Getting the blather out of the way…

*dusts off keyboard*

Why hello there, it’s been a while…

I find myself in a position where free time is suddenly all over the place, a statement which hasn’t been true for a number of months. I made it through my midwifery degree with my sanity more or less intact, a reasonable class of degree and a pocket full of experiences which I will never forget. Bagged myself a swanky job at one of the top hospitals too… very prestigious, definitely a good place to build reputations and forge a path up through the ranks.

The thing is, I also found myself in a position where I just didn’t care. I mean, I cared about the personal relationships with the women I was working with, I remain passionate about women’s health and midwifery, the commute was pretty pleasant, I liked the co-workers who I was meeting every day, I just… didn’t care about the prestigious, or well paid, or opportunities available, and it stopped me dead in my tracks.

Somewhere along the line, my priorities changed when I wasn’t looking. The problem is that now I’ve noticed, the identity which I think of as ‘me’ needs some updating.

I’m having a pseudo Reggie Perrin moment. I’m feeling the need to carpe a very uneventful diem. It’s another sodding midlife crisis. I’m quoting Walden

“The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. Te be awake is to be alive.”
Henry David Thoreau

Pompous much? I might as well throw a Sheeple into the mix and be done with it.

There’s something to be said for mindfulness though, for following a path with reason rather than as the course of least resistance. For pausing, whether prompted by deep thought, physical change, or reading someone elses words, pausing and evaluating and thinking and planning. That’s where I find myself now, thinking and planning.

It occurred to me, in the middle of this, that I may be late to the party on this one. Does everyone else identify their driving forces earlier? Is that why there are those who have children at 18, go into the military, actually choose a specific degree with a career in mind rather than something that looks interesting? I suspect so, I think that I’m more than a little bit socially challenged when it comes to life goals and should probably have been in a summer school programme for how to be fulfilled.

Religion, of course, has an answer for this. It’s normally one of the central features of the particular book or creed that the individual flavours work from. A pretty key selling point as far as I can tell. How wonderful if, straight from the get-go, you could be given a set of rules, an indication of what a happy or successful spiritual life looks like, and, to top it all off, the promise of a shiny afterlife as a pay-off for doing as you’re told.

I wish I could get in on that deal., instead, as an atheist, I’m trying to muddle through as best I can and readjusting as I go. Mindfulness meditation is helping with this at the moment. Paying attention is normally a good place to start with most things.

So, yeah… we’re all caught up. I’m planning a year in which I give myself the luxury of time and kindness. A year in which I do what I want to do and live the life I want to, because I can. A whole year of painting and crafts and words and making new homes and quiet weekends just revelling in the company of my loved ones. Concentrating on myself with relaxation and being satisfied with the more than good enough life I find myself living.

Maybe sometimes the best version of you isn’t the one who wants to conquer the world, it’s the one who’s content to live in it.

next time: less pretentious blather, actual topic tackling.

Posted in musings | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tschüß 2013… Kon’nichiwa 2014.

So, what with all of the reviews of 2013 and the such, I thought I’d make a couple of lists…

My 2013 has seen…

1 Big Deal Wedding

21 babies delivered

2 Guinea pigs kept alive

1 Cat, as bitey and fat as ever

5 measly blogposts, including this one

7 newly double-glazed windows

In 2014, I’m aiming high…

1 new qualification, RM because I’ll have 40 deliveries under my belt

2 pigs, 1 cat at the end of the year

365 days of wedded bliss

1 tiny rectangle

12 blogposts at the very least

6 new crochet projects – big and small

A blue Kitchen

A green house

A red front door

A warm heart

A generous spirit

A curious mind

A garden full of life and a home full of contentment

Here’s to 2014 and making the world a slightly nicer place to exist in.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We got married, and it was pretty awesome.

So, last week… James and I got married.

Mawwiage.

Mawwiage.

It was a pretty successful day by all accounts and, now that things have settled back down a little bit, I feel like a photodump to capture some of the more obvious moments.

Leading up to the big day, there was a great gathering in of immediate family which meant testing out our new BBQ/firepit with delicious meat from Brogdale

Meat, Meat and yet more meat.

Meat, Meat and yet more meat.

and walks along the seawall at Oare to watch the red sailed barges hunker down for the evening

Oare in the magic hour, no filters needed.

Oare in the magic hour, no filters needed.

Everything was more or less under control, and the day before the main event was spent decorating the venue with both sets of eternally patient parents and our lovely organiser Louise. If there is one piece of advice that I could give to anyone planning on having a wedding, it’s to invest in someone who you trust and can do all of the supplier-wrangling and day running. It was lovely to decorate with all of the things that I had  stolen from been inspired to make by Pinterest and then head home, knowing that all I had to concentrate on the following day was, like, getting married and stuff.

There was one last minute change of plans when I finally realised that you can’t, in any pleasingly neat way, make a ball out of 5 pointed origami flowers. You would have thought that my mathsy love would have pointed that out earlier but, no, he trusted in my supernatural crafting powers. Anyway, bouquet plans changed and one trip to Tesco later, I had a selection of flowers to make my bouquet out of.

A bouquet in a bucket

A bouquet in a bucket

I’m thinking of opening a florist if the whole healthcare thing falls through.

So, one non-panicky adjustment later and we were ready for the following day. We collapsed into bed and slept soundly.

The day itself ran pretty smoothly from the off… James disappeared off with my parents and our lovely photographers Hannah and Dale to our first look site and I waited patiently alone in the house with the cat. A cat who had been VERY HELPFUL during all of the crafting.

Pi being VERY HELPFUL

Pi being VERY HELPFUL

I was chauffeured to our special spot by my darling mother and we spent an hour just enjoying being in the countryside and building up our reserves for the rest of the day.

First looks are a good thing.

first look loveliness.

first look loveliness.

A very good thing.

First look... Kentish gothic.

First look… Kentish gothic.

Having braved the traffic, we snuck into the venue and up into the treehouse to meet our lovely registrar and her second.

Bride in disguise

Bride in disguise

And then we waited… hearing all of our friends and family slowly coming into the glade below and the gentle chatting and sounds of renewed bonds that come from the gathering in of the people who surround you in life.

then we got married.

It was pretty awesome.

James reading his vows.

James reading his vows.

We had no readings or music, wanting to focus on the ceremony itself but we did write our own vows.

James said these words…

Kirsty, I love you, and I love how loving you makes me better. I love you enough to sleep voluntarily in the same room as someone else for the first time since boarding school, and enough to make a speech in front of a bunch of people I know with everyone looking at me and judging me.
 
And I couldn’t be here with anyone who deserves it more. The sweetness of your smile outshines the radiance of your gown, and you’re a very fine swan indeed.
 
I promise that I’ll always try to be worthy of you. I promise that your toes will always be roasty. I promise that I’ll always be your charming gardener, making your soul blossom. I promise your boat will always be full of crows. I promise that I’ll hold your hand as we crunch up the gravel driveway of life, and gasp at the grand facade of our future together. I promise that our private jokes will always bewilder and alienate everyone else.
 
But mostly, I promise that we’re going to be the *best* at being married. Everyone else who’s married will be rubbish at it compared to us. I love you and I’m so glad we’re here.

and then I said these ones, and barely choked up AT ALL. Because I’m well badly hard and stuff.
James, I was fine. I’d pulled myself together just in time, to give myself away and I’m so happy that I found you to give myself away to.
 
I love you, you really are so much braver and kinder and smarter and wonderful than you realise, and I’m looking forward to reminding you of that, every morning, noon and night until we’re unfastened starstuff looking for a connection again.
 
I promise to always be yours, even when your maths is ridiculous and impossible. I promise that you will always be my only exception, my OTP, my lovely love. 
I promise to bring you delicious things and hugs. To always keep having conversations and sharing a brain.
 
I promise to carry your heart with me, to always be sure of you, to love you much further than the moon and back. I’m more Voyager than Apollo.
 
I promise to always notice the inconsequentials, to go places, to keep secretly believing that I can find the rabbit hole, that one wardrobe, and whisk you away with me.
 
You are the pale blue dot that I call home. 
 
Let’s always be married, forever.
the look of 'd'aw'

the look of ‘d’aw’

So yeah, that happened and then there were bubbles
moar bubbles!

moar bubbles!

and drinks and goody bags and lots of wandering around barefoot and well-timed showers and cupcakes and awesome cake toppers
Bunny and bride

Bunny and bride

and ALL THE FOOD and hampers and bunting and croquet and dancing and smiles and smiles and SMILES

Hampers in the marquee

Hampers in the marquee

Dressy and geeky.

Dressy and geeky.

Lovely squidgeface Rosa

Lovely squidgeface Rosa

Chesty Mc Boobs

Chesty McBoobington

Maidstone through and through.

Maidstone through and through.

I'm the queen of cupcakes.

I’m the queen of cupcakes.

Beribboned and bedecked.

Beribboned and bedecked.

and we were married and we were happy and everything was the same but we seemed to be smiling more anyway.

Then we ran away to the countryside for a minimoon at The Marquis and even more things happened.

We arrived laden down with goodies and a supply of cupcakes and just collapsed into the room, as evidenced by ‘wedding night floor’

Arrive at posh hotel - dump everything on the floor. Classy.

Arrive at posh hotel – dump everything on the floor. Classy.

I suddenly realised that I could be free of The Hair now that I had twirled sufficiently and so James took a pair of sharp scissors to the top of my plait. The resulting photo is a little bit ‘you have 24 hours to send the money or the fingers will be next’ 

the hair... detached.

the hair… detached.

We woke up to sun and birdsong and a view of the valley from our big squidgy bed

The view from our bed... not bad.

The view from our bed… not bad.

And I awoke to a lighter head and no ongoing need to curse my tangly hair…

Ahhh... short hair at last.

Ahhh… short hair at last.

We spent the day lying on and around the bed and reading our cards and guestbook. We watched all of Spaced and all of the presents were opened and ‘oooh’ed over and before we knew it, it was time for dinner.

James had done well and not only arranged for there to be a HUGE bunch of flowers in the room, but had also booked us into the restaurant for the 6 course tasting menu that night.

It was pretty good…

roasted tomato and buttermilk soup with a risotto ball.

roasted tomato and buttermilk soup with a risotto ball.

Elderflower saused mackerel with tomato terrine and landcress

Elderflower saused mackerel with tomato terrine and landcress

Bresaola of duck breast with neck rillette, cherries, Kentich blue bell and dark chocolate

Bresaola of duck breast with neck rillette, cherries, Kentish blue bell and dark chocolate

Fillet of John Dory with king oyster mushrooms, lobster and sea aster

Fillet of John Dory with king oyster mushrooms, lobster and sea aster

Fillet of dexter beef with beef croustillant, dittander, turnips and broad beans

Fillet of dexter beef with beef croustillant, dittander, turnips and broad beans

Almond cake with cherry ripple ice-cream and douglas fir

Almond cake with cherry ripple ice-cream and douglas fir

Earl grey and strawberry souffle with camomile ice-cream

Earl grey and strawberry souffle with camomile ice-cream

As I say… pretty good.

We hauled ourselves back upstairs and collapsed again, full of food and opinions about the food.

The following day, we felt the need to escape a little bit and so, headed off to the white cliffs national trust site. As a middle-class married couple, we of course joined the National Trust while we were there. Yep, those kind of people. We bought a tea-towel too. Slippery slope.

We walked along the cliff edge

The White cliffs

The White cliffs

James on the cliffs

James on the cliffs

The edge of the port

The edge of the port

There'll be giant heads over, the white cliffs of Dover...

There’ll be giant heads over, the white cliffs of Dover…

Taking the required ‘look, we’re at a place’ photos as we went.

All of the wildflowers were out and the fields were swooshy and golden. Having allowed all day (and my having worn flip-flops) meant that we meandered leisurely along the edge of things, stopping to watch magpies skip along and the ships of all sizes manoeuvre their way in and out of the dock.

It was pretty special.

White Clifftop meadow with a sneaky lighthouse

White Clifftop meadow with a sneaky lighthouse

We stopped at South Foreland Lighthouse for the very best of cream teas in their adorable tea room… all crackly pre-war music, mismatched china and cheerful volunteers

Cream tea in a lighthouse? Why, yes please!

Cream tea in a lighthouse? Why, yes please!

The lighthouse

The lighthouse and some random handsome man

and then headed back across the fields with loot in sweaty mitts

My buoy and the clifftop fields

My buoy and the clifftop fields

Encountering the lovely geology of the cliffs

Lovely lines of flint in the cliffs

Lovely lines of flint in the cliffs

a castle which James quite fancied the look of…

James has a castle.

I’ll have that.

and a deeply amusing sign.

Someone had written 'penis' in chalk on this sign. James found it deeply amusing.

Someone had written ‘penis’ in chalk on this sign. James found it deeply amusing.

We had decided the night before to eat at the Marquis restaurant again but opted for a more reserved three courses each

The amuse-bouche was delicious…

homemade spiced flatbread with a broadbean dip

homemade spiced flatbread with a broad bean dip

James had…

Bresaola of duck breast with neck rillette, cherries, Kentich blue bell and dark chocolate

Bresaola of duck breast with neck rillette, cherries, Kentish blue bell and dark chocolate

Dexter brisket with turnips, broad beans and shallots

Dexter brisket with turnips, broad beans and shallots

chocolate ganache with loganberries and raspberry ice-cream

chocolate ganache with loganberries and raspberry ice-cream

and I opted for…

Potted crab with lobster, a ryebread crisp and foraged leaves.

Potted crab with lobster, a ryebread crisp and foraged leaves.

Rabbit pie with rabbit loin, parsnips, carrots and potatoes.

Rabbit pie with rabbit loin, parsnips, carrots and potatoes.

Elderflower pannacotta with Gooseberry sorbet

Elderflower pannacotta with Gooseberry sorbet

We both had many, many tiny little caramelised onion breads. Warm out of the oven and tastier than you could believe

Caramelised Onion bread. All the yums.

Caramelised Onion bread. All the yums.

And then we collapsed again. I watched a brilliant programme about bubbles (yay! bubbles!) and James fell into a deep, Thorn Rose-like sleep.

We headed home the following morning after a rather good breakfast

Local bacon, beans, egg, a field mushroom, homemade bread,  potatoes, and a fried slice

Local bacon, beans, egg, a field mushroom, homemade bread, potatoes, and a fried slice

Superior porridge and trimmings

Superior porridge and trimmings

and clutching a bottle of their fizzy wine, from their own local vineyard.

Home to smoosh the cat and gather in for one big hello/goodbye lunch with the remnants of the hogroast…

a family lunch

a family lunch

and we were married, and we are married, and nothing is different and everything is better.

IMG_6334

all the BUBBLES!!!

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

Marcel Proust

all the love. <3

all the love.❤

Posted in musings | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

#nineworlds – con report

Gosh, it’s been a while since I last spouted words into the world. In my defence, I’ve been otherwise engaged… what with the getting married and the midwifery degree and all.

We’ve just got back from our mini-honeymoon which involved 3 nights away at a posh hotel with associated posh restaurant and then attending the nine worlds Geekfest con in London.

It. Was. Awesome.

We’ve already bought our tickets for next year and will be cosplaying it up BIG TIME… here’s a short breakdown of how the weekend went.

Friday –

We fought our way through the traffic on the M25 and arrived at the Radisson, after failing to spot the correct car park entrance and having a minor crisis we parked and checked out our home for the next 3 days. Not bad Rad, not bad at all…

IMG_6250

A bed the size of a continent…

Shiny, air-conditioned hotel rooms FTW

Shiny, air-conditioned hotel rooms FTW

Our first session was ‘Cake or Death?’ a panel directed by the charming Marcus Gipps and featuring Charlie Stross, Paul Cornell, Liz de Jager, and my new girl-crush, Zen Cho.

IMG_6256

The cake or death panel.

It was brilliant, a look at showering your characters with good times, sexy encounters, and a nice normal life (cake!) vs. The Martin/Whedon model of FROM PERIL COMES DRAAAAAMMAAAAA (death).

I’ve not delved into the world of fic in much depth but the promise of a universe of sexy cake might be enough for me!

The panel were all wonderful, relaxed and chatty and there was FREE CAKE!

IMG_6255

Cake.

a model which I can recommend for all strands next year. Cake is good, cake is the winningest.

Next up was ‘The Legal regulation of Robots’ with Lilian Edwards, a brilliant law academic with a fascinating insight into the realistic ways in which robots are already regulated and challenges which we face in the future. The theatre had some particularly funky older tech in place which seemed fitting with all of the talk of Metropolis and future tech.

IMG_6257

The secret tech in the seatbacks. Lovely.

IMG_6259

Lilian and Maria.

Next, we rushed upstairs to ‘Future Sex’ with the glimmering bastion of common sense that is Meg Barker. It was absolutely brilliant and I recommend that EVERYBODY IN THE WHOLE WORLD gets on board with this way of thinking. Her presentation is here and well worth a view.

Having had our minds blown, we got settled for the ever-lovely Helen Keen and her spacey stand-uppery. The room laughed, the room put on bad russian accents, the room was deeply amused by venn diagrams and jokes about ducking. It was good.

IMG_6269

Helen Keen, swimming in spacelight.

We slunk back to our cool, quiet room and collapsed for the night, ready to dive in again in the morning.

Saturday –

Having filled up on cooked breakfast…

IMG_6271

Om nom nom.

we dove back into the thick of things.

There were SO MANY things that we both wanted to do, but the promise of Cory Doctorow drew us to ‘The Future of Technology and Society’ which was a) stuffed to the gills with attendees and b) brilliant.

I get a bit swoony at the very mention of Cory Doctorow now, he has a brilliant, shiny mind and I want to talk to him forever. Such fun watching him, Charlie Stross, Lilian Edwards and Helen Keen talking about the future. It took a fascinating swoop into privacy and identity which kept me rapt and glassy-eyed.

IMG_6272

Cory, Charlie and Helen ruminating on the future of stuff.

Having highlighted ‘why is the future so binary?’ as our next session, we actually decided on ‘Hermione Granger: Feminist icon?’ as our next port of call. Ascending to The Corridor Of Wonder™ for the first time was FANTABULOUS… every single door we passed had something brilliant and individual happening on the other side. The only thing that makes me sad thinking back on the weekend is that I just didn’t have the energy (or clones) to make it to all of the events happening along that corridor.

Anna Llewellyn led what was a highlight of the con for me. I frakking LOVE a bit of academic cultural studies and being able to have a wanky conversation about a geekery in a room filled with so many different but tolerant views was JUST WONDERFUL. I’d not describe myself as a Potterite but the Hermione sesh summed up what I enjoyed about the particular brand of multi-geekery that nine worlds had going on. It was a safe place in every possible way. People were INTERESTED, expression was ENCOURAGED, participation was voluntary, space was respected. It was heaven.

Following Doctorow’s siren call once again, we headed back down to ‘Is our Future Utopian or Dystopian?’ with Stross again, Tricia Sullivan, Jaine Fenn and Tom Hunter at the helm (he of the Arthur C. Clarke award).

IMG_6274

A content-looking panel, despite lack of cake.

I surprised myself by feeling much more strongly for the utopian future and was a bit inspired by CD’s description of protagonist and world as cogs interacting. The panel ended with Tom Hunter being encouraged to give the Daily Mail a special Clarke award for best work of dystopian fiction. I hope it happens.

IMG_6275

not goggles.

Our next session was ‘The Infected – Diseases of the Cultural body’ with Dr Julia Gog, James Vaughan (creator of Plague Inc.), Will Porter (of project Zomboid) and a couple more guys whose names I didn’t get (lovely, both of them… one a pathologist and one a cellular biologist maybe…) which was a really interesting talk but, for me, could have done with even more science and slightly less games! There were some sound issues which valiant tech sorted solo but my buzz got a little harshed by another attendee at the session.

By this point, as much as we wanted to carry on with MORE PANELS and MORE OF ALL THE STUFF, my downturn in mood and our general ‘urgh, we got married on Monday and we’ve not had a proper break since…’ tiredness meant that we had a rethink of our plans.

We hit the vendor hall.

All the things... yum.

All the things… yum.

Moods were improved and some quieter chatting with the creative and passionate sellers of LOOT meant that no-one got bitten.

IMG_6284

The squid of my dreams.

And I got to snuggle Plarchie without instant death.

Laden down with stuff, and feeling a little over-peopled… we hid out in our hotel room with Magic, room service, and Iron Man III. Just what the doctor ordered.

IMG_6287

Vegetable pizza is one of your five a day… right?

Sunday –

The final day of the con arrived and so did another obscenely good breakfast…

IMG_6289

I’d convinced a couple of our extended herd to join us for the final day and so we met up in the lobby and headed off to a) caffeinate and b) look at the schedule. It was time for the skeptical stream to come into it’s own and so we headed off to hear Alice Herron speak about her experience of being in (and out) of a cult. It was absolutely fascinating and a real eye-opener into how one person can exert such charismatic power over others.

We zoomed back over to the Radisson for Ian Stewart’s AMAZING session on ‘The Deterministic Monkey Theorem’

numbers meaning things about stuff.

numbers meaning things about stuff.

Short story? Lots of maths, lots of laughs, lots of monkeys.

We then hung around for Jack Cohen and his brilliantly individual explanation of why all of your aliens are wrong. It dragged me back to a childhood of musty golden age sci-fi books with unlikely looking monsters on the cover and it was wonderful. His story about the squid made me cry and he talked about stromatolites. I may become a biology groupie.

Extelligence, not intelligence.

Extelligence, not intelligence.

Grabbing a milkshake and saying bye to extended herd en route, we rushed back to the ren for Simon Singh’s talk on Maths in the Simpsons. Funny and interesting as he is and, indeed, was, my tolerance for being around large groups of people had run low again. Even Hari (his small person) being adorable didn’t break through my ‘meh.’ which was a clear indication that I needed to hide again before I said something mean to someone with cogs on them.

Speaking of cogs, having not been into the Steampunk room all weekend, we ventured within and found the best-dressed people, with the tiniest pith helmets and the most intricate displays of pretty things.

Also Cthulhus… adorable, purchasable, Cthulhus.

IMG_6302

Looking pretty good for an old one.

We decamped to the room once more where James pretended to read Elle

IMG_6298

and we both reflected on the con.

IMG_6262

Yes I was.

IMG_6263

The secret (back of badge) duck of DEATH.

I think it says a lot for how well thought-out and organised the con was that so many people were able to share so many geekeries and so many ways of approaching the world and it felt SAFE and HAPPY and INCLUSIVE.

For me, the most successful parts of the weekend were when I ventured out of my usual fandom and interacted with smaller groups. I’ll be looking to spend a lot of time in the Corridor next year. It also piqued my interest in other fandoms, the bronies seemed WONDERFUL and I have a much higher tolerance for the ‘glue a cog to these goggles’ school of steampunk than I thought I did. The goodies were wonderful and I have to give a special shout out to House Atreides for my AWESOME CATS WHO WILL DESTROY YOU

IMG_6277

Rawr.

and Retrogreat for the most cheerful of gay mushrooms.

IMG_6308

We’re here! We’re queer! We’re also mushrooms! wait, what?!

We’ll be back next year, celebrating our first anniversary and rocking ALL OF THE EARS… we’ll be pre-equipped with badges for our lanyards and holding magic as well as a variety of crochet hooks.

Hope to see you there.

IMG_6273

Posted in general ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Good without god…

If you live in the UK and have a penchant for being awake and angry on a Sunday morning, you may have watched ‘The Big Questions’ on BBC One. It’s hosted by Nicky Campbell and is, nominally, a discussion programme with a view to fulfilling the Beeb’s contractual requirement for spiritual broadcasting.

It’s a regular fixture in our household and leads to a stream of, sometimes sensible and well considered, sometimes quite sweary, tweets of a weekend morning.

The interesting thing about this programme (aside from the overrepresentation of the abrahamic faiths to the exclusion of all others) is how often the arguments boil down to two main points. The first is;

‘it must be true… people have believed in it for aaaaaaages

and the second is;

‘Atheists have no higher moral code and are therefore more likely to act immorally’

The first point is of no interest, The Minchin has covered it already.

‘I don’t go in for ancient wisdom. I don’t believe just ‘cos ideas are tenacious it means they’re worthy’

you know what, screw it… I’ve not cried for at least a couple of hours today, MUSIC BREAK.

Right then. On to the second point. I’m not going to dust off my philosophy textbooks and make great and convoluted arguments as to why these religious folk are provably wrong. I’m not even going to link to endless surveys and statistics that prove just how compassionate and generous atheists are. I’m not going to do any of these things because I really should be drafting an essay for my course and there are already people arguing these points in a much better researched and more elegantly worded way than I can be bothered to muster.

What I will talk about with some conviction is my own experience.

I am an atheist. I do not believe that there is any kind of higher power or supernatural being watching over us. I think of myself as an active atheist. If you talk nonsense about how other people should be living their lives based on your set of religious beliefs, I’ll call you on it.

I am a humanist. I absolutely believe that people are more important than possibilities of afterlives or dusty old books. I think that if you can live in an inclusive way based on logical actions based in kindness, you won’t do too much harm.

I am a rationalist. I will privilege empirical fact over pretty conjecture and will adjust my thinking and belief set based on the evidence as available at a given point.

I am a liberal. I believe in free trade, fair and open elections, freedom of the press and civil rights.

I am a feminist. I believe in equality of safety, rights, opportunity, and recognition for all regardless of gender or sex.

I am a pacifist. I don’t support armed intervention from a moral standpoint but I recognise that this is an idealised view. I will never take arms against another with the intention to kill.

I am a nurse and a student midwife. I care for those I encounter, regardless of their stories, beliefs, or behaviour. I’ve stayed after a shift is over to hold a hand, I’ve made myself unpopular to fight for the rights of someone in my care, I’ve been with the dying, helped save some lives, found a foetal heartbeat with a mother hearing it for the first time, supported those broken by the world or by their losses, I’ve cleaned dirty skin, emptied commodes, dressed wounds, held sobbing women and told them that they were safe, filled in endless paperwork, cried on the way home when I’ve not been able to fix it all.

I am an individual. I give to charities, I sign petitions, I’ve been on marches and attended protests. I make sure that I keep engaged in the world and I keep trying to do better.

I believe that the three most important things in the world are joy, consideration, and kindness. I think that if you act with kindness at the centre of everything you do, you will rarely have to worry about if what you are doing is the right thing. I think that if you are considerate of others, then you’ll act in a genuinely moral way.

I think that joy is one of the most important things that any individual can aim for. We only live once, we get a short span of years on this imperfect planet and with societal structures that we have to operate within.

Find your joy, that’s the trick to a happy life.

I understand that for many people, they believe that they are experiencing joy through their faith in a god or religion, and that’s just fine. I don’t think it’s true and I don’t think it’s necessary but I won’t take that away from them. I just really wish that the major religions would stop using guilt and threats of punishment as tools of control.

If you find comfort in believing that you’re going to sit on a cloud after you die and that everything’s going to be lovely, fine. Just act with kindness and consideration in this life. Don’t beat people over the head with the wonky mythology of space rocks, flying horses, magical fish dinners or virgin births. Don’t tell children that they’re going to hell if they masturbate. Let people marry the men and women that they love. Stop being ridiculous about science in general. Keep it joy-centred. Keep it kind.

The scariest thing that a believer can ever say to me is that they believe that their god wrote their holy book to the last letter and that they draw their moral code from it. Have you read those books? Jeez.

I make my moral decisions based on kindness, consideration and joy. If you get yours from an oft-edited, ancient text… well… I wonder how you can possibly call yourself good with god.

Posted in general ramblings, musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Babies, babies, babies…

They aren’t kidding when they talk about biological clocks are they? Jeez. I think I’ve got a biological timebomb ready to go off.

I’ve reached the age at which I am surrounded by friends with babies, expecting babies or planning for babies and it’s making me think about babies.

A couple of years ago, the idea of buying a house and having a Career rather than a job was the blowing my tiny little mind and now, suddenly, out of nowhere, I’m having serious thoughts about when the best time to try for children is. Not even whether to have children, no… when’s the best time to do it.

It’s a funny thing, this whole being an adult malarkey. I know many people who have had more than one child accidentally and I know a couple of people who have struggled with conception. Suddenly, when the idea of children becomes a real probability, there comes a great flood of

‘Will I be able to have children? What if I can’t? What if I fuck up the little blighters somehow? What the hell will I do if I ever have to deal with those awful bloody women at the school-gates? What if I birth an extroverted sports star?’

No wonder pregnancy seems to be such a minefield of emotional self-assessment for some. There’s an unbelievable pressure to squish into a little Pinterest mummy shape. If you’re someone who hasn’t always been comfortable in the standard models of what a woman should apparently be, then fitting into the ‘glowing motherhood’ box isn’t going to come naturally either.

For a woman having a baby, pregnancy and childbirth are massively disrupting in a way that they just aren’t for the partner in the equation, whatever flavour the non-pregnant individual comes in. You’re the one with a tenant for roughly 9 months, the one who gets kicked from the inside and stretched into odd shapes. You’re the one who has to get the smaller person inside you, outside of you through a not massively accommodating exit. You’re the one who naturally produces sustaining foodstuff from your frontal funbags (yeah, funbags) and who is basically sloshing about in all kinds of hormonal soup for months and months.

I’m painting it as a beautifully magical time, aren’t I?

You’re the one who has a life growing inside of you, who is physically connected to the child that you both create. You’re the one who looks that child in their eyes and knows that you’d do anything for them, regardless of the squeezing and tearing and squashing and aching. Your partner gets to love and sacrifice and support and create but, sorry, Mum gets a head-start on the bonding as far as I can tell. It’s difficult to imagine what it must be like for (heteronormative family unit alert) the man in this equation, what it feels like to be thinking about having children and not be the one with the hormonal ticking clock or the initial physical choices to make. I’ll have to try asking James what he thinks in a way that doesn’t make his eyes go very round.

It’s an interest set of thoughts to be having as someone who a) is massively NOT pregnant b) PCOS riddled and c) about to start my training as a bloody midwife.

I’m just finishing a fantastic book all about the history of Birth and all of the gender politics that go along with the process of childbirth. Whilst I’m unlikely to be a patchouli huffing, lotus envisioning, doula loving birther… I am already extremely pro natural birth wherever possible and the medicalisation of it all seems like overkill to me. I have a sneaky suspicion that although I’m sure that I’m going to love the need for knowledge and Proper Medical Training that comes with the more acute hospital-based care, it’s the home births and community midwifery that will really get me. I’m much fluffier than I like to think I am.

So yeah, ramble ramble. I’m about to be up to my elbows in baby stuff, some of my favourite people are breeding, the kitten is thriving and the guinea pigs aren’t dead. It’s lucky that I’ve got a year and half of intense university and clinical training coming up… I can legitimately delay any action for at least that long. Still, if there should happen to be triplets… Boris, Morris and Doris it is.

Oh and as far as fertility advice, I can’t think of any better

‘Mummy… where do babies come from’

‘Well let me tell you about the birds, bees and bibliophiles…’

Posted in musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A short piece in which I sit you down with a cup of tea and talk about serious and personal things…

I have depression.

It’s not something I tend to talk about, well, ever really. It doesn’t normally impact on my daily life. It’s not something I’ve ever gone to my GP to get medication to treat and it’s not something that I manage using talking therapies.

I thought I was pretty much free of it until recently. Let me explain.

I’m not going to talk about ‘when you have depression this, that and the other happens..’ because I don’t know what other people experience. I’m going to talk about what personally experience when I notice my depression rearing its ugly head.

My life is pretty good at the moment. I have a wonderful fiancé who cares deeply about me and who is kind, considerate and generally a lovely chap. He tells me that he loves me constantly and shows me that he loves me in all of his actions. We have a manageable mortgage on a nice house, a couple of very low maintenance guinea pigs and a completely adorable new kitten. We’re financially comfortable and are planning a wedding for next year. All of my family are in good health and generally in good places right now. There’s a lack of drama surrounding me and I’m taking a break from work following a stressful few months.

As part of this comfortable place we find ourselves in, I was able to pause and reflect on where I would like to go next in my career. I decided that midwifery was appealing in all sorts of ways and applied for a place on a post-registration, fully funded course. Very competitively fought for places but a really amazing opportunity and the secondment would mean that I’d still be earning a good wage while I trained. Perfect.

I got an interview and then was offered a place. A place for the course starting in January 2014.

My world fell apart around me.

Suddenly, I wasn’t a capable adult. I was a failure and more importantly, everybody knew it. I shut down and hid from the world. No matter what anyone was actually saying, I knew that really, everyone was laughing at me. That I visibly tried and missed.

This is part of what dealing with a different way of engaging with the world means. If I were a teenager again, I would probably have self-harmed, again. I have better coping strategies now and a good support network. I cry and ask for a hug and feel sorry for myself and then I make plans.

I don’t cut my skin, I don’t burn or hit or drink a bottle of whiskey or shout or even play Mozart’s requiem loudly. Not any more.

The feelings are the same though, that narrowing of vision, the falling away of all the options that seemed so neatly laid out. You lose all perspective and suddenly have no choice but to panic and despair.

For me, it’s always about me too. It’s never something I encounter when someone else ‘fails’ or needs help or has flaws, It’s a particular brand of self-hatred that probably has its roots in family histories and my introverted nature. If something is wrong, it’s in my nature to assume that it’s because of something that I’ve done, not someone else. I very rarely point fingers at others in anything other than jest.

The thing is, when asked to disclose if I have a mental illness, I will generally say no. I’ve previously said yes in the spirit of full disclosure and then when I’ve inevitably been called in to see occupational health, they agree that actually, it’s not really a current anything and really wasn’t worth putting down on the form. They’re very nice about it, always reassure me that should I feel the need for a chat or support then they’re always available.

I’ve not felt the need yet.

It’s not something that affects my working life in any way other than a slightly more rigorous ongoing reflective process in my practice. It’s something that all nurses should be doing, this constant examination of what you’re doing and why and how it’s affecting you. I’m starting to realise that it’s not something that all nurses are doing though.

There’s a crossover that must be avoided though. I can only guess at what was going on for Jacintha Saldanha, and I’m sure it was more complex than the single fact that she forwarded a call that another individual then disclosed confidential information to but I suspect that she experience that despair and closing down of perceived options and outcomes that comes with a feeling of failure.

It’s so important that those of us who have these tendencies be supported by people who can hold us steady through the times when the blinkers come down. Jacintha was living in hospital accommodation, away from her family and it remains to be seen whether the hospital anticipated how deeply affected she could be and provided adequate support.

I don’t want to focus on Nurse Saldanha though. I didn’t know her and although the circumstances surrounding her death are tragic and prompt something in me, I started writing this at the end of October and it sat unfinished and unpublished until thinking about her prompted me to return to it.

In the interim a place has become available on the January 2013 intake for my midwifery training but even if it hadn’t, I would have coped. I’d managed, I’d unfrozen and got an interview for a local job in an area that I was interested in to fill that year. I’d actually talked to the people around me about the feelings that seemed to crush my ribcage and fill me with that panicked feeling of falling. I’d not felt the need to do anything horrible to myself. I kept telling myself that it wasn’t a failure, it was a delay and I heard the people around me who were saying the same (completely sensible) thing.

When I got the news that I wouldn’t have to wait a year, I was happy but I think that having to recognise that I still need to be wary of those blinkers was a good thing. It pays to not get too complacent and it pays to have people around you who will remind you to do unto yourself as you would do to others.

Be kind.

Posted in musings | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

f***ing c***s, s****ing b*****ks and darning it all to H-E double hockey sticks.

Swearing. I fucking love it.

I mean, I really fucking love it… it’s part of language and language is a beautiful thing. In fact, George Carlin said much the same thing…

Recently, someone made a statement that made me realise that this point of view is another way in which I fall outside of the church approved way of thinking.

The louder a person shouts and cusses, the more insecure they are

Hmm… nope. I disagree. There is possibly a grain of truth behind some of it… the homophobe who’s denying their own sexuality, the bluster of an individual who knows they’re losing a debate and wants to drown out the other person. It a very certain type of person who shouts down others and language is not really part of that process as far as I’m concerned. Don’t get me wrong, language is powerful stuff. Words harm and inappropriate words, whatever the intent behind them, can harm most of all.

I’m not going to sit with a family and say, ‘sorry, your Dad’s fucked. We’re shit out of luck when it comes to his cocking cancer.’

That’s part of the framework of language, context creates content. I might turn to a co-worker after losing a patient and say ‘fucking cancer eh? what a load of bollocks’ and we’ll smile wryly and gather ourselves together and get on with it.

I think this point stands regardless of whether you’re swearing or using abbreviations or just trying to communicate effectively. Language requires thought and consideration to be useful, it’s a tool and even the finest of tools can be used to smash.

As someone who works with people as the main element of my job, I moderate my language massively when I’ve got my professional hat on. I try to avoid using language that might jar others even down to the mildest things… calling people ‘guys’, saying hell or blimey, It’s led to me being a bit fishwifey when in role. ‘Oh bums’ can often be heard echoing down a hallway when I’ve run a hoist over my foot.

At home, it’s a different matter altogether. The stream of cursing that flows is a thing of creative beauty, it’s like a form of poetry. Sometimes of course, it’s just me singing the Jeremy Cunt song¹ at the TV when the latest idiotic thing spews forth from his mouth.

Words can heal, shock, hurt, bring people together, push people away. I can tell you to fuck off and it can mean as many things as either of us want it to. It’s one of the reasons that dysphasia and brain injury are fascinating and horrific. You lose your language and you lose a connection to the world.

Language is what you make of it and I make swearing part of my creative use of that language within guidelines that society and myself have in place. I’ll say ‘oh bugger’ around children but I won’t say ‘cock it’. Those guidelines are moveable and dependent on the situation you find yourself in. Language is plastic and part of being accountable for the things that you say is an awareness of that.

This is my personal bloggity area where I burble about things that are fleetingly at the forefront of my mind. No-one has to read my words, but they are my words and don’t you dare put your moral framework over the top of that and then expect me to agree with you. If you honestly, truly believe that swearing is going to send someone to hell then we’ve really got no chance of meeting in any sort of middle ground. If you’d like me to moderate my language when we’re talking, sure… I’m flexible.

To conclude then… let’s Wiki this up a bit…

The original meaning of the adjective profane (from Latin pro fano, “in front of” or “before, outside” the fanum, a sanctuary) referred to items not belonging to the church

Well fuck me sideways, Christ on a stick with a honey dipping sauce. That sounds like my kind of language!

Here’s a non-sweary beautiful use of language to help soothe any offended nerves…

Barenaked Ladies

‘Adrift’

Ever since we said our goodbyes
The onion rings, the phone makes me cry
Something isn’t right
Like the Deep Blue without the Great White

In the morning open your eyes
The waterfalls, the fire flies
You’re an abacus
And my heart was counting on us

Your heart’s got a heavy load
There’s still a long way to go
Keep your eyes on the road

Crescent moon sings me to sleep
The birches bark, the willows weep
But I lie awake
I’m adrift without a snowflake

Your heart’s got a heavy load
There’s still a long way to go
Keep your eyes on the road

Your heart’s got a heavy load
There’s still a long way to go
Keep your eyes on the road

 ¹ It’s just the words ‘Jeremy Cunt’ set to the Blankety Blank theme tune. I’m really not very creative at all.

Posted in general ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The agnostic prayer placebo

Hey look, it’s a Sunday so it seems like an appropriate time to be reflecting on faith, religiousity and other such stuff.

My faithful companion (the ineffable Holmes to my squidgy faced Watson if you will) James has been taking part in a social experiment of late. The Atheist prayer experiment is a group that has been set up on Facebook for the participants to chat about their experiences throughout the process. It’s an ‘experiment’ that’s been organised by a Christian radio presenter as a reaction to a paper written by an Oxford professor which suggests that

 on balance, it is in the interests of those atheists who don’t think it’s absolutely impossible that there’s a God to investigate the issue of whether or not he exists by ‘the experimental method’ – trying to ask him

Now… personally, I take it as read that if you’re calling yourself an atheist, you don’t think there’s a god or even the possibility of a god. Any set of beliefs that include the space for a possibility of a deity would be agnosticism in my book. Maybe I’m quibbling over semantics here but I’m re-labelling it as the ‘agnostic or GTFO prayer experiment’  in my head.

I really think that there is an important point to be made here though. If you have decided, based on experience, logic, gut instinct, whatever, that there absolutely is not a god then praying or reflecting on the world or meditating or any other thing is not going to make a difference to that belief unless a great big shiny thing happens.

A Great Big Shiny Thing.

For me personally, even if this happened I would be more likely to rush myself to the nearest psych unit for assessment or assume that someone had spiked my drink. Because that seems HUGELY more likely than there being a sky fairy based on my belief set.

If I was someone who talked about the importance of faith without the need for religion or argued that ‘God’ as a concept was something above and separate from the grotty human interpretation that is organised religion then I would call myself an agnostic.

I don’t call myself an agnostic.

I’m not taking part in the experiment.

I think my point is this… in my worldview there are two types of people.

Believers, who can be christian, muslim, pagan, tarot trusters, homeopaths, ghost botherers, people who say things like ‘I’m not religious but I am spiritual’ and anyone who leaves space in their world for the realistic possibility of supernatural fact.

Atheists.

I’m not saying that atheism comes with a total lack of doubt or the space for questioning… it does. You show me the evidence to convince me that there’s a real-life Bigfoot and I’ll contribute to the RSPCB. I’m willing to be convinced, I’m open to query and changing my mind based on the available information and evidence. Hell, I do it all of the time in my job. Evidence-based practice is the centre of my professional life.

I think if you’re going to call yourself an atheist though, really be an atheist. Stand up and be counted, don’t take any nonsense about ‘militant atheism’. We’re not militant, we’re rigorous and vigorous.  I’m fed up of pussyfooting around with definitions that fuzz up the edges.

And as for that experiment, well. James seems to be having fun with it but I’ll stay out of the way I think.

Posted in proper rants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

a short service announcement…

I never did make any promises about regular updates… the day job doesn’t really allow for that.

We just got a bit of a distraction too…

Pi the cat.

but yes… work pressures have relaxed a little (for now…) and I’m planning on more vitriolic bloggity words about all and sundry in the near future.

In the meantime… KITTEN.

Posted in general ramblings | Tagged , | Leave a comment