Friday, 30 September 2016

Chapter-by-Chapter: New Moon, Chapter 20

I was reading an interesting thing about vampires and Italy this morning. Someone online was pointing out that Italy is really the worst place for vampires to live what with the sunlight and all the crosses everywhere.

Really lucky the Twilight vampires don't have these problems.

This week's chapter is called Volterra, which is obviously where Bella and Alice arrived in last week's chapter.

What Happens?

It's a bit touch and go but Bella and Alice make it into Volterra. The city is absolutely packed for the festival and it takes Bella a while to fight her way through the crowds where she finally reunites with Edward. Unfortunately the Volturi guards have some plans for the little gang after their heartwarming reunion.

Thoughts as I read:

I'm guessing from the chapter title that most of the action is going to take place in Volterra, but then again, a couple of chapters ago there was one called 'Funeral' and none of that took place at a funeral, so let's not get too excited.

There's a congested narrow road into the city and it's taking a while to get in there. Bella does what she does best and whines at Alice about the length of time this is taking.

"Alice," I whispered urgently.
"I know," she said. Her face was chiseled from ice.

I'm not sure I understand this. Is Alice cold? Shiny and semi-translucent? Melting?

Bella's momentarily distracted by watching lots of red flags and streamers blowing in the wind. Alice has to tell Bella that the guard might not let Alice in, which means Bella will have to go on alone and just keep on asking for the Palazzo dei Priori. And hopefully learn enough Italian in the next five minutes to be able to follow the directions she is given after saying this.

The Palazzo dei Priori is the clock tower and that's where Edward will be waiting to make his grand, and sparkly, entrance.

Alice ignores the guard who is telling her she can't go into the car park. That is until he taps on the window and tells her that it's only for tour buses and she'll have to park outside. Alice happily waves of gloved hand out of the window, presumably to demonstrate that she doesn't sparkle in the sunlight, but also to bribe the guard with a roll of money. The outermost note is a thousand dollar bill, which according to Wikipedia isn't actually a circulating note. Any Americans care to update me here?

The guard is baffled too, since he's asking 'is this a joke?' and quite frankly, I think it might well be. Clearly Alice is trying to glamour this guy into accepting fake money in order to let them park where they like.

And it works.

The guard doesn't seem to care that the money he's just accepted isn't legal tender and he waves Alice on into the city. Of course, they probably would've done better to just travel by foot since the roads are cobbled, narrow and filled with people walking. Their progress to the Palazzo dei Priori is not going quickly.

Eventually Alice tells Bella to just get out and head for the clock tower. She also mutters something about someone being everywhere. I'm guessing the 'they' she's speaking about are the Volturi guards who are anticipating trouble so are being extra alert.

Bella gets out the car and runs...

... straight into a wall of flesh.

And I've been watching way too much Criminal Minds recently because my mental image there wasn't of a crowd of people.

Anyway, Bella can't get through the crowd and the people it comprises of aren't impressed with her attempts to squeeze through. Finally a gap opens in the crowd and Bella is able to squeeze through. She winds up running through the fountain which gets her dripping wet and means that people on the other side of the fountain are a lot more willing to let her pass through.

When the clock tower bell starts chiming, Bella starts screaming for Edward and with each strike of the Bella we get another glimpse at the people in the crowd surrounding Bella. Until finally Bella spots Edward and realises that he can't see her.

Edward stood, motionless as a statue, just a few feet from the mouth of the alley. His eyes were closed, the rings underneath them deep purple, his arms relaxed at his sides, his palms turned forward. His expression was very peaceful, like he was dreaming pleasant things. The marble skin of his chest was bare - there was a small pile of white fabric at his feet. The light reflecting from the pavement of the square gleamed dimly from his skin.

Somehow Bella manages to barrel forwards and throws herself into Edward. He's a little bemused to see her there and it soon becomes apparent that he seems to think he's died once and for all. It takes Bella a couple of goes before it actually dawns on him that he's not dead, Bella's really there and they're now in a spot of danger because he was about to reveal himself to the assembled crowd, which the Volturi will be less than pleased about.

And speak of the devils, erm... vampires. Two men appear out of the gloom behind Edward. He tells the one called Felix that he's not broken any rules but they want to take him with them anyway. Bella is told to run along and have some fun, but since she obviously knows about Edward's situation, Felix and his pal invite her along for the ride too. She's not allowed to go free as that will violate their rules.

Oh and the other guy is called Demetri and he's keen for Edward to take up Aro's invitation to join the guard. Edward's now got other plans since the mere sight of Bella has cured him of his suicidal tendencies.

Then Alice shows up.

And her presence seems to help. The two guards are suddenly aware of the fact that there are people just down the open end of the alleyway who are blissfully unaware of the presence of vampires in their midst and realise they'd rather not do anything to change that belief.

There's a bit of posturing or something and then a child-sized woman named Jane shows up. They all follow her. As they walk along in her wake, Edward speaks to Alice about how she came to be there and we get a little recap of what Bella was up to prior to this point. Until they get to a hole in the street and Alice disappears down it.

Bella follows her, after some urging from Edward, where Alice catches her at the bottom. A second later Edward is down too and gives Bella a reassuring kiss and cuddle. Aww.

Bella's getting steadily more dramatic as we continue as well. They're walking off to meet their death and all that jazz. Except that's highly unlikely because we've got two more books to go. Then again, death clearly isn't a major handicap in the Twilight-verse.

We follow them along the corridor as it slopes steadily downwards, until they reach the thick door at the end of it. And the chapter ends as they all step through.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Jumping the Gun

Back last week when we saw Dr L., I raised the question of getting the ball rolling for IVF Fresh Cycle 2.5 in February 2017.

She had no problems with this, even going so far as to agree with us that we didn't need the stress of the weather affecting our treatment. Totally justified as at the weekend this was the message against our sailings from Friday onwards:

Now imagine seeing that when you've got a scan to check on your follicle growth, or worse, you've taken your trigger shot and have to be at the hospital in exactly twelve hours time. Yeah, waiting until the spring is definitely the right choice here.

Dr L. said that in order to book this magical February cycle all I would need to do is call and leave a message for J. to let her know our intention to start up in February. She did follow this up with the caveat that we probably wouldn't be able to book that until early January.

But I'm not going to let a little thing like that deter me.

So I called up in my lunch break at work last Thursday. To be fair, I did completely forget about it until the end of my first break, so it wasn't quite top of my list of things to do.

When you call the hospital they have a very helpful automated system where you punch in various numbers depending on whether you want to make an outpatient appointment (hang up and redial this other number), the nurses, the doctors, the medical secretary, book a treatment cycle, yada yada yada. Occasionally they rearrange them, just to keep you on your toes.

I selected the option for booking a treatment cycle and left a message. I got a call back the very next day. Impressive, since I'm still waiting for a call back from the nurses to discuss stopping the drugs for my last cycle (don't worry, I figured out by myself that I was probably good to stop them four months ago).

It was from J. and she sounded slight exasperated and rather amused that I was so ahead of schedule. It would appear that they can book schedules three months in advance, so I'm jumping the gun rather. The gist of the call is that I should phone back at the start of December to get ourselves slotted in.

I've already marked the date I'm calling in my Bullet Journal.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016


... this time last year when we'd woken up at 5am for a hospital appointment, only to find we had no running water!

It prompted the quickest dash in the world to my in-laws' house in order to get washed and a cup of tea before we caught the ferry.

Fun times!

... we could drink our tap water.

Yup, history is repeating itself. We came home yesterday to find a pack of water bottles on our front doorstep which normally means only one thing.

Except this time it didn't mean the water was off. Just that for quality reasons we're not currently allowed to use it for anything other than washing. All water for human (read: also rat and dog) consumption must be bottled or boiled.

We're actually old hands at this now, even if Mr Click keeps on forgetting about using bottled water for brushing his teeth.

... a year in my 'new' role at work.

I'm not really sure if I can call it a new role anymore now, not now I've been doing it for a year. And technically I won't have been doing it for a year until tomorrow. The rest of my team officially started a year ago today; I was rushing off on an early ferry to the aforementioned hospital appointment so I wasn't actually present for that first nerve-wracking day.

... series nine of Criminal Minds.

We just finished series eight on Monday and the next two series arrived on DVD yesterday. We could not have timed that better. We watched the first episode of series nine this evening and it's really not the sort of programme I should be watching while I'm eating my dinner!

... from a close encounter with a monster yesterday evening.

While I was at my in-laws' house I borrowed their phone to call my Mum so went to hang out in the dining room. The vacuum was stopping the door from closing, so I moved it, only to reveal a GIANT spider underneath it! That thing was as big as my hand and was the Usain Bolt of the arachnid world.

And of course I was trapped in the room because it was right by the door. Until it took off at about seventy-billion miles per hour, climbed the outside side of the door and I pushed the door shut, effectively trapping me in the dining room. It was on the outside and I couldn't risk opening the door in case it ate me.

I debated phoning someone else in the house to come and rescue me, but decided that would be a little bit weird, so frantically texted Mr Click telling him he would have to rescue me when he got back in and spent most of the time on the phone with my feet up off the ground just in case Usain Bolt decided to come back in!

And the spider?


It's in the house somewhere, but who knows where!

Have you had any scary encounters this week?

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Books 72 & 73 of 2015: The Silent Lady by Catherine Cookson & Dinotopia by James Gurney

I'm actually pretty glad that my reading pace has slowed down this year, I'm guessing because I'm not participating in any challenge this year, but it's allowing me a chance to get all caught up on my review posts.

Way back at the start of October last year I was handed a book by my Mum-in-Law who suggested I might like to read it. I'm always up for a recommendation, and feel compelled to read all books which come my way from cover to cover. So I gave this one a go.

The Silent Woman by Catherine Cookson is a story which spans many years. A dishevelled woman shows up at a London solicitors firm and is revealled to be a woman who disappeared from a wealthy family almost thirty years ago. What follows is a look into her life during those missing years the friends she made during that time.

This was my first time ever reading a Catherine Cookson book. She's one of those authors that you always hear about but I've never bothered picking up one of her books until this one crossed my shelf. This is apparently her last novel. I liked the main bulk of the story which dealt with Irene's life at Bella's house, but I kind of felt like the beginning and end took away from the rest of the story. I think I might have been happier if we'd never truly found out who Irene was.

Honestly, I liked the character of Bella best. It sort of felt like her story at points. She was definitely more interesting than most of the other characters. Then again, it was interesting how Cookson built up the character of Irene/Reenee when she barely spoke. In a way that was why Bella was the best character, because you needed her to be Reenee's voice.

I think you get a good sense of the time period that this story is set in. My understanding is that Cookson is good at this time period setting; I love books where you can really feel the era they're set.

I didn't like the way that all the characters ended up getting together at the end. It just comes across as a little unnecessary and convenient. They were all living in the big house and its grounds which just felt a little unrealistic. Given the tone of the rest of the book, I think it needed a rather more sober ending.

Book 73 was for Week 42 of the Reading Challenge, a graphic novel. A friend had offered to lend me a graphic novel but it wasn't available in time so I improvised with a novel which has a lot of pictures, Dinotopia written and illustrated by James Gurney.

This is a truly beautiful book (which I received as an 8th birthday present from my grandparents), about a man and his son who find themselves shipwrecked on a strange island where humans and dinosaurs live together in (relative) harmony. You may be familiar with it from the awful TV series that was on Sky some years ago. The book is better.

Seriously, look at this:

I think when a book is filled with pictures like this, it definitely counts as a graphic novel. I honestly spent as much time examining the pictures as I did reading the text.

I've never actually realised that this book is the first in a series. It never dawned on me that it ended so abruptly because there was another book to follow it. I really want to get my hands on the rest of the series, but I guess unless I stumble across any of them in a charity shop, that's not likely to happen any time soon. I would love it if they could just release all of them in a single volume edition. I would treasure it as much as my illustrated The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

I'd love to know more about Dinotopian culture, language and the way of life. It's such a richly imagined world that I'm sure it's covered in the later books.

And like I said before, it's just beautiful.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Walking Progress: 100 Miles To Go!

Last Friday I hit a milestone on my Middle-earth walking adventure. I'm only 100 miles from my target!

I slowed down a lot over summer, partly because there were some walks which I did but didn't track (so, for the purposes of this self-imposed challenge, they don't count) and there were also some lazy days (like Saturday, when the weather was bad and I made the decision not to leave the house). I've also had my wisdom tooth issue last month which put me off walking as well.

This is how my progress is looking now:

That last gap looks like quite a distance to cover.

I'm hoping we'll have some nice dry weather soon, no gale force winds, and perhaps a little sunshine, so that I can do the Shore Walk circuit with Mr Click on a Saturday. I'm trying to walk Tara home from Kerrycroy or the front gate after work (when I'm not in my work clothes) and do the longest walk I'm able to in the morning before work as well. Sometimes it's just 0.01 mile more than usual, but those point-oh-ones will add up in the long run.

Where does this put me in Middle-earth?

Well, as of the time of writing this post (on Saturday), this puts Aragorn and the Hobbits on the Last Bridge, where they stumble across the elf-stone left by Glorfindel. We are on Day 21 of the journey and now less than a week from Rivendell.

Hopefully it won't be too long before I hit my next Significant Milestone: 400 miles across Middle-earth!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

NaNo is Coming!

I feel like I say this every year, but there is something about this time of the year. I always feel like the end of August/beginning of September heralds the beginning of the countdown to Christmas.

Christmas is my favourite time of year but there's lots of things that have to happen before Christmas can arrive.

And NaNoWriMo is just one of those things.

I began the month in a bit of a panic because I didn't have a story planned. I toyed around with revisiting previous NaNo attempts, or other stories I've been writing on and off for over a decade (I'm looking at you Behind the Scenes). But none of them really grabbed me.

And then I remembered an article I read on BBC News about how in China they have been using pig corneas for cornea transplants. And the cogs started to turn.

And that's how I found myself googling whether other pig organs could be used for transplants.

And that's how I decided that in my story pigs would be genetically modified to allow this to happen and my story would take place way in the future where this has become normal.

And of course we were building up to our hospital appointment this week and so my brain was in infertility zone, so naturally that is the direction it went in as I speculated about NaNo on my morning walks with Tara.

And I wondered if two-thirds of the population become unable to conceive, with a further three-quarters of those who can conceive unable to carry to term, then maybe the genetically modified pigs could be used for that.

And now I've decided I'll be writing a story following the first 'litter' of children born via these genetically modified pig surrogates.

And I'm writing it in a mix of articles, medical reports, interviews, and eyewitness accounts, which lends itself well to the NaNoWriMo format because I can pick and choose what I feel like writing each day.

Now I'm working on ironing out the kinks and I'm thinking that there might be an overarching story which is of some journalist (or amateur journalist) sometime after the whole pig organ scandal has calmed down and ceased to be used, piecing together information about the lives of the children who resulted from the 'litter'.

I'm almost certainly also going to follow one of the boys from the litter as well. So I just need to figure out who all my characters will be. I'm thinking once the NaNo boards are back after the wipe on the 3rd of October, I might just hang out on the Adopt a Character and Adopt a WriMo threads and pick people from there to use.

I've also recruited one of my friends to the NaNo cause. We spent a fair chunk of time on Friday with her tossing ideas at me for a basic plot. I'm excited for her idea so I hope she's able to join in.

And perhaps most exciting of all. This year I have internet access!

And I don't just mean a crappy mobile data signal on my phone, where I have to rest my phone on exactly the right spot of my armchair in order to get connected, and if the wind changes direction I'll lose the signal. Oh no, this is the real deal, baby!

This means that for the first time in forever I'll be able to really join in. I'm especially excited for the NaNo Chat Rooms where people from around the world gather. You always get a great flurry of activity at about half past the hour as people count down to the start in their time zone, then as the hour strikes it goes quiet as they all start. I used to hang out in MSN groups (back in the day) and count down for about five hours before it was my turn.

I'll be joining in Word Wars, Word Crawls (without having to save them all to my laptop while I'm at my in-laws' house), dares, challenges, the works.

And I've booked the 1st of November off.

When I told my Team Leader about my plans for the day (and the night, hello midnight start) she said it sounded like a religious holiday. And she's not wrong, it's almost as exciting as Christmas!

Do you NaNo? Are you taking part this year? How's the planning going?

Friday, 23 September 2016

Chapter-by-Chapter: New Moon, Chapter 19

Would you believe that when we get to the end of this chapter we'll be roughly one hundred pages from the end of the book?! Yay!

Remember what happened last week? Bella decided to repeat her departure from the previous book, by taking off but this time running to Edward, rather than away with him.

This chapter is called Race, so we'll find out whether she makes it.

What Happens?

Bella and Alice catch one plane, then another, then steal a car, in their mission to get to Edward before he commits vampiric suicide. And they talk a lot.

Thoughts as I read:

Well it's called Race and I'm fairly certain that this book isn't deep enough to get into discussions about skin colour, so I think this will be about Bella's race to the airport.

Except it's not, because when the chapter opens Bella and Alice are already on the plane, having made it there with barely seconds to spare. Once they're in the air, Alice picks up the phone (planes have phones in their seats? clearly I've been flying with the wrong airlines) and calls Jasper. She's having visions about what Edward might get up to and they're not pretty:

"I can't be sure, I keep seeing him do different things, he keeps changing his mind... A killing spree through the city, attacking the guard, lifting a car over his head in the main square... mostly things that would expose them - he knows that's the fastest way to force a reaction..."

Edward is such a drama queen.

We only hear one side of the conversation which kind of feels like a NaNoWriMo trick to me. None of what you're hearing makes much sense so we'll have to wait for her to get off the phone and rehash it all with Bella so we can hear the other side of the conversation. Excellent for word count purposes.

Alice can't get the others to help them because if Edward sees them coming and doesn't see Bella he'll just act out all the more. Jeez, I'd just leave him to get on with it personally. Especially as if the others see the Volturi kill Edward, they'll then attack the Volturi, which is unlikely to go very well. Alice isn't particularly keen on sacrificing anyone else if she can absolutely avoid it.

And when Bella asks about Edward hearing Alice's thoughts but apparently he would just think Alice was lying to him. Because he's a complete pillock, that's why. Because he's basing all this on a vision Alice had which may have been inaccurate and a random short conversation with someone about a funeral. He's really not got the smarts, has he?

Since they've got nothing better to do during the flight, Alice asks how Bella knows about the Volturi. Well, obviously Edward had told her about them. So now it's time for a lesson into just who the Volturi are.

"There were three of them originally, Aro, Caius, and Marcus."

The group has grown over time and there's five of them in the main group. Then there's the guard. The family basically rule over all the vampires by punishing people who break the rules. And when they do that, it's not pretty.

Bella's miffed that no one told her about these rules soon. Like she would've done anything about following rules. When has she ever followed rules?

As it turns out there is only one rule (what is this, Fight Club?) Vampires must remain secret at all costs. Edward's grand plan is to head to their city and out himself in the most public way possible, so that they can bring him down. Surely if that's all it takes, Edward just needs to head to the Volturi and say 'hey, I hooked up with a human and she knows all about what I am, and what you are, come to think of it'. It'd save him some time and effort.

Alice points out that this case will probably be rather different because you don't often get suicidal vampires. I'm surprised by this. If you suddenly found that you were a vampire and it went against everything in you, perhaps you'd want to try and end it as soon as possible. Whatever the outcome, Alice is determined that whatever happens, she's getting Bella back to Forks and to Charlie in one piece. Will the Volturi really go for that though? If Bella knows about them, perhaps they'll want to bump her off to tidy things up and make sure the word doesn't get out?

After this Alice does the vampire equivalent of taking a nap. She's not really napping, she's just thinking very deeply. Bella thinks too, but it's nothing that we haven't heard before so I think it's safe to skip past this bit.

I do catch that Bella can see the movie her neighbour is watching and she can't tell if it's meant to be a romance or a horror film. I'm not sure what kind of romances she's watching, but even without sound I think it's fairly easy to tell the difference between the two!

Eventually their flight lands in New York and Alice hasn't got anything new from her little divining session. They have to wait for their connection and considering this chapter is called 'Race' there's not a whole lot of racing going on. This is all very slow moving and Bella uses the down time to consider what she'll say to her father if she makes it back home. That'll be an interesting discussion to read.

At some point along the way Edward had made it to the Volturi and they've offered him a spot on the guard because they can use someone with his talents. I'm guessing this is his mind reading talent, not his ability to make teenage girls obsess about him, though I suppose that could come in handy occasionally too.

As this isn't what Edward wants to hear, this'll push him to consider an alternative tactic but this is apparently a good thing for the girls because it'll delay him and give them time to get to him.

This leads on to a conversation about how Alice's talent works and how she saw Bella becoming one of them 'at the time'. Then she drops the bombshell that she has been wondering if she shouldn't just turn her herself. And I'm not going to lie, these two have such brilliant chemistry that I thought she meant turn Bella away from Edward and over to her, but that's not what she meant. She meant turning Bella into a vampire.

Bella immediately starts begging to be bitten which sounds incredibly kinky. Alice won't do it right away because it will be very painful but she doesn't say she won't do it either. She is worried that she'd get it wrong and would kill Bella, which Bella probably wouldn't mind either given her recent behaviour.

Then Alice starts getting some more information about what Edward is up to. The Volturi aren't offing him so he's planning to out himself in the easiest way possible. He's going to walk out in the sunlight. This means everyone will see him sparkling. Personally if I saw someone being all sparkly in the sun I'd just assume he was rocking some awesome body make up. I'd maybe want to know how he did it, but I wouldn't immediately assume he was a vampire or something supernatural. I've been for nights out in Glasgow and seen way weirder things than sparkly people.

The Volturi would not be impressed by this, however and the time is running out. The sun is rising right now. But Alice knows Edward, she even highlights the fact that he'll want to be melodramatic and wait til noon, which gives them another few hours.

And then they decide to steal a car to get there.

Frustratingly we don't actually get to see the car theft, which I would've enjoyed. This is now apparently the 'race' part of the chapter.

They get close to Volterra and can see that there's a festival going on. It's somewhat ironic that it's Saint Marcus Day, celebrating the saint who drove out the vampires. What they don't realise is that he managed this because he was one of them. I bet Marcus loves that.

This is another reason why Edward will be in serious trouble if he messes things up. So the plan is for Edward to see Bella before he sees Alice. Bella just has to be somewhere that he'll see her before he reveals himself to the crowds. There's absolutely nothing that could go wrong with that plan.

"I'm going to get you as close as possible, and then you're going to run in the direction I point you."
I nodded.
"Try not to trip," she added. "We don't have time for a concussion today."

Heh, nice one Alice.

So we leave them standing there, looking over the city, waiting for the sun to finish rising.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Post-Failed FET Follow-Up

Yesterday we had our post-failed FET follow-up. No, you've not missed anything, I've not snuck in another frozen cycle without telling you (we're all out of embryos now), it's just taken four months to get our appointment.

It's what's affectionately known as a WTF Appointment in the world of infertility and fertility treatments. The idea is you meet with your doctor and discuss what the fuck went wrong, especially as in cases such as ours when we had perfect conditions and a brilliant embryo.

I was half expecting it to be a waste of time. I was anxious that we were going to go in there with our list of questions and feel like we were just being awkward or stupid. After all, I've done a bit of research myself and in my experience when you go to the doctor to tell them what you think is wrong, their immediate response is to ask to see your medical degree.

Well, it could not have gone better!

The routine for the clinic is one I'm rather familiar with as this is my fourth time at it (if you count the time before we officially started, five if you count the time when we went after having been taken off the waiting list). You sit in the waiting room with the other nervous and anxious couples.

I like to play the 'how many times have they done this' game, which is where you surreptitiously glance at the people around you and try to figure out what stage of their treatment they're at. The resigned looking couple in the corner, they've just had their first failed round which they were sure would be The One; the nervous guy and excited woman with the heavily creased letter, they're new to all this, she's read and reread the letter with the date of their appointment on it dozens of times, even though she's had it memorised since the day it came; the woman who arrived ten minutes before her husband, both in business suits and clearly taking time off from their work day, they've got a folder with lots of paperwork in the familiar purple and cream of the ACS unit's protocol sheets; they're old hands and are probably getting ready for another frozen embryo transfer if this appointment goes well.

I've been all of them. Now we're a new couple in the scene; the cross between the newbies and the old hands, with a hint of the dejected about them. I'll be watching out for more of us at future appointments. Except I don't feel so dejected now.

We have a plan.

At the clinic there's several doctors on and I think it's hit or miss which one you get. Last time we saw Dr R. (who was brilliant). This time it was Dr L. We've known Dr L. since our Nuffield days (three long years ago) and she recognised us straight away. She was lovely and chatty and really familiar with our case and history, which was good because I didn't feel like I had to explain too much. There's nothing worse than going for an appointment and having to explain everything when you know it's all there in your notes if the person you were seeing had taken a look.

Last time I felt like Dr R. had read my mind, this time it was like Dr L had pinched my diary!

Here's the questions I wanted to ask and what Dr L. said:

Thus far, I've started bleeding/spotting the day before testing, the day after and eight days before, why might this be? Could Progesterone be an issue?

Dr L. caught me off guard when we sat down in the room by bringing up the miscarriage, rather than the recent failed cycle. In a way that makes sense that's the closest we've got so it also gives us the biggest clues to what's gone wrong.

She was aware that I'd started spotting and then had a bleed. When I told her that once the bleeding started all my pregnancy symptoms stopped and I knew it was over I could almost see the lightbulb over her head.

Then she said 'I think Progesterone is an issue'.

And I smiled.

Because that's what I thought too.

That was my reasoning when I asked to switch from the Cyclogest pessaries to the Crinone Gel on the last round.

And it's fairly easy to tackle. I just need to take more Progesterone.

The bad news is, it looks like I'll be back on the pessaries (the good news is, I have an excuse to lie down for an hour every day; the bad news is, I have to lie down for an hour every day). The other bad news is that additional Progesterone comes in the form of an injection. It's intramuscular and it's a MASSIVE needle (trust me, I've googled it so you don't have to). But how awesome will it be if that's the magic solution we're looking for. Totally worth every one of those injections!

Dr R. mentioned the clotting factor and some drugs we could try in future cycles - Asprin and Clexane, could we try this next?

Mr Click brought this one up (I was getting there, I was just a little giddy about the whole Progesterone reveal). Dr L. told us that they're actually moving away from Asprin but that we could one hundred percent try the Clexane.

I said that Dr R. had told us that they can do a blood test to see if blood clots might be an issue and that the problem with the test is that it's not always definitive, so sometimes they'll just give it without doing the test. Dr L. agreed and didn't seem to think it would be necessary to do the test. She also agreed with my outlook that this is our last NHS cycle so we're just going to throw everything at it and hope that something sticks.

Since yesterday I've done a little more googling (why wouldn't I?) and I think the Clexane may well be an injection as well. Fun times ahead!

Our fresh cycle was half-IVF/half-ICSI, none of the IVF'd eggs fertilised, could we do ICSI on all eggs in the next cycle?

I mentioned this just as we were starting to wrap up the appointment, like I'd been saving it until the very last minute in case I didn't like the response. The hospital's policy is that if the sperm sample looks good and you've got more than a particular number of eggs (I want to say either eight or ten) then they do half IVF and half ICSI; less than that number and they ICSI all of them. We were looking good and we had 19 eggs, so we did half and half.

And none of the IVF'd ones took. Not one.

I think all of our ICSI'd ones fertilised normally, so we got seven embryos when we could've had twice that number. And as our stocks of frozen embryos dwindled I thought wistfully of how many we might have ended up with, even though it's not an exact science and I might not have gotten any more usable embryos, it's just what you do when you're having fertility treatment.

When I mentioned it to Dr L. (very quickly, like ripping off a plaster), she immediately paged back through my notes to the records from the embryologist and said 'definitely IVF all', which made me panic until she caught and corrected herself to 'definitely ICSI all'.

So yay!

It's just another thing I can relax about and just focus on making those eggs, not worrying about how many we'll lose when we sacrifice them to the IVF gods.

Should we look at making any changes to our protocol when we start again?

Dr L. was our doctor when we had to cancel the private cycle due to hyperstimulation. I can still hear her voice as I sat on the windowsill at home when she phoned to check I understood why we needed to stop treatment, and she was right because two days later I was in hospital.

She's totally aware of my tendency towards overstimulating (I'm easily overstimulated through and through it seems, even my ovaries like to get in on the action); even our full fresh cycle was only two eggs away from being classed as hyperstimulation. She said that given my history they would stick with the same protocol, which I'm cool with, it worked well enough for us last time so hopefully we'll get similar results again, except, y'know, with a baby at the end of it.

Can we wait until February to start the next fresh cycle?

No one is more aware than me of how time is ticking on. When you're going through all the tests to find out whether you need fertility treatment all the doctors tell you that time is of the essence. Then you start and you're waiting for your place on the list, waiting for you slot in the next cycle, waiting for your next scan, and everything seems to go so slowly.

And yet the last thing you want during a time sensitive fresh cycle is the stress of whether you'll be able to get off of the small Scottish island you call home because the weather is bad and the boats aren't running. Case in point, on our way home from our appointment yesterday only one boat was running and the sea was pretty rough. This morning they were cancelled.

Dr L. is completely understanding of the situation. I suspect because we kind of made a song and dance about it right from the beginning. So the plan is that I make a request to get slotted in during February, perhaps calling up in January to make sure they have room for me. You then have the waiting to be allocated, waiting for your period, etc. etc. etc. so we should hopefully be ready to start just in time for the better weather in March or the beginning of April.

Are we okay to continue taking the Vitamin D?

Mr Click brought this one up and was met with a resounding yes. Dr L's exact words were 'We should all probably be taking Vitamin D.'

We'll also continue the Pregnacare vitamins, I'll continue avoiding dairy (where possible, I'm not militant about it), avoiding caffeine and all the other stuff we've been doing so well.

I've felt a little bit lost and confused about the who IVF/ICSI thing since the last one failed so spectacularly. There's the old saying 'the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results' and I was concerned that I would feel that way when we started Fresh Cycle 2.5 (the .5 is the cancelled cycle).

But I don't feel it'll be like that now.

I'm feeling optimistic that we might have identified the other problem (aside from my wonky tubes) and knowing what you're facing is half the battle. The two failed cycles were awful and there's still a hole in my heart from the miscarriage, but each of those things has taught us something new, and each little clue we're given helps us to figure out what we need to do differently to make it work.

And I'm determined that this time it will work.

Even if it does take 3cm long needles!

Coming to a fridge near you in 2017!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016


... from a trip to the mainland, which I'll tell you all about tomorrow.

We had a really early start and I was very well behaved (I didn't buy anything in Paperchase, didn't buy anything for myself in WH Smith, and only spend £2 on washi tape in The Works; it's Christmas-themed and therefore entirely necessary). We also had a hospital appointment which went way better than I was expecting.

... receiving this at work yesterday:

Yeah, more champagne.

This was to go along with my five-year handshake and (more exciting than the booze, but less easy to photograph) a couple of extra days holiday. I'm already planning on putting one of those to good use for kicking off NaNoWriMo this year.

Which brings me to...

... this year's NaNo effort.

I kind of gave up on my NaNo last year. I reached 50,000 words but it's unfinished and right now I've not got much of a desire to revisit it.

I was starting to panic about not having anything to plan because I'm definitely a planner, not a pantser. And then an almost fully formed story idea just fell into my lap.

It's Speculative Fiction, set in the distant future, involving pig/human hybrids, infertility and media. I'm trying something completely different (which is what I like to do when NaNo rolls around) and I'm beginning to get excited for starting this, especially as we have internet now so I can be a little more involved.

... Krispy Kreme doughnuts since there's a shop opened in Glasgow Central and we just had to treat ourselves. There's something rather decadent about having a cup of tea and one and a half doughnuts.

Tomorrow I've got a bagel and cream cheese for lunch to help balance out some of the guilt.

... another ebook which has been languishing on my Kindle for the last four years. This one is Rewards and Fairies by Rudyard Kipling.

For such a short book it's taking me a while to get through. I'm swinging between enjoying it and being bored/confused by it. It's a collection of short stories and poetry and I think I really need to stop putting it down in the middle of a story because when I do, I forget what's going on and can't follow what comes next without reading back a few pages. At the rate I'm going I'll have read it three times by the time I get to the end!

... to bed.

After an early start and a late night before that, I think I need an early night.

What've you been up to this week?

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Books 70 & 71 of 2015: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger & The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman

I like that there's kind of a theme in the books I'm reviewing this week. That was completely unintentional when I read them and I never even noticed it until now!

Both books were read for last year's reading challenge, The Time Traveler's Wife (how I long to include that extra 'l') by Audrey Niffenegger was for Week 40, a book that makes you cry.

Henry and Clare are a couple who meet when Henry is in his thirties and when Clare is a child. They get married many years later when both are in their twenties. This happens because Henry is a time traveler, as far as he knows the only one of his kind. It's kind of a medical condition which leads to his displacement in time and space and in this book the pair tell the story of how it shapes their lives.

And it is beautiful.

And it is guaranteed to make me cry.

So when there was a question of which book I would pick for this week's challenge there was really no choice.

This copy is the one which I sent around a book tree I took part in many years ago. Unfortunately my original copy got lost somewhere along the way so I only have comments from a handful of readers in it, but I'm harbouring a secret desire to send it on to some other people in the future for them to read and add notes to before sending it back to me.

I've read it at least once since I got it back but this time I read the whole book with pen in hand, adding my own thoughts and notes to those left by the last readers. I like that it's kind of made it into a scrapbook of my thoughts as I've read. I'd kind of like to get a tatty film copy of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit to do the same thing in those.

I love this book so much and when I read it back at the start of October last year it'd been a while since I last read it (I suspect it was probably back when I first received it back from the book tree). There were whole chunks of the story which had just slipped completely out of my head.

As with all books that you read time and time again, you can't help but relate to different bits at different times of your life. I think when I first read it in my early twenties I was relating more to Henry's feeling of constant displacement. This time I couldn't help but identify with Clare during her attempts to have Henry's baby. Reading it when I did, several months after our full fresh IVF cycle and as we geared up for our first frozen cycle, there were several parts where it felt so familiar it hurt. I expect I'll get that feeling again on future reads.

Once again, this book set me off crying at the end, as well as making me weepy earlier in it as well. I had been taking it in to work to read in my breaks but knowing what was coming I ended up staying up far too late to finish the book. The alternative would've been finishing it in the canteen at work where I would've broken down into snotty tears. I'm glad I lost a bit of sleep rather than doing that.

After the emotional pummelling I got from The Time Traveller's Wife, I knew I wanted something a little lighter going for my book with magic in Week 41. I'd been tempted to go for one of the children's books on my shelf, or perhaps throw caution to the wind and begin another reread of the Discworld books.

As luck would have it, Andrew Kaufman's The Tiny Wife was next on my bookshelf to read, and it fit the bill perfectly.

This tiny book, illustrated by Tom Percival, tells the story of the people who are involved in a very strange bank robbery. Whilst waiting in line at the bank, a thief charges in and demands that everyone there give him the most valuable thing in their possession. He doesn't want money or diamonds or posh watches; he wants family photos, a calculator, a payslip. And from that moment on strange things begin happening to the people he stole from; a woman's tattoo comes to life and tries to eat her, a woman finds that she is made of candy, and Stacey Hinterland begins to shrink.

I love books in the magic realism genre so I figured this would suit pretty well for my book with magic in it. It was doubly perfect because it clocks in at only 88 pages so it's nice and easy to read in an evening before bed.

The beauty of magic realism is that it's a little like fairy stories for grown ups. You are reminded of a time when all these magic things could actually happen, except in books they can still happen. As I was reading it, I kept on thinking of people who would enjoy this (Mum, you would like this).

It was also the perfect follow up to The Time Traveler's Wife. Both have their fantastical elements. I could almost imagine them both happening in the same world, after all, if you can have a man who travels through time and space, why not have a thief who can steal stuff which makes babies poop money.

Random aside, the description of the thief made me think of Gavin from The Boat That Rocked:

Mainly because he's described as wearing a flamboyant purple hat so this is automatically how I pictured him. But you can also see the similarities here:

I do kind of wish we knew a little more about the thief. How did he do the things he did? Why did he do them? Where did he come from? What did he do next? What happened to everyone else after the book ended? But it's one of those things that you just have to accept that you'll never know, the speculation is half the fun.

The book could honestly have gone on a lot longer because it did mention similar things happening in other places. I loved reading about all the weird and wonderful things that happened in the book, so I'd have loved for it to be more than 88 pages so I could find out about all the other people as well.

As of now I've not actually read anything else by this author, but I'd really like to. There were moments where The Tiny Wife reminded me of Neil Gaiman, which is never a bad thing. The world could always use a little more magic in it.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Melancholy Monday

It's been a weird sort of day at work today.

Someone from my work passed away unexpectedly at the weekend and so the day has felt really weird because we were almost all there but not really there, if you know what I mean.

It reminded me of when my English teacher died when I was in sixth year and none of my friends had my mobile number to text me when they found out. I remember getting to school that day and knowing that something wasn't quite right but not being able to work out what it was.

Somehow between walking in through the front doors and making my way back to the 6th Year Common Room I figured out someone had died. There were little tearful huddles of people along the way and I don't know why my brain immediately made that leap when there was no other evidence to suggest what had happened.

Of course, my suspicions were confirmed when I reached the Common Room and the whole school had a very similar atmosphere to the one work had today.

Now I'm older and the situation is different in many ways, but the same in others.

I didn't know the person well, but I know people who did and they are hurting and that makes me sad. Sad for the family and the friends and for the fact that we'll not get the chance to know the person any better than we did because they're not here any more.

Like I said, it's weird.

And I'm feeling rather melancholy, so I just thought I'd share.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Product Review: Persil Ultimate Non Bio Dual Capsules

I'm probably a little bit sad, but I really enjoy doing the laundry. There's something immensely satisfying about taking a massive pile of dirty clothes and over the course of a few hours or a day they suddenly become clean.

I enjoy it partly because once you've bundled them all into the machine you can walk away and leave it for a couple of hours. Then unload it, hang it up and get on with other stuff. As far as housework goes, it's fairly easy so long as you remember to separate your lights from your darks.

So when I was given the change to try the Persil Ultimate Dual Non Bio Washing Capsules, I was thrilled. Especially when they arrived and it was a full pack of 19 capsules.

First things first, the packaging is really secure. I've seen videos online warning about keeping washing powders and liquids away from kids and animals. The packaging for these washing capsules is emblazoned with a warning about keeping them out of reach of children. The lid fastens down really securely. It's not something you can just flip open one-handed. Obviously, I kept them well out of reach of our resident nosy labrador, but I think she'd be hard-pressed to get into them if she tried.

It's just as well that kids would struggle to get into the pack because the capsules themselves seem like the sort of thing that would appeal to small hands. They're sort of plastic-coated, doughnuttish things; a blue outer ring with a white centre. They're nice and squishy too.

If you're anything like me, even though you've been using the same washing machine for half a decade, you still sometimes get confused about exactly where the cleaning stuff is actually meant to go. These capsules couldn't be simpler; you just toss them into the back of your machine before loading it up and switching it on.

The packaging recommends using one capsule for a regular load and two for hard water or heavily soiled laundry. We have soft water, so I never intended to try using two, until our labrador was unwell and allowed me to try two out on a throw. I've got no complaints with their ability to actually clean the stuff I was washing, everything I washed with the capsules came out perfectly clean with no residue or stains.

They are not magic, however, as I learned when I inadvertently washed a load of laundry with a tissue. Folks, check your pockets before doing your washing!

The capsules smell quite subtle when you open the packet. They're sort of fresh and clean smelling. I was a little worried when I first used them as once I started a load of laundry the smell became a lot stronger. It's not an unpleasant smell but would probably be best described as 'cleaning chemical'.  It's a bit like air freshener (and it has a similar effect because it makes the whole downstairs smell like Persil Washing Capsules); the smell isn't really a natural smell, but it's not unpleasant either.

The chemical smell did make me worry a little in case it was a sign of how strong the cleaning chemicals in them would be. I've got really sensitive skin and the last thing I wanted was for my smalls to start feeling as though they'd been filled with itching powder! With this in mind, I washed my husband's stuff first so I could gauge his reaction first. We both survived with no adverse effects, though I've not tried using them on a half-wash.

While the clothes are damp the smell is really strong on them, but as they dry it sort of fades away. Everything I've washed with these capsules has come out smelling fresh feeling soft.

The pack is good for, at most, 17 washes (though the pack I received had an extra two capsules in it) so a pack would last my household around a month. I'd prefer a larger pack size 17 (or 19) seems like a bit of a random number and I imagine that households with more than two people could blow through a pack of these in less than a fortnight.

They'd be especially convenient if you were going away on holiday, or if you're having to use a launderette for washing your clothes as the tub they come in is easily portable.

If I see these on offer in the supermarket in the future, I'll probably pick them up because they're handy to have around to speed up the laundry routine.

Disclaimer: I received a free pack of Persil Ultimate Non Bio Dual Capsules in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Chapter-by-Chapter: New Moon, Chapter 18

Not only did I finish work early today, I didn't stay up until 3am or forget to unset my 6:30am alarm (because I was up at 6am instead). All that means that I've actually got time to write a blog post today. Woo hoo!

And today we're onto Chapter 18 of New Moon, rather ominously titled 'The Funeral'.

What Happens?

Alice and Jacob come face to face and that goes about as well as could be expected. Also Edward believes Bella is dead, not helped by Jacob telling the vampire that Charlie was at a funeral without specifying whose it was. So now he's planning to go to Italy to top himself.

Thoughts as I read:

Well, this is obviously going to be about Harry Clearwater's funeral. It'd be really cool if during Harry's funeral he suddenly popped up as a vampire. Perhaps that would make this into a different sort of story, but I'd totally read that book.

At the end of the last chapter Jacob Black was knocking on the door, which caused Alice to get the hell out of there because of the whole vampire/werewolf thing. Bella confirms that it was definitely Jacob at the door.

Jacob's Rabbit idled by the curb with Jared behind the wheel and Embry in the passenger seat. I understand what this meant: they were afraid to let him come here alone. It made me sad, and a little annoyed. The Cullens weren't like that.

I quoted this entire paragraph mainly because I forgot that Jacob's car is a 'Rabbit' and for a moment I was wondering where this pet had come from and how I'd missed that. Rabbits are awesome.

Bella invites Jacob in after reassuring him that Alice definitely isn't there. When he hesitates she calls him 'Chicken'. Way to win friends and influence people, Bella. It does work to get him into the house though.

Suddenly I'm not such a fan of Jacob because he's being pretty snotty about Bella having had Alice round. My opinion of him is dropping because Alice is a much cooler person to hang out with than Bella. Seriously, he needs to be a little less hostile.

Jacob's unhappy at having to come to Bella's house, especially when it's been all tainted with the Aliceness, but he has to ask Bella some questions. So she fills him in on the fact that she doesn't know how long Alice will be there and that she's already filled the vampire in on the situation with Victoria.

Also he can't protect her any more since while there's a Cullen in the area, the weres can't trespass there. Bella has to tell him that the other vampires aren't coming back as well. I don't think that's entirely true though. I'm fairly certain that the others will show up sooner or later, there's another two books after this after all.

This whole exchange has taken the better part of four pages and really nothing much has happened. It's all a bit blah.

Bella's all wound up about whether or not Jacob will forgive her for hanging around with Alice. This girl needs to stop living for all the guys in her life and just do what makes her happy. Seriously?! I always thought people were joking when they complained about Bella in these books, but she's so spineless!

Anyway, Jacob hesitates before leaving, mainly because Bella is crying because 'wah, the boy I like doesn't like my friends'. He does apologise for breaking his promise to her which does do a little to repair my annoyance with him. At least he knows he's acting like a jerk. That does make him automatically higher than Edward in my book.

I think it's telling that when Bella asks Jacob to promise he'll still be her friend it takes him a minute to actually reply. He could've just walked away and this whole thing could've been over right now. Then he hugs her and complains that she smells.

It's a vampire smell, apparently. Perhaps Bella just needs a good shower and some strong deodorant.

Before he goes, Jacob does take a moment to hammer home the fact that if he got too close to Alice he'd probably kill her. That really wouldn't be a good thing. Personally I think they should get together, they're my favourite and second favourite characters in this series so far and I'd way rather read about them than Edward and Bella.

And then Jacob seems about to kiss Bella goodbye which send Bella off on a page long ramble about whether or not she wants this or is ready for this or whatever. I don't really care so I'm reading on.

Thankfully we're saved by the bell, er, ring of a phone. It's Bella's phone and yet Jacob answers it and I find that weird. Surely if you're in someone's house and the phone is ringing, you suggest to the person who lives there that they might want to answer it. Jacob, don't you go getting all Edweird on us now!

But he is getting a bit weird because he goes all menacing to the person on the other end of the line before hanging up on them.

It's okay because it was Carlisle Cullen. And Jacob told him the person he was looking for was at the funeral, so that must mean Carlisle was looking for Charlie. Perhaps he was going to tell him to send Alice home or warn her that the werewolves are getting a bit weird.

And things are getting a bit intense now because suddenly Alice shows up and is described as follows:

Her eyes were dazed and far away, her face drawn and whiter than bone. Her slim body trembled to an inner turmoil.

This sounds like when I used to write stories and look up every word in my Children's Thesaurus to find something better. 'Inner turmoil', heh.

We establish that the reason for her behaviour is something to do with Edweird, I mean Edward, and Bella does the most practical thing she can think of. She faints.

When she comes round Jacob is blaming Alice for Bella's fainting spell and I've not got a clue what's going on.

Alice gets on the phone trying to find out what's going on but we only get to hear her side of the conversation so we're not really any more enlightened. Whatever it is, Alice is shocked. This can only be good news then.

It would appear that the Carlisle on the phone wasn't actually the real Carlisle, which we might have known if Bella had answered the phone and recognised his voice. Actually it was Edward and the Cullens had been under the impression that Bella had killed herself, so now Edward's going to put two and two together and believe that Charlie was at his daughter's funeral rather than his friend's and suddenly this book has gotten interesting again because how awesome is that!

Of course, why would Jacob just be hanging out at Bella's house during her funeral? Surely Edward is smart enough to question this and realise perhaps he's missed something. Or y'know, he could've just asked 'whose funeral is Charlie at?' and solved a lot of heartache.

Bella's like 'it's cool, he'll call back' because apparently she regularly calls the homes of people she believes to be dead. Well, actually, she regularly hangs around with the undead so perhaps that's why she's confused by the prospect of someone being dead.

It's actually Alice who has to gently break it to her that Edward won't call back because as far as he's concerned, Bella is dead. Personally I think this is the best thing for all of them.

Except Edward's off to Italy, where he will inevitably provoke the Volturi who will then destroy him. And he doesn't have a phone? These vampires can travel super fast, can no one catch him up?

Also, this has been his plan all along? He would leave Bella, let her grow old at a distance and then off himself as soon as she croaked. That's a smart plan. He's as bad as Bella is!

Bella's response to this is that they are going to go to Italy. As you do. Everyone is surprisingly fine with this, Alice just tells her to write a note to Charlie. Saying what? 'Soz Dad, something's come up, gone to Italy.'

Actually, that's almost exactly what she writes:

Dad, I wrote. I'm with Alice. Edward's in trouble. You can ground me when I get back. I know it's a bad time. So sorry. Love you so much. Bella.

Jacob's under instruction to look after Charlie, regardless of what's going on with the treaty and Sam.

This next bit makes more sense to me now than it would've done had I been reading it a year or so ago. In the UK almost everyone has a passport (it might not be in date, but it's sort of expected that you have one), I didn't realise until a pen pal told me that it's not that common in America. So the fact that Bella is grateful her mum intended to get married in Mexico enabling Bella to have a passport makes sense here. Of course, Bella still has to get in a dig at her mum's complete incompetence because, why not?

Before Alice and Bella leave there's still time for Alice and Jacob to have a little snit. Bella breaks it off and they rush off but not before someone who may be Alice puts in an appearance.

As Alice stomped on the gas and - with the tires screeching like human screams - spun us around to face the road, I caught sight of a shred of white near the edge of the trees. A piece of a shoe.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Some More From the Ball

We've had a few more photos show up online from the professional photographer who was at the Star Awards last week.

I'd love to properly credit these, but I can't find anything anywhere showing who it was who actually took the photos. If I find out, I'll edit this post to include his name.

Anyone up for a game of Where's Wally? I'm in that photo somewhere.

I was the only person at our table with Twitter, so when they told us to take photos and tweet them so they'd show up on the screens at the venue I went right ahead and did it. Then they took ages to actually show up, luckily the photography caught this nice photo of me proving to my colleagues that I had in fact tweeted them.

I love these kinds of unposed photos.

And this one:

No, it's not a strange new dance move.

This was me realising that my tweets had finally been posted on the big screen and I was quite enthusiastic about it.

I'm actually really pleased with how the photos from the night came out. I'm not usually a huge fan of getting my photo taken, I had a passport photo done yesterday and I rejected it because it was awful! These photos are lovely though, especially the ones where I didn't know I was being photographed.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016


... an impromptu day off.

I picked the right day too. The weather was horrible yesterday (what happened to the hottest day of September on record?) but today is lovely, if a little windy. I took advantage of it to drag Mr Click and Tara out for a little walk on the estate. Every time the wind blew there was another flurry of leaves off the trees.

... we had proper running water.

They've been doing some work on the estate which involved turning off the water to our row of houses. It's back on now, so it's coming through a funny colour and we're having to use bottled water.

It's a little frustrating because I planned to take advantage of this nice weather and get a load of laundry out on the line. Probably best if we wait until it stops coming through cloudy before I do that.

... The Sims 3.

Yeah, I know, I'm 23 again.

I read funny list online the other day about things people used to do with their Sims games and it got me feeling nostalgic, so I cracked out the disc again. I always forget how addictive it is. Right now I'm working on getting my Sim to the top of his field and I'm playing it a little differently than in the past (i.e. actually letting my Sims get what they want and not just trying to ruthlessly repopulate the towns they inhabit).

I've even been looking out some of the expansion packs online. I can see myself investing in a couple of them in the future.

... NOT A Child's History of England at last!

I read it while I was travelling to and from the hotel last week, and again when I woke up to the alarm I forgot to set. In three weeks I'd read two third of the book, and in about five hours I managed to read the whole of the final third.

I followed that up with the three Pottermore ebooks which were released last week and now I'm reading Farmer Giles of Ham & The Adventures of Tom Bombadil by J.R.R. Tolkien. I've read the latter several times, but the former is all new to me. I've had it on my bookshelf for a while and I'm glad I've finally gotten around to reading it.

... as I write this, Oz The Great and Powerful.

It's funny, both Mr Click and I were thinking about it earlier on. We've been watching Scrubs before bed and it's got Zach Braff in it so it was an easy choice; he's basically playing the same sort of character in this film as in Scrubs, I keep on expecting him to drift off into his own little world.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Book 68 & 69 of 2015: The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien & The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

My first book review is pretty apt considering I'm planning to read a Tolkien book next (just as soon as I'm finished reading the three Pottermore mini-ebooks).

Back at the end of last September I cracked open my copy of The Children of Hurin for a reread, opting for my paperback version rather than the hardback for easy portability.

This is the expanded version of a story from The Silmarillion. Hurin is taken by Morgoth who then exerts is influence over Hurin's son and daughter, Turin Turambar and Nienor. Separated as children, doom seems to follow them wherever they go and even when they are unknowingly reunited they cannot find happiness.

When I started this book I was literally just starting a new role at work and that, combined with a hospital trip, slowed me down a little, but I made a fast start to it. I find this one a much easier read that The Silmarillion, but that doesn't stop it from being a wee bit heavy going in places and I couldn't help but feel just a smidgen too tired for it that week.

Honestly I felt really sorry for Nienor and Turin in this story. Turin made some bad decisions, but so did pretty much everyone else and at the end of the day all the bad things that happened to them were because of the 'fate' that was preordained for them by Morgoth. I suspect that even if they had done things differently, the outcome would have been just as miserable for them.

In the months prior to picking up The Children of Hurin I'd read The Simarillion and Unfinished Tales but I was glad that I'd had a reasonable break between them and picking up this book because this story features in both of the other books. It was still familiar to me, but it saved me from feeling as though it was repetitive.

I followed this up with The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman which was one of the books in the Penguin Little Black Classics series.

This is actually three short stories; 'Old Water', 'The Yellow Wall-Paper' and 'The Rocking Chair'. The title story is about a woman who is sent to the country to rest as she is unhappy with motherhood and her marriage, whilst confined to her room she gradually becomes increasingly obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room.

I did enjoy these stories. There was something delightfully creepy about them; particularly in 'The Yellow Wall-Paper' when I couldn't quite decide whether there was actually something going on in the room or if the narrator was experiencing some sort of breakdown. Personally 'Old Water' was my favourite for its dark sense of humour at the end. 'The Yellow Wall-Paper' was the weirdest of the three and 'The Rocking Chair' was just spooky.

I don't think that I've ever read anything by Charlotte Perkins Gilman before but based on these three short stories I definitely would read more by her in the future.

During the Weekly Challenge I tried to start and finish books within a week and this was my 39th Week's book (a book with a colour in the title). I'm glad I went with this rather than my original choice (The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear) because I was running a little behind on my target and this short read (only 57 pages) gave me a chance to get caught up.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Bullet Journalling Memorable Events

After attending the Star Awards event on Thursday night I knew I wanted more of a record of it than just a brief mention in my Bullet Journal To-Do list. I've got a bunch of photos on my laptop, phone and Facebook but I wanted another more tangible record of being there, something I can whip out and show off to people when I'm out and about.

And that's what I like about my Bullet Journal is that I can just turn to the next free page and pop it in there:

We got print outs from the photo booth so I knew I wanted to put it into Gandalf the Grey. I also popped in a playing card, since they were scattered all over the table and jazzed it up some very appropriate star patterned washi tape.

The first page I did anything like this for was probably my birthday:

I was able to check everything off on my to-do list that day.

On the day when I went to get my copy of The Cursed Child I decided that I needed to celebrate it in my BuJo:

Sometimes a day isn't hugely notable, but something is still happening that I'm looking forward to. That's why I've taken to renaming the days of the week on my headers, such as when we had Largs-day last month:

Be it diary, scrapbook, blog, Bullet Journal, something else or a combination of them all, how do you record memorable events?

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Webhelp Star Awards 2016

Each year the company I work for puts on a big award ceremony. People are nominated throughout the year and the finalists all get invited along. I've been nominated a few times but only made it to the finals once before.

This year my whole team was lucky enough to be one of three shortlisted for the Team of the Year and although we didn't win the actual award, we had an absolute ball there. I'm lucky enough to work with some fantastic people so getting to enjoy what's kind of felt like a party in our honour was great fun.

It was however, a very long day. I was up for work as usual at 6:30am and I finally crawled into bed about twenty hours later!

But before that was the whirlwind of getting there and actually getting ready. We were on the bus forever (actually about two and a half hours) so it was heaven when we stepped off into the hotel. We had about an hour and a half to get ready before the next coach arrived to ferry us off to the ball.

I'm a low maintenance kind of girl so I planned to chill for half an hour and then use the remaining hour to get myself ready to go as a friend was going to pop by to borrow my hair straighteners. A couple of minutes after I took this photo there are a knock of the door and the aforementioned friend was standing there looking a little lost because her room wasn't ready yet and she needed a shower.

It was cool having company while we danced around the room doing hair, make up, fixing our dresses, sorting out shoes.

The event was taking place at Hopetoun House and I can't imagine a more spectacular venue. The last award ceremony I went to was at the Glasgow Science Centre, which was great, but Hopetoun House felt like something really posh. And I knew this was going to be something a bit special when we drove through the grounds and the house suddenly came into view.

If it looked beautiful when we arrived, it looked like something else once night fell!

We were able to wander around in the State Apartments (that's through the doors at the top of those stairs) when we arrived, have drinks, nibble canapes, mingle with colleagues from other sites and check who would be seated at our tables for dinner. We had a big group photo with everyone there on those steps. I can't wait to see how that turned out.

And then it was time for dinner.

We were called across the courtyard to the wing where the photo above was taken. Dinner was served in the Adams Ballroom and the evening's James Bond theme was in full swing. All of the tables were named after James Bond films; mine was Spectre. And they were decorated accordingly, with playing cards, dice, and little Aston Martin cars.

Dinner was excellent, the company was brilliant and the award ceremony was fantastic. There are some amazing people in the company and it was lovely to give everyone their chance to shine in the spotlight.

And then we were ushered outside to take our place on front steps for a surprise. I kind of had an idea of what was coming, because I'd read up on what Hopetoun House's corporate events package consisted of. But despite having an inkling of what was to come, it was a great surprise.

And then that was followed up by a spectacular firework display.

Between the pipe band finishing and the firework display starting, the group I was standing with popped open one of the bottles of champagne our team had received for being shortlisted. We then watched the display whilst passing round the bottle. Firework displays are pretty cool at the best of times, but I can honestly say that they're made infinitely better whilst drinking champagne straight out the bottle.

Back to the Adams Ballroom and the dancing had started. I'm not a dancer, but I did allow myself to be dragged up for the last dance of the evening. The rest of the time I just sat and watched and enjoyed myself.

Oh, and we did go play in the photobooth that was set up for the occasion, I think this might be my new favourite photo of myself:

It was one o'clock yesterday morning when it finally wrapped up and we bundled into coaches for the journey back to the hotel. Of course, once I got there I needed to unwind because I was really buzzing. I showered, tidied my room and then did what any normal person would do.

I sat down to work on a pen pal letter:

It was 3am when I finally crawled into bed (and owing to forgetting to unset my alarm for work, I was woken at 6:30am).

Even now I can't quite settle on just which bit of the evening was the best. It was an amazing night and I'm already trying to be extra awesome to secure my invitation to it next year.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Chapter-by-Chapter: An Excuse

Last night was the Star Awards so this time yesterday I was all glammed up waiting for my dinner to start.

If Bella Swan thinks she can do the pale thing then she's got nothing on me:

I partied long and hard and I plan to tell you all about it tomorrow. But for now I'm operating on no more than three hours sleep and I've not got the energy for Bella, Edward and Jacob, so I'll pick them up again next week.