Learning

Guest Post – Literary Landmarks of England.

Hey lovely readers,

Today I have yet another guest post to share with you! A couple of weeks ago, Amanda from Show and Stay sent me an email explaining her idea for my blog and I have to say, I was really excited. You all know how much I love reading and that I study English Literature at university so the idea of visiting various literary locations is something I love, I’ve been to the Globe in London before which was fantastic and having read this I’d really like to visit the Brontë Parsonage Museum!

I hope you enjoy the post :-)

Literary Landmarks of England

Get your literary fix by visiting some of the country’s greatest bookish landmarks from London to Oxford and beyond. Embark on a literary odyssey to our pick of some of the most impressive former homes and favourite haunts of the UK’s preeminent cherished novelists and characters.

Brontë Parsonage Museum

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë all lived and worked in this West Yorkshire home, nestled in a verdant expanse of brooding moorland from which the enigmatic sisters drew inspiration. Explore the hilltop village of Haworth before heading to the Parsonage itself, brilliantly maintained by the Brontë Society and the birthplace of both Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Peek into the dining room where the sisters routinely planned and wrote their precocious fiction, pacing together around the table as ideas took shape. The room also houses the macabre black sofa where Emily is said to have died, and you’ll find original furniture and memorabilia scattered throughout the building, from one of Charlotte’s dresses to a portrait of the sisters painted by their only brother Branwell.

221B Baker Street

The investigation starts as soon as you step off the tube at Baker Street station, where you’ll uncover the unmistakable pipe-and-deerstalker silhouette of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s dogged detective. Then make your way to 221B Baker Street to visit Sherlock Holmes’ famous apartment, where the persnickety sleuth solved beguiling conundrums between playing the violin and ingesting his favourite recreational stimulants. Sherlock’s study is cluttered with books, exotic ornaments and intriguing chemical broths, offset by rich vermillion walls and two comfy facing chairs where it’s easy to imagine Holmes and Watson thrashing out a case. Delve into Dr Watson’s own stark abode, hunt down the head of a certain Baskerville hound, and witness wax figures in iconic poses from the Holmes casebooks. The well-priced museum opens every day and is a must for devotees of the highly complex, irregular investigator.

The Eagle and Child

Take a stroll to this Oxford pub where literary coterie the Inklings met weekly for over fifteen years, exchanging ideas and readings of new material less than a mile from the University where many worked as academics. The group included preeminent fantasy writers J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis; the latter handed out proofs of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at one such meeting, while Tolkien published what would become the third best-selling book of all time, The Lord of the Rings, soon after bowing out of the gatherings in the 1950s. Enter the pub’s Rabbit Room, the formerly private lounge where the Inklings shared lunchtime meals, for a tasty pub lunch amid mementos of the extraordinary literary set.

Hill Top

Beatrix Potter’s sublime tales of chatty, mischievous animals are adored the world over by those who grew up with Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck and friends. The cosy Hill Top cottage in Cumbria recreates her idyllic environment, from the garden’s endearing array of flowers, fruits and vegetables to the rooms overflowing with references to her beloved fables. Picturesque country views of the surrounding area inspired Potter’s charming yet subversive stories, and a special garden trail lets children enjoy an enchanting walk through Hill Top’s greenery. As the cottage is modestly sized and fills up quickly, be sure to arrive early to guarantee a successful visit.

Dickens House Museum

Charles Dickens wrote two of his most beloved novels, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby, while living in this London manor house from 1837 to 1839. After escaping demolition the historic home was transformed into the Dickens House Museum in 1925, boasting thousands of artifacts to astound Dickens enthusiasts including original manuscripts, paintings and personal items belonging to the Victorian author. The museum hosts a range of events all year, spanning everything from walking tours to readings and storytelling, making this an ideal visit for both long-term Dickens fans and the next generation eagerly racing through A Christmas Carol.

This guest post was written by Show and Stay, the UK theatre break provider to literary London.

Autumn Goals.

Today has been an absolutely lovely lovely day. My first day off this week, I had lots of plans and high hopes which all materialised. Isn’t it great when a plan comes together?

I started my day with a strength training session – my first in weeks! It felt good to feel some soreness in my upper body, my weights definitely felt heavier than they used to when I was lifting more regularly haha.

Lunch was the best bit of the day, I met my lovely friend, Ellie, in town. In fact, we went to my favourite cafe which was a brilliant choice. We chatted for several hours and enjoyed some delicious food. Such a nice way to spend a few hours in the middle of my day :-)

I went for a roasted butternut squash and five grain salad along with a caramel latte. Delicious!

We also decided to share a sweet treat:

This beauty is a macedamia nut, cranberry and white chocolate blondie. It was really good.

Then, after a wander around the shops with Ellie, I came back home, met my dad, got changed, jumped on my bike and went to the gym. I did 10 minutes on the stationary bike, 15 minutes of HIIT on the cross trainer and then a 5 minute cool-down on the stationary bike again. I am seriously on a role here!

Tonight I’ve been in my pyjamas, tucked up in bed since 8pm which is bliss. I watched The Great British Bake Off which has inspired me to bake tomorrow and I’ve been catching up on lots of lovely blogs.

A perfect day off.

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Now, if you’ve been reading my blog for several months then you will know that I have often written posts on monthly goals. It’ll be no surprise to you that I like having goals almost as much as I like writing lists. They focus me and they give me such a wonderful sense of achievement when I succeed with them. Although I really enjoy writing up and trying to complete monthly goals I thought that, as I was starting again at a new uni and I’m going to be really busy, it would make more sense for my light right now to write goals for the whole season of Autumn. Therefore my aim is to have completed them by the end of November.

The goals I give myself always reflect what is happening with my life at the time. I feel that dividing them into themes is the best way of making them realistic and achievable. I don’t want to stretch myself harder than is possible with the goals, if they are completely unrealistic then they won’t get ticked off and that doesn’t serve a purpose, but I do want to push myself and use them to motivate myself to do well!

WORK

Start reading. I have a huuuge reading list for my first semester (which starts in three weeks!!) and I really want to get off to a strong start having read some of the books for each of my module. Most of them have arrived which is a relief, and there are some really beautiful copies. I’ve started with Moby Dick which I’m really enjoying and then I’m moving on to Great Expectations.

Set up a good work environment. My arrangement at home couldn’t be much better for inducing a work environment separate from my bedroom. My mum and I are sharing the study so I can have all of my uni things and work in there, then keep my bedroom as a sanctuary for relaxing in. I want to set up my desk before I start the semester and then keep my study space organised and clutter-free so that I can work easily.

Stay on top of things. I can imagine that, as I am going into my second year, the work will pile up quickly. Last year, because I became quite ill near the beginning and spent so much time completely debilitated by fatigue, I really struggled to keep up with my work and I don’t want that to happen again this semester. My aim is to do my work as soon as it is set (wherever possible) and to start assignments early so that I can spread them out and stay ahead.

HEALTH

Get back into a fitness routine and plan workouts weekly. Since joining the gym just over a week ago I’ve been trying to up my workouts and I’ve already started to feel more alive because of it. It’s great to be exercising again and I’m really feeling positive about it! I want to be at the gym 3-4 times a week and to be strength training about 3 times a week with some stretching sessions thrown in. To try to keep this going I’m going to make an effort to plan my workouts each week and keep motivated.

Eat cleanly 90% of the time. On the whole, I eat a pretty healthy diet, however I do fall down occasionally when it comes to sweet things. I crave sugar a lot – it mostly stems from the artificial boost of energy sugary foods give me which I used (wrongly) when I was really struggling to get through the day at uni last year. I want to cut this sort of snacking out completely and just eat clean, healthy food. Of course I will treat myself when I really fancy it, I believe balance is important.

LIFE

Cook and bake more often. Pretty self-explanatory really. I love creating food, be that delicious nutritious meals or fabulous cakes, so I want to do it more often! I have lots of great cookbooks so I’m planning on making dinner for the family as often as I can, maybe once a week, and on baking something new and exciting each week :-)

Make my summer scrapbook. Again, obvious. I can’t wait to put all of my photos and the things I collected from this summer together.

Join societies/clubs at uni and find an opportunity to volunteer. I’m looking forward to making the most of extra curricular opportunities at uni, especially if I can find somewhere to sing and it would be lovely to try something new too. I also want to set up some voluntary work at a local primary school as experience in case I decide to do a PGCE after my undergraduate studies.

So, here you have a mammoth post on my goals! I hope you enjoyed reading them and maybe even felt inspired to make some of your own Autumn goals…

What’s your Saturday been like?
Have you got any goals for the month/for Autumn?

Working Life, Reflections.

As I have now completed three full weeks of work and just have one week left to get through I felt like having a look at what working has been like this summer and where my condition is at the moment.

Although I knew it would be hard work, I didn’t really know how working 8 hour days, five days a week for four weeks would actually affect me. It’s been an interesting experience and I’m really pleased that I decided to do the work as now I know what I’m capable of and I have an idea of what would push me too far into exhaustion.

As I said on Wednesday, I really enjoy my job. I’ve always liked working with children; I used to volunteer at my old dance school as a teaching assistant, I did work experience in a nursery and I’ve always done a fair amount of babysitting. I find that helping children to develop their ability and improve their skills just makes me feel so satisfied, it’s a really fulfilling position as you feel as though you’ve made just a little bit of difference in their lives.

In case you’ve missed the posts in which I mentioned it, this holiday scheme is centred around arts and crafts activities. I work with the guy who runs the programme, and then three other girls around my age so it’s nice to have someone with whom you share interests to talk to in between chatting away with the children.

What’s always funny is watching the children interact, last week we had a couple of the most adorable little five-year-old girls you’ve ever seen and as best friends they did everything together. One lunch we asked them what they were playing to which one replied “I’m the mummy and she’s the baby and I’ve got 185 babies. It takes a really really long time to get all of them across the road!” It was all we could do to keep ourselves from falling about laughing. Children are hilarious.

Another of my favourite aspects of my job is when the children make you things as a present. Here are two I was given this week:

On the left: a little handmade envelope with a lovely message inside, on the right: apparently it’s a cross between a visor and a necklace… Either way it’s rather sweet!

On a slightly more serious note, I want to examine the way I feel physically after all of this. I’m not going to lie, I’m absolutely exhausted by about 11am on most days, it takes up a huge proportion of my energy just to act positive, bouncy and smiley for the remainder of the day. As well as walking around helping all the children, I play lots of games with them, we have to set everything up, and there’s a lot of clearing up and washing up to do each day. My hips ache for the first time in a while, whereas it’s usually mostly my back that pains me. My head hurts almost constantly and me knees won’t stop groaning at me.

It’s difficult but I’m so so proud of myself for pushing through it and managing to work just like any other able-bodied students. I’m planning to save as much of my earnings as possible  for the ever-nearing future.

Despite the fact that it’s tough work and I’m feeling a little worse for wear, I’m really glad I decided to work. Plus I get a couple of weeks off after I finish before I start my new term, I cannot wait to have a bit more time to relax and recuperate!

Have you ever worked with children?
What about your work makes you feel fulfilled?

Essay Writing + Little Indulgences.

So I’ve been getting a bit behind on my blogging again even though I meant to carry on positing everyday. To those of you that (maybe) missed me I apologise!

Basically, as many of you already know, it’s essay writing and exam season. Arguably my least favourite time of the year. Having said that, I’m more or less on top of my work. Also, the essay I’ve left till last is possibly my favourite literary topic ever.

Gender writing.

I love this topic so much that this is the fifth time in two years that I’ve chosen it for the basis of my essays. I know, a little bit like overkill. I’m starting to worry that I won’t be able to write about anything else if I carry on this way. But I can’t even make myself care as I just find the whole thing incredibly interesting. Pretty much anything related to gender and writing I am sure to be fascinated by.

I don’t know if it’s because it is still so relevant today, or if it’s because it covers a huge time period and endless writers and poets. Either way, I’m obsessed.

Today has been spent reading through pages and pages of secondary criticism and putting together a plan (which is almost half of the essay’s word count). I have made notes and taken quotes from around eight texts today. I could have gone further…

Anyway, now that I’ve got my literary obsession off my chest I can share with you some photos of recent eats and tell you about my workouts!

Breakfast this morning was one I haven’t had in a while. (I say this as though it’s completely different to normal. It’s not. I just changed toppings.)

Weetabix with raisins and cinnamon. Out of all the spice bottles I have in my cupboard the cinnamon has by far the biggest dent in it, followed by cayenne pepper. I think everyone knows how much I like my cinnamon!

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in a long time… I exercised! And I’m not talking a short session of weights or a little bike ride, I mean a proper, full-0n, hardcore, high-intensity strength training session. It felt so good to get properly sweaty and out of breath from a workout again, it’s been quite a while if I’m honest. I won’t be doing them everyday but I do think that it’s good to exhaust my body physically from time to time, it’s as though it reminds my body what exhaustion feels like when it is unrelated to chronic fatigue! It clearly worked anyway because I slept for 10 hours last night. 10 whole hours. Crazy stuff!

Lunch today was something I don’t eat often but really should:

A sandwich. As a child I was a super fussy eater and particularly hated sandwiches. I know it’s a strange thing to hate but there you go, apparently I could be a strange child.

I’m still quite fussy about my sandwiches now, I prefer having them in baguettes, pitas, ciabattas or bagels and if I can’t there is one very important criteria: the bread must not be in any way soggy. Got that? I abhor soggy bread. So I always lightly toast mine and only eat freshly prepared sandwiches.

Apparently I’m still quite fussy.

My lunch was made doubly reminiscent of childhood because I also had an innocent fruit tube. These are definitely aimed at children but I just don’t care. Plus they were on special offer so I got two packets and that means I still have 11 more tubes!

Dinner yesterday was a celebration of bright colours:

Edamame bean, broccoli and quinoa stir-fry. It tasted as fresh and delicious as it looks. You will no doubt be seeing this again sometime in the next few days!

Dinner tonight was of a somewhat less healthy but still incredibly satisfying variety:

Tomato ravioli with a heavy covering dusting of Parmesan. I needed some comfort food after a long day of being sat at my desk researching and writing. I have to say, my love of pasta will probably never diminish.

Over the last couple of days I’ve had a huge craving for coffee of the iced variety so I’m going to have to get some in the next few days, I’m sure it’ll help with my work anyway ;-)

Although this doesn’t satisfy my craving it definitely still tastes good:

Lesson in how to make something super healthy become less healthy. Stir one ENORMOUS spoonful of Nutella into some Fage Greek yogurt. Pure indulgence. Delish.

Last of all I will leave you with a photo of a little treat, another small indulgence, I bought myself the other day:

This is the Revlon Colorburst Lip Butter in Peach Parfait. I’ve been seeing these lip butters on heaps of beauty blogs lately and I just had to get myself one. During exam period I tend to get incredibly stressed and anxious so I’ve created a little tradition of treating myself to a few little niceties now and then to cheer myself up. I might sound a little materialistic but oh well! I’m really glad I bought this, it’s a lovely colour and the sheerness makes it really subtle and pretty.

What was your favourite thing to research/write about whilst at college or uni?
Any strange things you’re fussy about eating?
Do you like to buy yourself treats when you’re having a tough time? Bought anything recently?

Big News.

Hey hey there :-)

So, as I promised you all yesterday, I’ve got some BIG news to tell you!

First, let me backtrack a little. As those of you who have been reading my blog for the past few months will know, this has been my first year at university. You will also probably know that it has been a difficult year at the best of times. Over the course of the year my condition has become far worse and I have really struggled to get through it all. Earlier this term, after lengthy discussions with my parents, my disability adviser, my English lit tutor and Tom, I made a difficult but important decision…

As of next year I will be transferring to a university closer to home.

This means that starting September I will be moving back home full-time and transferring to one of the local universities to continue my degree. I am still going to be studying English literature and I will still be going into my second year, just at a different institution. Although I made the decision a while ago, I wanted to wait till I’d been in to see the head of English at my new uni and received my official offer before revealing this to the world.

I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t been an easy decision. The lecturers and tutors at my current uni are fantastic and I’ll miss some of their lectures greatly, I’m sad to be leaving a campus and a city that I have really grown to love, and of course I’m really going to miss the brilliant friends I have made! I also have to say that I’m a little disappointed to lose to my independence. If someone had told me, this time last year, that this is how things were going to turn out I would have probably laughed, it is definitely not what I planned. But I really feel that it is the right decision to make – I have to prioritize my degree, and of course my health.

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you who have supported me through this year! Your kind words, your advice and your endless support has really really helped me get through this. You truly are an amazing bunch of people :-)

So I hope I now have your support with this change! It won’t be easy to begin with, but I am really optimistic that it will improve my life for the near future.

An Uphill Struggle – On Fibromyalgia.

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I have started several posts with the sentence ‘lately, I’ve been struggling’ and it’s often true.

In fact, I could quite easily start many more posts with that.

Because it’s true, I do struggle, I struggle an awful lot.

Over the past year I have had to really come to terms with the fact that I have a chronic condition and probably will have for the rest of my life.

Whether it is a chronic pain condition, a chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, or all of these, I HAVE A CHRONIC HEALTH CONDITION.

There, I’ve said it and it’s written in caps lock so there really is no denying it!

For the time being, we’re calling it fibromyalgia which sort of is a mixture of the three. It also sounds nice and official which makes a change after years of having to say ‘well… I have this back problem… the doctors don’t know what it is…’ which never got taken seriously.

So I thought I’d write an informative post about the condition, so that I get it all out there in the open. I have talked about my condition before, if you want to read them (I promise it’s not too depressing) here are the links: Living With Chronic Pain – Part 1, and Living With Chronic Pain – Part 2.

Recently I read this post from Mary’s blog Fibromy-Awesome. It really touched me. And I just felt I had to write this.

Why did I decide to write this post? Honestly, I absolutely promise that it is not because I need a rant, I’m writing this almost for the opposite reason. Firstly many people have asked me questions about my condition and I’ve never really explained the symptoms I have, secondly I feel like I need to write this – it’s like catharsis, and thirdly I want to accept that my condition has gotten much much worse and then move on. Writing this is me saying, okay I have a condition and it sucks, but my life is about much more than that and I’m moving past it.

The NHS website defines fibromyalgia as such:

‘Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome, is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body. 

The name fibromyalgia comes from three Latin words:

  • ‘fibro’ meaning fibrous tissues, such as tendons (tissue that connects muscles to bones) and ligaments (tissue that connects bones to bones)
  • ‘my’ meaning muscles
  • ‘algia’ meaning pain

However, the pain of fibromyalgia does not just affect the muscles, ligaments and tendons, but is felt all over the body. It results in widespread pain and extreme tiredness. People with fibromyalgia may also have:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • headaches
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • muscle stiffness’
What does it all mean in terms of my life? Well here are some of the main symptoms I (and thousands like me) have to contend with every single day:

Pain

Ah my old friend pain. Here is a sad fact about my life, it actually almost makes me cry to think about it, I honestly don’t remember what it feels like to feel no pain. For me, this was the first part of my condition that I experienced. Essentially, I have been in constant pain for the last 3 years and experienced pain everyday for 2 and a half years before that. I wake up in pain and most days this just grows as it goes on. I go to bed in pain. So far, none of the pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs, etc that I have been given have worked. I have learnt to deal with the pain and if I’m honest I think I will be in pain for the rest of my life. Pain seems to be something the body, or at least my body, can’t adapt to. I can’t ignore it, I can’t get used to it, it never goes away. I feel the pain most acutely in my hips, lower back, upper back, shoulders and neck: I have sharp stabbing, shooting pain up my spine throughout the day. My knees, ankles, arms, wrists and hands are, so far, less affected. The whole of my body constantly aches, many days I struggle to walk much, I can’t stand for any length of time at all, sitting upright causes my back huge amounts of pain and even lying down is no longer comfortable…

Fatigue

This is a newer factor for me, I’ve only really had problems with fatigue for the last year or so, and it’s only become serious since starting university. I struggle to sleep but I am on medication for that which does actually manage to knock me out for the night. But when I wake up, which is really difficult with the drugs (you win some, you lose some), I feel as though I haven’t slept. Most days I can gather up enough energy to go about my daily life, some days I actually feel pretty good and manage to live more normally, but some days I crash. I feel completely drained and exhausted, even lifting my arm feels like excruciating effort and I stay in bed for the entire day. This usually leaves me feeling completely weak, I am unsteady on my feet and last term I even collapsed twice – half from the pain, half from the exhaustion. The fatigue often brings on headaches, I usually have 3 or 4 a week (my pain also causes headaches).

Extreme Sensitivity

This is a difficult one to judge because it’s hard to remember what I experienced 5 years ago and differentiate that from what I experience now to figure out what is caused by my condition. I have become much more sensitive to bright light (e.g. overhead lights, bright sunlight, etc), it hurts my eyes, makes me feel tired and gives me headaches. The same goes with loud(ish) noises. I also experience hyperalgesia which is when you are extremely sensitive to pain, banging my toe or elbow is extremely painful and causes my back to jar. I also get cold very easily and the cold causes my joints to be more painful than usual.

Stiffness

I am, as I already mentioned, extremely stiff in the morning when I wake up and this often carries into the day. It makes sitting in lectures or sitting at my desk extremely painful. The stiffness and pain also causes a lot of tension in my muscles which in turn occasionally causes them to spasm which is where they contract tightly. Sometimes when this happens my knees buckle and I stumble, it’s difficult not to fall over. Lately I have also found that my hands spasm pretty painfully when I am writing by hand or typing. If I’m honest, this particularly worries me.

Cognitive Disturbance

This has in a way been the hardest symptom to deal with. Don’t get me wrong, the pain and the fatigue are awful to deal with, they have taken so much of my life. But this has really really affected my work and that is not easy to deal with, either at Sixth Form or at university. When things are particularly difficult I have trouble remembering even the simplest of facts, I have difficulties concentrating, I get dizzy and struggle with balance, my eye sight blurs slightly and my head spins pretty badly. The strength of my medication really doesn’t help with these issues. These cognitive disturbances get referred to as ‘fibro-fog’ (somewhat patronizing in my opinion) and they make reading difficult which I really hate, they also make working and revising very complicated and sometimes impossible tasks. Combined with my inability to sit at my desk too long from the pain and the exhaustion the fatigue brings, doing my work at university has been incredibly difficult and organisation is hard to keep on top of. I used to be the sort of person who did her work the day it was assigned, was super organised and had everything ‘just so’, as such this has been really difficult and hurtful to deal with.


I really don’t want this post to be just about me, and I certainly am not looking for any sympathy. What I want is to raise awareness about conditions like mine, these so-called ‘hidden illnesses’.

The other day I took the lift to go up two floors in Waterstones. I didn’t have my cane as I was with my mum and I could lean on her arm if I needed. As we got to the second floor there was a couple with a toddler in a pushchair waiting for the lift. My mum went past but then as I went past the guy exclaimed, in that loudly obnoxious voice people use when they’re feeling self-righteous, something like “Oh yeah, because you’re disabled!” and then proceeded to complain to the woman with him. Now to be honest, on that day I was really struggling so, unless one of them had a condition like mine, it would have actually been easier for them to carry the pushchair between them (it’s not like they’re very heavy!) down the two flights of stairs than it would have been for me to climb them. So although I wasn’t particularly upset by the experience, I was a little irritated. What if I had been a cancer sufferer going through chemo, or an AIDS patient, or a cystic fibrosis sufferer, a sufferer of clinical depression, or anything ‘hidden’ like that?

It’s just plain ignorance to act like that and it really made me think that we really shouldn’t judge people, you never know what they are going through behind closed doors.

Anyway, I really hope you have taken something from this post. It took a lot of energy and emotion to write and I feel pretty drained now. But actually, I am proud of myself for pushing through this, I am proud of myself for not giving up, I am proud of myself for what I have achieved.

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Tomorrow is my birthday (yay!) and I promise I will be back with a slightly easier to read and more uplifting post!

Did you learn something from this post?
What are your thoughts on ‘hidden illnesses’?
If you would like to, I’d love for you to share something ‘hidden’ that you struggle with!