The emotion of the written word

With all this fuss about Michael Gove apparently banning To Kill A Mockingbird I thought that I had really better read it.  And I can certainly see why people fight for it.  It’s annoying when things really are as good as people say but I think this is one of those cases.  It is a book that evokes emotions, that makes you look again at your own actions and prejudices.

I think we all have a book like that, one that is powerful and that makes you think.  They are, of course, the ones most likely to be banned (and yes, I do know that Gove has denied that was ever the intention).  But for something, anything, to create emotion it must have a victim.  Think of jokes that you know; are any of them without one?  The Englishman, the Irishman and the Scotsman.  All are about stereotypes.  Dumb blonde jokes,  ditto.  Think of any half funny joke and it will have its victims and stereotypes.

Books are the same.  There will be someone having a bad time in them.  In films there is a bad guy (usually English!) due to get his comeuppance but until he does will be making someone else suffer, whether physically or emotionally, and be his victim.  Because of this people will take offence and in some cases want to ban it (totally different situation to the Gove thing but it set me off thinking.)  A really good book to demonstrate this is The Day They Came To Arrest The Book.  I won’t spoil it by saying how it ends but it is one I would recommend to everyone because it says a lot about how the world is viewed.

I am somewhat late to the party but a book that truly did evoke emotions was A Thousand Splendid Suns.  Based in Afghanistan (which has a few name changes) the story takes place over about forty years.   It manages to not have this drag by being somewhat episodic, although (mainly) in date order.  Despite this it flows beautifully, each leads on from the last in such a way as to be completely natural.  You are led on, ever deeper, into the lives involved.

I learnt a lot from what should have been a deeply depressing book.  Like I imagine many, I had assumed that Afghanistan had been consumed by the Taliban long ago, that the people there had not known freedom within living memory.  In fact it is quite the opposite and the oppression is very new and all for the harder for it.  How do you go from laughing in university to not being allowed out without a man and covered head to toe in a burqa,  with only a mesh to see out of?  Music banned, tv banned, books banned. Although life had become restricted and bomb dodging required due to civil war these changes literally came overnight.  I cannot imagine how I would cope.

One of the themes of the book is lack of knowledge.  For me this came through most strongly in Laila’s mother who believed with all her heart that the next leader who came in would be the one who would save them all.  She did not know them, could not see in their hearts or know the choices they would face, and yet she still believed, only to be disappointed.  Hope can be very cruel.

And yet hope is what I take away with me.  As I said before this should have been depressing.  Parts, large parts, were certainly cheerless.  This is in no way light reading.  But even when the characters have no hope you cannot help but carry it for them,  to prey that somehow they will get through.  I strongly suggest you read the book to find out if they did.

A present and a half

I got a present yesterday.  A very nice present.  A Bernina 801 sewing machine.  I’m going to assume that half of you are now going “well that was nice I guess” and the others are going “you lucky :@{}@!”  Allow me to explain…

There are many types of sewing machine.  They come and go, although a few brands like Singer and Brother stay around (my beloved Necchi comes from a time from when they were excellent.  Then they stopped being.  As soon as they stopped being made in Italy apparently!)  Then you have Bernina.  Think Rolls Royce and you have some idea; it is the one you aspire to.

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This one was delivered 1st October 1981 so it’s over 30 years old. (Sadly we worked out that just before my great uncle died which may explain why my great aunt, who gave me this gorgeous machine, has barely used it.  Just too painful.)  It is immaculate.  The dust build up is tiny.  The motor is making some strange noises, almost certainly due to under use, and it is going to have a service before it gets used.  I don’t want to risk it.  Luckily the shop it was brought in is still going strong.

But the reason for the post is not (just) to gloat.  There are some design elements that impressed me massively and I wanted to share them.  There were two elements really, both to do with packaging. 

One is the little bit box.  Now for all I know this may be standard now but as well as the compartments there was one to hold the bobbins.  And (although it’s a little hard to see on the picture) in the lid there is a pic of the machine and several columns.  The columns show the different stitches available and their ideal settings.  Then from the columns are little arrows so there’s no mistaking which dial to change for each bit.  So simple, so clever!

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The other ingenious ting (so far) is the case itself.  It’s a butterfly case- you just put it in the middle then the sides fold up to encase it.  But the clever bit is the way everything clicks into place perfectly using every bit of space available. it’s very neat.  I say everything but in fact I still haven’t worked out where the cable goes…

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Right, off to read the manual! byeee

The migraine monster (guest post)

I’ve been lucky enough to have a friend of mine, Bunny, agree to do a blog post.  She suffers from severe migraines but has been using a new treatment to deal with it.  In this entry she talks about the effect that migraines have had on her life.

You can find Bunny’s writing blog at http://bunnyssnippets.blogspot.co.uk – it’s well worth a visit.

Hi, I’m Bunny, I’m in my late 30’s and I suffer from Refractory Chronic Migraines. In this post I will try and give you an insight to how it affects me, what treatments I’ve been through. Finally how one treatment has had a big effect on my life. I often refer to them as “migraine monster” because that is how it feels. Like being attacked by a monster.

I first started getting them when I was 13 when my period first started. This is common for most girls. The doctors in the hospital thought that I had a tumour in my head because of the pain and the symptoms that I was experiencing. All the tests for that came back clear. Had a CAT scan, MRI scan amongst other tests. It was a migraine, they classed it as “severe classical migraine with aura”.  I was sent home and on my way.

What followed wasn’t that simple. The pain in my head made me feel like I was going to explode and implode at the same time! It felt like my head was in a vice. If anyone has seen the Saw film with the girl with her head in that head cage thing, you will get some idea. Aside from the normal symptoms of this time of migraine, the pain in head, the flashing lights etc, I also experienced sound as colour. All of which was (is) normal.

At one stage in my teens I was visiting ER that often that I was telling the doctors what amount of drugs to give me. They gave me pethidine and valoid which isn’t ideal to get every time. Over the years I was given the normal drugs, Migraleve which are yellow and pink tablets. That didn’t work. I was also given Imigran both in tablet form and injection. It was a pen injection that I had to inject in the muscle of my thigh or in the arm. The thigh was the less painful. Was given the “usual” triptains, none of which worked. Then they faded away, only appearing now and again. Until they came back with a vengeance.  

In October 2012 the migraine monster came back and it seemed like he had friends with him. I was getting two or three daily. On the pain scale they were level 9 or 10. After seeing the doctor and he had exhausted his drug options, I was referred to a Neuro (Neurologist). After an appointment with them, they eased away for a few days but then came back. After weeks of changing doctors I finally got another appointment with him. My symptoms had changed, evolved. More on that later. He classed them as Refractory Chronic Migraines.

I was given a high dose of Epilim (900mg) and then at a different time Topiramate or Topamax as it is sometimes known as.  When the drugs didn’t work and he had exhausted all drug routes I was given Nerve Blocks in the Optical Nerve.  Two sessions of this didn’t work. Next step Botox.

I had my first session of Botox back in March 2013. It made some difference, then I had another session 3 months later. Then I had a time of cluster chronic migraines. These are when you get a batch of them after having not had them for a while. It is now May 2014, and after the fourth session of Botox, I noticed a marked improvement. I can now plan to go out. It doesn’t just affect the sufferer, but the family, friends and those around the sufferer.  Family members get fed up with you always being “sick”. Although they are concerned about you, it does get to be a strain. Also noise has to be kept to be at a minimum. I have lost friends over it, always cancelling plans at the last minute saying “I can’t go, I have a migraine” wore thin. It’s something all of us who suffer from migraines face. Work wise, I have been lucky. I was on a temporary contract when they struck hard and on the sick. Despite this I got made permanent. I suppose declaring that I suffered from migraines on the application form when I first applied for the job helped. Work was and is great, they support me. I have meetings with my boss every month or so. They ask about my migraines and if there is anything they can do to support me. I was told that “Chronic Migraine” is classed as a Disability in their workplace. This is just my experience, I have known others who have lost jobs over having Chronic Migraines. 

Symptoms and how I feel

How I feel with a migraine attacks and afterwards. I will try and explain this the best I can.

A migraine can happen at any time, any place. If it happens during the daytime I often get warning symptoms, this is commonly called “pre-migraine”.  I get what is known as Aura, I see colours around people and objects then comes a mild form of colour synesthesia. I see sound as colour. Next come the hallucinations, I get both auditory (hearing) and visual (sight) hallucinations. Then the migraine attack starts, my head all of my head feels like it is in a vice. That is slowly being squeezed until I can’t handle the pain anymore then it squeezes some more. Also I feel like there are screws being twisted into my head. Then we come to my eyes, my eyes feel like they are on fire, like they are being burned from the inside.  Also my face goes numb on one side, I also get some trigeminal nerve pain. 

If I can go to sleep with it, I’m okay, sleep it off for a few hours when I wake up, migraine gone but still have post-migraine. This is often called the “hangover stage” because it feels like you have a hangover after a heavy night’s drinking. If it happens in the middle of the night, it is a different story, if I wake up with it, that’s me for the rest of the day. When I eventually get back to sleep in the morning, it is usually due to exhaustion. Then when I wake up in the afternoon I have post migraine but the migraine headache is gone. I have no pain in my head. The post migraine stage is also sometimes called as a “fog”. Like you have a fog over you, if you’ve ever felt faint, that swimming sensation you get? That is what the “fog” feels like. Sometimes this also happens during a migraine. 

The colour synesthesia and the auditory and visual hallucinations do progressively get worse. To give you an example if travelling in a car, the lines in the middle of road rise up and twist and turn like a snake. Trees move and birds seem like large predators. The auditory hallucinations are sinister voices talking to me or whispering to me. Mix this with the feeling of someone behind or next to you and it is very scary, being told it is “normal” does not make it any less scary. 

I also get very disturbing migraine dreams. These are scary and often seem so real that I am left shaken when I wake up.  I started writing these dreams down and from them has spawned a series of novels, Book I of which I am currently writing. The link at the top of this blog post, is a link to my writing blog. 

Triggers

A trigger can hide in your body for up to 72 hours before you get a migraine. By keeping a detailed migraine diary in theory, you can look back and see if anything could be a trigger.

I do believe that, this did help. I’m already a strict vegetarian and during the few months of keeping a diary a few triggers were found.

MSG (Mono-Sodium Glutamate) also known Yeast Extract, Maltodextrin and Hydrolised Vegetable Protein. It also hides under E621. Now here is the thing when E627, E631 and E635 boosts the flavour/effect of E621 up to 15 times. So if you’re sensitive to E621 and it’s mixed with E627, E631 or E635 you are basically getting E621 boosted 15 times.

MSG is found in lots of food, takeaway Chinese, gravy, tic-tacs to name a few.

Carrageenan is another one. It is a derived from seaweed. It is used as a stabaliser in vegetarian/vegan food. It is found in some chocolate bars and also in ice-cream. Also Algae or any form of seaweed I cannot take.Yeast is also a product I can’t have, natural or chemical. I also don’t drink alcohol.

Slide projection is a trigger for me. The digital one, the old fashioned type with an acetate sheet and using light and mirrors is fine with me. Also flash photography and quick flashing images is a trigger. 

Hormones is another trigger, nothing I can do about this one. I normally get two-four hormonal migraines a month. Compared to migraines daily, this is a big improvement. Also something else out of my control is atmospheric pressure. Atmospheric pressure in the air, can sometimes (but not always) trigger a migraine. 

OCD

This is an off-shoot from chronic migraines. I have OCD, not many people may realise this. When I say I have OCD, I am not joking. My Neuro said that is is normal (again with the “normal”). He said that a lot of people who suffer from chronic migraines develop OCD.  He said it is the brain’s way of find organisation in amongst the chaos. I have my own set of cutlery that I use, things have to be in a certain place. I have items on my desk at work, and I know if they’ve been moved. Even if it is moved by a sixteenth of an inch, I know. I know if someone has been in my room when I haven’t been there. Even mundane stuff like housework has to be done in a certain order and a certain way otherwise it’s not done “right”.

The Migraine Trust is a Migraine charity in the UK. It is a good source of information. 

Food for tonight, tomorrow and the rest of the week..

I’ve had lots of upheaval at home recently but the upside of it means that I am now in charge of food.  Although I have no intention of turning vegetarian (I couldn’t when I visit relatives anyway – all confirmed carnivores) but I have found that a vegetable heavy diet seems to suit me better.  The trouble is that I can’t eat chillies and that all the recipes I fancy seem to contain more expensive vegetables.  So looking down the cheaper end – and not containing chillies- what recipes do you recommend?  And ideas gratefully received.

So it begins…

This is it.  I am finally getting around to what I have said for a long time I will do and started a blog.  It’s going to be a bit of a mish mash – things from my life, things from other people’s lives, stuff i found interesting,  craft, baking and anything else that appears.  

One thing it won’t be is in support of any political party.  That isn’t to say that I don’t have views that might fit with a party but some of my other views will fit with another.  I am very confused basically!  So if I say something it’s because I think it, not because I want to promote something.  But that will be pretty rare anyway.

There are a few things likely to crop up.  Dementia – how it effects lives. Because it really does, not just the sufferer and their carer but all those around.  And despite the best efforts of those doing the work there just aren’t the resources to go around.

Complaining!  Now please understand; I am a nice person who
doesn’t like complaining.  But it was recently hammered home to me that if companies don’t know what is wrong then they can’t improve it. So complaints (provided they’re done nicely) are actually a positive thing.  But if you do go down that path then be fair and praise the things that go right too.

Food and craft.  For me these things go together.  Both are about creating and both have loads of sites already devoted to them online.  So I think I’ll add one more.

Beyond that: who knows?  Wish me luck!