Friday, 2 April 2021

Little Guide to My Pet Peeves - Part 2 (Social Media & other online annoyances)

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I began this 'little guide' for fun, so please do take it in the spirit in which it’s meant. These are just my personal bête-moires which I'm sure some of you will share.  

Many of you probably find the whole of social media is a pet hate.  Facebook is still my main social media platform and though there’s many things to like about it, for instance, connecting with likeminded people, reconnecting with old friends, sharing memories in nostalgia groups and much more, it’s a double-edged sword. Facebook is becoming more and more tedious, algorithms take charge and fewer and fewer of your friends’ post are visible without hunting high and low. Here are a few things which irk me on Facebook and more generally online:  

Visual Noise and GIFS

This includes any flashing pictures or carousels that assault your vision every time you visit certain websites. If you’re lucky you’ll find a well-hidden pause button so you can at least freeze the movement.  It includes adverts that pop-up on any Google page because we all know Google collects cookies so that little pictures of coats or dresses or - I dunno - hoovers which you’ve already bought (so why would you want to buy another?) pop up with impossible regularity.  As soon as you click on the little cross that closes the infernal window another one pops up further down, sometimes the same one, to boot.  Take note, gamers. There’s surely a good game to be had at seeing how many Google ads you can zap in a specified time.  

And don’t even talk to me about GIFS! For the uninitiated, these are big in-your-face animations that you can add to a thread on Facebook to express a feeling. An occasional one you may be able to ignore but to have bells and whistles and flashing lights at you when you’re just trying to follow a conversation?  Has Facebook never heard of the visually challenged?  Those who suffer with migraines?  With epilepsy?  Facebook has also increased the number and range of coloured backgrounds for your statuses. It’s all about bigger and brighter and READ MY POST OR ELSE!

People talking over you 

It’s rude in real life, when you’re stuck between two people and they carry on a conversation over your head. The more polite will be aware of you sitting like a lemon betwixt them and will say ‘shall we swap places?’ in order to continue their chinwag without subjecting your ears to any more than necessary.  But on social media, although people are aware of ‘hijacking’ threads and are pulled up over it, there seems to be no etiquette about people talking over you.  You start to feel invisible when you’re leapfrogged, while rude and inconsiderate just carry on their verbal ping-pong without a single thought to you or your comment. Sometimes more people join in, making you feel a complete outcast!

People friending you on FB just to like their page

I’m sure you know the type, especially if you’re an author or do anything else creative. As I’m an indie author, I’ve had many Facebook friend-requests from fellow authors. Usually they come from mutual author friends and in the main they’re supportive and respectful. But nothing makes my heart sink more than to get a friend-request from a new author who immediately asks me to ‘like their author page’ before speaking to me. Not even a ‘hi (or hey) nice to meet you and what do you write?’ It is the ultimate in bad manners and narcissism and always results in my unfriending them forthwith. I mean what do they think?  Maybe what I write or indeed the fact that I’m a writer has barely grazed their self-inflated heads.  Maybe somebody somewhere told them to friend lots of other writers and spam them to bits. They probably didn’t use the word spam, they probably told them to market assertively (aggressively).  But surely by now everyone knows that targeting other writers - especially writers you don’t know - does not work.  Other writers want other readers to read and review their work too. Other writers are busy writing. Why would they bother with some self-important, bad-mannered jerk?  You’ve got to wonder! 

Let’s Play a Game - each adding a word on social media


I see this occasionally in writers’ groups or forums. This is where each person on the thread just adds a new word, presumably to feel part of this larger joint story and to enjoy a transitory power in being able to alter its course. But the problem is, on Facebook, say, all but the last two or three contributions are visible and who cares anyway about this tedious and endless story?


My sister and I used to have a version of this as teenagers. But with much more exciting variations and outcomes:


Each word we wrote would be in pen in a notebook


Each word was written by a different character we’d invented (alternating between one of Ann’s characters and one of mine)


Each word was also written in that character’s own handwriting


And finally, we had a finite list of characters who we enacted so the total number of words would be something like 70.


This would mean a 70 word paragraph and even if our characters had two contributions per exercise, we’d  have a finite nonsensical very short story. But it’s finite nature was part of its charm. To this day I still remember the first line of one of those fun exercises which went: On top of my gothic football!

 

Captchas  

Yes those. Those annoying things that suddenly appear when you’re tying to sign in to a website to prove you’re not a bot. I don’t mind those that require you to tick all the pictures that feature, say, a car or a flower. No, it’s those infernal ones that have a series of numbers and letters embedded in some obscure cobwebby grid so you can’t see the blessed figures or numbers. It’s OK if it’s your bank sending you a PIN number through the post - you expect a certain level of obscurity but are bots so sophisticated that they’re able to read numbers and figures embedded in a tangled maze more than we can? These captchas do give you an option of trying another and then another. I don’t know know about you, but I find they get successively more obscure and wish I’d persisted with the first option! By this time I’ve lost the will to live and wonder whether the site I was trying to access is worth all the aggro.


Compulsory ‘fields’ on online forms 

It’s the requirement to give your phone number before being able to ‘turn’ the virtual page that does it for me.  There are great red lines on the page, like you’ve had a ticking off for handing in suboptimal homework.  I’m sure many of you will do what I do and fill out the telephone field with a row of noughts or ones and merrily get through the magic barrier.  I have to say though that some sites have wised up to this and spot that it isn’t a ‘real’ phone number.  Sometimes, I decide these firms don’t deserve my custom if they’re to be that intrusive. Why do they need my phone number anyway if they have my email? Hmm….

Card readers 


I understand the need for safety and security with all the scams and phishing that abound online. I really don’t mind even using the confounded card reader when I have to pay a new payee (as long as it doesn’t come up with an error, but that’s the trouble - too often they do). But when they’re working OK, I understand why I have to have extra security for a new payee. It doesn’t happen very often, right? But what I do object to is having to use one every time I go into my online bank account. I had been with my bank for 43 years and never an overdraft. That and my loyalty surely counted for something? I phoned them and complained, but still the need to use a card reader every single time and all because I couldn’t use my mobile (it doesn’t get a signal for me to receive their one time passcodes). So I’ve now found a bank that - shock, horror - is quite happy to send me a One Time Passcode by email. It’s not rocket science, it’s quite painless on both sides. So I decided the bank who had my money for 43 years didn’t deserve it a moment longer!


Black Friday and Cyber Monday


It has naff all to do with us here in the UK. I appreciate that for my friends and family across the pond, Black Friday relates to the equivalent of Boxing Day sales here (after, in this case, Thanksgiving). In fact, maybe they got the idea from us seeing as they don’t celebrate Boxing Day and hence no Boxing Day sales.  But we do not celebrate Thanksgiving, so Black Friday is just unmoored to anything. As for Cyber Monday, that must be highly annoying, even to our US friends, dragging out the consumerism even more. Soon we’ll be having Uber Tuesday and Red-Hot Wednesday tacked on if we don’t watch out!


Watch Parties

This is the latest annoyance on Facebook – alerting me to some watch party in my notifications. All they do is slow my computer down and stop my browser working!


WhatsApp 


It probably has its place but I really can't get on with WhatsApp groups - they seem to consist of one long continuous thread and haphazard conversations.  I had to search high and low too in ordered to switch off the infernal notification noises.



Well, that's all for now.  Do share your own in the comments section!

Monday, 15 March 2021

Little Guide to My Pet Peeves - Part 1 (Words & Phrases)

 Little Guide To Pet Peeves

A long overdue follow up to my book Little Guide To Unhip but I have decided to do these as a series of blogs.

I shall being posting these over the next few weeks (or probably months at this rate) as it keeps evolving, especially as all our lives have changed so much since I began this. But some things are just as relevant as they ever were, for example, in relation to the online world!

I began this for fun, so please do take it in the spirit in which it’s meant.  I’ll put my hands up and say I probably have as many annoying little turns of phrases and behaviours as the next person.  These are just my personal bête-noires.  

I’ve divided them loosely into ten areas (which may change as I go along) but the first thing that inspired me to begin this was Part 1 – words and phrases. Please feel free to share your own in the comments section.

 

Part 1 - Words & Phrases

 

Hun- This really gives me the heebie-whatsits. It’s ubiquitous, you can’t escape it. The most guilty are women on social media or other internet platforms talking to other women.  The worst thing about it is that it’s meant to be a term of affection, or extending friendship. Sorry about your tooth pain, hun.  PM me, hun and I will give you a link XX.  But why? I want to scream ‘My name is Kate’ or whatever user name I happen to be using, so why the heck all this hun malarkey?  I’m not part of the hun club and you won’t catch me following the herd to be accepted. I am past all that.  I can forgive a person if they are Australian as I think its use there predates the false chumminess of the internet. I think it may be true in Scotland too. My mother used to call me honeybunch as a term of endearment when I was a child. But she was my mother and not many others used it. Certainly not every other person.

A close runner is Sweetie.  Sometimes I give in to temptation and call them 'flower' or 'petal' or 'my dear' in return.  My sister loathes it when men call her 'dear'. She always replies by calling them 'pal'.

Irregardless– it is regardless and irrespective but now the two seem to be conflated, and the uninitiated will continue to say irregardless, regardless of what I write and what is right. In fact, I couldn’t help but sneak this into a novel.  Speech blunders are wonderful for character studies!

Panties– I know I’m not alone with this one. In one of the book groups on Facebook there were 291 comments below the original post by someone claiming it was one of her pet hates too some years ago.  There were some hilarious contributions to the thread and particularly from one man who was persuaded to remove his ‘panties’ from the character in his book. This is the wonder of an international discussion where in the US women’s underwear is panties and the knickers of the Brits are not used.  One of my contributions to this long thread was the reason I loathe the word ‘panties’ is because it sounds a mixture of infantilising and porno in equal measure, ugh!  It seems to be generally us British women who cringe at its use.

So– this tiny little word at the beginning of every sentence, or in answer to any question put to a politician, or to begin any Facebook status. This annoys my brother more than me although I did incorporate this annoyance into the same work of fiction as the irregardless mentioned above. 

Going Forward– like ‘so’ heading every sentence, or ‘hun’ ending every social media comment, ‘going forward’ has spread everywhere like mold spores.  What began as a considered, emotionally intelligent way of getting one out of a sticky hole and not repeating the awful mistakes of the past in a given situation, now seems to be a redundant glue word.  ‘What we are doing, going forward, is this..’ ‘What do you want to do now, going forward…?’ As if there was some doubt regarding the direction of travel. What else are we doing?  As good as it would be to time travel, I don’t think physics has quite caught up with that yet, so we shan’t be going backward any time soon.  Whatever happened to ‘in the future’? 

My bad– when I first heard this – or should I say, saw it written down in a forum – I thought there must have been an error; that the author had omitted a word. It didn’t even make any sense. I wanted to say My bad what? But then, as is the way when you hit on a new expression, I started seeing it everywhere.  I mean, why not just say ‘my mistake’ or ‘I’m sorry’? That would be too simple, though.

Have Your Cake and Eat It – I’ve never really got the measure of this silly expression or what it’s trying to convey.  I know the sort of context in which it’s it’s said. But if it’s meant to mean you can’t eat your cake twice then why not just say that?  That’s perfectly clear to me.  But also it’s stating the bleeding obvious too.  Why would anyone try and eat the same cake twice?  I think we need a completely new expression or why not stick with the much clearer ‘you can’t have it both ways’. 

Anymore For Any More– Usually said when some hostess with the mostest is wanting to know if her guests want any more helpings of food.  It just seems to be one of those irritating, over-achieving over-used expressions which isn’t all that.  Maybe it’s just me, but just ask me and my table neighbour if we’d like any more. You don’t have to be clever: a hackneyed phrase that wasn’t all that clever to start with is just, well, annoying.

Panic Attacks- when what is really meant is a minor panic with none of the accompanying palpitations, quaking legs, flip-flopping stomach, sizzling/icy sweats, dizzy vision, swimming head, thoughts going faster than the London Marathon, you get the picture.

Furthest from the work place– this is one of those veiled vicious phrases employed by the Department of Work & Pensions to pass judgment on you or your sick and disabled friends, single mothers, long term unemployed etc and to single you out for some Nudging, Work Related Activity, Help with Your CV or something equally patronizing. Worse, you may be bullied, humiliated, sanctioned or all three with the new sweeping powers bestowed on the Employment Services and Disability Health Assessors.

Here are a few more phrases that are pretty annoying because of the regularity with which they’re used:

Kicked the can down the road (or into the long grass)–it was a good descriptive metaphor for the first person who used it, now I just want to kick it into oblivion. 


Thrown him/her/me under the bus– similar to above. They could at least change the mode of transport. The poor bus gets it every time.


Tin ears – there was a time circa 2019 when every other politician accused his or her opposite number of having their lugs made of a particular metal


Mood music – another platitude latched onto by (mainly) politcians


Let’s unpack thisnot in relation to returning from your holidays either, but ‘let’s go into this in more depth’.

Drilling down– similar to the above ‘let’s drill down into these numbers’

Early doors – the doors bit is completely redundant.  What people mean is ‘early on’. But the doors part obviously originates from going to a venue when the ‘doors’ were just opening eg for a gig or theatre production. 

It is what it is – a truism of ever there was one.  It isn’t what it isn’t might be a bit more original. Or perhaps try saying it isn’t what it is or it is what it isn’t which might at least raise a few eyebrows or spark some interesting philosophical debates

Dial it down – again, it was good on first hearing, a little less on second but very quickly slipped into clichéhood.  How many devices have dials these days in any case?


It doesn’t even touch the sides –another tired and over-used phrase


Row back – at the time of writing this (March 2021), this is used with increasing frequency.  Meaning to change your original opinion or decision 


Double down – apparently this comes from blackjack but it’s taken off now and applies to sticking to one’s position resolutely even in the face of adversity


From the get-go – nothing against US expressions when they’re from people from the US! But this has now largely replaced ‘from the start’.


Pushback – what happened to the good old-fashioned words such as resistance or opposition?


A friend of mine detests - singing from the same hymn sheet. I sort of know what she means.


Update - April 2021


Uptick - keep hearing this a lot!


Shift the dial - I guess, as with 'dial it down' people are getting very nostalgic for dials!


I shall be bringing more pet peeves next time!

Monday, 4 January 2021

My Writing and other Goals for 2021

It's that time of year again where some of us like to set out our goals for the new year.  This is something I've done for the last few years and found it helpful at the end of the year to see where I'm at. I did achieve most of my goals last year and wrote more blogs in the year than I have since beginning this blog in 2010 - but even then that only amounted to the princely sum of seven!

I'm aware as I'm writing this just what a trying year last year was - for so many it's been devastating.  For others, it's been an opportunity to reset and reevaluate. This formed the subject matter of a couple of my blogs last year.  I do think the next few weeks will be tough, but am hoping we can emerge in the spring with some 'green shoots' of hope and the worst of the pandemic behind us.

So with no further ado,  these are my goals for 2021:

Writing goals

 1)  Publish 'The Colour Of Wednesday' the follow up novel to 'Down The Tubes'.  This has been a long time in the making but it's nearly there now.  I could carry on tweaking and fine-tuning it, that's what I have done in the past with books, but there comes a point where you need to move onto other projects (see below).

2)  The Poetry Collection from our Facebook Group - Don't Go Breaking Our Arts (for artists and writers with long term conditions and disabilities).  This was in my goals for last year but I'm thrilled to say there was a lot of progress last year.  I began collecting up a lot of the poems from the group archives with the help of another member. Now with the support of Disability Arts Online we have found someone very experienced to collaborate with and have also had a generous donation towards the paperback production. It's all a bit under wraps now so can't reveal too much.

3) Beginning my next big writing project.  I've wanted to do an autobiography of sorts, with an angle, but shall have to see.  I'm excited to have a go anyway and if it turns out to be something other than what I envisaged, then so be it. Writing has a habit of doing that - evolving into something else.

4)  Collect together my own poems for a possible collection and also write more short stories.  As it takes me so much longer to complete anything these days, I need to stick to shorter stuff.

5) Get my latest Little Guide into a series of blogs (to begin with).  That's something else I've nearly finished for the time being (as much as these Little Guides are ever completed).

Other activities

Singing

Last year was really wonderful for getting back to singing again.  Zoom has created so many opportunities for those of us who sadly had to give up live community choirs long before Covid reared its ugly head.  But a very old friend of mine introduced my sister and me to her daughter's online singing group, and that's been so uplifting.  People wonder how it works when mics are on mute.  Well, as my sister does it with me, we can each do a part. Sometimes if the person leading the sing is doing a third part we can get a three part harmony going! My sister and I have been going weekly on a Wednesday to a small Zoom group and fortnightly every Saturday to a bigger Zoom group where two guest singers as well as the coordinator teach us one of their songs or another song of their choosing.  In one of the Saturday groups before Christmas there was nearly 140 participants!  So although you're not getting the experience of hearing all the other voices that you get in a choir, you do get something else, the pleasure of singing along with one or two others and the personal connections from the other regular Zoom singers, particularly in the smaller group.

I can honestly say that I have been introduced to many new gorgeous singers and songs, as well as seeing familiar ones!  I hope that these choices and opportunities will continue post-Covid.

Genealogy 

As I mentioned in my end of year blog, I had quite  journey last year in this respect. It came as a massive shock discovering that hundreds of my third and fourth cousins had been killed in the Holocaust. I'd always thought that my family's branch wasn't affected. Well, the direct line wasn't as my great great grandfather came to London, luckily for us.  But there were devastating consequences for so many of the descendants of his siblings who stayed in Amsterdam. A family member and I have been documenting the lives and stories of those who were affected and it's been a long and harrowing journey.  I have thought of doing some blogs on some of them to honour and remember their lives.

The upside of all this research is discovering new cousins we didn't know we had. 

Health goals

I want to try acupuncture for hyperhidrosis as I've heard it can help - I've tried everything else. I shouldn't really pin my hopes on it though, as I've been disappointed so much in the last few years.  I can't try it anyway until I feel safe to go to appointments and such places are open for business.

Further investigations to rule out autoimmune diseases.  I did have an online consultation with a rheumatologist who has recommended I get some further blood tests.  Again, I have to wait until all these high tiers/lockdowns are removed.

Continuing with my therapy for ME/CFS which has been done remotely and proved a better way of interacting at the moment i.e. from the comfort of my own home. My therapist also observed how much more relaxed I was in my own environment, and I also have mindfulness exercises to practise.  Although mindfulness and meditation aren't new to me, I find it helps to be reminded and to brush up on these techniques so they become second nature. It's easy to forget if you don't have them as homework!

Household

More small jobs to make better use of space, so probably more cupboards and shelving, plus small things which will provide more comfort, thicker curtains etc! As I spend most of my time at home these things become increasingly important and yet Covid has made it more difficult to get work done in the home. Last year we had about three jobs lined up just when lockdown hit us!

So that's about it.  I suppose my hopes for 2021 are the same as most people's. For this crisis to pass and for people to be able to return to the best parts of their lives - their work, seeing their loved ones, travel and so on.

So it just remains for me to wishing you all a happy and healthy new year!

 


Friday, 11 December 2020

2020 Review

Well, this year didn't turn out quite as expected.  It began with a little-known virus which spread rapidly across the world, causing huge disruptions to all our lives. I have already written blogs earlier this year about some of the positive changes that occurred for me.

Zoom has opened up opportunities for those of us who live largely indoors - it's been fantastic to be able to sing again.  Having not been able to go to real life sessions for a few years, I've gone from no singing to lots of singing.  I've learned some wonderful new songs, connected with some fantastic singers and songwriters and a warm-hearted online singing community.  Even when we return to the 'new normal' I hope some online singing opportunities continue, otherwise I shall feel bereft!

Early in the year, I also discovered some devastating information about third and fourth cousins of ours, hundreds of whom were killed in the Holocaust. So, since the spring, another family member and I have spent a lot of time finding about these relatives and their lives, to honour them.  We've still got a lot more to do.  But on the plus side we've connected with new cousins across the world - relatives whose great grandfathers decided to move away from Amsterdam as ours did. I may write future blogs on some of those people I'd like to honour, a lot of the information is in the public domain courtesy of Joods Monument.

Now for the review of the writing goals I set myself at the beginning of this year - seems a lifetime ago now!

   Goal 1:  I really hope to finish the follow up to Down The Tubes this year.



Update: it's almost finished! It's just been out with my beta readers and should be ready for release in the new year. 

Goal 2:  It would be nice to get on with another Little Guide seeing as it's nearly a decade since I had Little Guide To Unhip published. I have been doing another one but maybe will do them as a blog for now. And talking of blogs, I do hope to do more blog posts than last year!

Update: I'm going to do these as a series of blogs, I decided. The first one may even be out very soon!

 Goal 3: I also think it would be great to bring out a collection of poems from Don’t Go Breaking Our Arts, our creative group for people with disabilities. I have thought this for years but I'm not very organised and so would to collaborate with other members and and also decide where to send any royalties - I wouldn’t expect many as these are soon offset by promotion costs etc

Update: This is also happening!  We have been archiving some of the poems from Facebook throughout the year, collecting them into a Word document  Then I pitched to Disability Arts Online I'm so grateful for the help of Colin Hambrook for enabling this and putting me in touch with a writer with a wealth of experience who was - coincidentally - planning another publication along the lines of what our group was planning.  Watch this space.

 Goal 4: I hope to get another book out in paperback - this would be one of the older ones now that have gone out of print, since all the ones previously unpublished are in paperback now.

Update:  I have another book out in paperback!

Goal 5:  Begin the autobiography that's been brewing for a few years now and also to crack on with some more short stories/do something with my poems

Update: Apart from organising a few notes, not much progress here alas, except for the poems

And other goals...

Health goals: I wanted to rule out autoimmune illnesses like Sjrogrens Syndrome and Lupus. I 'd had a positive result for ANA antibodies which can be a sign of an autoimmune illness such as the above or rheumatoid arthritis. Because of Covid19, however, progress has been painfully slow. I did have telephone appointment with a dermatologist in the spring or summer. This was mainly about the hyperhidrosis which is one of my most debilitating symptoms.  There was nothing further to try on the medicine front which I've not tried already. 

More recently I had a video appointment with a rheumatologist who did ask a lot of questions and didn't think I had Lupus from what I told her. But she did suggest more blood tests in the new year (whenever I can have this done safely at the surgery!)

House goals: I wanted better seating in the sitting room, comfort becoming increasingly important the more I need to stay at home!  Plus more storage for bedroom eg better drawers.

We do have a new settee which was ordered in January and because it was bespoke wasn't due until April but then lockdown meant it doesn't come until May or June!  The same thing happened with blinds and shelving.

Still no further on the little pod or something for the garden. Other things became more pressing. 




  Family goals: I hoped to support family members as best I could, as some of their needs are great or greater than mine. I hope I succeeded.

I thought that the above - especially the writing goals - was all way too ambitious but I'm thrilled to have achieved many of the goals or am partly in the process of achieving them. I also mentioned that anything unachieved could be carried over to the next year!

I do hope you've managed to achieve what you wanted in 2020, in spite of Covid19 restrictions, or maybe because of them. Maybe you've been appreciating nature more, baking more bread or finally decorating the house. Maybe you've finally finished that book or even started writing or some other creative pursuit. Do tell!

In the meantime, happy festivities and here's wishing you all a happy and brighter 2021 😊



Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Long Covid recognition but what about ME/CFS?


I’m taking a diversion from the usual writing topics for my blog this month as none of us live in a vacuum and let’s face it, Coronavirus had been dominating our lives for most of the year.

 

There’s been a lot of talk about ‘long Covid’ and I’m very glad that it’s being taken seriously. These are the lingering and debilitating symptoms after having a bad hit of the virus. People with long Covid experience a physical, mental and cognitive toll on their ability to do the things they used to be able to do.  They feel exhausted after exercise or a short walk with muscle pains and general fatigue.  This will all sound familiar to those of us who have been diagnosed with ME (sometimes called CFS and I won’t go into the politics of that just now). One of the tell tale symptoms of ME and one of the diagnostic criteria is what is known as P.E.M or Post Exertional Malaise.  This can be physical, mental or social.  It usually doesn’t show up immediately after the activity but people with ME or PEM will typically ‘crash’ the following day or some hours after the event.  

 

Most people with a diagnosis of ME can pinpoint the illness that led to their disability. For me it was a very nasty virus in 1994 and a recurrence either of the same virus or a different one six months later. Both bouts were characterised by severe coughing, pleurisy, breathlessness (One GP thought my lung might have collapsed) and months of acute pain around the chest and back.  I wish that the medical community had told me the strain or name of the virus back then – rather than just, ‘there’s a nasty cough virus going round’ so at least there was some way of checking back and comparing development with others who suffered from that same virus and had a similar outcome.  Of course, as with Covid, everyone’s immune system reacts differently and there are of course other virulent infections and coronaviruses that have circulated before and after the one I had. But having a name and strain is empowering – it means we know what we’re dealing with, rather than foundering in the dark, and experts can chart its progress, build up a picture and develop effective treatments.

 



The sad thing is, not that people shouldn’t be taking Covid seriously, but it has taken Covid for people to use basic common sense when they have an infection. Back in 1994, I was around infected people at work and was subjected to ‘large viral loads’ as I was around such people for large parts of the day. I can actually remember the person who had a severe cough in 1995 and spending a large part of the day with her in close proximity – this too, when I was already vulnerable from the previous bout. But because there was no real public awareness and entrenched attitudes – some people thought it showed their fortitude and strength of character to be able to come into work and battle on when severely ill. 

 

However, in the light of Covid, things have had to change. Hopefully we will never go back to the casual and foolish attitude of people expected to ‘come into work’ when clearly they should be in bed. Far from anything else, it’s a false economy in ‘saving the economy’ if the whole work force is infected instead of one.

 

The government have announced they are setting up specialist clinics for people suffering with ‘long Covid’. Before this announcement people were being referred to ME/CFS services.

 

But those of us who have suffered such symptoms for years can't help but feel slightly miffed about the neglect of M.E. these past four decades and the ridicule and dismissiveness that has been heaped upon us. I remember the same conversations going on in the eighties.  I hope the conversation will change now.

 

Dan Wyke recently wrote in the Facebook group ‘Invest in ME Research’ summed up perfectly the fears and frustrations that many people with ME share: “The frequent sight of doctors publicly bemoaning the lack of understanding of Long Covid and asserting its seriousness/realness is particularly galling to ME/CFS patients whose chronic, post-viral disease has been ignored by them (and to some extent the media) for decades.

Misunderstanding/ignorance regarding ME/CFS is so entrenched within the health profession that even now many doctors are incapable of seeing the parallels with Long Covid. They aren't aware of the extensive body of ME/CFS research or (limited) treatment possibilities for themselves/their new patients.

The prospect of unwell GPs raising awareness of Long Covid, while continuing to completely ignore ME/CFS, is a very real possibility.

Should GPs succeed in creating a separate medical category for Long Covid and a narrative of public understanding/acceptance (denied ME/CFS), it will be another cruel blow to the +250,000 ME/CFS patients in the UK.”*

 

* I wish to thank Dan Wyke for permission to quote him. 

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Unhip and Unloved!



At home I have a cupboard full of printed books that are what you might call ‘seconds’. They’re either proofs or they’ve had their covers updated, or some of the text updated or typos corrected. Sometimes a small detail or sentence has been added or omitted or other minor structural work performed. To all intents and purposes they are as near as perfect as they could be at any point in time, otherwise I wouldn’t have paid for the proofs.

But what to do with these slightly imperfect spares? I did try giving several away as review copies on Goodreads some years ago, alerting any people who asked for a copy that they were seconds. Not only had these books been paid for out of my own pocket but I’d also bought the padded envelopes and paid for the postage (I did a UK giveaway only). But hey, if it got me a few more reviews it would be worth it, wouldn’t it? I had done a giveaway once before on Goodreads and I may have received one review as a result of that so I knew I wouldn’t get many. But the second (and last ever time) I actually got none. So I crossed that off my list as a viable project. We live and learn.

But still the spares amass. I try and improve on my covers and my latest experience has confirmed to me that a book is most definitely judged by its cover.

You see once CV-19 hit our shores and people had more time and less money I thought it might be a perfect opportunity to give away some of these imperfect books of mine. But I didn’t want to leave a basket of books in my porch for passersby. It would have been too embarrassing and a girl has her pride. I don’t have a lot of confidence and I live in small town. Online is where I do most of my trading!

But then during the dry sunny months of April and May, I noticed the lovely gardens opposite me began offering a box of secondhand children’s books. The offer was for people to swap. Perhaps one or two books aimed at older people started or maybe I began the trend, I can't remember now.  But I plucked up the courage and took over a copy of Little Guide To Unhip with one of its old covers, together with another used but acclaimed book, and snuck them in the box when nobody was looking. I went back on successive days and took a sneaky peek into the box when I passed it - other books came and went but Unhip remained! The weather was so dry that, after a while, the people organising this just left the box of books in the morning and collected them in the evening. Then one day the heavens opened. Unhip was pelted on (maybe it should have gone under the umbrella of the plants table - there is some sense and irony in this because the unhipness of brollies is mentioned in the book!). Next time I went in the garden there was Unhip with misshapen and cobbled pages, the way pages dry after a good soaking. Who would want it now? It least before the rain it had been in almost pristine condition,



But over the coming days more books were appearing and it also looked as if Unhip had gone (or maybe the garden librarians had felt sorry for the tatty thing and decided to put it out of its misery.) But seeing it gone I got bold. I took in an old proof copy of Far Cry From The Turquoise Room and snuck it in the book box.

A day or two later I saw Unhip back in the box. So it hadn’t been adopted after all! However it wasn’t long before Turquoise Room had gone and never reappeared. So I can only assume it found a home. Maybe the doll on the front appealed to one of the children - even though it’s an adult/young adult book.







But every time I walked through the entrance subsequently I had to do the walk of shame and see an edge of Unhip peeping out from the other books. After a while I was past caring. I started to see the funny side. As my sister said 'the book is so unhip that nobody would dare take it.'

Once June came, the weather became more unsettled and the box of books was no more.  

There is a moral to this story somewhere - I think it's not to be too precious about your books and to realise that you have to laugh sometimes in this indie publishing business to save yourself from weeping.



Sunday, 3 May 2020

Is a life indoors valued less?




I have been thinking about this a lot since lockdown - and I know I’m not alone in this; that many other introverts will have been thinking about it too.

It’s the extraverts who are finding lockdown the most difficult - not being able to physically meet up with friends, to socialise every day, to be out and about. I know it’s more complicated - that there are introverts who like to go out and walk alone and think. I am restricted because of physical health conditions as well so it’s just as well that my temperament is suited to the indoor life. I get it, that people with other mental health conditions, especially depression, need that social contact in order to boost their well being and self esteem. I am also very fortunate in that I’m not locked down alone - that I have company. I also miss seeing my family physically and that physical contact with them.

I am also very well aware how a life indoors may be a living hell for people stuck with a violent or abusive partner or family member. Or having now outside space to call their own.

But the flip side of all this is that people are waiting for ‘life to return to normal’ - as if somehow this indoor life is unnatural and undesirable. It’s certainly not what the government have in mind when they talk about easing restrictions. Society always seems geared towards extraverts as a default so that those of us who don’t fit in by temperament feel excluded.

Now all that had reversed and we’re the ones who have the skills and strengths, because although there are disruptions to my life as mentioned above, for me it’s business as usual. I was living a mainly indoor life anyway because fatigue, pain, anxiety and hyperhidrosis make the outdoor life largely unpleasant and unenjoyable and an uphill struggle.

For me the lockdown has exposed how we as a society view people who live their lives indoors. As a writer I am used to it and have plenty to keep me busy- energy and health permitting. In fact I have found more demands on my time and energy trying to keep up with friends and relatives in lockdown - or people who now suddenly have more time on their hands and assume I do too.

But the conversation is happening. I’m hearing people not wishing to return to their pre-lockdown lives on the hectic treadmill. Now people have had the time to reflect, many are enjoying the slower pace, hearing the bird song, the more natural pace of life. This isn’t to say that there won’t be an economic fallout and that many businesses will need so much help to get back on their feet. The high street was already on its knees before CV-19 and it was obvious that it needed government subsidies to stay alive and to keep that vital sense of community.

So back to my initial question. Is a life indoors valued less? I think it was. But I hope it won’t be in future. 

I have enjoyed embracing my indoor self and hope society will value those introverts among us more in future!