To err is human..

It feels like ages since I’ve tapped away on the keyboard to write something on any of my blogs or my website. Life has been busy and there have been a lot of changes that I’ve been making – most of them for the better. On one hand, I’ve made some positive lifestyle changes and on the other hand I’ve also had some bad experiences that I’m trying to move on from and which don’t sting so much anymore. There have also been some once in a lifetime things – my Mum’s 60th birthday! She had a lovely weekend with her friends and family in Brighton (the last weekend) and for her birthday before that she got treated to a few things that my sister and I arranged in London.

We had both attempted to get her a massage at the Lush Spa in London (in Chelsea – very posh area!), but they had a training day/week so we had to change our plans and bought her the voucher to go another time, for the Synaesthesia massage. It sounds like an unique experience – fairly expensive but since it was her 60th we thought she deserved to be pampered! On the day itself, we had arranged for her to have a manicure at the Covent Garden Salon, which was lovely – very friendly staff and we all felt comfortable and welcome (none of us are particularly ‘salon’ goers – maybe only a few times a year for haircuts!). Mum got treated to the ‘deluxe’ manicure, and chose a neutral pink, and learnt a few tips for growing her nails. Sarah and I thought that a manicure was the best way to go as she is always worrying about her nails and biting them, and gets upset when they don’t grow that well!

It was a lovely surprise for her because we then took her to have afternoon tea at the Strand Palace hotel, at Johnston’s Brasserie. The afternoon tea there is £12 a head, so it wasn’t too steep and you get a lot for your money – a huge tier of finger sandwiches, scones and cakes and also refills of tea. There is a choice between the chocolate edition and the traditional afternoon tea – but for reasons I’ll go into later, we decided to go for the traditional one. It was yummy – definitely worth it. The sandwiches were a selection of cucumber with white bread, cheese and tomato, salmon and cream cheese, and egg mayonnaise. The scones were heavenly – not rock hard and fluffy inside. We didn’t have any cake because we were stuffed! So Mum asked for a doggy bag to take home the rest of the scones and cakes for Dad and Dan to enjoy (trust me, there were like 6 scones between us and around 8 cakes – too much for three people!).

Later on we had a visit to the National Portrait Gallery to see some photography exhibitions by Mary McCartney and another by Jason Bell. My sister loves photography, and she’s turned everyone else on to it too! I love collecting images and making collages with them by sticking them on my white wardrobe with white tack. It’s probably only in the past two years that I’ve started to appreciate photography more, but I’ve always loved the visual arts. Mary McCartney has taken some striking photos of famous people – in particular I loved the photo of Vanessa Redgrave and of Tracy Emin posing as Frida Kahlo. She captures a mood and aspects of someone’s personality perfectly, helping us to see different aspects of someone that we might not know otherwise.

Jason Bell’s exhibition was exciting to us because it was all about British people moving to New York and about their sense of place, their love for both places, what they feel and love about New York and how that had impacted on their sense of nationality. Most of the sitters discussed the feeling that New York felt like a place where anything was possible, a place where they could reinvent themselves or discover something new. It was interesting that a lot of them missed the British sense of humour – described as self-deprecating! When I went to New York in 2005 when I had turned 21, I felt like everything was big, the world was larger and more open.

Whereas when I go into central London, there is a sense of rebellion mixed with tradition, a place of huge contradictions. A lot of the time, London doesn’t always feel to me like a place of possibilities. I love the cultural side of London and that there is always something to see and do. Yet it doesn’t yet feel to me like a place of possibility, probably because I can’t find a job and because the recession is still affecting everything. Anyway, our Mum had a lovely birthday – we also went to Brighton for the weekend, which is probably another post for later on – we did a lot and had a good time.

Signing is going well, learning Stage 2 is obviously harder than Stage 1, but everyone is getting more confident and the first exam is on 16th December. The first exam is basically watching a story and then answering multiple choice questions. I’m feeling more connected with the deaf world since I started learning again and it feels positive. I haven’t felt this connected to deaf culture or sign-language since I did my MA. Maybe what made me feel like something was missing is the chance to immerse myself in that aspect of my life, since when I did my MA I was researching deaf culture, deaf identity and deaf politics. I feel at my most whole when I connect to certain parts of my identity – that of being a woman, deaf, creative. I am slightly more confident when I meet deaf people because we all know what its like and how we need to communicate with each other, whilst when I am around hearing people who don’t take on board what I need or my sister needs, then it does mean we miss out and can’t participate fully. I’m not saying that I can’t communicate with hearing people, just that sometimes it can be exhausting when you have to focus on lipreading and speaking. Speaking isn’t too much of an issue, but lipreading is so tiring. It isn’t so hard when you know someone’s lip pattern well, but when you don’t, you have to be on alert a lot of the time.

I had a terrible week about four weeks ago when I went to the doctor for something and got a lecture from him about losing weight. I was already considering making lots of lifestyle changes, but this particular doctor has a bad track record for dealing with patients (he is blunt and though I like doctors to say what they mean, there is no need to be nasty with it!), so I was already apprehensive about seeing him anyway. So afterwards my Mum decided that both of us should enrol at Weight Watchers. Now, I was feeling pretty shocked after an earful from the doctor, so I guess I was feeling like I hadn’t got a lot of fight left in me that day!

I was fairly wound up because he did make some assumptions like saying it would ‘help my self esteem’ to which my Mum and I objected seeing as I don’t have low self esteem. Sure, I’m a shy person but I’m secure in myself and although I have my bad days, I don’t hate the way I look or think I’m ugly. I spent the best part of 10 years being self conscious and not accepting myself, because that is what I learnt from the media and peers. I crawled out of that with body acceptance.

I thought I may as well go and see what its all about and if it would help me make some lifestyle changes. Especially since I have PCOS and most doctors say ‘lose weight’ without really helping you know how to lose weight! Most women with PCOS also find it much harder to lose weight anyway, so it often isn’t helpful to say ‘lose weight’ without giving them some support. Weight Watchers is renowned for having weekly meetings in a supportive environment, so I felt as though it wouldn’t do any harm to see how it went.

So a few weeks later, I’ve made some really good changes – I’m eating much more fruit and vegetables, I’m not depriving myself but also not going overboard on anything, like chocolate (which is my achilles heel!). I’ve lost some weight, and feel less tired and lethargic (although not at this moment since I have a cold and its the time of the month). Adding more fruit and vegs to my diet means that I’m less likely to be vitamin deficient, which may have been the reason I was so tired. It has made me think about food differently, that no food is inherently bad, its just a case of balance and how much of it you have – you can have as much fruit and vegs as you want but I think because our family tends to go overboard on things like pasta, rice and have large portions, it just contributed to my cravings. The first week was, I have to say, horrible, because I was coming off sugar cravings (and PCOS gives you sugar cravings anyway because of the insulin resistance) and it was the first week of eating less carbs. Its much better now as I’ve learnt to listen to my body and judge when I need to eat so I don’t become starving and feel ill and cranky. I used to skip meals which definitely didn’t help at all, since I function much better once I’ve had some breakfast.

So I guess even though the particular doctor was an asshole, at least perhaps it made me think about what I needed to do to change my way of living. My health doesn’t hinge on my weight, but it does hinge on my eating and exercise habits! My sister and Mum are both doing WW with me so healthy eating and exercise is easier since its a family affair.

The new WW plan was leaked to the press this week – we were meant to find out about it next week but it sounds much better and easier to follow. I’m hoping it will help because the points counting, particularly with half points, is a bit awkward. It also doesn’t attribute any points to most fruit and vegetables which makes it much healthier as people are more likely to go for fruit and vegs rather than the equivalent in points (for example a banana is 2.5 points which I think is equivalent to a curly wurly?). More than anything, I feel like I’ve broken through my thinking about food – I love it more than ever and I’m more sensible about it.

That week was horrible for another reason too – I discovered that the library I was volunteering at had to let some volunteers go, including me because they didn’t have enough work. At the time it was a big disappointment but I feel like I can move on now since there are lots of other things going on in my life, like the jewellery and my writing, as well as signing, looking for a part time job and trying to stay on top of lots of other things. I also feel like I would rather work for money at this point because I’ve been volunteering for a few years, and though it looks good on my CV, I need the money more.

The Open University Advanced Creative Writing is going well though it has been a slow start. At the moment I’m writing a story which is dramatic enough to be adapted into a script. I’ve been researching Steampunk and the Victorian era and I’ve come across some disturbing and awful things like human zoos and corset training, as well as a later fetishist (a man) who coerced his wife into doing corset training so reducing her waist to 13 inches (this happened in the 1920s-1970s).

Steampunk ethos is far different to neo-victorian ideas because steampunk takes elements of style, machinery and so on from that era and adds the ethos of changing the world and making it a better place, as opposed to a victorian/20th century ethos. I quite like this way of thinking because its a very DIY community and something I’ve become interested in. It combines elements of different eras – the 1800s to early 20th century space travel ideas and diesel possibilities. It’s less about Victoriana and more about a particular shabby chic aesthetic. The fiction is a combination of supernatural fantasy, science fiction and combining modern ethos with the style and surroundings of that period of time.

I guess because I’m a geek I have a need to find something that looks and feels different, that pushes the boundaries and has lots of possibility. I like things that look at the world in a positive way, and wants positive change – socially and environmentally. DIY really inspires me – making your own and modding your own. There is more satisfaction when you are upcycling and recycling, especially if something beautiful comes out of something that might be seen as trash by others.

If you’re interested, The Steampunk Magazine might interest you, or The Steampunk Workshop (lots of DIY projects). I’ve started reading Steampunk Fiction with kick ass heroines – the Parasol Protectorate books by Gail Carriger (an interesting tone – sort of like a spoof but also quite exciting) or Cherie Priest’s books starting with Boneshaker. Some Steampunk books don’t take the opportunity to create strong heroines, but these ones do.

I can’t believe I’ve written 2,000 words plus but I hope you enjoy this odd assortment of thoughts. Hopefully it makes up for me being away for so long!

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