Sunday 31 July 2016

July in Review

Oh July. You've been an up and down month for sure. I finally got back into the groove of reading, thanks to Jenny Colgan's books, and we had some glorious hot days, plus I've really enjoyed playing Pokemon Go since it released earlier in the month. Most excitingly I went down to London to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which was just exceptional. But I've also experienced a lot of pain in July. Partly down to the increased walking I've been doing thanks to Pokemon Go, but also not, and it's made this month rather uncomfortable. I've also felt generally down, which hasn't helped much!

Books Read in July
The Second Love of My Life - Victoria Walters
Billy and Me - Giovanna Fletcher
The Little Shop of Happy-Ever After - Jenny Colgan
Little Beach Street Bakery - Jenny Colgan

Favourite Book of July
The Little Shop of Happy-Ever After - Jenny Colgan

July 2016 will forever be the month I discovered Jenny Colgan's adult fiction. I read The Little Shop because it was 99p on Kindle and adored it so swiftly ordered more. They're funny and food-filled and really enjoyable escapism. I'm looking forward to reading more! 


Books Acquired in July

The Second Love of My Life - Victoria Walters (Kindle)
Billy and Me - Giovanna Fletcher (Kindle)
The Little Shop of Happy-Ever After - Jenny Colgan (Kindle)
Little Beach Street Bakery - Jenny Colgan
Summer at the Little Beach Street Bakery - Jenny Colgan
Rosie Hopkin's Sweetshop of Dreams - Jenny Colgan
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris - Jenny Colgan


Films Seen at the Cinema in July
Now You See Me 2
The Legend of Tarzan
Star Trek Beyond

Well, Ghosbusters was just fantastic wasn't it? One of the best films I've seen so far this year for sure. I also really enjoyed NYSM2 and Star Trek Beyond, though the dialogue in the latter was really terrible!


Catch Up On This Month's Blog Posts

It's been less of a blogging month this month, but I posted about The True Cost of Chronic Illness, as well as sharing another of my Etsy Addiction posts. I also shared my One Year On update, and some tips for playing Pokemon Go while chronically ill. 


In August I'm really looking forward to an event with one of my favourite authors: Maggie Stiefvater! That's actually happening tomorrow. Then later in the week I'm super excited to be going to a midnight showing of The Suicide Squad. Then I have a trip to Newcastle to see Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan in No Man's Land, and of course another Bank Holiday Monday! Books-wise, I'm looking forward to the release of The Potion Diaries: The Royal Tour by Amy Alward. I read the first book last year (it's now one of Zoella's Book Club choices) and loved it, so I have high hopes for the sequel. I'm hoping August will be a good month. 

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Gotta Catch 'Em All

Like a lot of people, I've been spending a lot of time lately playing Pokémon Go. I was at primary school during peak Poké-mania; I watched the cartoon, I collected the cards, so the opportunity to relive my childhood is tantalising. Plus, it's super addictive, and I'm super competitive, so I've clocked up a lotta time. 

The benefits of Pokémon Go are huge. It's great for mental health and for physical health; getting people out of the house, walking, enjoying an activity. It's also had a lot of anecdotal social benefits; people talking to each other! It's also so much fun. The thrill of finally seeing a Meowth, or evolving the Haunter you've been saving Gastly candies for, is pretty awesome.

One of the great things about Pokémon Go is the best way to play it is to go out, walk about. One of the worst things about Pokémon Go is the best way to play it is to go out, walk about. If you are a person for which this is a problem, it's much harder to play the game to its fullest extent, and this is sad. If you're anything like me, you pushed yourself a bit *toooo* far last week desperate to level up or catch that elusive Pokémon, and are now paying the price. While I love the way the game has been set up, and it's hard to imagine a way around this problem, it is frustrating having something else I really enjoy that I can't do as much as I'd like. I took more painkillers last week than I've taken for a long time, all to manage the extra pain caused by playing Pokémon Go. I had to spend most of last weekend resting having completely worn myself out from all the walking around and from forsaking my afternoon naps to go on Pokéhunts.

If you're in the same boat as me, Tania of When Tania Talks shared some fantastic disability hacks for playing Pokémon Go that I absolutely recommend taking a look at. 

And here are a few tips of my own:

If you aren't going to battle, ditch the potions: They're obviously super handy if you're planning to take over all the gyms in your area, but if you're a collector only, they're just taking up space in your bag. Space that, if you aren't able to go out as much as you'd like to, is better used storing Pokéballs.

Consider in-app purchases: This is usually a massive no-no for me, but when you think about it you pay for most forms of entertainment (buying a book, renting a movie, going to the cinema, playing a video game...) so if you're really enjoying Pokémon Go and aren't able to play it as fully as you'd like, in-app purchases are worth thinking about. While you'll burn through cash quickly buying your Pokéballs rather than picking them up at Pokéstops, a bag expansion means that if you're out and can access multiple Pokéstops, you can hoard extra Pokéballs for those times you won't be up for trips out. Buying extra incubators will make the most of the walking you can do, as you're able to hatch multiple eggs at once, and more incense will bring the Pokémon to you when you can't go to them.

Bus rides are your friend: I discovered last Monday that my bus rides to work hit many Pokéstops and are usually slow enough for me to catch Pokémon as well. If you're not able to walk far, a round-trip bus ride would enable you to reach multiple Pokéstops and have the opportunity to catch more Pokémon for a lot less energy than an extended walk. As an added bonus, those slower parts of your journey (stuck in traffic, slowing down for a bus-stop) can actually count towards the KMs needed to hatch eggs. 

Stop hating on the Pidgeys: You might be fed up of seeing them, but Pidgeys are a great way to level up. They're everywhere and they only take 12 candies to evolve. Save them up, whack on a Lucky Egg and evolve the lot. You'll get a whole bunch of XP and save yourself lots of walking around catching enough Pokemon to get there. 

Hijack your partner/parent/sibling/friend: If someone you know and see regularly is also playing, get them to take your phone out with them every now and again. If they're doing a Pokéstop run, they can take your phone out with them and stock you up while they're at it. I've even been known to send my boyfriend for a walk round the block to get the rest of the steps on a nearly-hatched egg...

So far I've managed to bag Meowths, Eevees, Jigglypuffs, Chanseys and, finally on Sunday afternoon, a Clefairy. I'm hoping this week will bring me an Abra, a Vaporeon and, of course, a Pikachu. Which Pokémon are you hoping to catch this week?

Tuesday 12 July 2016

One Year On

As you read this post I'm back in London, having a few nice days to celebrate my boyfriend's birthday, which is exactly what we were doing this time last year when I first got the horrible pain that set this whole chain of events off. 

I have come full circle. 

I've been feeling fairly reflective lately, thinking about what I've lost and gained. About what's changed. About what hasn't. I'm still working, but I do less than half the hours I used to. I still enjoy my job, though it's very different and mostly a lot less stressful. I've lost time spent with my friends and I've lost the events, the plays, the dinners, the cinema trips and the satisfied feeling I had from doing all these things I enjoy so regularly. I've lost some independence. 

But I've also gained time with my boyfriend. When I lived in London we saw each other one weekend a month. Sometimes 2 weekends a month. Now we see each other most of the week; he practically lives at my house and I still haven't gotten over the novelty of seeing him so much. 

And I've gained space. Space to take a breath. Space to take a step out of my life and live a different one for a while. Tread a slightly different path. Space to recover, to build my body back up and to eat better and to try and take care of myself properly for the first time in a long time. 

And that's the biggest thing I've gained. The desire to care about myself. My body used to be a thing I dragged myself around in. A bit defective, mostly hated, made fun of. Now I'm trying to nurture it, to listen to it. To fix it up a bit. New wheels. Nice paint job. Spring clean. I (sort of) eat better, I (try to) sleep better. I exercise. I even look after my hair and skin better. I wear those insoles in sensible, supportive shoes.

Progress feels slow. I thought I'd be doing better than I am, but I am better than I was. I'm more tired than ever and my muscles ache but the uncomfortable joint pains are lessening. The feeling that my knees are hollow and will collapse any second, the sharp knife-like pains in the fronts of my hips, those pains happen less. The scary pains. The ones that make me wonder what's wrong, whether I'm injuring myself, whether I should stop or keep going or maybe just lie down for a month. 

But everytime I look at my calf muscles, which are getting strong and developed from swimming, I feel a sense of achievement. I can do this. I am doing this. I remember the first time I went swimming and barely did 10 lengths, and subluxed my shoulder,  and was shaky and sick and stiff for 3 days afterwards, and I think about how I can now swim 1 kilometre like it's nothing and I can see the progress I'm making. I think back to the first time I did the Shoulder Bridge exercise and my thighs shook with the sheer effort of holding themselves up, and how I can now do 20 of them without that happening and how I can lift a leg off the floor each time and I can see the progress I'm making.

This is going to take longer than the year my Rheumatologist predicted last September. And maybe I won't ever get back to where I was, fully. But I'm learning to be okay with that. As long as I know I'm doing everything I can, I will accept whatever the end result is, and whatever that means for my life.

I will get strong, I will feel better. I will end up with abs like Jessica Ennis-Hill. 

Friday 8 July 2016

My Etsy Addiction #5

As established in my first My Etsy Addiction post, I am an Etsy Addict. Not necessarily just buying, but also browsing, favouriting, planning future gifts. 

I decided to take advantage of this addiction for blogging purposes, and create a regular series of posts showcasing some of my favourite Etsy finds. This is part the fifth. Please be aware, some of the items I feature will be from shops based outside of the UK, so the shipping costs can be extensive and there can also be customs charges involved. All photos featured are from the Etsy listings.

These modern and stylish copper-dipped concrete plant pots from SortCement

This daintily out-of-this-world planet necklace from WrensHandiwork

This super cute decorative miniature woodland from SketchInc

This travel-ready toiletries bag from CamillaBDesigns

This very gothic, tarot-card inspired print from LadyGloom

Tuesday 5 July 2016

The True Cost of Chronic Illness

I'm very fortunate in that my chronic illness doesn't require as much financial input as many other people need. But there are costs involved in being ill that I don't think people are always aware of. I know I'm in the privileged position of living at home, where while I do contribute to the rent and bills it's at a much lower rate than if I lived alone. But I thought it would be interesting to look at the costs I do have, those things I wouldn't have to budget money for if I wasn't chronically ill. 

Over the counter meds: I get prescription painkillers, but I take Paracetamol alongside them because it increases their efficacy, even though it doesn't do anything on its own for my pain, and Ibuprofen helps if my pain is caused by exercise, so they are worth having. But I feel like enough of a drain on the NHS without getting these on a prescription (I once read an article about the cost of all the Paracetamol prescriptions). So I buy them. They don't cost a lot, but given that I can get through a pack of Paracetamol in 2 days if my pain is bad, it certainly does add up. When you add in the cost of Paracetamol with Codeine which I like to have onhand and is much pricier than standard Paracetamol, this cost increases. I get a lot of acid reflux (thanks medication), so I need a lot of antacids. I'm quite fussy about them and I only like this one brand (Remegel) which is sadly on the pricier end. Then there's anti-inflammatory gel, Epsom Salts to add to baths, various supplements...etc

Adaptive Aids: Many disabled and chronically ill people need mobility aids like wheelchairs and mobility scooters which often have to be bought privately at huge costs. Then there's things like canes or crutches as well. For me, I need aids such as heatpacks and hot water bottles to help with my pain, a TENS machine, a massager, adapted cutlery...the list goes on and the cost goes up. 

NHS Pre-Payment Prescription Card: If you get a certain amount of prescriptions a year, you are entitled to get one of these cards which entails paying a fixed amount every year towards your prescriptions and being able to get as many as you need. So while it does work out significantly cheaper than paying for individual prescriptions, it's an additional costs you wouldn't have if you didn't need the prescriptions in the first place. 

Transport/Travel: As a disabled person I often struggle to walk, and if I'm in a lot of pain then waiting for and being on cold, jolting public transport isn't possible. Even the vibration of the bus engine can set one of my limbs spasming if it's a bad day. In those cases I need taxis and those need paying for. If I'm flying, I need extra legroom seats a lot. And ofc travel insurance is more if you have pre-existing conditions. I might have to pay more for accommodation so it is close to transport/has multiple beds because I can struggle to share if I'm ill. I usually have to travel extra days so I can fit in rest periods, and take extra days annual leave for recovery. 

Footwear: I have to be super careful about what shoes I wear because so many of my problems are exacerbated by poor/unsupportive footwear. I was very lucky to get my insoles on the NHS, but I need the shoes to go with them. Sadly I can't just pick up a pair of ballet flats in Primark, new shoes mean Dr Martens or decent trainers right now. And while you certainly get value for money with the amount of time they last, the initial outgoing is high. Plus I like having multiple pairs, no one wants only one pair of shoes! 

Macbook Air: I definitely needed a new laptop, but I wouldn't have necessarily gone with a Macbook had I not been chronically ill. As well as needing something with a decent spec, I mostly needed something lightweight that I could carry around, that I could have on my knees, that I could pick up without worrying I was going to hurt myself or drop it. And I couldn't find that outside of my Macbook Air.

Convenience Food: One of my biggest regular chronic illness-related outgoings is on convenience food. This is lower now I live at home and work part-time as my mum cooks my dinners and I don't stay at work for lunch, but when I lived in London I was always far too tired/lacking in energy to prepare food. I would buy my lunch out, at a cost of at least £3 a day (usually more), and I would almost always buy a ready meal/takeaway for dinner too. This meant my foodbill was over twice what it could have been if I'd prepared my own food. Many chronically ill people need special foods that cost more due to allergies or intolerances and these are always significantly more expensive.

Money lost: Then there's the financial losses. The income I lose from only being able to work part-time. At the moment I work half hours, so I lose out on half the income I could be earning. Plus I do a lower level job than I was doing previously, as I wanted something lower-stress. That too has reduced my monthly income.  And there's the money lost on cancelled plans. I fortunately have an Unlimited card, so if I can't go on a pre-arranged cinema trip it doesn't cost me any extra. But I recently missed out on a theatre trip because I was too ill, which meant I lost the money I paid for tickets. I've also had to miss a couple of book events, and while the tickets for these aren't that expensive, missing multiple ones can add up. 

How does having a chronic illness affect your bank balance?

Sunday 3 July 2016

June in Review

June has been an odd month. There have been some really positive bits: visits from friends, meals out, a trip to the theatre to see an adaptation of The Night Watch (so good). But it's also been awful. I've been ill, I've done barely any structured exercise, only doing some walking and some physio exercises at home, and finally some swimming this week. Add in the horrible weather we've been having, that horrific referendum result and the subsequent fall out, and not even Wimbledon starting this week has been able to cheer me up. 

Books Read in June
Me Before You - Jojo Moyes
This Savage Song - V.E Schwab

Favourite Book of June
Oh man, I totally failed at reading this month. I read Me Before You after seeing the film as I was interested in the differences. I have to say I thought the book was a lot more problematic and also a lot less entertaining. I don't think Jojo Moyes' writing style is for me. I really enjoyed This Savage Song, though it took me a long time to get into it and it's probably my least favourite of Victoria Schwab's books. By default it's my favourite of the month.


Books Acquired in June

I bought You Know Me Well and This Savage Song in Waterstones at the beginning of the month. I actually already read YKMW a while back, when the publisher I worked for had it on submission. I enjoyed This Savage Song, but not as much as I expected to/enjoyed the author's other books. I haven't read Summer Days and Summer Nights yet--I'm waiting for a suitably sunny day. I loved the Christmas anthology from last year and got the US covers of both as I dislike the gaudy UK ones. 


Films Seen at the Cinema in June
Me Before You
Mother's Day
Independence Day: Resurgence 

June has been the month of easy viewing. I went to see Me Before You despite the issues surrounding it, and while I totally agree with what people are saying about it in terms of representation, I actually really enjoyed a lot of this film! Mother's Day was...mixed. Some funny moments, some terribleness. Independence Day 2 was also mixed: a lot of the humorous elements felt forced and fell really flat and I didn't really care about many of the characters. Jeff Goldblum being in it certainly helped, though. 


Catch Up On This Month's Blog Posts

My first post of the month was a report on my recent holiday to London and Stockholm, followed by a post about how I'm no longer embarrassed about my illness. I then shared the 4th of my Etsy Addiction posts. I wrote a guide to the types of pain I experience, as well as sharing a portion of my travel wishlist. I wrote about everyday struggles; some small, mundane things I find difficult to do, and shared the 3rd of my Rediscovering Manchester posts. This week I also posted about the frustration of not living my best life.


I'm really hoping July will be a better month. I have some fun stuff coming up: the second week of Wimbledon, a trip to London that brings a visit to the Harry Potter Studio Tour AND I'm going to see The Cursed Child! I'm so, so excited about this. I'm going with my boyfriend and lots of friends and it will hopefully be so much fun. I'm looking forward to the releases of Tarzan, Ghostbusters, Star Trek and The BFG and to the continuation of The Catch on Sky Living which I have been LOVING.