Oh here we go again: covid, what covid? Say the politicians who want a drink

Politicians: are they stupid or are their heads just so far bedded im the sand to care?

First it was Boris, and now his posssee are breaking the very rules they’ve been setting, giving daily (some would call it) scare-mongering briefings and filling up column space in national newspapers.

Earlier today I read that Boris’ minions had a right old knees up in a pub. A pub that wasn’t supposed to not serve alcohol after 6pm (FYI it was after said hour).

From left to right, Labour’s Alan Davies and Conservativea Paul Davis, Darren Miller and Nick Ramsey. Courtesy of BBC

What will they receive? A slap on the risk no doubt, perhaps a guffaw from Boris but no fine, no arrest, no nothing of consequence, quite unlike the rest of us who face a whopping grwat fine for simply going for a walk in a ‘beauty spot’ or sitting on a bench having a coffee because it’s seen as picnicking.

Now, I’m not one for conspiracy theories but is there something we don’t know? Just recently the PM posted on Facebook book about staying home and saving lives.

Not so long ago Boris posted something similar. It’s now not there. Hmm….

The ‘perpetrators ‘ amounted to four members of Parliament, Labour’s Alan Davirs and Conservatives Paul Davies, Darren Miller and Nick Ramsey.

So who and what are supposed to believe? And is it really us general public really the ones doing the spreading?

BBC Wales has been told Labour Member of the Senedd Alun Davies (who’s Twiter account has been disabled) and two others were involved.

A spokesman for the group told the BBC That he had been ‘suspended from the privileges of Senedd Labour Group membership while an investigation takes place into this alleged incident,’ a spokesman for the group told the BBC.

He and two Tories deny breaking rules.

My family are self isolating, I am any going out for essentials and yes, its lonely, boring, scary; schools are closing and businesses are in turmoil.

Boris, sort yourself out. Imply your guidelines on yourself and your staff and stop this ridiculous and deliberate floatation of the law, or guidelines should you wish to call it.

We are looking to you for advice but how can we trust you? Its a farcical of example to say (as I recently posted) ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

Covid is costing more and more lives as this conditions. I’m writing this from hospital where beds are being emptying almost hourly. Its devastating. Alarms are going off constantly, staff are literally running to patients.

This is a PANDEMIC Mr Prime minister, not a joke. And as numbers rise daily you have to ask yourself ‘are you doing enough?’

Step it up and take your responsibility as serious as we (with some selfish people putting police and hospitals under unprecedented pressure’ at risk.

Do yourself and us a favour and stop playing games.

And thank God that my 95 year old grandmother is finally getting a vaccine. I’ve only seen her on Skype since Christmas 2019 and although we talk regularly I miss her terribly.

I pray that we all get is soon 🙏 (not covid is that is, just the importance of sticking to the rules!

Please.

Feed the world, not Covid

As one of my favourite festive songs asks: ‘do they know its Christmas time?’ And yes I think we all do. But there’s one who doesn’t: Coronavirus.

That became even more clear when Boris Johnson announced the Christmas cease fire was no longer happening due to a surge in cases. We were told to stay home, not mix and police were given more powers of arrest.

But some people didn’t listen.

The NHS struggled to cope, the virus gained force. And now, as we see out 2020 with a weekly death toll of 581 – the highest since April  – we face the next challenge: what will tonight bring?

Will people follow guidelines and opt for a New Year’s Eve at home watching the telly? Or are we on an uphill trajectory to utter crisis?

There’s an easy solution guys.

Please, as you recall the lyrics from Bob Geldof’s Live Aid hit about feeding the world and celebrating the festivities of the season, keep Covid in mind and don’t help feed that.

Because that world is outside our windows. And this year it really is one of dread and fear.

Let’s kiss goodbye to 2020 not with parties and a booze up but with gratitude and hope for a safer, happier 2021 for one and all.

If you need any ideas for a stay-at-home shindig check out Good Housekeeping’s top tips. I’ll be doing an online yoga session, enjoying a salmon and prawn dinner, drinking my alcohol-free (more than 6 weeks sober now…) fizz and chilling out with movies, the cat and some board game fun.

Get the popcorn and films at the ready – Bruno’s ready to party like it’s 2020!

Regrets and risks

A very important question was put to me recently: what risks have I balked on taken and regretted?

At first I couldn’t think of anything. Because every risk has its, well, risks, and how would I know if I’d made the right decision?

At first I thought maybe not continuing to work at the veterinary practice where I was a receptionist /assistant during my gap year. Had I stayed I would have been trained up as a nurse. And I do love animals.

But I had a ski season lined up. And uni. Neither of which I regret.

How different would my life be if I’d sacked off the uni and ski season and become a veterinary nurse? I’d have missed out on experiences, that’s for sure. And lifelong (I hope) friendships. I certainly wouldn’t have worked for the Daily Mail.

Working there made me ill though, so I circle back around to whether I made the right decision. At the time I didn’t know what a risk it was.

Whatever path I took would have lead to a different life. So I think the best answer is that I shouldn’t have regrets. Everything in life is a risk. I just chose one, right or wrong.

Fun but profound: declining a gift of limitless proportion

If you could have one dream gift what would it be?

A new car? £1000000? An island in the carribean? Maybe it would be marrying the love of your life with no spending limit for the ceremony. Or how about first class flights to anywhere in the world for the rest of your life for free?

The big bucks: image from amazon.co.uk

That was a question presented to me during a recent Zoom discussion. The lady running it private messaged us all a potential not-your-average gift based on what she thought each of us would be extatic to receive.

We each then shared it with the group (the conceptual gift that is) and mine was the £1000000. Then we had to consider and discuss what the downsides of each would be. Trust me, it was a hard one!

But with many things in life, to every high has it’s lows.

I met my fiance in rehab, for example. Had I not had the issues that took me there I never would have met him. But the shame of the reason I was there in the first place caused me to isolate from many friends and family members.

Then there’s Covid. Just look at the amazing work people are doing to help others.. For me, personally, it has been the offers of help with shopping or picking up meds from virtual strangers, and the man who helped me when I collapsed in the street. Plus I’m now talking to my grandma every week. We never used to do that. So in that way isolation has ironically made us closer.

But back to the gift of a life time idea. I realised it would potentially drive me away from the people I love not on the same financial level as me. I would squander money on useless things. I would probably become more selfish and no longer feel any desire to work, thus eliminating the joys of success and the new friendships I would make with my colleagues. I mean, I’m not working now and I really miss that. Would I ever truly feel content?

And of course there’s the elephant in the room of my own personal problems. Would my eating disorder worsen to the point of hospitalisation? Would I kill myself through drink? Recently I was in hospital and all I could hear one night was a man screaming over and over again. He was dying. From alcohol. His skin was yellow and bruised. They were basically keeping him alive on painkillers. The next day the bed was empty.

Jen went on to read a passage from the bible that highlighted the very same concept.

I can’t become a believer overnight. But with the help of others I can apply some of the principles of the bible to everyday life. And it becomes more manageable and less overwhelming.

And as for my £1000000, I guess it’s true what they say, money can’t buy you happiness.

Whats in your mirror today?

Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Image from Steemit

When you look in the mirror what do you see?

Is it an image of success? Or one of failure? It’s a strong word that. Failure. And I believe we use it way too much. Because really, just having got out of bed and fixed the sheets is a success. If you’ve got a pet you’ve probably fed it and possibly yourself. You may have said a prayer if you’re a religious person. And most of us will already have an idea of what we want to do with our day and been in contact with friends or family.

So really, the day will have got off to a fairly good start.

But have you said anything positive to or about yourself today? Or have you focused on the negatives? The washing up left in the sink from last night’s dinner or the hoovering that needs doing?

I’ve written recently about self judgement and the ways in which others judge us. Or at least, the way we think they’re judging us.

I’ve been in hospital not too long ago and when going through my medical history and what medication I’m on, the nurse’s voice often turns to a bit of a whisper when going on to ask about my alcohol consumption and what I’m doing about it.

Immediately I feel judged and ashamed. I feel like a failure.

The image of the below was sent to me when I was going through a particularly tough time. And when I spoke to friend of mine who is very religious she told me to rememver that Jesus doesn’t judge me. He loves me. And he forgives me. That’s positive self talk.

So why do we judge ourselves so harshly?

If we take the statement from the image and apply it to ourselves we face the question of why we allow ourselves to believe the judgements of others or our assumption of their judgements?

Perhaps instead we shout be asking: what is that person thinking and feeling? Can we help them? The obvious reaction might be to feel resentment towards them but does that help us ourselves or them?

I’ve heard it said that there is no such thing as a selfless good deed. But maybe this is the exception to the rule.

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions but they’ve been circling round in my head and I’d love to hear what anyone’s thoughts are. (if you’d read this post this far. I know it’s a bit of a ramble).

And there I go again – self judgement and assuming no one will find it interesting. I want to read more into what has been written on the topic and I’ll blog about what I find out.

Sliding doors: everything happens for a reason

Image found on Pinterest

Do you ever wonder what would have happened if not for that one encounter? Where your life would be if you’d taken the bus instead of your normal tube to work; bought your lunch in Tesco not Sainsbury’s?

For me it was a coffee shop in London. If I’d gone to cafe Nero I wouldn’t be writing this. But I didn’t. I was in Pret.

A lady struck up a conversation with me. I felt a little nervous at first as in my true british-stiff-upper-lip way I just wanted to present myself as unbreakable and then run away and hide! No way was I going to admit I was unemployed due to mental health, or that I felt completely lost in life.

But she persevered, invited me to a church group (admittedly not really my thing but I went) and 2 years later we’re still in touch.

Which path will you choose?

A few weeks ago she asked me if I’d like to join a Thursday evening ‘Zoom’ discussion. I was wary given the religious element I was expected but instead of a lecture it was a short bible passage followed by a general discussion about how we could related to the thoughts/feelings/concepts within.

The whole experience really stuck with me and it got me thinking about the other random encounters that have changed my life.

Destiny

There’s the girl who I was introduced to as a pen pal when I was about 5 and still haven’t met but recently sent me a beautiful Bible and has been helping me with love, support and guidance.

Then there’s the guy who helped me when I collapsed outside the doctor’s surgery, and the woman down the street who gave me the ‘stories’ book that I blogged about not long ago which gave me so much comfort and reassurance. People writing honestly l about their hardships and how they overcame their struggles.

What if a housemate-to-be hadn’t failed his exams and dropped out of uni in my 3rd year, only to be replaced by a girl who rapidly became and still is one of my best friend?

Oh and last but not least there’s the guy who texted me out of the blue, thinking he was texting his friend Laura. Now, whether or not we do know each other and he’s gotten the two Lauras mixed up (me being one of them), or whether this other Laura gave him the wrong number and it’s a total coincidence… I have no idea. But his contact has helped me, and I think and hope my texting him has helped him.

The list just goes on and on the more I think about it. But I think I’ve made my point

I am really coming around to the idea that this is all happening for a reason. Call it fate or faith or God or whatever… I’ve had a few sliding doors moments recently and I do believe it’s in someone’s plan for me.

And I never thought I’d say that.

Conquering self-judgement

If your school career was anything like mine, it will have been drilled into you from a young age that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover.

But it would seem many of us still rate a novel’s merit on the ethnicity of its writer.

According the black author Candice Carty-Williams, publishing remains a ‘white middle class industry’ with little recognition of its non-white contributors from ethnic backgrounds.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, The ‘Queenie’ author talked about the lack of recognition for black writers, the morning after she won overall book of the year at the British Book Awards, making her the first black woman to win the accolade.

And it got me thinking about the way we judge others in a general sense, and perhaps more importantly, about how we judge ourselves.

Candice Carty-Williams and her award-winning debut novel Queenie

I know I for one am guilty of imparting on others the judgements I hold about myself. I assume people look down on me for the aspects of my life or past that I am ashamed of. But that’s only my own opinion and fear of being judged poorly and I’m trying hard to challenge it.

A friend recently shared with me that she too had gone through a time in her life when there were things about herself of which she was ashamed. But her faith in God helped her through. She told me that Jesus is not ashamed of me and that if I put my faith in him he will remove my shame too.

Now, I’m not a religious person. I never have been. But I do envy the people I know who have found God and seem to be so much more at peace. It is, after all, a comforting idea that someone somewhere out there is looking out for each of us, no questions asked, and guiding us in the right direction.

So I’m giving it a go. That’s not to say I’ve got my nose in a Bible or that I’ll suddenly start preaching from the rooftops. But I’ve started reading a book of short stories by people who have overcome adversity with the help of their faith.

The book, simply called Stories, is a compilation of extracts from King’s Church, Newport attendees writing openly and truthfully about their experiences. And it is followed by some really eye opening questions to encourage self-reflection.

It’s given me the opportunity to explore the way my past shaped how I think and behave and feel a connection with the people behind the extracts. There’s no preaching, no forcing opinions or beliefs on others, just a series of normal people – most of whom I’ve found I have at least one thing in common with.

Do I judge the authors? No. I am inspired by their strength in overcoming hardship to lead happy, fulfilled life.

And perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but I began by opening on a random page and reading a page. One per day, and answering the questions that followed. Every single one read like an extract from my own story. I’m willing to consider the belief that it wasn’t just coincidence that drew me to them, so I can stop judging myself and feeling shame.

The dangers of online symptom checkers…

Image from Health Snap

So last week someone I live with was in hospital with a nasty stomach bug. Fortunately he seems to have made a full recovery and is back home. But obviously when I started to develop minor symptoms I panicked. I went onto WebMD and put in my symptoms to the site’s checker service and quite frankly it was frightening.

Apparently there’s a whole host of things I could have – and that’s without even saying about the housemate’s recent hospitalisation with the bug.

I would urge everyone to be cautious when using these sites. The last thing you need when you’re not feeling on top form is to be told a bit of bloating needs urgent care… Pretty much everything says go to a&e, even though it might just be a bit of a stomach upset.

And apparently I’m not the only person who feels this way. As posted in the Henry Ford Blog:

For example: You wake up in the middle of the night with a pain in the lower left side of your stomach. You get up and walk around, but it doesn’t go away. So you search the internet for “left-side stomach pain.” You find out it could be constipation, or diverticulitis, or kidney stones, or a bladder infection, or gas — or cancer. Your mind goes right to the cancer. Oh no, what if it’s pancreatic cancer? And then you can’t sleep, so you keep surfing.”

Unfortunately my Dr’s surgery has quite an unsympathetic receptionist and told me I have to wait until tomorrow (now today) to speak to a doctor on the ‘gp advice line’. Well that service only lasts for one hour and I have tried. But after being on hold for at least 40 minutes it shut off so I’ll just have to try again tomorrow and hope for more success.I’m not too concerned; I think like many others at this time I’m just being uber-precautious.

Just everyone, be careful about what you read online. Right now we all need to stay safe from coronavirus and the last thing we need is more stress. Cos let’s face it – hospital is awful at the best of times, but when being there puts you at risk of a worse disease, well, what’s the best option. Do you go for treatment? Or do you stay home and hope to battle through it?

Your guess is as good as mine on this one.

Oh Insomnia, thou art a heartless bitch

Image from SHOSHANA KESSOCK

I’ve read somewhere that if you waken up and afte 20 mins still can’t get back to sleep then you should get up and do something gentle fr a short period then give it another shot.

I mean, it’s not an exact science – there are arguments that even just checking the time on awakening scuppers your chances of drifting off back to the land of nod. But sometimes, and especially when you have a snorer in the room, these things are surely worth a shot.

I won’t embarrass said snorer by making a recording, but let’s just say it’s, well, pretty hard core.

So I’ve taken myself downstairs to get away from it and I’m going to do some more postcard colouring. About 2hrs ago, when this last happened, (the exhausted awake but can’t sleep-Ness, I began a list of who I wanted to write to and which type of message.

So there’s going to be some not so subtle address seeking and hopefully a nice bunch of cards to put in the letter box – just to say to someone that I’m thinking of them, or a congratulations on a new baby or happy birthday or anything really.

Yup, it’s true, I’ve reached that grand old age when many of my friends have one or more children. Scary!

I’ve been at it a while and my desperately poor attempts to colour within the lines has resulted in a handful of cards and a more relaxed, sleepier me so I’m back off upstairs.

Please oh please give me another couple of hours kip 🤞🙄🙏💤

For more tips on overcoming insomnia type symptoms check out The Muse, where I found this:

1. Think Positive

It’s that easy—science says ridding your mind of those negative thoughts (“It’s so late, I’ll never get to sleep at this rate,” “I’m going to be so tired tomorrow at work,” “This stinks”) calms you down and makes you more likely to fall asleep.

2. Pick One Thing to Focus On

You know how they always say to try counting sheep? Well, focusing on something specific (like filling a treasure chest) could be just what you need to get sleepy. Choose to focus on your breath, or repeat a calming mantra over in your head—as long as it’s not “I can’t sleep,” because see above.

3. Pretend to Be Tired

Trick your brain into thinking you’re exhausted by, well, pretending you are. Concentrate on the kinds of things you would feel if you were tired, like drooping eyes, the room darkening, or the sensation of sinking into your bed—and before you know it, you just might experience them!

4. Adjust Your Temperature

What’s your ideal sleeping environment? Even if you can’t completely control the heating and cooling system in your home, you can control your body. So, put the fan closer to your face when you’re too hot or bundle up when you’re too cold. Science proves that the ideal sleeping temperature is 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit, so best to shoot for that!

5. Read

No, not on your Kindle or phone, but with a solid, made-of-paper book—to help you out, here are 21 books that career coaches recommend. Dim the lights in your room (or use a lamp) just enough so you can see comfortably, and read—don’t worry about remembering the story or getting to a certain page, just take it in until you feel yourself getting sleepy.

6. Listen to Music

Now, I’m not suggesting you go blasting an intense album (unless that works for you), but some simple, acoustic, minimal percussion music might be perfect for getting your eyes to droop.

7. Or Try a Podcast or Audiobook

Choose your favorite podcast or a non-action-packed audiobook, preferably one that’s dense, and let the soothing voices quiet your mind. It’s not about retaining the information—it’s about giving yourself some comforting background noise.

Bonus tip: Try out the Sleep With Me podcast that’s literally meant to bore you to bed (you’ll be surprised how well it works).

8. Or White Noise

Sometimes the unbearable silence is what’s keeping you up—so, try a white noise app to fill the space with subtle sounds.

9. Or a Meditation App

Download a breathing app like Headspace, or a nature sounds app that will soothe your thoughts and make feel like you’re napping on the beach.

(For more apps, try out these eight free ambience apps!)

10. Stretch

Yes, you can try this sleep hack without getting out of bed. Put your legs up against the wall to calm your central nervous system, or try happy baby pose or child’s pose to relax your body. Alternatively, do some light leg and arm movements and exercises on your back to release any excess tension.

11. Relax From Head to Toe

A colleague swore by this: Concentrate on each muscle, starting from your toes, and tell yourself “My feet are getting sleepy,” “My right leg is getting very sleepy,” “My stomach is asleep,” while you relax each body part. She says she never makes it past her hips!

12. Try the 4-7-8 Exercise

According to science, focusing on your breathing decreases your heartrate and blood pressure, which is prime for sleepiness.

So, try this sleep technique:

  • Inhale for four seconds
  • Hold your breath for seven seconds
  • Exhale for eight seconds
  • Repeat!

13. Journal

If your mind’s racing, grab a notebook and jot down every thought you have—don’t make it linear or pretty, just get everything out until you’re out of ideas and start to tire.

14. Work on the Thing That’s Keeping You Up

If you find that there’s something really nagging you and keeping you awake, don’t just pretend it’ll go away. Whether it’s responding quickly to an email (or writing it and saving it for the morning when you can properly spellcheck it), jotting down some ideas for your upcoming presentation, or even taking out the trash before you forget, getting it over and done with will make sleep a heck of a lot easier. Just don’t spend all night working on it!

15. Do Your Least Favorite Task

As Muse writer Varci Vartanian says in an article about simple sleep solutions, “‘If it’s after bedtime, do something that you enjoy a lot less than sleep!’ [says Dr. Stein] If it’s been 20 minutes and you still haven’t drifted off, get out of bed and attack the most boring, least stimulating task imaginable. Sleep might seem more welcoming after spending a lively half-hour with a dusty college textbook on literary theory.”

Or, even just thinking about the task might be enough to make you fall asleep.

16. Drink Something Hot

Making yourself a glass of hot milk with honey (I swear it’s delicious) or decaffeinated tea could warm your body up for rest. Want more options? Here are 10 drinks that’ll help you get to sleep, backed by science!

17. Stick Your Feet Out

Yup—research says that keeping your toes cool makes you more likely to fall asleep. So pop them out of the covers and get snoozing!

18. Cover Your Eyes

Even if your room’s pretty dark, there’s probably some light that makes its way in. So, if you don’t have an eye mask, grab a warm washcloth (soak and microwave for a few seconds) or a t-shirt and cover your eyes so that all you can see is sleep.

19. Watch a Good Movie or Browse the Web

I don’t want to be the one who says browse through social media or watch Netflix, because glaring screens are probably not the best idea—but I’m also not going to say they don’t work. Because sometimes, you just need a comforting movie or TV show or an endless scroll on Imgur to distract you from insomnia.

That being said, try everything else above first, because it could also backfire and turn into a long, unproductive night of technology.

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There’s also lots online about devices that can help you sleep, as well as those to combat the snorer in your life!

So that’s it from me tonight/this morning… And as Jim Carrey would say in The Truman Show, ‘uncase I don’t see you again, good afternoon, good evening and goodnight!’

Making creativity my thing…

Can I do it? I hope so.. image from Miss Benison

For my 19th birthday I had a fancy dress party. I was coming to the end of a ski season in Les Deux Alpes with Skiworld and costume stores aren’t exactly top priority in ski results…. So as you may guess resources were limited.

Just for fun I set the theme as ‘what I wanted to be when I grew up, when I was young’ – open ended enough to use some imagination and with tin foil and linen being our go to ‘ingredients’ being half way up a mountain, it was an opportunity to get creative.

We had an astronaut, a cat… plausible or not it did not matter. It was just the fun of seeing what our creative juices could come up with. So being a massive Disney fan, and not a tiara in sight to allow me to go as a princess, I used green food dye on a pillow slip and went as Tinkerbell.

Yup, thanks to some green food dye and a pillow slip that’s me as Tinkerbell… Sort of…

But without clothing limitations, if I really thought about it, yes being a disney angel fairy or princess would have been pretty bloody brilliant…. I can remember myself as a young animal-loving me desperate to be a vet.

Unfortunately I saw a James Herriot documentary in which his hand, well, penetrated a cow’s backside to put it politely. And then there was the secondary school tutor who told me to drop Latin and the sciences because I wasn’t smart enough…. So that put an end to my veterinary dreams.

From then on I didn’t know what I wanted to do or be. I went to Loughborough University and studied English, focusing on language and linguistic modules, as well as one in creative writing. I graduated, after having become in the university magazine and I figured actually I might want to be a journalist. So then came my City University, London, masters degree in the field and a job at a national newspaper.

That was fun for a while. But I’ll be honest I found it really draining dealing with the hugely long hours and harassment by the editor of the desk I worked on. It wasn’t rare for me to be working from 8am til 3am. And almost without fail I would be greeted by abuse from the desk editor. You’re only ever as good as your last story in the worked of journalism and according to her I simply didn’t cut it.

So I quit.

Since then I’ve thought a lot about whether my true calling might be in fictional writing, As my Grandma has told my mum (and yes, I know I’m blowing smoke up my ass a little here) ‘that girl has a way with words’.

So I’m dedicating some of my time in lockdown into writing a novel.

It’s gonna be based on a true story I covered as a newspaper hack in Liverpool where I spent some time on the Liverpool Echo during my training. I hope of creating a Jack Reacher type thing, though I could never place myself alongside Lee Child, the bestselling and simple fantastic author.

Jack Reacher, by Lee Child: My inspiration to become a novelist

It’s exciting and scary at the same time and will probably never leave my laptop. But it’s a fun project and I love research, which my idea will require a lot of.

So long story short, and it will be short! I’m gonna give this novel writing thing a whirl and see where I get. Wish me luck! And do get in touch if you’re doing something similar – it’s always good to have someone to knock around ideas with.