Tag Archives: #amblogging

Mental Health Awareness Week – it was only a few strands of hair… well,quite a few….

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May is Mental Health Awareness month and this week is Mental Health Awareness week in the UK.

The focus of this year’s campaign is body image.

I personally feel this is a very emotive topic and one to be approached with caution and a healthy dose of respect.

Body image isn’t just about who’s too fat or too thin. It covers a huge range of things that can cause people to be self-conscious about themselves. Body image issues can relate to height, to hair colour, to freckles, to wearing glasses, to having scars, to …. to absolutely anything about physical appearance. The list is almost endless.

Sadly, the media puts so much pressure on people, both male and female, particularly young people, to look “perfect.”

No one is perfect but we are all unique. However, if you are experiencing a period of anxiety it was very easy for that to manifest itself in fears about your image. You can swiftly become overly self-conscious about the smallest of things.

My own personal brush with this topic could easily be argued as being more than a little vain. I accept that. I’ve shared my own tale in the past of reaching a point in my life, about seven years ago now, that triggered a few physical signs of stress/anxiety so I won’t repeat myself.

I also appreciate in relation to some of the more serious aspects of the mental health connections to body image issues that my tale is trivial.

However, at the time, it was a huge issue for me. A huge issue I kept silent about for a very long time.

I’ll back track a bit here if you’ll allow me the indulgence. I’ve written before about being bullied as a child. Again, I’m not about to repeat that tale either. When that started all of those long years ago, one of the things that adversely impacted my self-esteem was my haircut and my horrendous blue NHS 1970’s specs! I grew the awful “pudding bowl” haircut out, developing a lifelong fear of hairdressers along the way. As a teenager, I was able to hide behind my long hair, using it as a shield to protect me. (The NHS specs were eventually replaced with a more modern pair when I was sixteen but not before I’d damaged my sight by not wearing them in school. The glasses were eventually replaced by a contact lens – yes, one.)

Since then, my hair has always been long. I’ve never been fortunate enough to be blessed with thick or wavy hair. It’s always been silky fine and poker straight.

When my stress levels went through the roof a few years ago, one of the physical signs associated with the anaemia that I experienced was hair loss. Gradually, over a period of a few months, I lost between a half and a third of the volume of my hair. I was fortunate in a sense that it thinned rather than fell out in clumps leaving bald patches. The hair loss was the main factor that led to me going to the doctor to get checked out.

The anaemia was resolved with a lengthy course of iron pills but the hair’s condition remained. I became incredibly self-conscious about it. It was ridiculous! Here I was in my mid-40’s stressing about my hair. Worrying myself silly about what folk were thinking.

In all honesty, I was and still am scared of going bald. I accept that it’s a trivial point in the grand scheme of things but for quite some time I became extremely self-conscious about it.

I stopped tying my long hair back – my ponytail looked like a long skinny rat’s tail to my biased eyes. If I tied it up, as I had done for years, my bun looked like a crumb! There was so little volume to my waist length hair that 4 kirby grips/bobby pins held it all securely in place.

I researched shampoos and vitamin supplements to encourage hair growth. After a period of time, and a lot of expense, I gave up on the fancy shampoos but, to this day, still take the supplements.

About four years ago, I noticed one particularly thin/bare patch emerging. My blood ran cold. Fear and panic swept in. The area at the front of my hair, where my parting and fringe met looked to be separating like the Red Sea. In reality, yes, it was thin, very thin, but what other people saw wasn’t what I saw in the mirror every morning. I saw bare scalp! My fragile self-esteem began to plummet.

Once I calmed myself down, I realised that there was an easy-ish solution. The fringe had to go! I had to grow it back out and add the hair volume of my fringe back into the rest. This was something I hadn’t done since I was thirteen years old! It took over two years but finally the fringe was gone- the thin/balding patch was hidden/disguised/gone.

Gradually the fear of going bald subsided… for now.

The self-esteem repaired itself again.

New hair, mainly grey strands, began to grow in. Going grey doesn’t phase me in the slightest but that in itself can be another body image trigger for people. I view these strands of grey as strands of glitter and I’ll expose them proudly. Each new grey one represents new hair, more volume and boosts the self-esteem a little.

Friends and colleagues laugh when I say that I don’t mind gradually going grey. I’m not, in general, vain about my appearance. (At least I don’t think I am!) I acknowledge that at times I can be very self-conscious almost to the point of paranoia.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that it can be the little things that trigger body image concerns that can quickly escalate into more serious issues as well as the big things.

However, even if to you, a person’s fears and concerns seem trivial, don’t belittle them. These can be huge fears to them. Show a little empathy and understanding. Encourage them to be proud of who they are as they are. Encourage their self-belief and self-love.

A little supportive understanding goes a very long way.

 

For more information on MHAW please check out the link below:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

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What happens when you put on the Out of Office for a week… a sunny week ;)

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With my “out of office” on at the salt mine, I left work full of great creative intentions…..

I had my “To Do” list written :

blog – write and post

Book Baby 5 -write some more; type  10 0000 words

Book Babies 1-4 – promote

Gig review – write and post

 

It didn’t seem like an onerous list then the sun came out…….

I got off to a good start…..20190419_134140

 

then I got distracted……

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I tried to re-focus with some art therapy….

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and I picked up where I’d left off with Book Baby 5…

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then may have got distracted again…..

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and met some new friends….

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The week was fast disappearing…… I sat down again with Book Baby 5….

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On Friday I allowed myself a mother/daughter day out with my mum….we had a date with a dinosaur 😉

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And by the time I got home from mother/daughter day out, it was after 5pm on Friday and technically my “out of office” had expired….. my week was over…..

But did I manage to tick off all the items on the To Do list?

Yes I did 🙂

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Maybe I should be allowed to put the “out of office” on more often!

Social Media and the Voyage of Self-Discovery

Like many other writers and bloggers when the creative juices fail to flow smoothly, I find the internet is a great place to procrastinate.
I’m sure many of us who should be putting our precious time to good use can be found lurking within social media apps like Facebook.
Perhaps we even try to convince ourselves its actually research.
I’ll confess to meandering through Facebook on the odd occasion… coughs … ok .. regular basis.
I’ll also confess to playing some of the “self-discovery” games to be found on there.
You know the one s- “5 signs you are keeper based on your profile picture,” “What will you look like at 70 based on your profile picture.”
These entertain me.
My personal Facebook profile picture for the past few years has always been a photo of my Converse clad feet. What on earth can you determine from that?

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Quite a lot apparently!
Here’s some recent discoveries……

Some of these are scarily accurate! I’ll let you work out which ones 😉

 

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This one was reassuring though 😊

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Enough procrastination- I’ve a book to finish writing!

19 Crimes…. and a glass or two of wine

I’ve been asked on numerous occasions where I find my story ideas and what inspires my blog posts. I always answer that it’s a little bit of everything- song lyrics, a place I’ve visited, an event, a name, etc….

Well, this week’s blog is inspired by the glass of wine I enjoyed with dinner on Sunday. Well, the label on the bottle to be more precise. (No, I didn’t drink the whole bottle before you ask!)

For weeks while I’ve been doing the weekly supermarket shop a particular bottle of Australian Chardonnay has been catching my eye. However, at full price, it was a little over my preferred budget. This week it was on special. Still a little over my price but I thought “What the hell!” and picked up two bottles. (I’m a bit weird that way as I’ll always buy bottles of wine in pairs.)

What had attracted my attention? The label on the front of the bottle and the name 19 Crimes.

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Over dinner on Sunday,  initially conversation wasn’t really holding my attention  (sorry, guys) and I turned the wine bottle, that was sitting in front of me on the table, around to read the label on the reverse.

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Intriguing…..what were the 19 Crimes?

This sparked an entirely different dinner conversation after a little emergency “Googling.”

So, were there really 19 Crimes that led to convicts being transported to Australia?

Yes! And between 1768 and 1868  thousands were in fact transported to Australian.

The 19 Crimes were:

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Once dinner was over and a second glass of wine had been poured, I sat down at my desk to do a little more digging into this subject.

Don’t panic! You’re not about to get a lengthy history lesson…… only a short one.

The first eleven convict ships set sail from England in 1787. They arrived at Botany Bay on 20 January 1788 where the first European community on the continent was established….and so Sydney, NSW was born.

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Over the next forty some years several other penal colonies were established as more convicts arrived. The most famous of these was Port Arthur in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1803.

Port Arthur Penal Colony Tasmania

Penal transportation peaked in the 1830’s. However opposition to this practice grew throughout the 1840’s. Transportation to Van Diemen’s Land ended in 1853 when the last convict ship, the St Vincent, arrived from England.

Small numbers continued to be transported to a colony in Western Australia but on 10 January 1868 the last convict ship, The Hougoumont, docked. (pictured above)

In total 806 ships had transported approximately 164 000 convicts to the continent over a period of eighty years. Around 24 000 of these were women, some of whom had deliberately committed petty crimes in order to be transported to join their husbands. Records show that 70% of those transported were from England and Wales, 24% from Ireland, 5% from Scotland and the remaining 1% a mix of convicts from the British colonies in India, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong and the Caribbean.

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Some of those transported went to lead successful new lives in Australia. Some notable convicts were:

James Blackburn, famous for his contribution to Australian architecture and civil engineering

Daniel Connor who was sentenced to seven years transportation for sheep stealing went on to become one of the largest landowners in central Perth by the 1890’s.

Francis Greenway became a famous Australian architect.

Laurence Hynes Halloran founded the Sydney Grammar School.

Henry Savery is noted as being Australia’s first novelist and author of Quintus Servinton

 

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One female convict stands out. Mary Wade was the youngest convict transported to Australia aged only 11 years old. She went on to have 21 children and at the time of her death had over 300 living descendants!

 

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Twenty one children!!!!

That thought calls for another glass of wine! 😉

 

some images sourced via Google – credits to the owners

Photographic Memories

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Who remembers the big leather bound family photograph album?

It might have been your grandmother or an elderly aunt who was the custodian of the big bound photo album. Or perhaps it was your own parents.

I’ll bet as you were growing up there was someone who had it.

I’ll also bet there was someone who had or still has countless old photos in envelopes in a drawer that they’ve inherited and haven’t a clue who the faces of the past in the images are.  We’ve a few of those somewhere.

Confession – I love photos.

Photos capture that one precious moment in time. That one memory then lives forever.

I’ll confess to having thousands upon thousands of photos.

When the kids were little, before digital cameras were affordable and before phones had decent cameras inbuilt, I shot at least one roll of film a month, maybe more. These photos were developed and lovingly added to my collection of photo albums. (Don’t panic, I’ll spare you the baby photos.)

 

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Even after I bought my first digital camera, I still selected hundreds of images from our summer holidays to the USA and compiled photo albums of each trip. To these I’ve also added maps and tickets from the various excursions we enjoyed. More precious memories captured forever.

 

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It’s been a few years since I last printed off images to add to an album but my phone and my laptop have become my substitute photo albums.

On my laptop everything is neatly catalogued in year and month order. The photos that I take at the rock shows I attend are duly added into the appropriate time slot and they too are catalogued by who, where and when. (OK, I’m a bit OCD about all of this.)

 

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My phone’s photos are split into albums over and above the basic camera roll folder- some of the sub-folders contain book baby related images that can be used for social media promotion at the touch of the screen, others are quotes and memes that are humorous or motivational or just simply cute. There are old favourites, family photos, photos of my cats, photos from special rock shows and another large folder of stored images for updating the real-life rock star’s FB fan page that I admin daily. (Honest, I’m not a crazy stalker!)

Until recently there was also one folder that I turned to regularly for comfort. It contained a couple of hundred images – a mix of screenshots, photos from friends, photos from the kids, photos of daft moments that never failed to make me smile. There were two hundred and eighty precious memories in that folder and I made a huge error of judgement with it.

I never backed these pictures up. That one folder held the only copies.

To be honest, I don’t know exactly what happened but, about three weeks ago, I was transferring the photos I’d taken with my phone at the Slash show in Glasgow onto my laptop. I followed the same routine as usual. I never saw any error messages. When I disconnected my phone from the laptop, the precious “gallery” folder had vanished, along with another one of downloaded images. I’ve scoured the phone and the pc but those images are gone forever. I can only assume something became corrupt within the SD card. Who knows! One of life’s great mysteries that has swallowed these photos forever.

Upset doesn’t begin to cover it and I was so angry with myself for being so careless with these. It really isn’t like me.

All was not lost with the second folder that vanished. I found an old version of it on my laptop so could restore at least the majority of those.

The first thing I did was invest in a new SD card and the second thing was to back up the lot. It took hours but I wasn’t risking losing anything else!

With the new SD card securely added to my phone, I created a new sub-folder. I was able to retrieve a handful of the original memories from FB messenger, What’s App and FB itself. In the end, I  was able to recover less than a dozen of them but it was a start.

As the days have passed, I’ve come to realise something.

The photos from the original file of two hundred and eighty that were of the most importance to me aren’t totally lost. They are safely stored in the “original” photo album.

They’re in my own memories and safe in my heart forever.

 

 

World Book Day 2019 ….it’s never too late to pick up a book

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In the UK, today it’s World Book Day.

Other countries will celebrate in a few weeks’ time on 23rd April when they mark World Book and Copyright Day.

World Book Day is the world’s largest campaign to provide every child and young adult in the country with a book of their own.

It’s a celebration of books and reading.

Reading can open up whole new worlds to children and adults alike. It’s never too late to pick up a book and discover this for yourself.

I grew up in a house where there were always books available. I was lucky. As a small child, my mum would read to me, would read me a bedtime story every night, introducing me to many magical adventures. In time, I learned to read for myself and devoured books. (I still do!) By the time I was about seven or eight years old I was quite content to spend an afternoon curled up with a good book, invariably Enid Blyton. I loved her adventure and mystery books. I’d talk to my beloved Wee Gran about the stories I was reading.

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She was a fabulous old lady. At that time, she was in her late seventies and had never been a reader. When she was growing up in Tarbert, Harris, there was little money or time for books other than the bible.  As an adult ,she never had time or money either but she introduced my mum and her sister to books. She would bring home books from the “big houses” where she worked as a housekeeper that the household’s children had out grown. The lady of the house happy to gift them to her for her girls. I still have several of these now very old books and have precious memories of my gran  reading to me from them and of me reading them to her.

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Watching me reading these simple Enid Blyton mysteries piqued her curiosity and soon she was reading them once I had finished with them. After a while my mum suggested that she move onto something more suitable for her and proposed that my gran join the local library. (My mum also bought her a few second-hand books. She always liked David Niven the actor but after reading his autobiography The Moon’s A Balloon, I don’t think she ever felt the same about the man. I think it was an “educational” read for this innocent soul.)

Her little green cardboard library ticket opened up a whole new world for this wonderful little lady. She developed into a voracious reader through her eighties and early nineties, liking nothing better than a “nice” doctor and nurse romance with a happy ending. As her eyesight failed a bit, my mum would bring her large print editions of Mills and Boon romances. (Some of these proved educational too!)

 

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A late bloomer but proof that it’s never too late to pick up a book for the first time.

Sadly, she’s long since passed but I often wonder what she would have made of a Kindle……..

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some photos sourced from Google- credits to the owners

100 Word Story? Is it possible?…..

As an indie-author one of the questions I get asked on a regular basis is “How do you do it?” My standard answer is “One word at a time.”

However, how many words do you need to tell a story? How many to add a bit of intrigue? How many to add a hint of romance?

I decided to set myself the challenge to write a 100 word story.

Anyone who has read my books will understand that limiting the word count is perhaps not my forte! Ha Ha.

However, I was strict with myself here and rose to the challenge.

So, in a 100 words here’s  Cat’s Eyes.

 

Cats’s Eyes

 The cat watched the car approach. Recognised his owner in the passenger seat. As he licked his fluffy paws, he watched as the car stopped at the end of the driveway.  Squinting into the early evening sun, the cat saw the driver reach over to kiss his owner. Pausing to wash his long tail, the cat continued to watch the long, slow, passionate embrace. The car’s window was open but all he could hear was music. As he licked his bits, the car door opened. His owner stepped out. With a wave, the car drove off. Cat and owner smiled.

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