Friday, May 29, 2009

Teacher tales

I had this sad conversation with Oldest the other day. He was sitting at the kitchen counter after dinner and I was washing the dishes.

Oldest: Mommy! Mommy!
Me: Yes, baby.
Oldest: When I grow up, I want to be a bus driver!
Me: I thought you wanted to be a teacher when you grew up?
Oldest: I don't want to be a lady when I grow up.

At which point I almost fell over from sadness. The way he said 'lady' was if someone had told him it was a bad word. And who told him that only women are teachers? N thought it might have been something he picked up on rather than it being something someone told him, but still. Unbelievably sad. I would love it if Oldest ever decided he'd like to become a teacher, inspire others to learn and discover new things.

All of my favourite teachers have been men. My favourite ever?

Mr Jacobson, 2nd grade. Best teacher ever. I have very few actual memories of him, but I remember his encouragement more than anything. His passion for reading, his enthusiasm in getting me to read more and more. My love of books was already there, but Mr Jacobson helped it along and for that I'm forever grateful. It ended badly though.

Mr Jacobson had taken the whole class to the music room for a lesson. Suddenly, as he was playing the piano he fell over. Someone called an ambulance and the last time I remember him clearly, he was on a stretcher. He'd had a stroke right there in front of us. He wasn't a young man anymore. The rest of the year, we had a substitute teacher and he retired.

I was so upset. I can still see my 7 year old self trying to keep from crying when my dad asked if there was anything I wanted to do for Mr Jacobson. I told him I wanted to buy him a gift. My dad took me to the mall and we wondered around for ages. I didn't know what I was looking for. And then we went into this weird shop that sold things from around the world. Mirrors, frames, jewellery, that sort of thing. I don't remember whose idea it was, mine or my dad's, but once that idea was put into my head, I ran with it. I hadn't been that excited about anything before that time.

We ended up buying two bamboo windchimes. I wrote a note to Mr Jacobson and put it in the box with one of them. I told him thank you, and that he was my favourite teacher, that I'd miss him and remember him. I wrote that the second windchime I'd hang on my front porch and that everytime I heard the wind blow through the windchimes, I'd think of him and remember what a great teacher he'd been to me.

And I did.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reading, and so on

It was just days after I left a comment on a friend's blog about how I'll never understand twitter, that I logged into my twitter account and now I'm hooked and there's no going back.

And then, a few weeks after leaving yet another comment on a different friend's blog about how I'll never quite get used to reading books from a .pdf file and here I am - doing nothing but reading the trashy romance novels that Harlequin have given away for free.

Funny, isn't it? How things happen? Clearly, I'm not very self-aware. Because I think I was also putting pressure on myself to blog everday, when what I really needed was a mini-break from it all. (even though my google reader is pushing 1000 - I'll get around to all your great posts eventually!)

Anyway, I like books with romance in them, but I never thought I'd enjoy these Harlequin/Mills and Boon type books as much as I have. If you click on the link above, I've skipped over the weird vampire/witch blood story entirely and have left the stories involving babies to last because that's not really my thing, but I've been suprised at the rest. I'm not a total convert, but they really did drag me out of my reading funk. I think I just needed to try something new. And maybe I've been craving a love story. Luckily, they're showing The Thorn Birds on TV and that's fit into my recent mood perfectly.

I've been to the library this morning and now I feel all excited about reading again. I had to return everything that I had checked out before. I had some great books, but it felt like too much pressure to read them because it's the next in the series or because everyone says this book is really good so I must like it, and so on... so, for the second time this year, I just returned everything, wiped the slate clean and started again. I actually felt relieved when I'd left those books behind. Is that a normal reaction? It occurred to me that I haven't shared my library list in awhile, so here they are:

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
The Gathering by Anne Enright
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
Engleby by Sebastian Faulks
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
The Sorrows of an American by Siri Hustvedt

Where should I start?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I'll huff and I'll puff...

Oldest has been having nightmares lately. He woke up in the night crying and afraid and the first thing this morning he tells me is that a wolf was after him in his dream (but he 'was very brave'). Later, he asks me if we live in a brick house. Oh my poor, sweet little boy who's afraid of the wolf from the Three Little Pigs. Fairy tales are quite frightening, aren't they?

Luckily, we do live in a brick house.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I really just can't get stuck into a book these days. I'm not sure why. So I read a book and 35 pages later put it down and pick up another, read a bit, put it down, pick up another. I did finish a book today (Tithe by Holly Black) but now I'm back where I started, not really sure what to read next. I was quite excited with the books I'd checked out from the library, even excited with these books, and once I started, it all just went away...

Starter For Ten by David Nicholls started off great, quite funny. But since I'd watched the film with James McAvoy over Christmas, I knew where the story was going. It felt like the movie used all the funny bits from the book and then made the scenes even funnier that it wasn't worth carrying on with the book.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was one I'd looked forward to for ages, and I felt like I could get interested in the plot and the characters, but Death's little announcements annoyed me too much. It felt too stop-and-go to carry on and I really wanted to just skip over them, but I couldn't, thinking I'd be missing things. Maybe I'll give this one another chance someday, but for now? It's going back to the library.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy I always thought that this was a book that N had read a long time ago and really loved, but I'm not sure that it is anymore. From the first 37 pages it just doesn't seem like the type of book he'd read. Not that that's really important, but it's just not the book for me right now either. Too many characters, little scraps of information given and not explained. I just did not have the patience for this. It must just be me, right?

Freaky Green Eyes by Joyce Carol Oates was a book I picked up thinking 'hmm, maybe I need some good angsty YA' and since I really enjoyed After the Wreck I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings and Flew Away from a few months ago, I thought I'd try something else of hers. I wanted to love it, I did. It started off interesting, but then it seemed like it was heading in a different direction than I thought it would be and I just couldn't be bothered.

I have no idea what I'm looking for, what I feel like. I don't like reading slumps. I want a great book to fall into that picks me up and takes me someplace else. That book is out there, let's hope it's not long before I find it!

Speaking of things that don't last, N bought a boucy castle last summer but we never got around to putting it up until last weekend. I spent forever with one of those awful foot-pedal pumps to inflate this thing, for the boys to play on it for half an hour, get bored and run off and then for the whole castle to fall over in the night deflated! You can be sure that thing got returned the very next day. But look how cute they are on it?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Oldest and Littlest

Aren't my boys lovely? For me, these two photos seem to capture Oldest's and Littlest's own personalities perfectly.

Nothing else to add today. My assignment is finished and has been sent off to my tutorial. Phew, that really is a load off my mind.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Weekly Geeks - Local literary connections

I couldn't pass up the latest Weekly Geeks, in which we're asked to take readers on a literary tour of our hometown. While I didn't find much of interest for authors local to my particular town of Wokingham. However, I did find some wonderful literary connections with the county I live in, Berkshire. The BBC compiled a list already, but here are the highlights...

Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, was born in Newbury and Watership Down features his love of the British countryside. The rabbits all came from south of Newbury in the Berkshire downs.

Also born in Newbury (and not deepest, darkest Peru) is Michael Bond, creator of the loveable Paddington Bear!

The author of Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame lived with his grandmother in Cookham Deane and then spent his last years in Pangbourne and based his book on the animal life around the Thames river.

Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K Jerome, features quite a few places in Berkshire including Wargrave, Reading, Sonning and Pangbourne. Apparently 'one does not linger in the neighbourhood of Reading' according to the book!

Jane Austen, of course was born and raised in Hampshire, but Jane and her sister, Cassandra both attended the Abbey School in Reading. The school has some similarities to Mrs Goddard's Casual School in Emma.

Also, the most recent movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly, was filmed in Basildon Park in Lower Basildon.

Oscar Wilde wrote the poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol, after serving a two year sentence there for 'gross indecency.'

And for some near-misses... In November of 1919, T E Lawrence changes trains at Reading station, where a bag containing the only copy of his first draft of Seven Pillars of Wisdom is stolen and never recovered.

Charles Dickens gave a public reading in Reading at the Literary, Scientific and Mechanics Institute (now the Great Expectations pub) at its opening in 1843. Dickens was almost persuaded to become the Liberal MP for Reading.

See here for more Berkshire literary connections, including Ian Fleming, HG Wells, Percy Bysse Shelley and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Berkshire's Jane Austen
Paddington heads to Newbury
Who spawned Mr Toad?
Three Men in A Boat in Berkshire
Interview: Richard Adams
John Betjeman's poem Slough

Thank you plus bits

Thank you all for the lovely comments and emails regarding my previous post. My mother in law is an angel and has offered to look after Littlest for an afternoon every week while Oldest is in pre-school, and just the thought of such freedom for a few hours has lifted my mood considerably.

N took me to the movies THIS weekend instead of next, and we went to see Coraline in 3D. It was lovely doing something together. He mentioned something about going to the cinema every month! I could have clapped my hands.

My assignment is due tomorrow. I still have work to do on it, but it will get done!

I'm behind on my May book reviews. It's unlikely that I'll post them soonish, but look out for reviews for Falling Man by Don DeLillo, Savvy by Ingrid Law, Small Island by Andrea Levy and Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka.

I've also read City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare and Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr, but I don't know how I feel about reviewing them just now, as they're both sequels. I'm still thinking about it.

Do you Twitter? Last month it felt like everyone was posting their views about twitter, usually how much they love it and how addictive it is. I never really got it, so I thought I'd spend a few weeks using it on a trial basis, and now I love it too. I normally check Twitter first thing when I log onto my computer! I still haven't gotten the hang of it all, but let me know if you use it especially if I haven't followed you yet.

A proper post coming soon, just not today!

Friday, May 15, 2009


It's been a rough week for me. N has been working really late hours. Littlest has a slight cold and four new teeth coming through which means he isn't sleeping well at night, waking up at crazy hours and not sleeping at all during the day. Oldest is 3 1/2, which just means he's a constant source of energy and noise. My next assignment is due this Tuesday.

Any one of these would have made the week hard. But all of these combined made for one of the longest weeks of my life. I'm so tired and run down and constantly on the edge of a breakdown. A complete stranger at toddler group yesterday came up to me and offered to hold Littlest for a little because I looked so 'weary.' I've been comfort eating like nobody's business. I've been stumbling my way through studying with very little useable results. I've been trying to soothe myself by watching comfort films (Center Stage) and reading (four book reviews pending). But still, yesterday, I actually laid on the floor and cried, from frustration, exhaustion.

N should be home early today and he'll take the boys shopping with him so I have at least an hour's break. My mother in law is normally around to provide relief babysitting, but she's been doing work in her house this week. She's taking Oldest overnight tonight and promises to look after Littlest for an afternoon next week while Oldest is in pre-school. N's made plans for us to go to the cinema next weekend to make up for this week. I plan on taking it easy today, with nothing more stressful planned than a trip to the library and may consider asking for an extension for my assignment.

How do other people cope? Surely it's not just me at the brink of tears somedays?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lego Joshua

I can't bring myself to write anything interesting today, so I will leave you with these latest pictures of Joshua taken at Legoland over the weekend. Enjoy!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Musical Memories... You Were Always On My Mind

I don't talk about N much on this blog. It's down to him. He likes his privacy and while he has had his own blog on several different occasions, he usually keeps himself to himself. I don't like to share what he wouldn't share himself, which isn't much. He doesn't read this blog regularly but I hope he doesn't mind me sharing this small bit of information.

N grew up quite musical. He went to both violin lessons and piano lessons from a really early age. And while he did go further with the violin, he prefers to play the piano. He grew up playing classical music, but now he prefers either to play modern songs and sing along (because he has a great singing voice as well) or write his own music. These days, of course, he doesn't get much time to play as he works long hours, we're pretty busy on the weekends and two small boys love all the daddy-time they can get. But I love to hear him play. I don't think there's anything I could say to persuade him to play the violin for me, but him playing the piano for me is a much better bet.

I've always wanted to learn how to play an instrument. Any instrument, I'm not fussy. In fact, I did try to learn to play the piano when I moved here 9 years ago. But I didn't learn how to read music properly until I was 18 and still I'd get confused. I'm not exactly tone-deaf, but it is close. And I don't have the time or the dedication. It's just one of those things that I'd like to do but not enough to put the work in. Kind of like my novel. But I'm always impressed with people who can play. I think it's sexy. Hands, I find people (N, mostly, but not entirely) who do things with their hands incredibly sexy.

I'm not a big Elvis fan, I like his music but I'm not overly-crazy about it. Maybe that's why I hadn't heard of You Were Always On My Mind until I'd moved here to England and N played it for me on the piano. It wasn't the first song he played for me, it isn't the song he's played most often and it actually isn't my most favourite song that he's played for me, but everytime I hear this song, it reminds me of him, which is why I chose it. It's kind of sad and pretty at the same time.

Can you think of a song that reminds you of what attracts you to your partner?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

York, Part Three

OK, so this will be my third and final York update so I'm trying to squeeze a lot into this one. We actually stayed in a B&B really closed to York Minster, but we didn't end up actually visiting until the third or so day into our trip. It was beautiful inside.

Unfortunately, Oldest and Littlest were not too keen on the historical aspects of our visit at all. In fact, we went just before an afternoon mass was beginning and Joshua decided that was the right time to yell out 'MEH!' over and over again as loud as he could!

It was our first holiday as a family of four, so quite a lot of leeway was given in terms of what to eat and drink when we were out. Oldest may have had icecream every single day, plus sweets and chocolates and more Fruit Shoots than he'd normally have in a month. And he loved it. A lot.

And Littlest did very well despite being cooped up in his car seat or pushchair for long periods of time. I was really impressed that he managed to keep that gorgeous smile on his face despite everything being so entirely different for him.

This was taken at the lovely Museum Gardens. Look how close that squirrel is! I managed to hold Oldest off until N took this photo. Oldest loves chasing things.

The best decision we made while on this trip, was to book a sightseeing tour on one of the open-top buses. The bus driver was so friendly and helpful. He even let Oldest sit in the driver's seat for a photo. Oldest still talks about the bus driver in York. Thank you, York Pullman Bus Company!

We did also take a river boat tour, which was just as lovely and informative, but LIttlest was having a bad afternoon by that point! But look how much he loved the bus tour!

And finally, Littlest and I and the Yorkshire moors. We decided to take a trip out to the moors and I ended up visiting the Bronte Parsonage Museum, home of the Brontes! I've been inspired to re-read Wuthering Heights in the hopes that this time I might not hate it and also attempt other lesser-known novels by the Brontes. Visiting other author's homes is definately a must-do activity.

Friday, May 08, 2009

REVIEW: Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde

I had no idea that there was a book before the movie. And I loved the movie (doesn't everyone love the movie?), so when I saw Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde in the library I grabbed it straight away, came home, made lunch, took my kid to pre-school and in my head I was counting down the minutes until I'd be free to start to reading this book.

I feel like the plot of this book is pretty well-known by now, but here it is anyway. Trevor McKinney, spurred on by an assignment in class, thinks of a way in which he might be able to change the world by helping three people in a big way. If each of those three help three more people who each help another three people than eventually the world may change for the better by paying it forward.

I hated to put this book down, and I read it in little snatches here and there until it was finished. And while the movie isn't 100% faithful to the book, the book was very similar to the movie in terms of the way it made me feel, especially when I read of the acts of kindness that people were doing for complete strangers. I thought the cast of characters were fully-developed and interesting, and the book definately felt more gritty and real than the movie. But without fail, just like with the movie, I sobbed like a little baby at the end. This book could have gone completely over the top in feel-good oversentimentality, but it didn't. I think there was just the right amount of emotion.

And the entire time I was reading this book I was feeling guilty. The lovely JJ over at tea stains had been the subject of a Pay It Forward awhile back and offered three readers of her blog to be the recipients of her own Pay It Forward, for which I was lucky enough to be included. It was wonderful to recieve that package in the post, see the lovely items that she chose for me. And of course I'll pay it forward in my own way, I've just been agonising over it, overthinking it possibly and putting off blogging about it.

Well, here we are. I won't put it off any longer. I offer the first three people that would like to take part in this a gift. I have no idea yet what the gift will contain or when I will be able to send it to you, but three of you will recieve something. All I ask is that you offer the same to three other people, preferably something uplifting, or hopeful. This is open worldwide and please state clearly in the comments if you'd like to be chosen for this and leave an email address so I am able to contact you. I'm feeling nervous now.

IMDb listing for Pay It Forward
Catherine Ryan Hyde's website including videos of her answering the three big questions concerning the book: how did she come up with the idea? does she think PIF can really change the world? and why did the book end the way it did?

And if you somehow missed seeing the film when it came out, here is a movie trailer:

Thursday, May 07, 2009

REVIEW: The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

I decided to read The Cellist of Sarajevo after Natasha's review on Maw Books Blog. Like her, I had no previous knowledge before reading this book of the Siege of Sarajevo in which the citizens of Sarajevo were attacked and assaulted from the surrounding hillsides between April of 1992 until February of 1996. During that time, after a mortar attack kills 22 people queuing for bread, a musician sits in the street and plays his cello for 22 days in a row in order to honour the dead.

The Cellist of Sarajevo doesn't focus on the cellist himself but the hope that his music brings to people while being surrounded by such violence and despair, where everyday occurrences like crossing the street, finding food and water for their family is fraught with danger.

It was a sad story, but very hopeful as well. Each of the characters reminisce about the Sarajevo before they knew before the war, how differently their lives have changed and what it means to keep hold of their humanity in such dire circumstances. I wasn't thrilled with the ending, but I was still glad to have read this book. I felt very emotional while reading this book, constantly close to tears reading about the strength of the human spirit to withstand such atrocities. And atrocities that happened so recently as well.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

York, Part Two

I'm getting farther and farther behind on my blog. Drafts keep piling up and I can't seem to find the right balance with everything. I'm sure most bloggers struggle with this and I'm sure in a few days I'll have found my feet again. Until then, here are some more photos of my recent holiday in York.

These first two photos were taken at Clifford's Tower, the scene of a terrible massacre of Jews in 1190.

The walk up those steps was very long and hard work carrying Littlest. The views from the top were very pretty though. The top of Clifford's Tower as well as walking on the medieval city walls of York had a major impact on my vertigo. Both well worth doing, especially as the York has the most intact city walls in all of England.

Here's Oldest and Littlest indulging in a moment of brotherly love after we'd walked a portion of the walls, which you can see behind them. It was such lovely weather while we were up there, and both boys were reasonably well-behaved throughout!

And, to wrap this up, here is one of Oldest in the Yorkshire Museum Garden atop some of the ruins of St Mary's Abbey. Both were very pretty and it was amazing to be surrounded by so much history and beauty.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts (my first)

I just got back from toddler group with Littlest. It's a lot easier going to those things with just one kid. I felt a bit left out though. There were people there I knew, people I used to be close with, and now I feel as though we're all strangers drifting around each other. Is this my fault? Was it me that was supposed to keep in touch with them? Is it too late? All because Oldest goes to preschool on the afternoons that we used to have coffee with them all.

I had a great weekend. But it also made me a little sad. My nephew is seriously underweight. In terms of weight, he's actually in the half percentile for his age. .05% which is why he goes to hopsital everytime he has a cold virus and goes off his milk or food. Poor child. Makes me hold my two chubby boys closer.

I have my university tutorial tonight. I'm really proud of myself because I've actually scheduled the next five years of university courses for myself. And I'm really excited. And maybe for the first time I really believe that this can happen, and that I can do it.

I'm reading Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian at the moment. I'm really liking it and it's making me wonder what my reasons were for not reading it when it came out and everyone was talking about it? But even though I'm enjoying it, I also keep glancing at the next book on my pile...

N just bought Merlin annual passes, so now our summer is all sorted out!

I'm eating leftover Chinese for lunch. It's crazy how much I adore Chinese leftovers.

I really should be hanging my new curtains. Or sitting out in the garden reading my book.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sunday Salon: April Books

1. Marshmallows For Breakfast by Dorothy Koomson
2. Audrey, Wait by Robin Benway
3. After the Quake, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, And Flew Away by Joyce Carol Oates
4. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
5. Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen
6. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
7. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
8. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
9. The Cellist of Saravejo by Steven Galloway
10. Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde

It's a bank holiday weekend here in England, and my nephew is in town for a few days, so all I have time for today is a recap of the books I read in April...

I always find it a bit strange to look at the results of my reading month. Mostly because by the end of the month, it feels as though I read that first book on the list in a different lifetime. Like each month really is a lifetime in terms of books read. Does it seem that way to you?

April was pretty heavy on the YA in the middle and I tried balancing it out at the end with more adult books. I think Pay It Forward snuck in as my favourite read of the month though I did enjoy every book this month and would be hard pressed to choose a least favourite. They all brought something different with them.

City of Bones and Wicked Lovely were first in two series of books but I'm burnt out with YA, especially YA fantasy so I won't be picking up the sequels anytime soon. I'm also burnt out on Dorothy Koomson. Though I have Cupid Effect with me, I think reading all of her books in a short period of time has been tiring. I think time will make me enjoy these books more.

I've finished The Cellist of Sarajevo and Pay It Forward in the last days of April, bringing my monthly average up to 9 books read a month. No real plans for reading in May except to keep at it and possibly start to focus on the 1% well-read challenge, as so far I've only completed 1 book out of a possible 10-13 (The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan) and I'm nothing if not competitive in regards to this challenge! It feels as though I'm falling behind, and we can't have that...

What're you reading at the moment? What are your reading plans for May?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

REVIEW: Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

Mister Pip is one of those books that has been talked about a lot on other book blogs. I'd seen the name, may have glanced at some of the reviews, but nothing really sunk in. Maybe my brain turned off at the mention of war on a tropical island which is very far removed for me and my life. And then it occurred to me the significance of the title and its connection with Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I've never claimed to be very bright, clearly!

Mister Pip is told from the point of view of a young girl on an island in Papua New Guinea (I believe) during a civil war. Most of the men on the island have left, leaving the women and children to fend for themselves and carry on as best as possible when the only white man left on the island, Mr Watts, re-opens the school and uses Great Expectations as his only teaching guide.

I loved the beginning more than the ending. I loved watching Matilda fall in love with Great Expectations, seeing that connection being made, the escape into a new world and place inhabited by other people. I especially enjoyed reading of the islander's own customs and beliefs as the students' mothers come in to teach what they know. I enjoyed the conflict between Matilda's new-found respect for Mr Dickens and how it went against her mother's religious beliefs.

But halfway through the novel, when the turning point happens the whole tone of the novel switches to something more dark and untouchable. Reading the second half of the book seems to negate some of the first half in order to tie up unresolved issues. I don't want to spoil the plot and I still very much enjoyed this book, I just felt that a lot of the magic of the first half of the book was lost amongst the ending.

Have you read this book? What do you think of books within books?

Friday, May 01, 2009

1st of May

I may have mentioned it before, but I will say it again. The 1st of May is a day where things happen in our family. On a smaller scale, it's the wedding anniversary of an aunt and uncle, it's my grandmother's birthday if she were still alive, it's the day my sister-in-law finalised the purchase of her first house.

But the big things are these... it's my sister-in-law's birthday and also the anniversary of my father-in-law's passing nine years ago. It's a day where no one is quite sure what to do, mourn or celebrate. Births, death, weddings, first houses. The 1st of May.

A few years ago on 1st May 2006, I had my own personal experience with the things that happen on the 1st of May. I thought I'd re-share these experiences with you today, especially as I had quite the small audience the first time around:

It started off as heartburn, like I wrote in my previous blog. At 2 o'clock in the morning, and I just couldn't get back to sleep after that, and I stayed up and read my book, like I already wrote. That's when things changed. It was morning my husband had gone out to do some errands later in the day, and I was still pretty tired but I was feeling better. The pain wasn't there as much (I could still feel something) but not painful. I thought it'd be all right to have a muffin for breakfast, and some settlers to get rid of that feeling in my stomach. But it didn't work. Everything just became more and more painful, and I found myself in the downstairs loo violently vomiting, not once or twice but three of four times, just more and more until they became dry painful heaves. Boy woke up (from the sound?) and I just couldn't pick him up. That was the worst feeling ever, that my son needed me and I couldn't do it. So I sat there sobbing, 'I just can't do it' and patting him until he calmed down. I like to think he knew I was in a bad way, but probably not. Luckily, my husband came home just then and said let's go to A & E...

I barely got a chance to say goodbye to my little boy. It just hurt too much for me to think of anything else. I regret not taking the time then to give him a little hug or something. I had to sit in the car for a minute before my husband was ready, and I was so hot and feverish at that time that this seemed to be the most unbearable thing ever (ha! and this was only the start) Luckily the hospital isn't too far away from where we live.. but every little bump in the road or turning jostled my stomach and made me want to heave some more. I got out of the car (as delicately as I could) and hobbled my way into A & E. I'd never been in there before, I didn't know what to expect. Thinking about it afterwards I guess I was expecting a scene from ER, and no wonder I was disappointed. Anyway, maybe for once in my life I wasn't being melodramatic at all, I limped up to the lady at the counter, and managed to wheeze out 'I'm .... in ... pain' expecting what? for her to jump up and put me in a wheelchair maybe? For her to call a doctor possibly? At least for her to have some compassion and feeling, maybe ask how long I've had the pain? No, she looked at me, bored as could be, and said in a voice I'll never forget 'date of birth?' This was followed by 'Name?' 'Address?' and 'Place of birth?' before she told me to take a seat. I had a look around and it was like 30 feet between me and the nearest seat. I really didn't think I'd make it.

So, in the end, I made it in to see a doctor. A few of them, I think, and a surgeon. There was more vomiting (they tried to give me something for the pain, my stomach wasn't having any of it) and waiting. For the most part I think a lot of that time was spent with me whimpering in pain and making little noises. I know I'm kind of a baby about pain, but this was different. I didn't think I was going to get through it. They admitted me into the hospital (and I was thinking this was a bad case of heartburn!) and when the doctor (surgeon? who knows) came to see me, he said 'so, you have pancreatitis' (the suspense is over!) 'pancreatitis is very serious, it could be fatal as it could cause organ failure...' how should I know what he said after that he said it COULD BE FATAL. I start to think all sort of things. I'm 23, and I could be on my deathbed. I didn't kiss Boy goodbye before I left. How did my life get to this point? Could be fatal, could be fatal, could be fatal.

So, I had pancreatitis (which means inflammation of the pancreas). Yes, it was serious, but in no way was I near my death at all. I was in a lot of pain and it could have been a lot more serious than it was - but it wasn't. And you know what the treatment is for pancreatitis? Wait it out. Just wait until it's finished being all agonising and painful, and then the doctors can do something. So I was doped out on morphine for those first few days, but really, it wasn't helping that much. Just gave me some strange, strange dreams. Being in hospital can be incredibly humiliating and degrading. I had gone from having a nice weekend visiting the garden centre, playing with my son, to being hooked up to an IV drip, with a catheter, waiting desperately for someone to give me my next morphine injection. But it could have been worse. Apparently, pancreatitis is brought on by two different things, gall stones or alcoholism. If it had been alcoholism, things could have been so much worse and my story might have ended differently.. the pain and the risk would have been far greater. For me, they had to wait until the inflammation was less so that they could operate and remove my gall bladder, which they did successfully. 10 days in hospital, but at least I won't have to go through it all again (no gall bladder means no gall stones which means no more pancreatitis). I didn't have to worry that my son wasn't being cared for (he had his daddy and his grandma, bless them both) though I did miss him terribly. But he's OK. And so am I.

I didn't want any visitors except my husband, my son and my mother-in-law. People offered, but in those first few days, when I had the catheter in, it was just too much for me to think about - people coming in and seeing my bag of urine hanging off the side of my bed. And I was still in pain during those days. I don't think I know anyone well enough (husband aside) to start crying in front of them. So I said no to them all. They took the catheter out once they thought I was able enough to hobble to the toilet, but even then they told me they had to monitor the amounts I passed. Everytime I went to the toilet, I had to ring the nurse's bell, and say 'I've just peed, go have a look' That was hard. It seemed like all my dignity was being stripped slowly away from me. But there were funny times as well, and I had to hold on to those while I was in there. Once, I remember I had to go to the loo desperately, but there weren't any of those bedpan thingys in my toilet, that I had to wee in, so one of the nurses ran off to get me some more. I was just standing there, with my IV next to me, wriggling a bit, swaying sort of trying not to think of just how badly I needed to pee, and another nurse walks past my room, smiles and says 'It's always nice to have a little dance'

I had some mighty odd dreams while I was in hospital. That first night (the night with the MOST morphine in my system) I swore I woke up with a bad case of multiple personality disorder. I was seriously worried that I had spoken to a nurse or someone while I had these other two voices in my head. In fact, I think my brain was altered in some way whilst there, permanently. Everytime I think of my operation, I think of surgeons pitching a tent under my skin and zooming their remote controlled cars into my stomach to remove my gall bladder. It's more interesting, I'm sure, to what actually happened - and the memory makes me happy.

Books read just before or during my hospital visit (and therefore will always remind me of this experience):

Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (just before)
Around the World in 80 Dates by Jennifer Cox
The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

And there we have it. The 1st of May strikes again. I cringe reading what I wrote back then, not only because it's written so poorly, but because of the horrific nature of the whole thing. I remember the agony I was in, the loneliness of my hospital room, the humiliation of having a catheter, the despair of being away from my not-yet 6 month old son.

Since then, of course, our family has had no major incidents or anything interesting to report. I hope it continues in that way. This year, my sister in law, her husband and my gorgeous nephew are down for a visit. I'm hoping this day will bring nothing but smiles and laughter as we spend a quiet evening with family. I hope that for you too.