but lately I've been getting cracking on the OU work. I've got my exam in less than two months now and I've spent the last couple of weeks working on the chapters for the assignment I've just submitted. That's left me with very little sewing time.

I've also been working on a Grandma Humpty-Dumpty (for another family member) while we've been sitting in bed at night watching Scrubs. I've gotten to a point in that pattern where I need to start sewing things up, so again, that's gone onto the back burner until Puss is finished and I can move it into the living room to get finished off.

I have now got the assignment completed and submitted, so I'm planning to spend my birthday weekend (when I'm not in Oban) getting caught up on my knitting. I have an ever growing list of things that I'd like to knit; next up will be a baby hedgehog, a Scottish bagpipe-playing scarecrow and then probably a turkey from the farmyard animals pattern book I acquired.

I might get that done in time for Christmas!

#atozchallenge - Questions

Do you ever feel like just when you’ve got to grips with something, suddenly you find that there are a hundred and one more questions that you’ve discovered about it?

That’s kind of how I find myself feeling on this journey to start a family. Way back at the beginning it seems quite simple, I mean, people have been making babies for thousands of years; it can’t be that hard. But of course there are lots of questions even then. That’s how I came to learn about these little things that help to increase your chances of conceiving; the OPKs and charting and things.

Most people on forums are fairly quick to answer any questions that you have; most of them were in your place way back when they started. And of course there’s Google, though sometimes that’s confusing or scary. Word to the wise: Never ask Dr Google for medical advice, it’s never good news.

The worst questions are the ones that come to you after the doctor says ‘any questions?’ because at first you can never think of any. They never come to you until about half an hour after you’ve left the appointment, and then you think ‘oh, I should’ve asked that’.

I’d definitely recommend making a list of any questions that you might have when you go for an appointment. It feels a bit silly, but it really is the best way to make sure that nothing is forgotten. If you have a notepad or smart phone you can even write down the answers.

It’s easy to think of questions if you know what to expect from an appointment, but some are trickier. Like my appointment at the hospital in Glasgow; I didn’t really know what I was going for and when the doctor asked if I had any questions all I could think of was ‘is that all I was here for?’ which didn’t see, like the right sort of question to ask. By the time we were on the train coming home I had thought of half a dozen things that I should’ve asked but didn’t think to while we were there.

Now I’m learning how to play this game and even when we went to the open day at the Nuffield I went armed with a stack of questions, most of which were answered before I even asked them. I suppose it’s a learning curve, but I’m getting the hang of it.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Day Zero Project: Get a promotion

When I made my list of things to do for the Day Zero Project, it was just after an opportunity had come up at work that I was too chicken to put myself in for. I made all sorts of excuses, telling myself that I hadn't worked there long enough to go in for it and things like that, but in reality I was just scared of putting myself forward and not being good enough.

I thought that adding this to my Day Zero Project list would be a good incentive to not let an opportunity slip by again. Even if I put myself forward and don't get it, I'll still have had the experience.

I suppose that it makes this more of a 'Go for a promotion' rather than 'Get a promotion'. But I think I should be positive and look at it as something I might actually be able to achieve.

If not, I have had additional training since I started my job and now I'm qualified to do two different parts of it. I suppose that's kind of a promotion of sorts, if you look at it as something that gives you more responsibilities.

I've got a little while yet before my challenge ends, and hopefully if something comes up that I might like to go for in the future, I'll have worn out the old 'you've not worked there long enough' excuse.

And I'll try not to come up with any new ones!

So my friend wrote this book, again

Last year I wrote a review about a funny little book called Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops by an author named Jen Campbell. I actually know Jen through another site that I frequent and she is responsible for the numerous Book Trees I've been involved in. I've read her poems and stories but Weird Things is different to what she normally writes about.

You see, Jen works in a bookshop and sometimes people in her shop day some bizarre things. Enough to fill a book!

Enough to fill two book in fact! It would appear that people just can't help but come out with very weird things when they're in bookshops. More Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops includes not only things people have said to Jen in her bookshop but also contributions from other booksellers around the world. Plus the icing on the cake which is some of the weird things people have said in bookshops when Jen is doing book signings for Weird Things!

I'll do a proper review of it a little later so watch out for that. In short though, it's very funny; if anything I think I enjoyed this more than the original Weird Things because I hadn't heard many of these ones before.

It's a nice quick read with cartoon illustrations by the Brothers McLeod. I honestly didn't want to put it down and read it in the car because I hadn't finished it on the way to work.

I think anyone who has to deal with the public can probably relate to these anecdotes, and I've probably been a bit of a weird customer myself occasionally.

More Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops is out today, so why not head to your local bookshop and pick up a copy. And while you're there, find out what the weirdest thing someone's ever said to them.

#atozchallenge - Pregnancy

Obviously this isn’t something that I have any person experience of, apart from the previously mentioned, incredibly vivid, dreams. At the moment pregnancy is something that happens to everyone else and as happy as I am for my friends whenever they announce the imminent arrival of their offspring, a little bit of me is a teeny tiny bit jealous.

I’ve got a number of friends and online acquaintances that I know from forums who have taken a long time to get pregnant, often with varying degrees of medical assistance, and somehow the way I feel for them when they announce their pregnancies is slightly different. It’s not that I’m less happy for my friends who have happy accidents, it’s just that I think I can appreciate the pleasure in the announcement of someone who’s been trying for so long to get what they really want.

Over the last few years I’ve read up quite a bit about pregnancy; symptoms, what to expect and the like. I’ve always been the sort of person who likes to read about things before I actually try doing them, normally that’s things like going to a particular place on holiday or trying a certain hobby, but I like to think that in theory I know what is involved. Unfortunately that means that I’ve got rather a medical outlook on the whole process (on day x the foetus looks like this) rather than a more emotional one.It’s like when you go on holiday and you read about all the places and look at pictures, but you can’t really get an idea of what it’s going to be like until you’re actually there.

It probably sounds ridiculous, but I’m really looking forward to experiencing pregnancy. After waiting so long I’m actually longing for the day when I can have morning sickness, which is just about as bizarre as it sounds because I have this sort of phobia of throwing up. It’s all the little things associated with having a baby that I’m looking forward to, and if and when the day comes, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of every minute of it; even the slightly less than enjoyable moments!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


I quite like doing housework, if I'm in the right mood for it. There are certain jobs that I enjoy more than others; I quite like vacuuming, I love doing laundry and washing up isn't too bad depending on what's been eaten or cooked.

In our house I'm quite lucky in that Mr Click does pretty much all of the housework. I'm in charge of laundry, I have a system and Mr Click would probably mess it up. So we've come to a tentative agreement; he leaves all that to me and we remain happily married.

Here's one the Laundorama did earlier!
I think the thing I like most about laundry is the fact that it leaves you with lots of time for other things in between. You sort it, throw it in the machine, and leave it for a couple of hours. It finishes, you stick it on the line or on an airer, and leave it til it's done. It's effortless!

I also do odd bits and pieces like dusting and we both run the vacuum round. Sometimes it needs doing rather more frequently than others depending on how much paper the girls have thrown out the cage and whether Tara is casting (beigey coloured carpets and a black dog don't really go so well together). Generally if one of us thinks things are looking a bit hairy, we'll get the hoover out and take care of it.

Mr Click largely takes care of the kitchen (because that's his territory) and the bathroom; we both do our bit in the living room. Though he has to do all the window frames because I can't reach! Both the living room and bedroom is fair game. He normally takes care of the bedding because again, my height puts me at a disadvantage, I struggle to reach the ends of the duvet cover!

It's a pretty fair way of organising things in the house and we stay well on top of it. We both do our bit and I like to appreciate the little things we do to help keep our house feeling like a home.

Do you have chores that you really enjoy? How do you share housework in your house?

#atozchallenge - OPKs

Way back at the beginning of the challenge I mentioned some of the confusing acronyms that you come up against when you’re trying for a baby and you wander into internet forums on the subject. OPK is one of those confusing little trios of letters that doesn’t actually mean a lot to the uninitiated.

It stands for Ovulation Prediction Kit and just like the HPT it’s generally a little stick that you pee on/dip in pee to check what’s going on with the hormones in your body. I actually knew about these back from watching Friends, though I didn’t know that I knew what they were (for fans of Friends, Monica uses them when she and Chandler are trying to get pregnant).

Just like HPTs you get various different sorts of them, there’s the dip or pee-on variety, as well as the funky Clear Blue digital ones which you’re only really going to want to spend your money on if you’re pretty certain about when you need to use them. Believe me, when you’ve been trying for over three years, all those pennies are going to add up! I always went for the cheapy ones on eBay because they usually came with a handful of HPTs in with them as well.

Unlike HPTs, OPKs will pretty much always show two lines on them. One is the control, which will appear immediately to show that they are working; the other line is the one measuring the hormone which is released when you ovulate. The closer you are to your ovulation date, the darker and bolder that line will be. When it’s as dark as, or darker than, the control, that’s when ovulation has happened.

For that reason you need to keep the sticks, or at least photos of them, to compare one day to the next to check exactly which day is the darkest. That’s why this works well if you’re charting because you can compare the changes to get a more accurate picture of what’s going on. It’s sad, but it’s a little bit exciting to see the two lines appear on one of these tests, particularly when you’ve never seen it happen on a pregnancy test before.

If you’re trying OPKs you should do them in the afternoon, not like HPTs which you do in the morning. It’s to do with when the hormone has built up in your body, and you get better results if you don’t go to the loo for a few hours before you do the test (I like to think of this as good practice for when I start the IVF because the instructions for at least one procedure tell you to go with a ‘comfortably full bladder’). Some people say aim for around 2pm, but I got the best results around 4pm.

Notice I’m speaking in past tense. That’s because although I have a nice little stash of OPKs upstairs in the cupboard, working shifts isn’t ideal for either charting or the OPKs because one week you’re comparing a 4:30pm test to a 4:30pm test and the next week you’re comparing them to a 7:30pm test, which is going to skew the results somewhat. Plus, I know that my ovaries are working fine now, it’s just the bit after that which is in trouble!

It was definitely useful to help me get my head around what was going on in my body though, and I’d definitely recommend it in conjunction with charting. Plus, it helps you to work out exactly when you can start using the HPTs, so probably saves you a bit of money too. Winking smile

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Book 13 of 2013: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

I probably don’t need to reiterate my love for Tolkien again here. Suffice to say, I’m a huge fan and I reread several of his books every year, The Lord of the Rings being one of those. I have several different editions and each year I try to read a different one; last year it was the ebook version I got for my Kindle. Originally I planned to read an early single volume edition (that I picked up in a charity shop several years ago because I liked the cover only to discover some time later that it was a lot older than I realised) this year, but then someone on the HTV reading challenge picked The Fellowship of the Ring as their challenge read, so I decided to go for my old three volume set. If nothing else, it adds another two books to my total for the year that way.

If you’re unfamiliar with the plot of The Two Towers, it literally picks up right where The Fellowship of the Ring left off. In a slightly unusual move, Tolkien devotes the first book of the volume (it’s divided into two books) entirely to the journey of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, as well as the antics of Merry and Pippin. Frodo and Sam are mentioned, but we don’t see them at all until the second half, where they are joined by Gollum as they head towards Mordor.

On this read I got through the first half very quickly. I suppose it just seems like that’s the meatier part of the story. You’ve got Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli tracking Merry and Pippin, then bumping into Gandalf, going to Edoras, the battle of Helm’s Deep and then they head for Isengard where they are reunited with Merry and Pippin, who after escaping from the orcs have wound up with Treebeard, Pippin looks into the Palantir and no sooner are these few Fellowship members reunited, than they’re being separated again. By comparison Frodo and Sam’s attempts to get into Mordor, led by Gollum, are relatively mundane, even with their brief spell with Faramir.

That probably makes it sound like I don’t enjoy the second half, which isn’t true at all. I love both halves of the book, though I don’t imagine that an author would be allowed to abandon half his characters for so long in a modern book. I think part of my problem with it is that I prefer the hobbits when they’re interacting with people who aren’t hobbits, they just seem more interesting then. Two hobbits and a hobbit-like creature don’t have quite the same draw for me; which is probably why I picked up speed around the chapters with Faramir.

The second half also feels a lot more darker somehow. That’s not to say that the first half isn’t dark; Boromir’s death, the orcs abducting Merry and Pippin, Saruman’s control in Edoras, it’s all pretty dark stuff. But Frodo has the Ring, Sam is worried about Frodo, Gollum is just unpleasant, and they’re heading for somewhere dark and deadly. It doesn’t get much darker than that!

The hobbits always seem to be among my favourite characters. This time around I really loved Merry and Pippin, probably another reason for my reduction in speed on the second half of the book. I was missing them. I like that they have just a little bit of humour in their interactions, they recover from bad situations quite quickly and they’re just a bit fun.

On the flip side, I both hate and pity Gollum, which probably shows just what a good author Tolkien was because I think that’s exactly how you’re supposed to feel about him. That’s certainly how characters like Frodo, Aragorn and Gandalf feel towards him. He makes my skin crawl, but he’s a wonderful character to read, even if in my head now he’s less the way I used to picture him when I read The Hobbit and more the way he is in the film. The two weren’t so very different anyway.

I think my favourite setting has to be Edoras. I love the description of the Golden Hall and the people there. I was never a horsey child, I was more into dogs than horses, but I think I could learn to love horses if I got to live in Edoras. Again, I can’t help but picture the film as I’m reading those bits.

I love to read this out loud. I was quite lucky in that one of the days I was reading it was a day when I had the house to myself. That meant that I could read away to my heart’s content with only the girlie!rats and Tara thinking I was crazy, rather than anyone else. I love to say the place names and the style of the writing. Tolkien was so careful with the way that he wrote that each word feels like it’s exactly where it should be.

I took a month’s break between reading The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers and now I’m planning a similar break before moving on to The Return of the King. I’m pacing myself so that I can reread The Hobbit towards the end of the year before we go and see part two of the films in the cinema. I reread all the Tolkien books so regularly now (and I’ve been gradually adding to my collection) that I’m never more than a few months away from another Tolkien book.

#atozchallenge - Nuffield (& NHS)

My only experience with private treatment was way back when I needed braces and although my treatment was paid for by the NHS I visited a private orthodontist. I have to admit that it wasn’t really a positive experience, mainly because each time I had an appointment, the NHS paid the private orthodontist for it. I ended up being talked into having a treatment which would take over two years, rather than the nasty alternative which involved having four teeth out in an operation and then only having braces for about nine months because, y’know, operations have blood and hurt and are painful and you will be sore! This resulted in all my teeth being pushed to the back of my mouth and leaving me with no room for any of my wisdom teeth (not to mention gaps that the NHS orthodontist in Scotland was horrified hadn’t been closed up after all that time).

When we found out that we were going to need IVF, going private never even occurred to me as an option. I’ve always had this idea that staff on the NHS were doing it out of the goodness of their hearts and people in private hospitals were all about the money, but that opinion is changing. I think that both medical systems have their place now.

The hospital that we will get our treatment on with the NHS is in the centre of Glasgow. I’ve been there before, a family member had a triple-heart bypass there. It’s a good hospital. Unfortunately, for me at least, looks count for quite a lot. Mr Click had his appointment there and it went quite well; little waiting room with free books (always a good sign), quiet, nice photos of babies all over the walls.

We had to return a couple of weeks later for my appointment, and that was when my view of the place dropped. This appointment was on the other side of the hospital, the taxi driver didn’t know where the entrance to that building was so dropped us off at the front. We went to the toilets and they didn’t have locks on the doors, the hinges were broken and they were just dirty. We followed the signs to the department the appointment was in, until they stopped abruptly and when we asked staff members where we needed to go they couldn’t help us. Signs on the walls were misspelt (it’s petty, but it’s something that bothers me). Eventually we found our way, in a tatty little lift, to what felt like a basement.

We were there for ten minutes. They went over all the same things that we’d gone over six weeks before. I was weighed and measured, as I had been just a few weeks previously. The woman had all of the notes there in front of us and basically checked each thing that was written there, then told us there was a 24 month waiting list because of our area (but, and this is a huge plus point, we would qualify for three rounds of IVF) and that was it. I’d taken a day off work, and we’d had an hour and a half journey (in each direction) for ten minutes.

As you can imagine, I was a bit disappointed. And in the days that followed I felt totally devastated, not only do I need to have a pretty invasive series of procedures in order to have a baby, I’d have to have them in a place that I hated.

And then I started looking at the Nuffield.

My father-in-law had his knee replacement there (in much the same sort of deal as with my orthodontic treatment). Mr Click had been there and said it was wonderful, so when we got the chance to visit their fertility clinic as part of an open day, we jumped at the chance.

Honestly, I was sold on it from the moment we went in and I found that the toilet doors had locks on them! The place was so clean, everyone was friendly and helpful. There’s even a drinks machine in the waiting room dispensing free tea, coffee and hot chocolate! I’m obviously shallow and easily pleased.

We had a tour of the place, got a little talk from the embryologist there, and even watched a fascinating video showing the actual process of what happens once they’ve collected the eggs. It was a really enlightening day. We spoke to a nurse who explained how a few things would work and totally relieved my fears about the fact that we live on an island (therefore treatment between around September and March is out of the question because of the disruption to the boats).

So now going private is something we’re actually hoping to do. We’re hoping to get in one round privately before our turn comes on the NHS. If we get lucky then some other couple can have our slot at the other hospital; if not, we’ll still have three free goes next year.

We’ve got a referral from our GP. It’s just a question of raising the funds for it now. We’d hoped to get the van sold to pay for it, but it didn’t quite hit what we were looking for, we’re confident it’ll sell in the future though, so we’re investigating a loan in the meantime (and I’m selling a bunch of old books on eBay).

It’s funny what a difference appearances can make, but I feel a hell of a lot more positive about having treatment at the Nuffield, than at the hospital in Glasgow, even if the odds aren’t much better. With something like this I think it’s really important to go into it with the right frame of mind, and I’m sure if we didn’t take this chance I’d always be wondering ‘what if?’

Monday, 15 April 2013

Blog Spotlight

What is it they say about the best laid plans? This post has been a little disrupted by my lack of internet access and editing it on my phone seems to have done something a bit screwy with the formatting. For that I apologise and I'll fix it as soon as I'm able.

The A to Z Challenge has made me more aware of the blogs that I like to read but don’t necessarily comment on very often. It’s easily done, especially when you maybe don’t share too many hobbies with the person whose blog you’re reading, or if you don’t know them particularly well and don’t want to come across as being a bit of a stalker.

To rectify this I’m trying to do a ‘blog spotlight’ once a month, where I pick a blog that I follow but don’t comment on too frequently, and share one or two of my favourite posts that they’ve written. At the moment I’m trying to focus on some of the blogs of friends that I know from another site, they’re part in a nail art challenge and are fantastically creative. I always like looking at how they’ve all responded to the week’s challenge, but I never know what to say ‘I like your nails’ always seems a bit bland.

So I’m hoping that by doing a little spotlight on their blogs I can share the
love a little bit. It’s a bonus either way you look at it; hopefully people who read my blog but don’t read theirs will head over and take a look to give their stats a boost, plus I can let them know that I am reading their blog and I enjoy it.

I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting blogs myself as well, so if
you’re reading mine and have a blog yourself, share the link so I can check it

#atozchallenge - Multiples

Whenever you read birth statistics that mention multiple births, there’s invariably a mention of the fact that fertility treatments have led to an increase in multiple births. It might sound a little bit greedy, but a little bit of me would love to have twins from the IVF, partly because I’ve imagined myself having three kids and I’ve come to accept that I might only get one now; twins would give us an instant ‘complete’ family.

I say it’s greedy because even if you get a clutch of perfect embryos from the IVF, there’s no guarantee that any of them are going to stick, so to speak. It’ll be heartbreaking to be ‘almost’ pregnant only to have it not actually go all the way. Of course, there are dangers inherent with multiple births, both to mum and to the babies. Generally speaking, during IVF, only one embryo will be transferred depending on the woman’s age to help reduce the risk of a multiple birth. Plus there’s the extra costs of raising more than one baby at the time. But that doesn’t stop me from wishing, just a little bit.

I love reading blogs of people with large families. I think I would be perfectly happy living on a little spit of land with sheep and cows and about seven kids, but maybe that’s because of the sort of books I like to read when I was younger. The Sound of Music has blatantly given me unreal expectations of what family life should be like.

I was an only child for seven years and I remember clearly that during a lot of that time I really wanted older and younger brothers and sisters. Where other kids had imaginary friends, I had imaginary siblings. I suppose that’s another reason why I like the idea of a large family; always someone to play with, share a book or film with, no less need to try playing monopoly with a stuffed bear or your pet dog. I realise that would also mean more chance of squabbles, actually having to share stuff and more getting blame for your younger siblings’ messes, but I do think that the pluses outweigh the minuses.

I suppose it’s human nature to want what you can’t necessarily have. And obviously, if we can only have one child, then I’ll definitely be satisfied with that. Unfortunately it will need to have about twenty names just in case we never have a chance to use all the names I’ve planned for my children.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

A break in the scheduled programming

Normally on a Sunday I post my Project 52 photo. This is usually because this is the one day of the week that I'm guaranteed an Internet connection on my laptop.

Unfortunately my father-in-law has contracted the Norovirus so we're not visiting today to give him a chance to rest and recover without the attentions of a daft black labrador. Yesterday he was feeling a little better, so hopefully he's on the mend.

This does mean that my Project 53 post will be delayed this week. The theme was Migration and during my beach walk yesterday I managed to find a slightly gruesome but suitable source of inspiration which I'll post just as soon as I'm able.

It might mean that some of the other blog posts scheduled for this week are somewhat incomplete, as in, without photos. I might go back and edit them when I get a chance because I'm obsessive about things like that.

In the meantime, because I don't like to leave a post without photos, enjoy these photos of Ettrick Bay. I'm currently sitting here with a soggy, sandy labrador, eating macaroons and drinking hot chocolate, marvelling at the fact that I can sit in the middle of nowhere and post to my blog, even if I can't get the stuff on my laptop to post in quite the same way.

Tara and I walked to the bit of land on the very left hand side of the picture. Along the beach, through all the little streams; I was very glad of my welly boots.

Now the wind is getting up, the sky is getting grey and we're getting ready to head home to watch Carry On films, do housework and pretty much veg for the rest of the day.

What're your plans for this Sunday?