Four Weeks Until Christmas? Are You Sure?

It’s hard to believe that we are almost at the end of another year. Yet, with just one month to go until Christmas Day and its festivities, here we are. So, let’s have a quick catch up. I received my results back in July for my exam for A222 Exploring Philosophy, and it was a Grade 2 Pass. On 2 October 2021, I started A363 Advanced Creative Writing, and enjoying the course so far. Last Friday, I received 84% for my first assignment, which is just 1% below a distinction. But, with a solid grade like that, I was pleasantly surprised and the feedback from my tutor was encouragingly constructive.

In September, I wrote an article for the Open University Students Association’s Student Magazine, The Hoot, entitled “What The Open University Means to Me”, which was published and eventually nominated for “Hoot of the Month” for October 2021. The article describes my journey of studying with the OU, particularly after I dropped out of Edge Hill University due to mental health reasons in 1996 and again in 1997. Completing my Y002 Openings Course in 2002 with the OU gave me the drive to study different courses, and gave me the confidence to move from volunteering with The British Heart Foundation and apply for full-time work. And having this short read published by The Hoot has spurred me on to apply to become a content writer as part of their microvolunteer team.

Twelve weeks ago, I returned to drum lessons after a five-year break, this time with the brilliant Jamm Studios which is a short walk from my humble abode. It’s a fantastic set-up, and I’m picking things up slowly but quickly. Tonight’s lesson was extremely tricky indeed, but managed to get there after thirty minutes. Throughout all of my lessons, my tutor has made me feel at ease. Only with time and practice may I reach the dizzying heights of playing like Nandi Bushell. One can dream.

But the icing on the cake, hasn’t been my success with studies, or learning to play music again, or the delectable Mr B and I’s trip to Bristol in September, but the birth of my great-nephew Teddy Lee. He is eight weeks old tomorrow, and oh my, cuteness overload. I’ve had a few snuggles with him over the last few weeks, and he’s slowly getting used to being in the arms of other people rather than his Mum and Dad. And they’re coping amazingly well with their newfound roles in life.

And in memory of Teddy Lee’s late Grandad, Lee, my Mum and I took part in the Lost Hours Walk on 5 October 2021, and raised over £200 for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). Our route took us from Victoria Park, St Helens, along the East Lancashire Road towards Windle Island, then past St Helens Crematorium, heading back towards Victoria Park via The Abbey pub and the back of the Crematorium. It rained heavily on the way to Windle Island, and as we walked past the rugby/football playing fields of Cowley High, a rainbow shone upon us. All-in we completed just under 7km. I would like to thank everyone who has donated so far, but for those of you that haven’t, there is still time. CALM are accepting donations until 31 December 2021. If you would like to make a donation, please visit my JustGiving page by following the link below:

Any donations that you make will go directly to CALM and their continued fight to smash the stigma that surrounds suicide, and to provide much needed support to those during times of crisi.

So, I would like to wish you all a happy and healthy Christmas for those of you who celebrate the occasion, and happy holidays in general. And I will see you again in 2022. Take care Tiddlypeeps xxx

Queen of Just Eat…

So, in preparation for going into my final year of my degree with The Open University, I have been completing FutureLearn courses relating to creative writing. In 2018, I started Start Writing Fiction with The Open University, last year, I signed up to Explore Filmmaking, a collaboration with FutureLearn, the National Film and Television School and the British Film Institute. And this year, An Introduction to Screenwriting hosted by FutureLearn and The University of East Anglia. The beauty of FutureLearn, is that you can dip into the course whenever you need to, and as long as you have completed 90% of the course, then you receive your Certificate of Achievement which comes as a digital download and a physical copy posted out to you.

What follows here is one of the activities that I had to complete for An Introduction to Screenwriting. With a recent pre-Type 2 Diabetes health scare, I had to really make lifestyle changes fast and furiously. So, here is a short script based on one of my vices, food:

‘Queen of Just Eat’  

Cary: Another sodding night alone. Where’s my phone?  
Her Conscience: Babe, it’s right there where you left it. On the coffee table.  

Cary picks up her phone and clicks the Google Chrome icon. From her search history she goes straight to Just Eat.  

Cary: Chinese? Indian? KFC? McDonald’s? Burger KIng?  
Her Conscience: Decisions, decisions.  
Cary: Eh, if only Pete was here this week, we’d be cooking every night.  
Her Conscience: Forget ordering online then. Fridge, freezer, cupboards? Hunter gather.  
Cary: Go away. Cooking is just not on the agenda right now.  
Her Conscience: Hell’s bells!  
Cary: Indian it is then.  
Her Conscience: Just Eat Junkie…  

Cary browses the menu of her favourite Indian takeaway on her phone.  

Cary: Keema naan…  
Her Conscience: Lordy, think of all of those carbs!  
Cary: Make it a delivery…  

She enters her payment details and confirms her order.  

Cary: Now I can’t wait for this. Starving.  
Just Eat Chat-Bot: Order declined.  
Cary: Pfft! What?  

She almost spills her cup of coffee on herself.  

Her Conscience: Quick smart.  
Just Eat Chat Bot: Restaurant unable to process your order. Payment declined.  
Cary: Shit, shit, shit. 

Her Conscience: Teaching you a lesson maybe?  
Cary: Umm, what do I do now?  
Her Conscience: Vaping is not going to help you out of this one.  
Just Eat Chat Bot: We are sorry for the inconvenience caused.  
Cary: Xena, come here kitty.  
Her Conscience: Yay! At least there will be no heartburn. Have a nap, you’ll feel better in an hour.  

Cary gets her grey blanket, arranges the pillows on the sofa and invites Xena up to join her.  

Cary: Zzzz. 

Whilst doing A105, Material, Texts and Culture with The Open University in 2017/2018, I had to write a short script adapted from a piece of historical writing. Basically, take two or three characters and give them names. And each line of dialogue starts with the letters of the alphabet, from A-Z. So, in essence, the script is twenty-six lines long. This is dedicated to the catering and hospitality industry, who kept us fed during lockdown when we couldn’t dine in public with our family and friends. I hope you enjoy reading this. I will be sharing this to my Facebook page first, so if you have any feedback, please leave your comments there. Constructive feedback only please. Once I have linked my Instagram and Twitters accounts to my new phone, I will be sharing the URL of this page in the coming week.

Take care Tiddlypeeps xxxx

Latest Post…A Week Out of Date! Rather Like What’s Left of the Loaf of Bread in my Kitchen!

Well, good evening tiddlypeeps.  I thought that this evening would be better spent at my local Costa Coffee escaping the fusbol and do a couple of blog posts on my laptop.  I can’t connect to the Wi-Fi network here, as it keeps on resetting their tills, and my mobile hotspot and tethering is sooooo slow.  Which means that I have had to resort to drafting this post in Word, saving it, and then copy and paste later on into WordPress when I get home.  The whole experience has made me feel rather shirty and wanting to throw my HP Pavilion across said Costa Coffee, but that won’t do as I will then be without said laptop.  But it’s been cathartic to get that off my chest.

Here we are in July 2021.  The past couple of months has been spent revising for my OU A222 Exploring Philosophy exam, which I completed remotely at home in June.  I am currently impatiently waiting for my results – only seventeen more days to go!  I’m all enrolled for A363, Advanced Creative Writing for this October and signed my life away for another student loan from SFE earlier on in the week.  It has been approved and confirmation sent out already in the post.  It feels rather odd at the moment not having my head stuck in my module books most evening.  I have though, returned to FutureLearn courses I had signed up for in 2018 and 2020, respectively.  The first, Start Writing Fiction, and the second, Explore Filmmaking.  Hopefully, I will be able to finish both before the next module starts.  The day after I submitted my exam, I attended Encore Nights global streaming Bon Jovi cinema event.  I had a thoroughly good evening singing and air drumming along to the classics and loved hearing their new songs too.  Discovered a musician I hadn’t heard of before, Dean Lewis and his unplugged performance as the warm-up set was rather brilliant.  So much that I ordered his CD afterwards.

The delectable Mr B came to stay – it’s been so difficult not being able to spend as much time as we would have liked during Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions.  I try to avoid jumping on political bandwagons, but with the latest revelations about Matt Hancock, all I can say is what an idiot and I’m glad that he’s resigned.  Anyway, back to my visit from the delectable Mr B.  Quite probably the most domesticated time that we had!  He cooked an awesome Father’s Day meal for my Dad, Mel and Liv and made fabulous bacon and cheese loaves.  We pretty much watched films during our downtime – including The Conjuring Parts 1, 2 and 3.  With his help, I finally put my Frank Turner lyric art up on the dining and living room walls, as well as re-hanging photo collages of the two us (me and Mr B, not Frank and I).  He jet washed the flags in the garden and did some weeding.  And for the first time since we have been dating, I did his laundry!  Go me! 

We had a getaway in Whitby last weekend…a bit marred by an expensive windscreen wiper repair for Mr B’s car, but other than that it was enjoyable.  Or lodgings were above The Station Inn – a beautifully appointed hotel room if a little rowdy downstairs.  We dined at Al Taco, a small Tex-Mex restaurant which was a quick walk from our hotel.  The food was so good.  Saturday we had a mooch around Whitby itself – I managed to climb the 199 stairs to the Abbey.  More than a little breathless when we got to the top!  I would return, but possibly for a day trip when staying somewhere else.  Delighted with my pendant set with a piece of Whitby Jet and Mark Billingham’s novel, The Burning Girl.  Our next catch up is in August, when I’ll see Mr B in the run-up to my birthday, and then we have a trip to Bristol to look forward to in September.  I have booked us tickets to go and see The Bon Jovi Experience – a tribute band – at The Fleece on the 17th.  Fingers crossed it will all go ahead.

This week I have been catching up with Mum and friends – a coffee date with Nic, a meal out with Jackie, and a walk with Kirsty and Emma and their little pup, Albie.  He gives the best kisses!  I have decided that I am going to adopt a dog from a rescue shelter and have been making a few enquiries.  It’s about time I welcomed a four-legged friend back into my life on a permanent basis.  It’s been far too long.  I shall let you all know how I get on in due course.  Other things I have to look forward to – I am off to see Inhaler, Elijah Hewson’s band (son of U2’s Bono) in Liverpool in October.  This will be a solo gig for myself.  I have pre-ordered their debut album and it’s a signed copy too.  Mum and I are off to see Paloma Faith in October at Liverpool Empire.  Of course fingers are crossed and toes too that these live events do not get cancelled. 

But the biggest thing of all that I am looking forward to, is the arrival of my eldest nephew’s and his girlfriend’s baby – roll on September.  I so can’t wait.

Well, I think that I am going to sign off here and head back home.  See what movies are available to rent on Prime Video, or indeed if there are any freebie ones.  I have started binge-watching Not Going Out on iPlayer.  Easy entertainment. 

Take care tiddlypeeps xxx

Marching Like the March Hare…

Good evening tiddlypeeps. Just a quick update as to where I am with my fitness goals. Today I have walked almost 5km! And have, for the second time in about two months, smashed my 6000 step target on my Samsung Health app. I’ve also been trying to get myself to bed at the same time each night, so that I am not studying into the wee hours of the morning. Still struggling with early morning get ups, but I suppose that will come in time. And on Monday evening, I finally tried out Miranda Hart’s Maracattack DVD. It was a Christmas gift from the ex circa 2014, and at the time I did indeed have a pair of maracas to do the fitness routine, but after moving into my own abode in 2016, I have no idea where they ended up. In the junk cupboard upstairs perhaps? Anyways, I bought myself a new pair from Amazon in January. So, how did I get on? Well, I got myself through the warm-up okay, no problems there, but during the twenty minute cardio session, I found myself to be very uncoordinated. But, I enjoyed myself. I need to practice the ‘crazy crab’ moves (you have to watch the DVD to understand what I am talking about). For the bits I couldn’t do, I just walked backwards and forwards shaking the maracas in the style of Bez from the Happy Mondays. The DVD froze a little after I had trotted in a circle like a horse to the left and to the right, and waved the maracas in the air like a lasso. And I was like…’Oh no! I haven’t even got to the part where Gary (Tom Ellis) comes in!’

Over the course of the past week, mainstream and social media has been awash with the interview with Harry and Meghan with Oprah Winfrey, and subsequent reactions to it. I myself did not watch the broadcast at the time, as I felt I had seen the highlights in the week leading up to it. But that doesn’t mean to say that I didn’t take on board what was discussed in the interview. In regards to speaking out about mental health, whomever you may be, even in 2021, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. There will be plenty of people who will show empathy, however there will also be people who have no direct understanding or experience of what you have personally gone through and will give their opinions anyway. My point to this, if you do suffer from mental health issues, there are organisations out there that can help if you are struggling to find the support that you need. – this website is provided by Chasing the Stigma and you can download the app from Google Play or the App Store. It offers support for a variety of mental health issues and allows you to filter services in your area by entering in your postcode in the search bar on the website/app. – a website dedicated to managing your mental wellbeing. I follow them on Instagram, and you can also access their services via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest.

I had tried to include the link for CALM – The Campaign Against Living Miserably, however I am unable to do so, and apologise for the inconvenience caused here. CALM is a nationwide helpline and resource specifically for men’s mental health. I have am not sure how to remove the broken link. – Promoting better mental health for everyone. – Rethink Mental Illness. Helping to improve the lives of those affected by mental illness by offering information and support. – Offering support and counselling to those who are bereaved. – 24/7 Support for those going through crisi.

These are just a selection of the services that are available here in the UK, and I am sure that many more exist via a search on Google. Remember, that there will always be someone that will listen to you no matter how big or small your problem is. Take care tiddlypeeps xxx