Friday, 31 March 2017


Way back in 2012 I got a £100 bonus for completing a course and I decided to put the money towards one of those newfangled Kindle eReaders.

I'd been staunchly against the things because there was no way they could ever compare to the satisfying feeling of holding a real life book in your hands. But by 2012 we were living in our little cottage, there was an island-wide shortage of bookshelves, and most of my books were living in boxes in cupboards or the spare bedroom.

Digital copies of books seemed like a good way to save our space issues and allow me to keep on reading in the way I liked to.

So I got a Kindle Touch.

I loved that thing. I loved the sluggish way it 'turned' the pages, the way that the 'experimental' web browser was set up on it (experimental was apparently another word for rubbish), I loved the look and feel of the thing. I loved that it was the size of a paperback, weight just a little more, and that I could organise all my books on it just like I did on my bookshelves at home.

But it had its limitations. So around a year later Mr Click suggested that I upgrade. Mrs Click Senior (his mum) became the proud recipient of my hand-me-down Kindle Touch (it's still going, if not strong, then at least still going). And I got the Kindle Fire HD. I think it's the one which is now known as the 1st Gen Kindle Fire.

It was brilliant.

Suddenly everything was in colour. I could actually load webpages and go online with it. Books with pictures in them actually showed the full range of colours. I could watch films and YouTube and all sorts on it.

After a little while I even got a special case with a bluetooth keyboard for it and realised I could use it like a mini laptop when I was out and about. Since we didn't have internet access at home, I'd take it with me when I knew I'd have internet access and connect wherever we happened to be with free wifi. It went to England and Wales with me. When I went on a trip with work, I used it to write a report on the way home.

Unlike the Touch, it has an illuminated screen. Whereas before, if I wanted to read in bed I'd have to have the light turned on, or use a little bookmark torch, this was no longer an issue. I could turn the lamp off and read to my heart's content. In fact, sometimes (if I was feeling especially charitable) I'd even switch the background colour to black with white text to further reduce the amount of light it was throwing out into the room (not very often, admittedly, because this tended to send me to sleep!).

It's been wonderful and has served me well.

But in recent months, it's been doing some strange things.

It's been getting slower and the touch screen isn't as responsive as it used to be. Sometimes when I 'type' on it, it'll jump back and delete the word I was typing. This was frustrating but didn't render it unusable.

What did make it slightly unusable was the far that it seemed to have developed a touch of digital Alzheimer's. I wasn't actually aware of it at first but thinking back now I think it's been going on since before Christmas because there have been a few times I've got a weird sense of deja vu as I've been reading where I've wondered whether I'm rereading a book I've read before, even though I know I'm not.

I suspect that this little quirk may be part of the reason why it's taken me so long to get through some ebooks recently. I finally caught it one day when I made an effort to read to 75% of the Zen Culture ebook, only to fire it up the next day and find I was back to 70%. I knew I wasn't wrong. Just like I knew I was right when I read to 50% of the way through the next ebook, only to power it up and be back to 0%.

It was at that point that I realised that perhaps the time had come to retire the old thing. And Mr Click suggested I get a Kindle like his.

Which is how I became the proud owner of a 7" Magenta Kindle Fire (5th Gen) in a very pretty case (which I treated myself to because I wanted something pretty which would stand out as mine amongst all the other 7" Kindles in the house).

And would you believe, I'm yet to actually read anything on it yet. That's not because I've been downloading apps, surfing the web and listening to music. No, those are all things I did on my old Kindle and I've dabbled a little with some of them on the new one but mostly I've been organising my reading material on it.

You see the Kindle Fire HD didn't give me the option to sort my books into Collections. They were all just on there, jumbled up together. I could sort by title, author name or how recently I'd downloaded them. It's a little bit frustrating when you're feeling in the mood for, say, a thriller, but can't really track down a book which falls into that genre from all the other books on the device.

They did away with Collections on the Fire HD and then brought it back in an update for later models of the device. Mine was just a little too old for it. There are apps you can download, but they have their limitations. So I coped without it.

But now I've got it back. And I'm so happy.

I literally spent the whole of Monday evening sorting out the books I've bought (or got for free) over the last five years. I really enjoy sorting my book-books so as you can imagine, this was a thrilling evening for me. Every so often I'll come across a book which I've not got a genre for, so I'm making them up as I go along.

What's also impressive is that it also remembered the Collections I had on my old, old Kindle (the Touch). That saved me a lot of time with copying over nearly 300 books designated as 'Christmas'. There are some which are no longer needed, like 'OU Books', so I trashed those, others have been renamed and shuffled around. It's so useful.

So am I happy with my new Kindle?

You bet!

It's just different enough from my old one that I'm still finding my way round it, learning where everything is hidden and how to get it to do what I want.

And now I'm whizzing through The Way Through The Woods by Colin Dexter, so I can get on with reading an ebook on my new toy!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

How We Celebrate Mother's Day?

Mother's Day is a tricky day for people who are dealing with infertility. I'm sure that the male half of infertile couples struggles with the same sort of emotions on Father's Day, but Mother's Day seems like a bigger deal, somehow.

You only have to log onto Facebook to see photos of people sharing lovely messages about their own mums or their kids and it can't help but remind you of that slightly inadequate feeling. The feeling that everyone you know is a member of this club that you can't yet belong to.

Of course, we celebrated our own Mothers on Mother's Day. Mr Click and I procured cards and gifts (which I think went down pretty well). We hung out with Mr Click's Mum (and had a lovely dinner) and I called my Mum to say hi. It was a nice day.

But it's a little hard not to acknowledge that weird empty feeling the day can make you feel as well.

Mother's Day is around the time that 5BB would have been born, had it stuck. This year would've been my first Mother's Day as a Mum if we hadn't lost our twins, Olaf and Elsa. They would've been eight months old by now and even if they're not here, they were ever so briefly, so they should count, right?

We've also got nine potential babies on ice, we're gearing up to thaw one of those out but it's not been done yet. So I'm in a strange sort of limbo of Not-Mum but Almost-Mum.

Luckily my family know and love and understand how this might be a bit of a tricky day for me and so we celebrated in our own little way.

Mr Click ordered me my new Kindle. I had a Kindle already but it was getting a little geriatric and forgetful so a new one was very much appreciated. We'd hoped it would be here for Sunday, it didn't arrive until the next day, but I knew it was on the way.

My Mum sent me a lovely card:

And included a most appropriate gift:

'What do you give a mum who keeps her children in the freezer?'

Why, an ice pack of course!

So it was only natural that after lunch we went out for a suitably frozen embryo mum appropriate snack:

It was a good day.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017


... so many things!

Dodger got a more or less clean bill of health from the vet. He's still got ever such a slight tilt, but it looks like that's permanent rather than any lingering infection. He's had another dose of antibiotics and is just as chirpy as ever.

My shiny new Kindle Fire arrived on Monday and I think I am in love. If nothing else, I'm able to sort my books into Collections again which will prove hugely useful in helping me decide what to read next at any given moment.

My period arrived. Not normally a cause for celebration, especially when you're trying to get pregnant, unless you're waiting to start your treatment for a frozen embryo transfer. I've been able to speak to the hospital and I've got an appointment in three weeks time for my mini menopause injection.

... lots and lots of A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal posts.

I'm trying to read and comment on as many of the posts announcing their themes for April because it's good to show support. Plus one of the things I love about the A to Z Challenge is that there's a real sense of reciprocity, so if you comment on someone's blog post, they'll come back and visit yours.

I try to comment on every blog post I read and to say something about what they've posted to show I've read it, so that's generating a lot of comments for me to write (and for people coming back here as well). If I'm a little slow at replying to comments this month, that's why.

... lots and lots of A to Z Challenge posts.

I've got as far as H scheduled and I'm hoping I can get the second week's worth of posts scheduled in the next three or four days. It's kind of therapeutic and it's given me something to focus on as I wait to be able to start the next leg of the journey with our embryos.

Are you working the A to Z Challenge? Anything big you're celebrating at the moment?

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Books 37 - 39 of 2016: Short Stories from Hogwarts & Hogwarts: An Incomplete & Unreliable Guide

I forget when I first heard about these 'Pottermore Presents' ebooks. I know I got rather excited about them and then promptly forgot all about them until a fellow Harry Potter geek at work reminded me.

Thankfully by that point we had internet access at home so I was able to get them bought and downloaded that night (they were £1.99 each), though it then took me a little while to get them to open as they were in a format which seemed to default to a graphics programme on my Kindle. I had to download an alternative eReader app onto my Kindle before I could actually open and read them.

I'm reviewing these three books in  collective because they just go together. They're relatively short, 58 pages for the shortest (Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies) and 73 pages for the longest (Hogwarts: An Incomplete & Unreliable Guide); Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists clocks in at 60 pages, in case you were wondering. They contain a mix of unseen material from J.K. Rowling and curated pieces previously published on Pottermore.

The three books are all short enough that you can read them in one sitting. I began Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies on the 9th of September but had to stop part way through because I was falling asleep. I finished it and Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists the following day, then started the final book which was finished the day after that. If you were going on a long journey and or had nothing else to do but read, you could easily get through all three in one go.

Of the three, the second one I read was probably my favourite. This one had more that was brand new to me. I'm not sure if this was because I missed those articles on the Pottermore site originally, or if it did actually contain more brand new material.

The highlights of these three books were definitely the bits which were all new. In the first one that I read it was the information about how one becomes an Animagus (which I'm sure introduces whole new realms of possibility to writers of Marauders Era fan fiction). In the second I enjoyed the lengthy section on past Ministers for Magic, for one thing you could spot surnames which later crop up in the series as belonging to significant characters, for another, you can pretend you're reading an actual Hogwarts text book and channel your inner Hermione.

The last one of the three, Hogwarts: An Incomplete & Unreliable Guide, I just wish it had been longer. I almost wish that this could have been expanded out into a slightly longer book under the heading 'Hogwarts, A History' like the Fantastic Beasts and Quidditch Through the Ages books for Comic Relief. I especially liked the glimpse into the Hufflepuff common room, since that's somewhere we never go during the original book series, but I wanted to know more about the Room of Requirement and what happened to it after the Battle of Hogwarts.

Following the texts on each subject in the books are notes from J.K. Rowling herself. I love these. They're like little DVD extras where you get a nosy into the way she thinks and what some of the alternative ideas she was working on for certain characters in the stories. My favourites in these bits were always the parts where she explained the meanings behind character names and what influenced them. I just wish these, like the ebooks themselves, were longer.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Shopping Spree!

Last Thursday was Bluebell's service and MOT so after a really early start (5:30am *sob*) we dropped Tara off at my in-laws' and headed off for a day of retail therapy (and finger crossing that the car sailed through her MOT).

A trip to Ayr with the car also means a trip round the shops in Ayr. One of my favourite things to do.

Sadly there's a lot more closed and boarded up shops than there used to be when I first started going there over ten years ago. Even some of the charity shops have vacated their premises, which is a huge shame because I've picked up some lovely clothes there in the past.

When I make a trip to the mainland on a shopping expedition, I go with a particular target in mind. And this time was no exception.

I wanted a printer.

I'd done my research. I had an envelope with £31 worth of hard won vouchers, valid in Argos, and I was out to buy something which would be useful and practical for my house.

As a side note, I'd like to point out how mature and sensible I'm being here, since these vouchers are also valid in Waterstones and who wouldn't want to go and spend £31 on books?!

I'd settled on the Epson XP342 printer as being the one for me. I wanted something with four individual ink cartridges which would print on a variety of different types of paper (I intend to make my own stickers for pen pal letters and my bullet journal as well as printing photos and other general stuff too). I knew I needed a scanner and wireless (which, let's face it, is pretty standard now anyway). And I wanted something I could trust and which wouldn't cost me a small fortune in replacement cartridges.

I'd been checking for a few days before we went that they had it in stock. So after finishing our wandering and getting ready to head back to the garage, we stopped in and picked it up. My biggest bargain of the day.

It cost me £3.99. I actually spent more in Wilkinson on paper for it!

I got it set up on Saturday and it works like a dream (once I was able to correctly enter the wifi password into it, anyway).

That wasn't the only bargain of the day though. I'd gone with the intention of getting some new long-sleeved tops to replace some old and tatty ones. After picking up a couple for £3-4 I spotted a clearance rack, stuck those back and got some in slightly different colours and styles for £1-2 instead.

I'd hoped to find some new knitting pattern books there, since last year I picked up the pattern book for Jean Greenhowe's Red Nose Gang (where I got the pattern for Bertie Bloomer). No such luck this time around, but I did find a small selection of books and DVDs which I wanted (one of the DVDs was still in the plastic wrapping).

And then there was the crafty stuff.

I was very restrained this time around and resisted all the stickers and washi in Poundland. The latter was mostly because I've already bought it all before, but I kept telling myself I didn't need any more. I did get a nice pack of five with some gorgeous watermelon seed tape in Primark. I'm seeing some summer spreads coming up in my bullet journal.

Wilkinson yielded a pack of 24 Crayola Supertip pens for either £2.50 or £3.50 (I forget which), considering that not an hour earlier I'd talked myself out of getting a pack of 12 for £6.99 in WH Smith, I thought that was a sign and snapped them up. But other than that I was very restrained in Ayr.

And then we went to Lidl on the way home.

We grabbed some (edible) goodies there and of course I had to have a nose at the stuff in the centre of the shop. Mr Click saw me flicking through the stickers and told me to 'go on then' when he caught that glint in my eye. I imagine at times that taking me shopping must feel like taking a hyperactive nine year old out for him, I'm so easily excited by anything shiny or vaguely crafty.

A few seconds later I found a pack of chalk pastels and added those to the trolley as well. I should add here that a few months ago I saw a tutorial on Johanna Basford's Facebook page where she demonstrated an effect which used chalk pastels to colour and blend large areas of a picture. I added some rather expensive chalk pastels to my Amazon wishlist so jumped at the change to get something similar for £2.49!

All in all, it was a very successful day, even if we did come home to the Return of the Wobbly Rat (who's been slightly less wonky since his trip to the vet).

And Bluebell? Well, she needed a couple of things dealt with, but she passed her MOT, so definitely a successful day on all fronts!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Film Review: Lion

Several years ago I happened upon an article on BBC News about a guy called Saroo Brierley. It was an interesting story and obviously it lodged itself in the back of my brain because a few years later when I read the description of a film staring Dev Patel I thought 'that sounds familiar'.

That's because it's a film based on the book written by Saroo about the events briefly described in the BBC article I'd read so many years before.

Warning this review contains spoilers!

Don't say I didn't warn you!

At the age of five, Saroo was left at a train station to sleep by his older brother, Guddu, who had taken the child with him to find work. Waking alone Saroo boarded a train which took him on a two day journey, alone, over 1,000 km away to Kolkata. After surviving for a time on the streets he was picked up and taken to an orphanage but unable to tell anyone where he came from or even his mother's name there was little hope of him ever reuniting with his biological family. Eventually he was adopted, finding a home with Sue and John Brierley in Australia.

However, he never forgot where he came from and clinging on to some distance memories he managed to use Google Earth to retrace his journey on the train and find his way home.

This film was everything I hoped it would be and more. It's beautifully shot, both in India and Australia, so at times you feel like you're watching carefully framed photographs. There's also some very clever filming where the aerial views of Google Earth are replicated as flyover shots of the scenery in both countries. This is how the film opens.

As I sat in the cinema beside Mr Click, I couldn't help but feel a little unsure of whether he was going to enjoy the film, especially as almost the whole first hour of the film is subtitled. I'm glad that they did this, rather than just having everyone speak English.

Saroo, at age five, speaks Hindi so when he arrived in Kolkata he can't communicate with the people around him. It's a busy city with street children not being an uncommon sight, so a dirty five year old is ignored by most of the adults who come across him. It's heart breaking to watch and little Sunny Pawar who plays young Saroo does a brilliant job.

When he is eventually picked up there's little he can tell the police about where he came from. The place he lived 'Gineshtalay' is unknown to them; he can't even tell them where in India it is, and when he's asked his mother's name he simply replies 'mum'.

It's a film of two halves. There's young Saroo's life in India. The horrors he witnesses on the streets and in the orphanage, juxtaposed against the happy memories of home. Despite money and food being scarce with his biological family, you get a sense of how much his mother cares for her children and how much they care not only for her, but for each other too.

Then there's Saroo's time in Australia, as a young man, when a chance get together with some friends at university reminds him of his childhood and he opens up about his past. Someone suggests how he might go about working out where he came from.

It something that he starts off by just dipping into, but gradually it comes to consume him. Meanwhile we get glimpses into how this affects his adoptive family and his relationship with girlfriend, Lucy. There's also Saroo's adoptive brother, Mantosh, who was adopted from India also and bears the emotional and psychological scars of his life before his adoption. The two have a strained relationship and it's partially this that stops him from pursuing his search, not wanting to cause his mother any more heartache.

I love Dev Patel in pretty much anything I see him in, and I think he does a brilliant job here. He's playing a guy who is torn between the loyalty he feels to the people who have loved and raised him, and his memories of his birth family and the emotions they must feel never knowing what has happened to him. You get that sense right the way through the film.

If you've read any of the articles about Saroo Brierley (or the book he published, A Long Way Home) then you know how the film is going to end. Saroo manages to hit on the spot on Google Earth which is familiar to him, a water tower from the train station he was left at by his brother. A short scroll away is a place called 'Ganesh Talai', the place he knew he came from, he just couldn't say it well enough at the age of five for anyone to understand.

And it's from about here that you really need the tissues.

If little Saroo running up and down a train, by himself, with no way off, didn't move you, I'm sure the next bit will. After an emotional conversation with his mum, Sue, about what he's been doing, she gives him her blessing to go and find his birth mother.

And that's exactly what he does, heading off to India and retracing his steps. You can't help but feel the surge of joy as he is reunited with his mother, to the happy cheers of her friends and neighbours.

It's bittersweet though.

His mother, Kamla, breaks the news to him that his brother, Guddu, died on the night he went missing. She lost two of her sons in one day, but never having retrieved Saroo's body, she never gave up hope that he would come home.

And the title of the film?

I wondered about that the whole way through. It turns out that not only had Saroo struggled to say the name of his birthplace, he was mispronouncing his own name. Saroo was a nickname for Sheru, meaning 'lion'.

Having seen the film, I know it's one we're going to get on DVD and we're going to watch it again. It's a good film to see when you need a little reminder about the harsh realities for people growing up and living in other places around the world. There filmmakers have actually set up a charity, which you can learn more about here, to help those children living on the streets of India. But it's got that (mostly) happy ending which will make you cry but in a good way.

It's got me curious as well. I spend this morning Googling Saroo Brierley and reading Wikipedia. I'm definitely going to get my hands on a copy of A Long Way Home to hear more about his amazing story and the women who raised him.

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Return of the Wobbly Rat!

We were away on the mainland all day yesterday. We left on the 7am boat and returned at 7pm. It was a long (but lovely) day (more about that in another blog post).

But we returned to a Dodger rat who was looking slightly out of sorts.

He was standing up to the water bottle in the cage, having a drink and seeming perfectly happy with himself, but there was just something about the angle he was at that didn't seem quite right to me. We swithered about whether there was anything wrong with him, or if we were just imagining things, then got the Mischief out to play in the bathroom.

And Dodger was decidedly wonky with a distinctive wobble to his step.

He was still chuntering around all over the place, climbing, jumping, washing, eating. But he was a little out of sorts too. After having a wander, he snuggled up on Mr Click for a really long cuddle (and we both know that his preferred cuddle buddy is me).

So he spend the night in the small cage with us in the bedroom so we could keep an eye on him.

Come this morning he was no different, so it was a 9am phone call to the vet to take him in for another antibiotic injection. It would appear that having braved an ear infection in his right ear two months ago, he's decided to give it a go in his left this time.

And while he's still my Dinky Little D, he's a slightly bigger Dinky D. He's more robust and so far he's handling it a lot better than last time. He's still hanging out in the baby/hospital cage as I type this, but that's mainly because we don't want him wobbling up to the top of the big cage and wobbling off a shelf where he could hurt himself.

Aside from peeing all over the table at the vet (prompting our vet, who is wonderful, to joke 'didn't you take him out before you brought him in?') he was very good about having the injection. And he was rewarded by getting to spend the day at my in-laws' house (where the cat was actually evicted from the room when she started looking at him like he might be dinner) and got to try lots of nice nibblies.

Hopefully I'll soon be giving you an update that my little cuddlebug is back to his normal, non-wonky, self.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Life Through A Lens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 22 March 2017


... in the middle of charger central.

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

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

... to buy a printer.

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

... The Young Ones.

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

... to bed. Early.

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


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 20 March 2017

#atozchallenge: Theme Reveal

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

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

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

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

Letters to my Embryos

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 18 March 2017

TV Series Review: The Muppet Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 17 March 2017

Word of the Year: Succeed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 16 March 2017

How Many Rats Can You Fit In A Hammock?

More specifically, a baby rat hammock?

How many rats can you see in this picture?

If you said four, you would be correct.

Normally the hammock is Fezzi and Jingle's domain:

Dodger gets up there with them fairly often as well, he likes to snuggle in for cuddles with his bigger brothers. But normally Pocket hangs out in the grass house. He's never been much of a one for hammocks and he's quite a solitary ratty:

And of course that's not to say that he doesn't have a brother or two in there to cuddle as well when he needs to (I think that's Dodger cuddling him in the picture above).

But yesterday evening Pocket evidently decided that he needed to join in on the hammock loving, so he sort of propped himself up on the grass house and stretched across the hammock with his brothers. None of them looked particularly comfortable, but they stayed all snuggled together for a pretty long time, so who knows.

Ratties are funny little creatures.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017


... posts for the A to Z Challenge.

After my post on Monday I decided I would go ahead with the challenge. I figure it's a good way to get ahead of myself on my blog posts, and since Sundays are free I can still do my Silent Sunday posts. That might just mean skipping out on a few book review posts along the way but I don't mind missing those.

I drew up a double page spread in my bullet journal, and I've got a spreadsheet on my computer as well, which I'm using to plan out the words I'll base my posts around. I'll admit that X is becoming a bit of a sticking point (alarmingly enough, this hasn't really been a problem in the past), but I'm sure I'll get there, even if I have to get a little bit creative with it.

Check back next Monday to see what I'm planning to blog about during April.

... Zen Culture by Thomas Hoover.

It's a free ebook which I picked up about five years ago (when I first got my Kindle) mainly because it mentioned the influence of Zen culture in Japan on literature and poetry. I thought that sounded interesting. And it has been, though it's taking me a while to get through because there are a lot of Japanese names and terms which I'm muddling through.

It's an interesting read though and I'm definitely learning a lot from it. It is making me feel like writing haiku again which I've not done since my OU Creative Writing course.

... the very last episode of 24, series 5. We'll be moving on to series 6 tomorrow.

Sadly we're also coming to the end of The Muppet Show episodes that we have on DVD. Getting towards time to pick what we'll watch next. I'm really going to miss The Muppet Show, it's perfect bedtime viewing.

What entertainments are occupying you this week?

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Books 33 & 34 of 2016: Traffic by John Ruskin & Memories and Portraits by Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday means it's time to revisit some of the books I read last year and sadly at the beginning of August 2016, my reading material was slightly disappointing.

First up is Traffic by John Ruskin. This is a book from the Penguin Little Black Classics collection and features two essays; the first, the titular 'Traffic', the second 'The Roots of Honour'.

I struggled to follow both of these essays at times. The first essay begins with Ruskin being invited to speak about the new Exchange being built in Yorkshire, and he opens his speech by telling the people assembled that he doesn't actually care about their Exchange and launches off into his own speech about... well, something, it was a little tricky to keep up with the gist of it.

'The Roots of Honour' felt like it had more that I could relate to. There was stuff in there about paying people a fair wage which was interesting given all the talk about the Living Wage at the time.

On the whole, this was a fairly short read (only 58 pages) but it took me two days to get through because it was a tough read. I didn't really enjoy it but it was an interesting read nonetheless. And I would've liked to have seen the audience's reaction to Ruskin when he announced that he wasn't in fact there to talk about the Exchange.

I followed Traffic with a Robert Louis Stevenson ebook, Memories and Portraits as I discovered I enjoyed Stevenson's writing style some time ago and felt this would be a good follow up.

This is another collection of essays, this time on a whole host of topics from everything from books, to dogs and his own contributions to College Magazine.

Despite being a far longer book than Traffic, I got through it very quickly. The topics in the book don't really follow on from one another so it feels a bit higgledy piggledy. You don't know what to expect between one ending and the next one beginning.

My favourite essays were the ones about reading and books. I felt like he said things that I could relate to. The essay about dogs was pretty good too. He also mentioned places in Edinburgh which I'm familiar with so that was interesting too.

Of the two, Memories and Portraits is probably the book I'm most likely to reread again in the future.

Monday, 13 March 2017

A to Z Challenge? Maybe...

April is fast approaching which means a number of things. The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer, Mr Click has started making noises about what I want to do for my birthday this year, and I've started updating my Amazon Wishlist with the sort of gusto normally reserved for kids with a highlighter pen and the Argos catalogue at Christmas.

But it means something else too.

The A to Z Challenge is coming up.

And after sitting the last one out, I'm seriously considering joining in for the next one.

For those not in the know, the A to Z Challenge is a blogging challenge where you blog almost every day in April (you're allowed Sundays off for good behaviour), each post follows the letters from A to Z; so on the 1st your blog post is inspired by the letter A, the 2nd is inspired by the letter B, and so on all the way through to Z.

I've taken part in the challenge three times and have blogged about IVF/infertility treatment twice and an A to Z of my favourite songs once. It turned out that after doing the first load of IVF posts before starting treatment, I then found a whole lot more to say about it after a failed round and a fresh round.

Next Monday is the A to Z theme reveal, so I've pretty much got a week to decide whether I want to do the challenge again or not. Right now I'm leaning towards yes and I've got a couple of themes in mind (of course, if you're thinking of joining up, the theme isn't absolutely necessary but it is a useful way to structure your posts to help you come up with things to write about).

Are you thinking about taking part in the A to Z Challenge? Will you be doing a theme reveal next week?

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Walking to Lothlorien, Progress Update

Last year I sent myself a challenge to walk from Bag End to Rivendell; the first part of Frodo's journey across Middle-earth. Frodo did it within a month but it took me from the 1st of January to halfway through December.

I was so impressed with the fact that I'd gone from walking sporadically to walking virtually every day (including some days when I managed around 18 miles in a day) that I decided to keep going once I arrived at Rivendell. Unlike Frodo, I didn't rest up for very long and I got straight on with my walk from Rivendell to Lothlorien.

Of course I've had a month off with the IVF treatment so I'm just now getting back to it. Aside from a few occasional walks, I really did no walking (or rather, no tracked walking) throughout February. On Runkeeper I only logged two walks (though there were a couple of walks which I forgot to track along the way).

Last weekend I decided that it was time to start walking again and after having a pretty easy weekend I dragged myself (and Mr Click) out of bed and out the door with Tara for a 7am walk. Since then I've been aiming to walk roughly 1.5 miles per day in the hopes that it'll get me to Lothlorien before the end of the year.

Less than a week later and I'm up to 38.8 miles on my way towards Lothlorien, which puts me in the early stages of Day 3 of the Fellowship's journey. I've got 423.2 miles still to go which means I need to get in 1.43 miles per day to hit my target on schedule.

Hopefully I'll be able to get some longer walks in between now and the end of December to help me reduce the number of miles I need to travel. Today I've walked 1.80 miles so I'd say I'm doing pretty well for restarting my journey, I just wish I'd not taken so long before getting back into my walking routine.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Little Love Hearts

One thing anyone with rats will be familiar with will be the little messages of love one finds throughout the day.

These can take various shapes and forms, but I think that they do it because they want us to remember them when we're away from them. And what do we always have when we're away from our pets? Why, clothes of course!

So that's where they leave their little messages.

To this day I have dozens of tops with Nero Nibbles in them. My personal favourite is long gone, but it took the shape of a 'N' carefully nibbled into a nearly new set of curtains! The majority of the Nero Nibbles are in the hoods of the hoodies which he used to ride around in.

Not a terribly long time after I graduated and got my OU hoodie, Yoda (who liked to sit in the pocket) left me a little memento of himself by nibbling the stitching at the edge of the front pocket. I remember being quite upset and not knowing how I could fix my ruined hoodie.

Though Yoda's been gone for four months now, every time I wear it my fingers wander to that frayed little patch which is barely noticeable to everyone else and remember my little old man rat. I don't feel angry about that hole any more.

So I'm sure that with time the frustration at finding a hole in the pair of jeans I wore to work today will lessen. Of course these were my best pair of jeans, the only ones which haven't been consigned to the dog walking or slobbing around the house drawer (owing to existing stains and holes).

This hole does of course mean that I'm going to have to do some shopping and buy myself some more jeans because I now own exactly zero pairs of blue jeans without holes and/or stains in them. Shopping's not such a bad thing really, I'll use it as an excuse to pick up some nice new things for work, so in that respect it's almost a good thing.

And I'm not actually sure who this little nibble was from, so I don't know which ratty in the Mischief I should get mad at. But I definitely think they were trying to tell me they love me.

It is vaguely heart shaped after all!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

The (Second) Call

On Tuesday the 14th of February, when other couples were celebrating Valentine's Day, Mr Click and I were making an important decision about the lives of our potential offspring. We ultimately went with the option to let them grow on to Day 5 in the hopes that we would know what we had to work with when we came to begin our frozen transfer, but despite knowing that this was the best thing to do, it was still a decision fraught with anxiety. I pretty much started second guessing our decision the minute we hung up the phone from the Embryologist.

Now if you've read my posts from the days following our second call from the Embryologist, you'll know that there was a happy ending to this choice. But at the time we didn't know which way it was going to go.

I spent the days that following playing a careful balancing game, searching for invisible signs which would tell me one way or the other which way the results were going to go. I saw a single magpie, that must mean we'd lost one; I saw a bunch of seals on the beach, that means they're all okay; there was something that may have been a roadkill rabbit at the side of the room, that's an embryo gone.

Somewhere in the back of my brain I kept a running tally of how many I suspected we would have by that date. I was optimistically thinking that we would maybe lose one a day, that seemed like a reasonable number and would leave us with five by Day 5. That would be one more than we'd had last time and it seemed like a good number to hope for. Each day, if my mental tally tied up with what I was expecting by that day then I would be happy, if not I would worry that we weren't going to have anything by the time Saturday rolled around.

I got into a routine as well. Each day I would load up the Advanced Fertility website and send Mr Click a picture message of what our Little Bubbles should be looking like that day. Then I would commit that image to memory and concentrate on it through the day, in the hopes that I could somehow send a message to my embryos that this was what they were supposed to look like.

I suppose that concentrating on the Bubbles the way I did helped me to feel like I was doing something to help. In reality there wasn't much I could do, and that made this one of the most difficult bits of the process so far. In a normal cycle you'd be preparing yourself for the transfer, but as we wouldn't be doing that so it kind of felt like waiting for an even longer wait.

I'd originally planned to go back to work on the Thursday, figuring that would give me plenty of time to recover from the op and would give me something to focus on, but by the time Thursday rolled around I was still walking as though I was about 80.

The cold I'd caught had me coughing and sneezing so everything was feeling uncomfortable, not only from the op but also from feeling pulled each time I coughed or sneezed. Sitting upright was pretty uncomfortable so I spent all my time sort of slouched down with my jeans unbuttoned, or wearing jammy bottoms. I was a very pretty sight and I spent most of the time knitting because all of my other hobbies (playing on the computer, letter writing, colouring in) all required the ability to sit upright or hunched over and that was just not happening!

I spent the whole day on Thursday in a state of nervous tension because I was convinced we would get the call to say they had all arrested. In a normal cycle, if they weren't doing so well in the incubator, you might get called back to do a Day 3 transfer. In a freeze all cycle this just is not an option.

In hindsight they probably didn't check them until Day 5 because there was no need to. They were confident that with ten embryos we would have something on Day 5, even if we did lose a number of them. Ten is a fantastic number to be going on with and there's bound to be a drop off along the way. But that didn't stop me from being nervous and jumping every time my phone made a noise!

On Saturday I really wanted a lie in and, despite the fact that the hospital said they would probably be calling in the afternoon, I insisted on us getting up early just in case they phoned.

Once again I was a big ball of nervous energy. I struggled to settle to anything and kept trying to find ways to distract myself. I'd sit next to my phone for ages, despite needing the loo, just in case we got the call.

And then as the day wore on without a phone call I started to panic.

The Embryologist had told me on the first call that if any of them were a little slow to develop then they might let them go on into Sunday before they attempted to freeze them, just in case they needed another day to catch up. So as lunch time approached, and passed, I started wondering if perhaps they were all really slow and they were going to phone us on Sunday instead. Perhaps none had made it and they saved those phone calls for 4pm (I don't know why, I think all sorts of crazy things when I'm anxious about my Bubbles).

I had a pretty comprehensive meltdown about this to Mr Click shortly before 2pm. Went back through to the living room, sat down and the phone rang.

My hands were shaking so much I almost hit the hang up button instead of answering.

The Embryologist confirmed who she was speaking to and immediately said 'first of all, it's good news', then went through all the details she needed to take from me before she could actually give me the good news. My first thought was 'phew! We must have five!'

Then she ran down our numbers, like we were on Top of the Pops or something: 'You had 19 eggs collected. 12 were mature. Ten fertilised. And you have nine fabulous embryos!'

I think I repeated 'nine' a couple of times because I couldn't quite believe it. I also felt a tinge of sadness for that little tenth one which didn't make it for whatever reason. It's kind of a silly thing to focus on because we've got nine but I still feel sad for the little one that didn't make it.

The Embryologist went on to let me know that all nine had been frozen for us, but also that she'd checked them against our last embryos and they were all better quality that what we had before! This is a massive deal. Our best one last time was the first one we transferred and was graded as a 5BB (they're given a number from 1-6 which is their stage of development, 6 being the highest; the letters denote the inner and outer cells and are graded from A-C). 5BB is good but that means that these must be 5AB/5BA or higher. I'm so hopeful that this means we're going to get a sticky one this time.

What was lovely was that I could tell how happy the Embryologist was on the phone. I guess they sometimes have to phone with not so nice news, letting people know they have no embryos or that they're poor quality, or that there's nothing to freeze. Letting someone know that 90% of their embryos have made it to Day 5 for freezing, when last time only 57% of them made it that far is probably a pretty nice call to make.

So that's where we're currently at.

I'm half hoping that someone at some point will ask me how many children I have so I can say 'none yet, but I have nine in the freezer' because these are the jokes that you make when you have IVF treatment and you're waiting to defrost your future children.

Because we've got to wait.

I can't believe we've been waiting two and a half weeks since then already. The time has both flown by and dragged. Hopefully in another couple of weeks I can start playing phone tag with the hospital and trying to arrange defrosting at least one of the little guys.

And then the angsting can start all over again. Will I respond to the drugs properly? Will my lining be alright? Will they thaw? Will they continue to expand? Will they implant? Will it stick?

I'll let you know how that goes when we get there.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017


... a bleeding hand.

It's entirely my fault.

I was lifting Fezziwig out the big cage to put him into the small cage, only to have him struggle to get back into the big cage. Normally if you hold Fez tight he'll stop the struggle, but this time it just made him struggle more. And ratties can have pretty sharp claws, so I got scratched.

It's a good job he's so cute.

... to walking.

We had lovely weather on Saturday and Sunday but I didn't get out at all, which I felt really guilty about. What with the stims, the op and then the cold/virus/flu I just wasn't up to walking for a long time and each day I could feel my chances of getting to Lothlorien slipping away.

So Sunday night I made the decision that I was going to walk on Monday morning. And walk we did. Since Monday I've been managing to get out morning and evening with Tara and I've been doing roughly 1.5 miles so as long as I keep this up I'm still on track to finish on the 31st of December.

And I've been able to see an old friend again too:

It's Billy Big Pig.

He's not actually forgiven me for abandoning him for over a month though. Both times I've been up to visit him he's had his nose stuck in his dinner and despite looking up and snuffling at me, I'm losing out to the food right now. Hopefully in another day or so we'll be on speaking terms at the gate again.

... Welsh.

And doing pretty well at it too.

I'm using Duolingo and I've joined a club on the app so I'm in direct competition with other Welsh learners. Within a couple of hours of joining the group I'd worked my way up to third in the rankings and since then I've climbed to first place. I'm terribly competitive and I have no intentions of relinquishing my top spot, so it's definitely keeping me motivated.

What've you been up to this week?

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Books 30 & 32 of 2016: Serpent Tide by K.L. Fogg & Saucerers and Gondoliers by Dominic Green

The books I'm reviewing today were both ones which I grabbed from my Kindle. Both came to me as free Kindle downloads on Amazon (I regularly scout out the freebies and download them while I can but don't often get around to reading them very quickly). They'd been on my Kindle probably since I got my first one way back in 2012 so last year I decided that the time had come to give them a go.

In Serpent Tide by K.L. Fogg, a young rich boy named Wesley Vandergrift lives with his highly protective mother in a mansion. Everything is provided for him but he is deeply unhappy, especially as his mother won't allow him the pets he desires. It's his greatest wish to be like his TV hero Jack Mackey, a sort of Steve Urwin character.

When Wesley meets someone who knows Jack everything starts to unravel and Wesley learns that he might not be who he was raised to be.

I'll wholeheartedly admit that I picked this book up because of the cover. It was in the Children's & Young Adult's section of Amazon and the cover image reminded me of the illustrations from A Series of Unfortunate Events. I'm a big fan of those books, and Brett Helquist's illustrations in general, so I added this to my virtual bookshelf.

I was kind of expecting a fantasy book with a cover like this. It is not a fantasy book. It's set in a thoroughly non-fantasy setting, but I felt like it required an equal measure of belief suspension as a fantasy book because everything was just so convenient. Imogene's money got her EVERYTHING! There were a very high number of contrived coincidences. I suspect that it wouldn't bother a younger reader but it frustrated me no end.

I also don't feel like the religious stuff really added anything to the story. There was a character who I think had been raised Catholic but had converted to Mormonism and she occasionally made comments but I don't see why that needed to be there. She could have been Jewish or an Atheist for all the difference it made to the story. It felt like a convenient way to explain why her family didn't get on with her but it wasn't necessary.

I read afterwards that the character was added in to help get the story published (with a Mormon publisher, I suspect) and that this is the author's religion also. I think if that was the angle they wanted to go down then they should've committed to it fully and made it an actual key part of the story, or just left it out all together, rather than the way it was done where it came across as an afterthought.

I'm sure that younger kids will lap up this series, but I don't feel the need to read on to the next book.

I followed this up by Dominic Green's Saucerers and Gondoliers. A little while ago I read another book by Dominic Green called Smallworld which was an interesting look at the sci-fi genre, with a hint of Terry Pratchett to his style.

This is the first in the Ant and Cleo book series. The two main characters happen to stumble across a flying saucer in the middle of an English park. And so it transpires that there's actually been a top secret space colony out in, well, space, for many years. The kids end up there embroiled in an intergalactic war between America, Britain and the United States of the Zodiac.

I couldn't help but be reminded of Terry Pratchett's foray into sci-fi writing in The Dark Side of the Sun and Strata. I did enjoy the start of Saucerers and Gondoliers but (not unlike my attempts at reading Sir Pterry's sci-fi offerings) I struggled to keep my focus when I was reading as the book went on.

I don't think this was just me though. The book began very strong but it seemed to wander a bit in the middle and I couldn't help but struggle to follow what was going on after that. The general idea was a good one though and I enjoyed the premise.

I did also like that fact that the hidden British space colony was called Gondolin. I felt like that was a little nod to Tolkien fans.

It has a fairly open-ended resolution which I guess allows it to follow on into the next book in the series. I think there are at least four of them in the Ant and Cleo series. But it's unlikely that I'll be picking any of those up. I have to admit that I kept falling asleep reading this one which was probably a combination of trying to read too late at night and also struggling to follow the story.

That said, Dominic Green's books are fun for a bit of lighthearted sci-fi escapism, so are probably worth picking up if that's your kind of thing.

Monday, 6 March 2017

The (First) Call & A Big Decision

After our egg collection and the news that we had 19 eggs, I was hoping for an easy night because I wanted to be up early for the call from the hospital to let us know what we had to work with. Of course eggs don't equal embryos or babies, so you're still having to spend some time in that limbo that's so familiar during IVF treatment while you wait to find out how the next step of the process has gone.

Immediately after the collection, while I was recovering, getting my shiny new Flow Book For Paper Lovers as a gift from Mr Click, and we were travelling home, a highly skilled professional was washing Mr Click's contribution to our future and stripping the outer cells off of my eggs. Once this was done they would be able to see how many mature eggs we had and for each egg a single sperm would be caught (they immobilise the poor things by whacking their tails!) then injected directly into the egg.

After this they're left in an incubator overnight to be checked the following morning to see if fertilisation has occurred. It's a bit of a nerve-wracking time because things could go either way at this point.

We were having ICSI treatment at this stage as opposed to traditional IVF. The difference being that instead of letting things happen 'naturally' with the eggs and sperm being allowed to get it on in a petri dish, we knew that none of our IVF eggs fertilised last time, so we're using the more invasive method. I was cautiously optimistic that since we had a very good rate of ICSI fertilisation last time that this time would be just as good. But there's no way of knowing until you actually get the call.

Last time we got the call at about 10:30am so I was expecting a similar time frame for the call this time. We planned to be up at 9am to allow us time for a bit of a lie-in. It was much needed because I had a pretty terrible night's sleep. I was uncomfortable from the egg retrieval and in my fragile state I had caught Mr Click's cold so I was snuffly and sneezy and coughy all night (which did just about zero to make me feel more comfortable, as you can imagine).

When we got up and made our way through to the living room (our phones don't get a signal in the bedroom) and I discovered I had a missed call from around 8:30am. I immediately felt like the worse parent in the world, not there to answer the phone when my potential babies were there in Glasgow and their babysitter was trying to get in touch with me.

Luckily she phoned back very soon after we got the message and it was with really good news:

The Embryologist let us know that of the 19 eggs collected, 12 of them were mature and suitable for injecting (immature eggs won't fertilise so they don't inject those ones). By that morning ten of them had successfully fertilised.

And so we had a choice to make.

The original plan had been to freeze everything we had on Day 1 (that day) but we had so many embryos that we were being given another option. We could allow them to grow on to Day 5 (blastocysts) and freeze them then. There's pros and cons to both options.

Freezing on Day 1 would mean we would know we had ten embryos, but we wouldn't know what quality they were. They could be potentially fantastic embryos, or they might not make it past Day 1. From what I understand they also use a slightly different technique for freezing them at that stage. When we came to use them they would defrost roughly half of them and try to bring them all on to Day 5. The bonus would be that if it looked like they were struggling we could do a Day 3 transfer.

The other problem with freezing on Day 1 is that they only have two cells. When an embryo is thawed it can lose cells and losing a cell when you have only two is pretty problematic (though an embryo can regenerate its cells). By Day 5 they can have 30-40 cells so losing a cell is less of a big deal.

Of course, taking the embryos to Day 5 isn't without its problems as well.

One thing in our favour was that we had successfully taken embryos to blastocyst stage before. The risk was that last time we'd been on alert to go in for transfer on Day 3 if they had started to struggle; this time that wasn't an option because we couldn't do a fresh transfer. So you could leave them all to grow for five days and end up with nothing at the end of it.

The pro to going to Day 5 is that it allows the Embryologist to identify the quality of the embryos. When they are only two cells there's not much to go on so they are (in her words) 'freezing blind'; they might be great or they might not, the only way to tell is to let them grow.

Mr Click and I hadn't really discussed this too much beforehand and there was a bit of pressure to make a decision with the Embryologist on the phone (I don't doubt that if I'd asked for a little bit of time we could've called back a short while later to let her know our choice). I'd kind of made up might mind of what I wanted to do while she was explaining our options, but of course they're Mr Click's embryos too and I needed to let him hear the options and have a say in what we did too.

So I laid it out for him and he straight away came to the same decision as me. We had to give them a chance to get to Day 5. It would be heartbreaking to lose any of them, but it would be more heartbreaking to freeze them, go through all the process for a frozen transfer and then not have anything to work with. At least letting them grow for five days would allow us to know where we stood (more or less, since there's still the risk of the thaw failing) by the end of the week.

With that I gave the word to the Embryologist and rang off.

And it was time to wait a little longer and wonder if we'd made the right decision.