Category Archives: Uncategorized

You win again world

Being disabled is exhausting.  Utterly exhausting.  The world isn’t designed for us and every little thing takes us longer, is more complicated and can negatively affect our health.  I wrote about my visit to London and how there either wasn’t disabled access to the tube or, if it did exist, you had to be Sherlock-bloody-Holmes to find it and that ticket machines were too high for anyone in a wheelchair to use.  Cracked, sloping and uneven pavements are a nightmare if you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter and many don’t have dropped curbs to enable you to get from one place to another.  Supermarket shelves those in wheelchairs can’t reach, checkouts which are too narrow, cashpoints you can’t get money out of…………the list goes on, and on and on.

The web is often the one place we get to be like everyone else……… least it should be, but as many of you know that isn’t the case either.

I began blogging here on WordPress in 2012.  I’m on a low income and it’s free – that was the biggest draw for me.  WordPress also do all the design work, security and technical stuff for you which was my second reason for chosing them.  Some days my brain is so poorly I struggle to make a shopping list, so designing a website is totally out of reach. (not to be confused with the paid-service is free because it uses advertising.  Fairy nuff, the owners and staff have mortgages and need to eat too and it’s the trade-off for having ‘free’ web space for us users.  No issue with that whatsoever.  However, the more traffic your blog gets, the more adverts your readers are subjected to and the more intrusive it becomes.

Last year when I went on my blog there was a humongous advert in the side bar.  It was bright red (a colour my brain struggles with) and used flashing images.  As someone who can have a seizure to flashing lights I had a legitimate issue with this particular advert, so contacted the WordPress forum to complain about it (the downside to a free site is that there is no support or way of contacting WordPress, ie Automattic the company who owns WordPress).  I was told that if I didn’t want adverts I should upgrade and pay for a package which didn’t include adverts.  It boils down to the fact I had to pay money because I was disabled and the site wasn’t taking into account my disability.  I’m fairly sure there’s a law against that.

This year, not content with adding adverts to the bottom of posts and to my menu bar, WordPress have decided in their algorithm-wisdom to insert adverts between the paragraphs of my actual blog posts.  They clearly don’t have painful hands which find continual scrolling a nightmare, or use a text reader.  I’m also careful how I write my posts, as many of my readers have severe brain issues and I know can’t read long sentences or single bodies of text, so I do try to use lots of small paragraphs and by doing that seem to be attracting yet more adverts.

The adverts can be wildly inappropriate – there is currently one about mould removal, which is incredibly insensitive on a site which is read by people with life-threatening mould allergies.  So I also complained about that and was told advert content is outside of WordPress’ control and, once again, told to upgrade to a paid package which didn’t include adverts.  They basically just made my blog unusable for people with my kind of disability/illness and are holding me ransom to make it disabled-friendly.  I’m fairly sure there’s a law against that too, but even if there weren’t I wish the suits who made these decisions could live a day in my shoes.  Could struggle to get dressed.  Could struggle to make a meal.  Could struggle with the pain of using a screen and it’s bright lights, let alone the risk of a seizure from being hijacked by moving images.  Could struggle to make ends meet on a low income in a world which just keeps asking for more and more and more money in order to participate from my bed (laptop costs, landline charges, internet charges, mobile phone charges because sodding everything these days demands you use an app………..).

The thing that makes me the most sad, however, is that these large corporations don’t give a crap about people like you and me.  They don’t spend a second of their day wondering how bedbound or housebound people participate in the world.  Don’t give a crap about how poor people afford internet access.  Don’t give a crap how being sick or disabled isolates you from society or how difficult it is to do the most simple and basic of activities.  They’re not disabled y’see.  At least not yet.  I’d love to speak to them again when they’re 80, like my parents.

I don’t have the energy to fight WordPress/Automattic about the advert issue and even if I did I’d be wasting my time because they absolutely don’t care.   They just want to make money and aren’t the slightest bit bothered whose life is made harder in order to do it.  I’m too exhausted from spending the last 26 years sick and disabled to fight anyone about anything these days and can feel myself becoming more and more isolated from society as a result of the struggle to have my challenges recognized.  I’m actually tearful as a type that.  It really has been a monumental struggle for decades simply to do the ordinary things healthy people take for granted and I’m tired.   So tired of my already difficult life being made more difficult by a society that sees me as a nuisance or a whinger or a burden.  And I know many of you feel the same way.

So I used the Christmas money I received and was going to use as my first treat in nearly two years (a massage for my painful back and neck) to upgrade to an advert-free blog.  Well done WordPress, you win.

To add insult to literal injury, as you know after I contracted meningitis I acquired dyslexia and my spelling is truly appalling.  I only survive online because everything I type is auto-spell checked.  WordPress used to have a spellchecker as part of its editing software, until about a year ago when it suddenly disappeared.  My posts are fairly much gobbledegook until my spelling is corrected, so I had to find a browser extension (Grammarly) which checks the spelling for me on WordPress – more hassle and it’s much more obtrusive than the built-in WordPress one used to be.

I recently started a new blog on my bungalow renovations, but discovered that it contained a new WordPress Editor called Guttenberg.  It’s appalling and a good lesson in how to turn a perfectly good content editor to crap.  Not only do captions and descriptions about photographs appear over the top of the images rather than underneath as they used to so you can’t actually see the photos (whose flippin bright ideas was that?!), but they’ve split each blog post into paragraph blocks……….which now don’t work with the Grammary spellchecker.  So now I have no way of spellchecking my posts *sigh*.  I’ve raised the issue on the support forum, but if my last request for help was anything to go by I’ll just be told to upgrade to the business version of WordPress, which means I can install the Classic Editor as a plug-in.  Seriously, how to ruin a perfectly good blog hosting business by making it ridiculously complex and user-unfriendly.   I’m thinking of ditching the site altogether and moving my blog, and it’s million hits and nearly 1000 followers, somewhere that values its users, because this site no longer does.




Moving On

I hinted in my roundup on Sunday that this week my life might change forever……………..or not……………and by Christmas I was either going to be ecstatically happy or in the pits of despair.  Well, I am thrilled tell you I am not about to chuck myself off a bridge and the reason is that I am moving house 😀  Yes my lovely people I have finally had an offer accepted on my forever home after looking for nearly 5 years, and at the same time have had an offer on my cottage from someone who used to be my cleaner!  Fate.

The place I’m buying is a totally clapped out 1980s bungalow which needs total renovation.  And I do mean renovation.  There has been a huge under-ground leak of the central heating pipes so the entire concrete floor of the whole building has to come up and be replaced, not to mention a new heating system, rewiring, knocking a few walls down, the entire place plastered, new kitchen and new bathroom.  Piece of cake 😉

The reason I wanted this particular shit-hole is that:

  • it’s HUGE
  • it’s in a very quiet hamlet about 3 miles from where I live now
  • it has a private, south facing garden with open countryside views – I can finally lie in my bed with the curtains open and have a view of my beloved nature, including watching the sun set in the evenings
  • because I’m renovating it I can make it exactly how I want, which includes a disabled friendly kitchen and bathroom and……….wait for this………..a walk-in wardrobe
  • it has a double garage which is integrated into the house, which means space for not only my car but my off-road mobility scooter, and all under cover to the back door so no more getting wet
  • but the best thing of all is that there is a large annex room off the garage that I can use as a dedicated photography studio!!!

I’m absolutely terrified of how I’m going to do the renovation, but also cock-a-hoop at the same time – at the age of 52 I get my first ever brand new kitchen and a garden that isn’t overlooked 😮

While the work is being done I’m actually going to be living in the dated and full-of-spiders-and-possibly-mice annex.  It’s slightly larger than my bedroom now, and already has a manky sink and toilet in it, so I’m going to make one end the kitchen, the middle bit the ‘bathroom’ and the other end my bedroom.  It’ll be crap but hopefully it will only be for 3 months tops (famous last words).

I have no idea what Bertie will make of it all.  He gets super anxious at any kind of upheaval, even just if I’m decorating a room here at home, so I’m expecting it to affect him negatively 😦  But hopefully by the end of summer we’ll have a gorgeous, quiet new home with a floor-to-ceiling window in the lounge out of which he can see – he loves to nose through the window and bark at every leaf that floats by, but currently has to balance precariously on the back of the settee in order to see out 😉

I’ll leave you with what is going to be the view from my bedroom and lounge 🙂  I have the raging lergie, have totally lost my voice, and am off for a mug of honey and lemon tea!




Mini Me

There was a discussion on Loose Women recently about whether or not to have children.  It’s something I don’t really ever talk about because it seems to create animosity – I don’t talk about politics for the same reason.  As a society we’ve come a long way in accepting other people’s choices in some areas, gay marriage or gender fluidity for example, but are still stuck in the dark ages in others and babies are one such area.

Deciding whether or not to have children is a big decision for anybody and when you’re chronically ill there is an added dimension.  I know that the subject of kids can be hugely painful for some women if they desperately want a child but can’t have one and I don’t disregard that in any way.  I also appreciate that if you have offspring you love them with all your heart.  However, I don’t share your feelings and that’s allowed.  Just putting that on paper I’m already fearful of the response and I shouldn’t have to be.  I should be allowed to say I don’t want babies without being scared.

I have never wanted kids.  I wanted to get married as a teenager, but when I fantasized about my future husband the image of sharing him with a couple of children never entered my head.  Everyone said my biological clock would eventually kick in.  So I waited.  And I waited.  And nothing happened.  My biological clock is clearly sipping child free cocktails in the Maldives and watching harassed parents running around after their toddlers with a wry grin 😉

I’m going to go further than the fact that I have no innate desire for kids.  Children irritate the crap out of me (if I was scared to say I don’t want babies saying that makes me want to go into witness protection).  Just hearing kids playing outside and the inevitable squealing and shouting and crying that goes on is like fingers on a blackboard to me.  And parents who let their kids run around restaurants, bothering other people not to mention getting in the way of waiting on staff carrying hot food, should be banned.  It amazes me that just because other people love their children they expect me to.  I don’t.  They’re annoying as all hell, however I usually don’t say that out loud for fear of offending.  I, at least, am sensitive to other people’s feelings even if they’re not sensitive to mine.

There is pressure for all aspects of society to be “child friendly” which means there is a distinct lack of space for me as a childfree woman.  No-where I can go to escape other people’s offspring.  And, here’s the absolute shocker, I’m as offended by that as no doubt many of you are by the fact I don’t like your children.  I’m not allowed to say this though.  People with kids are allowed to say it’s unacceptable that there aren’t enough family friendly spaces, but I’m not allowed to say it’s unacceptable there are no kid-free zones.  God forbid not every woman on the planet is maternal.

When I tell people I don’t have children they either look pitying at me like I can’t have children and isn’t it a shame, assume I’ve chosen a career over babies, or they ask me why not.  How fucking rude and intrusive.  When I meet a parent I don’t ask them why they have a narcissistic need to produce a mini version of themselves because it’s none of my business (I’ll probably lose followers over that comment 😉 ).

I fake liking children every day.  I coo over babies, play with my friend’s toddlers and pretend I’m interested in school reports but the honest truth is I’m thinking in my head “when is it polite to make my escape?”

Historically women’s only role in society was to bare, and care for, children.  We weren’t allowed to be educated or to work outside the home, so if we didn’t have children we had no purpose.  And, of course, until the advent of contraception we had no choice in the matter.  In the modern world, however, all this has changed and statistically 1 in 5 western women reach menopause child free (I’m using the term “free” deliberately, because I don’t feel any “less” because of it).  It turns out that given the choice many women don’t want a mini me.

On a fundamental level I feel no need to leave behind my DNA as some kind of legacy to the world.  It is enough that I have existed.  I don’t feel the need to furnish my parents with grand-children – they’ve already had their offspring.   It is not selfish to love my life exactly as it is and to not want to negate my needs in favour of a little person’s – I don’t understand the whole “selfish” concept, it makes no sense whatsoever.  Is the fact I’d prefer to snuggle under the duvet on a Sunday morning to taking my kid to play football and standing in the rain pretending to care about a sport I loath selfish?  If so, I guess I plead guilty as charged.

Women who have children can be very defensive when I talk about my feelings.  I’m not attacking you or your choice, but neither do I expect you to attack me or mine.  I love my dog but I don’t expect you to like dogs, let alone love mine the way I love him.  I don’t let him bark his head off in the garden because it would be intrusive of your peace and quiet.  I don’t let him jump up at people, ruining their trousers with his dirty paws.  I wouldn’t let him sit next to you in a cafe while you’re eating and beg.  I don’t expect supermarkets or posh restaurants to allow dogs – there have to be some places which are dog free for those who loath cute, furry, adoring animals.  We are all different and society should reflect that.  There is no right or wrong, just choice.

I’m going to press “send” now.  Gulp.


It’s not the wild west

As a civilized society, we have fought long and hard for the laws of our lands.  We recognize that our actions don’t affect us alone but have consequences for other people and laws exist to make sure that we are all protected and society runs smoothly.   In the UK we have not only our state laws but we also signed up to the Human Rights Act which is an international law.

Under Article 12 of the HRA:

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation.

Our right to privacy is particularly important to us.  If you send someone a letter through the post, you don’t expect that letter to end up on the front page of the local newspaper or the bulletin board at work.  We expect to be able to enjoy a private life and private communications and the law agrees this is a fundamental human right.  However, when it comes to electronic communications we seem to think invading someone’s privacy is fair game and the laws of the land are all but forgotten.

Some years ago, a ‘friend’ of mine posted an email I sent her on Facebook for all her 250 friends to view.  These people, most of whom didn’t know me from Adam or know anything about my 16 year relationship with this person, then judged the contents and I was found severely wanting.  No-one condemned her though for making a private letter public which, if you’re not aware, is against the law.

And now, a private Facebook post I sent to a small group of friends and family has been printed off and subject to a public discussion at the Annual General Meeting of my Camera Club. Instead of condemning the person who shared this private communication, however, I’ve been told off by several people for putting in on Facebook in the first place, despite the fact it was not a public post and was meant for my friends and no-one else.

“Facebook isn’t private!” is the cry.  Why not?  If you and a group of friends have a conversation over dinner in a restaurant you don’t expect one of your friends to be secretly taping it and sharing it with the universe the next morning.  That’s because you trust your friends and have some expectation of privacy.

This expectation, and legal right, to privacy is particularly important for people who live in isolation and depend on the internet for another of their fundamental Human Rights: the “right to create and maintain social relationships”.  I spend a minimum 17 hours of every day in bed and many of my friends are either totally housebound or bedridden.  As human beings, we have a basic need to interact with others and this includes group situations.  Facebook is a great way of doing that, particularly when you have very limited energy and one little post can be sent to 30 people at the click of a button.  So to have my fundamental human need for interaction with the world criticized infuriates me.  I don’t have the option of popping down the pub with my mates for a pint and a gossip, or chatting round the water cooler at work, so if I choose to have a natter with a group of friends on Facebook, in private and about any subject under the sun, that is my fundamental human right.

I have no idea why people think that just because they’re on a computer the laws of the land don’t apply and their morals go out the window.  Trolling, bullying, death threats, stalking and libel are just a few of the crimes committed every day online by people who wouldn’t dream of acting in that way outside of cyberspace.  It’s almost as if the Internet is the Wild West and we’ve regressed a couple hundred years to a totally lawless society where, if someone only looks at us the wrong way, we pull out our gun and shoot them dead.

The shitty part is, they get away with it.  Despite the fact there are laws in place to stop this kind of behaviour they’re almost impossible to implement.  I took legal advice over what has happened at my Camera Club, and while the Solicitor agreed I’d been legally slandered and my human right to privacy invaded, the Club has no money so it’s pointless suing them, it would cost me a small fortune to prosecute them and in any event the damage had already been done.

I am also discovering that people who are subjected to online or electronic abuses tend to be victim blamed in a BIG way and simply told the stay off the Internet.  No.  NO!  We have a basic human right to interract with other people and we should be allowed to do this in peace and safety whatever form it takes.   I most definitely should be able to chat privately to a group of friends without my conversation ending up as an Agenda item at a public meeting.

Here in the UK we have what’s called the Small Claims Court.  This is for people who have monetary issues of small value, eg. unpaid bills or problems with consumer goods, which involve law breaking but are considered too insubstantial to be heard by a Magistrates Court.  We need to have this for human rights violations.  At the moment, you can only take someone to court for defamation or invasion of privacy if you have shit loads of cash and are a public figure with a public reputation to uphold, yet this kind of thing can damage ordinary people just as much.  We need some way to redress this issue and a Small Human Rights Court would be just the job.


Think before you act

When we’re kids, we can go up to another kid in the playground kick his shin and steal his dinner money and although we get told off that’s the end of the consequences.  When we’re adults it’s a whole other ballgame as we’d be arrested for theft and assault.

I am hugely principled as a person.  Having been on the receiving end of injustice on more than one occasion I know what unfairness feels like.  I try to live my best life, to be fair, to be honest and to generally be nice.  I can’t see the point in being any other way – we are all contending with shit in one way or another and life is hard enough without me adding to someone else’s struggle.  However, none of us are perfect and we are all, myself included, allowed to make mistakes without being judged.  We have bad days, lash out when we shouldn’t and say stupid things we instantly regret.  As long as these are isolated incidents and we apologise I think everyone accepts it’s normal human behaviour.

However, there comes a time when actions become unacceptable.  If there is a deliberate attempt to cause someone else hurt or harm, for example, and particularly if this is sustained over a period of time it is not OK.  I am of the opinion that this behaviour should not be swept under the carpet but exposed.  “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” Edmund Burke.

As you know if you read my blog regularly, I have been made to feel so uncomfortable by a tiny minority of women at my Camera Club that I have decided to leave.  I posted about this a month ago on my private Facebook page.  It was a post set to ‘friends only’, didn’t name names or identify anyone, just said that I felt I had been bullied and that I was leaving as a result.  There was no slagging off, name calling or nastiness – just the facts.  I was very careful and measured in what I said as I’m well aware of the laws of libel and bringing an organisation into disrepute.  I then went on to say I’d had an otherwise wonderful 5 years at the Club and had made some lovely friends.  The reason I wrote the post was that bullying behaviour should not go unchallenged, particularly when the bullies are in positions of power within an organization.

I then wrote a detailed confidential email to someone on the committee saying exactly why I’d left.  The person replied they didn’t want to get involved and it was nothing to do with them.  It should have been to do with them, however despite feeling let down I accepted it and was happy to walk away.

This week was the Annual General Meeting at the Club.  AGMs are official meetings where accounts are agreed, committee members elected and the official running of the Club discussed.  The meetings are minuted and the minutes placed in the public domain for all to see.

I didn’t attend the AGM, having left the Club some weeks ago, however I was informed by a friend the next morning that my private Facebook post had been brought up, discussed by the entire Club and my character basically assassinated.  Not only is this morally wrong, after all I have never done anything wrong and I was the victim of bullying behaviour which has not been tackled in any way, but it is illegal.

Contrary to popular belief, social media posts are not automatically legally classed as being in the public domain.  If we set a FB post to ‘public’ it is public.  If we set our privacy to ‘friends only’ it is classed as private, just like a letter sent to a friend.  It is also subject to copyright laws and cannot be shared or re-distributed.  There are exceptions, for example if a crime is committed your post can be used in evidence, but other than that it is not for public consumption.

In addition, laws of libel (for the written word) and slander (for the spoken word) exist to protect people’s reputations.  A defamatory spoken word or gesture is usually classed as slander if it:

  • exposes a person to hatred, ridicule or contempt; or
  • causes him/her to be shunned or avoided; or
  • has the effect of lowering his/her reputation in the estimation of right-thinking members of the public generally; or
  • injures him/her in their office, profession or trade.

it is very clear what happened at the Club’s AGM was slanderous.  In order to be slander, the person has to be clearly identified (which I was, by name), the slander has to be witnessed (which mine was, by dozens of people) and it has to cause one of the above (I don’t think there is any doubt the effect of the discussion was such to lower my reputation in the estimation of right-thinking members of the public).

I have made a formal complaint to the Club and requested a retraction of the discussion and a public apology be made to me but if that isn’t forthcoming I will consider legal action.  We simply cannot go round talking shit about people who have done absolutely nothing wrong.  Neither can we use people’s private communications without their express permission – the internet is full of people who have found themselves in very hot water as a result of sharing stuff they’ve seen online.

Morally, the result of this situation is devastating to me.  I try so hard to be a good person and I have been made out to be the villain in a situation in which I’m actually the victim.  However, that’s how bullying works.  Once you identify a bully and expose their behaviour the only recourse left to the bully is to turn the tables and deflect any negativity away from themselves and on to the subject of the bullying.  What amazes me is that anyone ever falls for this and can’t see straight through it.

The point to this post is to act as a reminder that we can’t go round talking shit about people without consequence.  We are not children and there are very strict laws in place to govern what we can and can’t do and say.  Even if we are talking about actual events we have to be very careful how we talk about them which is why writing ranty posts when we’re emotional is never a good idea, however justified we may feel.  As I said above, I was very careful in my choice of words and audience in my FB post and I think we all have to be aware of defamation laws before we open our mouths, either physically or on paper.  Luckily we have freedom of speech and expression laws in the UK but there are still limits to what you can say and how you can say it and we should never forget that when we gossip there is a human being with feelings on the end of our titillation.


I have been pesco-vegetarian for 27 years, long before it was trendy or commonplace, and I have progressive views on animal welfare.  I’ve never discussed my views on my blog, though, because it feels a bit like I’m forcing my beliefs on other people and I hate that.  Having said all that, my opinions on keeping pets will come through in this post, not to make anyone feel upset or guilty or ‘wrong’ but because my entire blog is written from my own perspective and my perspective on animal welfare is one of my strongest.  Before anyone flips out, please bear in mind that I am entitled to my opinion and absolutely nothing you can say to the contrary will change it so basically don’t waste your breathe telling me how fabulous dog crates are.

I’ve owned a pet since I was 6 weeks old.  Over the years I’ve shared my life with cats, rabbits, horses, dogs, even a pig (which was slaughtered when I was 11 and probably planted the seeds of my aversion to eating meat).   I had a chaotic and often lonely childhood and my pets gave me comfort, joy, companionship and unconditional love – I don’t know how I would have survived without them.

Looking back, however, we as a family made a lot of mistakes in our pet ownership.  For example, we got a beautiful, intelligent, loving Labrador/Collie dog then left it on its own for 8 hours a day.  The poor thing had a lonely, understimulated and miserable existence and I feel guilty to the bottom of my soul for that and still, nearly 30 years after his death, apologise to him in my prayers.   We owned a rabbit that was kept in a tiddly cage for most of its life and even though I was only 9 years old at the time and didn’t know any better I still feel guilty about it.  I am absolutely against keeping pets chained up or in confinement and that includes birds and fish.  I also think dog cages are barbaric.  I know it’s currently trendy to jail dogs, but then it used to be trendy to send children up chimneys until we came to our senses and realized it was cruel.  I’m now going to have comments from people who tell me their dog loves its cage, my answer to which is great, dogs love to have a quiet, comfy place to sleep just so long as you never shut the door and it’s free to leave whenever it likes.  I do have to put in a disclaimer here that caging an animal for short periods for health reasons, eg if recovering from surgery, is fine and in the best interests of the dog (even if the dog doesn’t realize it).  I’m even against owning horses to ride, even though I had two as a kid.  There’s a reason we call training horses ‘breaking’ them, and if you have to break a horse’s spirit to get it to do what you want I can’t see how that’s justifiable.  Plus, kicking an animals’ ribs to make it move is cruel by anyone’s standards.

“When you know better, do better” Maya Angelou

I’m saying all this because before we own a pet we need to think about the kind of environment we can provide for it.  It’s not about us, it’s about them.  Cats, for example, are mostly nocturnal and can roam up to 4 miles each night.  If you live next to a busy road and are planning on never letting it out of the house you have to consider how healthy an environment that is and whether, much as you’d like a cat, it’s actually suitable for the cat.

I already had a moggy when I got really sick with M.E.  I’d adopted him from a rescue charity when he was 6 weeks old (all my pets have been rescues) and I loved the bones of him.  I installed a cat-flap in the back door and he could come and go as he pleased, which he mainly did at night and slept the day away with me on my bed.  He was no bother to look after, even for someone as ill as me, I just had to feed him twice a day and that gave me a reason to get up in a morning.  That cat absolutely kept me alive.  On the days I felt so ill and was in so much pain I didn’t know if I could carry on I’d look at him and wonder what would happen to him if I killed myself.  Who would care for him?  Who would love him like I did?  The answer was no-one (my parents weren’t allowed to own pets in their apartment block) and I knew I had to survive for his sake.  He was tragically run over in 2002 (I think he’d become quite deaf in his old age) and I was distraught.

I now had no reason to get out of bed each day, had no-one to chat to and no-one to to cuddle.  My days felt devoid of purpose, bearing in mind I was still almost totally bedridden and very poorly, and even though I was still grieving some weeks later my parents took me to the rescue centre and we came home with another cat, a 2 year old Tom.  Being young, he was a different kettle of fish to my previous boy and much harder to look after because he was still at the stage where he wanted to play.  I found the first few months hard work, and wondered if I’d made a mistake, but eventually we settled into a new routine and developed a very special bond.

Fast forward 12 years and he developed chronic kidney disease.  We were never away from the vets in the final year of his life and it’s situations like this you have to bear in mind when you take on a pet.  Not only the expense (I spent £1000 on him that year) but the effort involved which, when you’re ill, is immense.  Luckily my M.E. had improved a fair bit by then and I was able to drive again – I would never have coped if I’d still been bedridden and I genuinely don’t know what would have happened.  I finally had to have him put to sleep in 2011.

I had such a special bond with that cat that I couldn’t even contemplate replacing him with another moggy, yet once again my days were devoid of purpose and I felt really lonely without a furry companion.  I wondered if I were well enough now to consider getting a dog and spent some weeks researching the kinds of breeds which would be suitable for someone as ill as me, eventually deciding on a Chihuahua which I read didn’t need much exercise.  I don’t agree with buying pets, though, when there are so many in rescue needing a home but as I live in a farming community all the rescue dogs were either Collies or Staffies.  I spent weeks trawling the rescue centres online but the only small dog I saw was a little chap called Bertie.  He was a 2½ year old Miniature Schnauzer, a breed I’d never even heard of, so I spent a few more weeks learning about Schnauzers and eventually decided to go and have a look.

He was actually much larger than I’d imagined (he’s 1¼” taller than the breed standard) and I was still unsure whether he was ideally what I wanted, but as he tentatively put his paw on my knee and looked up at me with huge, worried eyes I instantly fell in love.  Add this to the fact he shared a birthday with my Nanna, and had the same name as one of my family members and I couldn’t ignore the signs that he was meant to be mine.

Despite being young, Bert was a really laid back dog.  In fact, I got so worried about how much he slept I took him to the vet for a check-up, but was told he just had a chilled personality and to be grateful 😉  But that’s kind’ve where my luck ended.  I’m a terrible sleeper at the best of times, so Bert’s bed was put in the Utility room and he slept downstairs.  But he woke every morning at 4am and started barking.  To cut a lonnnng, stressful, exhausting story short it took me 2 months to get him to sleep through, and even now 6 years later he still wakes me at 6am every single day of the year and I am permanently shattered.  I thought I’d be able to leave Bertie on his own for an hour or two if I needed to, not knowing that he had severe separation anxiety.  Despite trying various behaviour modification techniques we’ve never managed to conquer this, so I need a dog sitter every time I need to leave the house.  He had various other emotional issues, including weeing in the house despite being house-trained, and it took about 9 months and a lot of hard work for me to get these sorted out.  He’s also a barker.  Terrier breeds do tend to yap for England, especially the boys, and Minis are renowned for being vocal.  Again I tried every trick in the book and in the end had to admit defeat – he just loves the sound of his own voice and will bark at a leaf floating past the lounge room window 😉  Some days, when I have a migraine or am particularly sound sensitive, this drives me to absolute distraction and is actually physically painful.  Mini Schnauzers don’t need huge amounts of exercise but they do still need to go out and obviously my walking ability is severely limited.  Having thought about this I walked him on my little mobility scooter on an 8m extending dog lead.  Bert, though, was a puller and I learned some years later that he’d never been taught to walk on a lead by his previous owner.  Our walks became a nightmare and I often came back in tears, with my painful joints in tatters.  With that, his noctural wakings, barking, emotional problems, going nuts at other dogs and general lack of being trained I was so stressed, exhausted and ill at the end of the first month that I rang my Mum in floods of tears completely overwhelmed and unable to cope.  I had no idea that having a dog was going to be that hard and I was simply too ill to manage.  She told me that my health came first and that I should return him to the pound but, as my best friend recently told me “you are one of the most loyal people I know” and for me it wasn’t an option.  Bert was family, I loved him and I would make it work no matter what.

We are apparently lucky to have one of the country’s leading dog behaviour experts in Cumbria, so I rang him for advice.  He told me I’d chosen the wrong dog and that there was no way of teaching Bert to walk to heel on a mobility scooter.  I put the phone down in floods of tears, and a fierce determination to prove him bloody well wrong.  Just because you’re disabled doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a dog, even if the dog has issues.  Particularly if the dog has issues.  So I googled, went on forums and read everything I could about training difficult dogs and 2 long, stressful, tiring, frustrating years later Bertie and I finally came to an understanding.

We are now a team.  He walks beautifully next to my mobility scooter.  He comes when called (mostly 😉 ).  He sits, downs and stays when asked (mostly 😉 ).  He still barks for England, but no longer hurls himself at visitors and instead sits nicely by the front door when the doorbell rings waiting for his treat for being a good boy.  He’s brilliant with children.  Hopeless with other dogs.  But I can take him anywhere and he is golden.  In particular, he loves riding in the car sitting on his booster seat in the back, wearing his doggie seatbelt, with his head stuck out the window, beard and ears flapping in the wind.   We get constant compliments on what a brilliantly behaved pooch he is and I smile and think to myself ‘if only you knew’ 😉

He exhausts me, and makes me joyful, in equal measure.  I found taking him out twice a day on my scooter all too much, so now employ a dog walker for his morning walk which means I can no longer afford to buy clothes, or joint braces or other vital stuff for myself.  I insured him at £17.50 a month which, 2 MRI scans, 2 x-rays, an operation on his leg, drug induced vomiting after eating rat poison, worms, several fatty tumours, several ear warts and a bout of colitis later, went up to £70 a month so now cripples me financially.  I also have to employ a dog groomer who comes to the house every 6 weeks.  He has food intolerances, so has to be fed an expensive dog food and has to take supplements, which are another drain on my limited funds.  Without him I’d be monetarily so much better off but emotionally so much poorer.

Having a pet when you’re ill isn’t impossible, but it is a huge committment and one which shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Looking after a pet well can be stupidly expensive and absolutely exhausting.  No matter how ill you are, their needs come first.  You can’t decide one day that you’re too tired to walk your dog, or that you don’t fancy going out because it’s chucking down.  No matter how ill I’ve ever been over the past 6 years Bertie has never once not been walked twice a day, and if I couldn’t do it I got someone else to do it for me.  They may get sick at some stage, so you have to consider how you’d pay for that or if you have the resources to look after an ill animal.   Cats and dogs can live until they’re 20, so you do have to look ahead and think about the future.  But if you do feel able to take on a pet  the rewards are beyond words.  Bertie woke me at 5.30am this morning (I eventually moved his bed to my bedroom) and even though I was annoyed at being woken at the crack of dawn (again) one look at his furry little face and I just smiled.  He makes me laugh and brings me joy every day of his life and I can’t imagine being without him.




As you may have noticed, I don’t take kindly to criticism.  In most cases I think it’s absolutely unnecessary and usually the only reason for criticizing someone is to make them feel bad, or to make them question their thoughts or feelings because they don’t match with our own.

My biological Dad started criticizing me when I was just a toddler.  Nothing I did was right, despite the fact I was beautiful, exceptionally clever and in most respects the model child.  At the age of 21 I decided that if your own Dad can’t see the wonderfulness that is you he doesn’t need to be in your life and my biological Dad is no longer in mine.

I was bullied mercilessly at school by girls 3-4 years older than me.  I still can’t get my head round bullying behaviour.  Do these people have so little going on in their own lives they have to focus intently, every waking second, on someone else’s?  I was called every name under the sun on a daily basis for years, Lesbian being a favourite despite the fact I dated the same boy all the way through high school.  You have to nurture your own self-belief that you are a good person, despite what other people say.  This has stood me in good stead for being a Blogger, where you open yourself to some truly vile, angry individuals and those who lack social skills and appear to have no idea how to interact respectfully with others.

Of course, many kids who have difficult childhoods repeat learned patterns of behaviour in adulthood and I married a clone of my Dad.  My husband was a manipulative, psychologically damaging bully who criticized me endlessly – how I dressed, how I spoke, my skills as a wife and homemaker.  Luckily for me, and I’m not entirely sure how I managed it, I hung on to the little self belief I had and realized I deserved a better life.  So I divorced him.

When I developed M.E. I faced a different kind of criticism.  Every medic I’ve ever seen, at some point or another, has implied (or outright told me) that my symptoms were psychological and I was simply afraid of life/exercise/being well.  At one point I even started to believe them, despite the fact I tried everything to get better and desperately wanted my life back.  I turned my back on the medical profession in about year six of being sick – I didn’t need their kind of “help”.

There are various types of criticism of course.  When I put my photographs online I expect some form of critique, but I expect it to be polite and constructive.  I don’t expect someone to say “what have you done?!  There is no soul in that picture!” which is a recent comment from someone on one of my portraits.  That kind of comment dents a person’s confidence and makes them question their abilities, which isn’t going to make them better at their craft.  My best mate is my toughest critic when it comes to my photos, but her comments say things like “not sure the lighting is right in the top right hand corner, can you maybe darken it down a bit?”, critique which does not damage my self-belief and is actually useful.

Criticizing someone’s appearance is never OK with me, which is why I was so offended by my neighbour recently saying I looked ancient and miserable in a self portrait I’d done.  When you reach your fiftieth year and are menopausal you don’t need to be told that you looked better 5 years ago because you already know this.  We can’t do anything about our genes, the aging process, our height, our skin colour, the shape of our ears or any of our other physical attributes, so criticism of our physical appearance is never justified and the intention can only ever be to hurt or belittle.

When someone leaves a comment on my blog which starts with “you are wrong……” I don’t even read it.  If I’ve written a factual piece (which is rare, my blog is about sharing my life experiences) then politely pointing out I’ve made a mistake is fine.  But telling me my views are wrong isn’t.  What they’re actually saying is “I have a different view point to you and my view is the right view dammit!” which I find intensely arrogant. It echos with my husband’s constant diatribe of “shut the fuck up, what do you know anyway?!”  When I can be bothered to question these people on their views they can never back them up with hard evidence.  I’ve had loads of people comment that my ‘low histamine’ diet is a joke, but when I ask them to point me to the research on which they base their low histamine diet there is always a deafening silence…….because I know that this information doesn’t exist and all the low histamine information online is based purely on guesswork.  The same goes for disagreeing with someone’s political views, or parenting skills just because they don’t match yours – after all, you are right goddammit and they are wrong!

There are times when criticism is both needed and justified.  It’s absolutely right to question President Trump’s views on women, ethnic minorities and immigration because they are harmful and I’m intensely proud of those Americans who are standing up for their beliefs.  I personally, however, have much less time for the Brits who whinged endlessly about Brexit purely because they had an opposing view to the majority in the referendum, and the MPs who are threatening not to sanction the triggering of Article 50 should be sacked – we live in a democracy not an autocracy (thank God).

When I was younger I was a people pleaser.  I wanted everyone to like me and I took everyone’s views of me on board, as many young women do.  It was intensely damaging and decimated my confidence and self esteem.  I no longer entertain criticism unless I’ve a) asked for it and b) it is constructive.  If the price I pay for self belief is that not as many people like me I can live with that.