A close call in court – the joys of court reporting with an ostomy and IBD


Before my operation my Crohn’s/Colitis made court reporting an almost impossibility.

Exactly!

Exactly!

I used to sit in agony in courtrooms wringing my hands together until they went white with pain under the press desk, jiggling my legs up and down to try to distract myself from the agonising need to go to the toilet – a need that never left me and always raised its ugly head at the most important moments of a case.

Covering the courts became both a joy and a punishment for me. The real challenge lay not in the reporting of the cases but the endless sitting and waiting, waiting, waiting for your case to come on. For most people the waiting would just be boring, for me it was agonising. While I was interested in the cases (if you have never sat in court and listened to mitigation and witnessed the general drama it is definitely a must – and is nothing like the telly) the constant need to race to the toilet every ten minutes made the waiting unbearable. I once dared to nip to the toilet after waiting through around three hours of driving offences, curfew amendments and restraining orders while feeling like my stomach was being ripped apart from the inside by a claw hammer. I remember racing out of the courtroom to the toilet – which is NEVER near enough to the courtroom you are in – thinking it will just be my luck if they finally hear my case now. I finally raced back to the courtroom five minutes later, still very much in the grip of the blood and pain, only to bump straight into the barristers for my case as they walked towards the Robing Room having heard the case – just typical.

Lesson learned – in the past two years I would rather have passed out than nipped to the toilet again!

Yes, I admit it the fear was always very real that I would pass out through the sheer effort of staying up right in my seat, and I am sure there were times that a jury member or even defendant has looked at me and thought ‘dear God that woman is about to collapse’. I lived in fear of an accident, and in even greater fear of someone making me move whenever a wave of pain flushed over me – when I was still I felt slightly more in control. And I am sure that all the press benches in the magistrates and crown courts that I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in have finger nail marks indented so far into the underside of the wood their imprints could almost be seen through the top.

So after years of covering court cases with the nightmare of my constantly flaring Crohn’s/Colitis, dealing with my ostomy while doing my job seemed like a reality walk in the park. Yes there was always the slight embarrassment of having my ostomy bag changing kit searched through by the security team, (and once or twice having to hand in my rounded cutting scissors at security as a ‘dangerous’ implement) but apart from that attending court was a relatively easy experience. So imagine my surprise when today my ostomy started acting up while I was sat in court patiently listening to each case and waiting for a jury to return. I won’t go into details but I could feel something was going on, and going on, and going on…and boy it just wasn’t holding back, in fact Winnie was going hell for leather. And for the life of me I couldn’t understand why.

So the next two hours were quite frankly hell. I quickly realised that Winnie was going to have to be emptied or we could end up with a pretty crazy situation in the courtroom. Basically Winnie was a ticking time bomb, and I sat sitting nervously trying to concentrate on my shorthand and what the counsel were saying to try to distract myself from the imminent explosion that was building up inside me. The pressure was unbelievable…but I was determined not to leave the room..my old fears about missing things while on the toilet returned and after grimacing through some of the worse pain of my life, there was not a chance in hell that I was going to miss the verdict because of my ostomy – yes, that is how stubborn I am.

Ok, the situation was made worse by my remaining colon continuing to contain active Colitis and me feeling the need to go all the time. The whole thing was unpleasant to say the least, and I just knew I needed to rehydrated and possibly stuff my face with marshmallows to stop this onslaught from Winnie or I would be in a whole new world of trouble soon.

The moment the judge broke for lunch was a blessed relief. I think I actually sighed audibly. As I stood up the weight of Winnie was horrendous and I had to hobble like I had bricks in my pants down the stairs, round the corner to the loo. Court toilets are never an extremely pleasant experience, but I won’t bore you with that.

By the time the day was over I had avoided several natural disasters and learnt a real lesson. While I was in agony with my IBD and the urgency and pain often led to accidents, I could often cope even though it meant me almost passing out with pain until I had a chance to reach a bathroom – with my ostomy this is not the case. There is no grin and bear it. Yes the pain is considerably less, yes the blood is there but it isn’t by the bucketload, but no I can’t stop the flow or ease the pressure when its started…if I wait, sooner or later she will fill up and then, eventually….BOOM! (now that would be a story)!

I will have to learn to cope with it. I love court reporting and I love my job, but I have to keep a close eye on things and remember I’m no superwoman, I’m still human…and, well, Winnie is just a stoma bag she’s not a miracle worker.

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Being a pushy patient – why you shouldn’t always just nod along


In the nurse's room being treated after kicking-off

In the nurse’s room being treated after kicking-off

For almost 13 years I have prided myself on being a ‘perfect patient’. I have allowed doctors to stick tubes in unthinkable places, endured painful procedures, taken toxic drugs, and had so many abdominal x-rays that have no doubt done irreparable damage to my ovaries. At times I have allowed myself to be submitted to totally unnecessary painful procedures, under the misguided pretence that having a canister of gas shot up my backside would help control my condition – in reality i’m almost 100% sure this was just so some curious trainee could have a poke around in the dark depths of my colon.

I always thought that by being an easy patient, by being obedient, by smiling and going along with whatever treatment or course of action they suggest, by making their lives easier in any way at all, I would get the best treatment. I thought that by taking their word as law they would treat me favourably. I always thought by being the quiet one on the ward, who waited patiently for her pain killers and didn’t complain even when she was being starved to death by the incompetence of hospital staff (or other horrifying things) that I would get treated favourably as they would want to come to see the quiet and polite young lady patiently waiting in her tidy bed, while all the other patients screamed, kicked-off and threw things around the ward.

But it is horrifying to admit that the exact opposite is true. It has taken some very rude wake-up calls, some terrifying moments and some horrifying scenes of neglect to make me realise that being an angel means nothing to hospital staff and medical professionals. A hospital, especially a ward, is like a zoo. The patients are like caged animals fighting to get back out into the wild. Forget about survival of the fittest, more like survival of the most tenacious, rude and obnoxious. If you want something done, changed, or even want to get out to the real world in one piece you have to become a pushy patient; questioning everything; chasing up every result; and playing as many mind games on the staff as humanly possible (like a child playing their parents against each other). You have to forget being a quiet little mouse, work on your roar and step in with the big boys – start thinking like a lion, or better still a cunning fox.

The sad truth is (this might not be in every case) the more awkward you are, the ruder, the more difficult, the more you turn into the patient from hell, the better treatment you get, and the smaller the chance of you being left to lie in your own faeces for days on end, until a member of your family kicks off on your behalf. And that’s only when you’re on the ward. As an outpatient getting anyone to take you seriously or managing to get the correct treatment means – I have learnt the lesson the hard way – that you should never just let your GI have the final say without questioning things, or demanding a second opinion. It’s more difficult with your GI, surgeon or doctor, as if you kick off all the time they simply won’t put up with it, you have to get them to want to answer your calls and put you to the front of the queue, but I have started to find that simply rolling over and taking their word as GOD you will not gain their respect, and quiet frankly I’m done with massaging people’s egos…this is my health, my life, not a boardroom. 

Even monks have to go to hospital it seems

Even monks have to go to hospital it seems

Up until my most recent hospital stay I’d been the ‘golden’ patient, helping old people to the toilet, getting nurses for people in pain, pressing the call button when the lady next to me sounded like she was having another heart attack. I guess I always wanted to make the nurses’ lives easier. I was horrified by how understaffed they were and realised how little time they had to deal with little things when there were extremely poorly people to tend to…I guess that was always ok until I was the incredibly poorly person, and I was still ignored and treated by the other patients as a member of staff.

Recently I have begun to question everything absolutely everyone involved in my medical care does. I guess after 13 years of managing my own illness I have had enough of being the ‘perfect patient’ when the people who I rely on to keep me alive are not treating me with the respect I believe I have earned. When they simply refuse to listen to me. For years I have agreed to everything, which I find odd as in my job as a journalist I never let anything go without asking 100 questions…but when it comes to my health I have always just agreed, even if deep down I have known that it is quite simply not the right thing to do (the exception here is surgery, it remains the only time I have downright refused to have something done).

Ok, I’ve not turned into a raging bitch, or a hospital diva, but recently my patience has run out and I think my medical team has noticed. My GP surgery, who have really

Odd looking test results which I demanded to have explained to me

Odd looking test results which I demanded to have explained to me

shown their true colours since my operation (they are so incompetent it is unreal), only started to treat me with a ouce of respect last week, finally taking my red raw wound seriously after months of giving me the wrong dressings, ignoring my symptoms and refusing to give me appointments, choosing instead to diagnose me over the phone…and what did it take to get them to sit up and listen you ask…me getting so frustrated at the latest act of incompetency that I boiled over with fury and kicked off in the almost-empty waiting area. The result? I got the royal treatment, with the head nurse seeing me immediately and treating my wound there and then. And, due to that it is starting to get better…so I might have felt bad for getting peeved with the clueless receptionist, but I can now sleep a little better without being in constant agony.

At last week’s appointment with my GI specialist I was determined not to take no for an answer. Ok, so they didn’t help themselves by highlighting their incompetence when the receptionist produced two sheets of paper instead of my file, and then tried to convince me that those flimsy sheets made-up my entire file. No, my file is as thick as a thesaurus. When I asked my GI where it was she admitted it was lost, but not to worry my confidential information would be somewhere in the hospital and someone would find it eventually. WHAT!!! Obviously this was so ridiculous I had to laugh, but it was a wake-up call, one that said if you want to get things sorted and get these people to listen to you your going to have to start taking matters into your own hands. I did! I questioned everything, I pushed for drugs, I said that feeling mediocre was not what I had signed up for and that I deserved to feel better, and guess what, almost 40 minutes after my name was called I emerged with a procedure booked, an appointment for the gynecologist and joint specialist (have been trying to get referred for 7 plus years) and some new medication to calm down my remaining colon.

Is this the perfect patient? If so, why do they wake us all the time?

Is this the perfect patient? If so, why do they wake us all the time?

Ok, not everything is fixed, but it is a step in the right direction, and I have learnt a valuable lesson that if I want something doing properly I can’t just hope it will happen I have to be willing to step up and fight for it. The years of waiting patiently are over I’m fed up of being fobbed off, I’m ready to get in the ring and really get stuck in and battle for my fight to a pain free life.

Me & Winnie talk to USA, spurt crap all over the place and rant about hospitals


Over the past few days I have been finding it really hard to stay awake. I honestly can’t seem to keep my eyes open for longer than around an hour at a time. While I am finding this frustrating, and, if I have to be totally honest, a little worrying (this was what was happening before I went into hospital for surgery), it has undoubtably led to some rather amusing situations which even I can’t help but laugh about.

Oooh pretty flowers

Oooh pretty flowers

I have fallen asleep in packed hospital/doctor’s waiting rooms; on toilet seats; while watching TV; in coffee shops; while on the phone; in cars and, most embarrassing of all, when people are talking to me! I have even fallen asleep mid-sentence and woken-up half-an-hour later thinking Where Was I?? – I know…you couldn’t make it up!

In fact on Wednesday I became so concerned about my unpredictable slumbers that I decided it was high time that I gave in and went to the doctors to find out what the hell was going on with my worn-out body. I mean, I am obviously either dehydrated or lacking in some sort of vitamin or mineral which helps make it possible for normal people to not fall asleep every 10 seconds…imagine a world like that, trains would crash, bank robbers would be found leaning against safes with dribble pouring down their faces and bags stuffed with cash having a little snooze, and the Prime Minister would be found sat at the desk in No 1o with his slippers on, cuddling a cute teddy bear called Maggie and snoring into a mountain of red boxes while chaos erupted on the streets below. I mean nothing would ever get done, would it?

Trying to watch the tennis but drifting off

Trying to watch the tennis but drifting off

While sitting in the waiting room, which was packed with screaming kids with snotty noses and old ladies with bad hips, I started to feel that awful tiredness coming over me like a wave. Feeling my eyes starting to drop, I pulled my Kindle out of my handbag and tried desperately to read this week’s book, fighting with every tiny ounce of energy in my tired body to focus my vision and stop the words blurring, bouncing and leaping across the screen. I must have read the same sentence twice before my head dropped and I fell fast asleep, probably snoring and making slight purring or snorting noises similar to those you would normally hear in a farmyard or coming from a pigsty, and undoubtably dribbling and pulling some sort of horrendously embarrassing face (hope those pics don’t turn up on the internet). I woke-up around 20 minutes later after, much to my surprise, a sheep (I don’t know why a sheep) in my dream started calling my name! Even though I was dreaming I knew that something wasn’t right about this as; a) this sheep didn’t have a starring role in the dream; b) sheep do not talk; c) my name sounded like it was being called from another world, it had an echoey shouting underwater quality to it, which just didn’t sound like it was coming from inside my pleasant slumber world. I woke up with a jerk, pulling my dribble stained hand away from my cheek, to find the not-so bad-looking doctor (it had to be him right #typical) leaning over me calling my name, with a strange expression on his face, which I could only interpret as somewhere between amusement and disgust!! I wouldn’t say I have never been so embarrassed, as that would be a lie – I have had tubes shoved where the sun doesn’t shine by doctors who resembled Brad Pitt ( not the ideal first impression for any girl to make) and been stopped in the street by crushes and butter wouldn’t melt almost Calvin Cline underwear models for directions or an annoyingly long conversation, knowing that any minute I’m going to have a poop related incident – but I have to say that I must have looked shocked and humiliated as I staggered towards his office, no doubt with my hair stuck to my face by drool and a tell-tale red hand-shaped-mark imprinted into the side of my face. THE SHAME!!!

According to Doc I wasn’t dehydrated as my tongue didn’t look dry (don’t ask how he

Ohhh another smelly pressie for Winnie

Ohhh another smelly pressie for Winnie

came to that conclusion), he didn’t think I was lacking in anything serious as I didn’t look ill and my blood pressure was ok (saying that it was its normal abnormally low self) and I had an average temperature. He put the whole thing down to exhaustion and my body trying to heal itself following the loss of my bowel…which, he at last enlightened me, had been all torn out apart from the tiny and problematic rectal stump. But just to be on the safe side, and because he is a rather thorough doctor, he had a feel of my poor tummy, and prodded at a protesting Winnie, who at that moment, in what I decided was an OY! HOW DARE YOU TOUCH ME!! protest, decided to gurgle and erupt some fresh, warm poop into her freshly changed bag, before letting out a series of hideously loud and obnoxious farts – thank God he hadn’t taken the bag off!!!

I then had to sit in an uncomfortable state of silence and intolerable embarrassment for the rest of the appointment while he rang the hospital to arrange a blood-test and tried to get hold of the IBD nurse to change my medication, so that poor Winnie would no longer have to spit out the giant horse-tablets whole every day.

All I can say is that I was relieved to get out of that tiny room…and, I am 100% sure he was glad to see the back of us both.

Up set and drenched in town meeting a friend

Up set and drenched in town meeting a friend after doctors humiliation

I have had to tell Winnie off multiple times this week. She has spent the whole week thoroughly disagreeing with everything I eat, drink and so much as look at or think about putting in my mouth. I’m honestly starting to think that she enjoys testing me, and is trying to see how far she can push me before I race to the hospital screaming TAKE HER BACK, I’VE CHANGED MY MIND, GIVE ME A DIFFERENT MODEL. And, before you say it, I know that having a stoma is not like owning a car, and that I can’t take her back and exchange her for a soft top if I don’t like her after 21 days, but did I have to get stuck with such a madam?? I’m honestly sure that most people don’t have this much trouble with their new friends 😦 but mine is a total character, she doesn’t seem to know if she is coming or going, happy or sad, fussy or not fussy, working or refusing to in protest for some totally unknown cause.

Take for example yesterday, which was Winnie’s annual changing day (she get’s changed

Winnie, Oscar and Felicity post nuclear explosion in bathroom

Winnie, Oscar and Felicity post nuclear explosion in bathroom

every other day, so she is always clean and fresh and looking her best). I was halfway through changing her, I had cleaned and dried around her bottom and had smothered her with special barrier protecting cream so she didn’t get red and sore from the adhesive Flange (horrid word YUCK), and had decided, just for a second, to take my attention off her and move onto cleaning my wound and washing out Oscar (my remaining colon poking through my stomach #nice!), when she decided to have a totally paddy to really p**s me off and get my attention. Without warning she started convulsing, her entire pink, plump body started moving in and out like it had a life of its own, and then suddenly she erupted everywhere, spurting fountains of fresh, smelly poop all down my leg and all over the bathroom floor. PANIC STATIONS. I grabbed layers of tissue, and, basically anything else I could find and desperately tried to plug the leak, but nothing wanted to stop her, she was on a roll and was determined to teach me a lesson for ignoring her!! It was total bedlam, and when it was over, and she allowed me the few seconds of ceasefire to clean her like a little baby and nestle her bag in her bag – well, I pretty much stuffed her in, in an attempt to teach her a lesson – I collapsed in a heap on the bathroom floor before finishing the job by putting on my dressings and having a much-needed wash and clean-up of the crime scene.

A slightly steady moment at the castle..felt like a princess

A slightly steady moment at the castle..felt like a princess

She also had a major paddy on our day out with the folks to Cholmondeley Castle on Thursday. The plan was to go out to the castle’s grounds for the day to look at the pretty flowers and enjoy a scrummy picnic on the manicured lawns. And that’s exactly what we did, but not without Winnie and my exhausted body trying to add some much UN-NEEDED drama to the occasion. We arrived at the castle after I had fallen asleep mid-sentence while talking to my Mum and Dad in the car…I think I had been telling them about a lovely offer I have had from an amazingly generous person to pay for one of my more expensive challenges, when, totally out of the blue I fell fast asleep half way through a sentence. It was something like “I just can’t believe he would do such a….zzzzz”!! My poor parents must have been totally bemused and confused as to whether to wake me up, let me sleep, or drive me straight to the A&E department and have me admitted for weird sleeping patterns and inability to stay away even when talking.

Anyway, anyway, anyway. We arrived at the castle – well they arrived and I sort of dozed

A very windy picnic with the Flints

A very windy picnic with the Flints

into the land of the living as we approached the massive estate – got out of the car and started to walk around the stunning gardens. As we got just about far enough away from the car, in the middle of exploring some gorgeous rose beds, with me trying to take professional style photos of various multi-coloured roses with my not so professional and rather knackered camera phone, I suddenly realised my legs didn’t want to behave themselves anymore. My poor legs appeared to have acquired a life of their own (Micheal Jackson stylie), and were suddenly refusing to take my body in; a) the right direction; b) anywhere that required them standing. They appeared to be buckling under the simple pressure and decided to trip me up and make me stumble all over the place, almost sending me tumbling into thorny rose bushes and making me look like an overgrown toddler trying to advance from crawling a week or so too soon. My poor reliable Dad seemed to spot my problem almost from the word go and hastily rescued me from landing facedown among the rose bushes, hooking his arm under mine and sticking by the side for the rest of the day, in an attempt to stop me costing millions of pounds of damage to Lord and Lady Cholmondeley’s extravagant flowerbeds. I will be eternally grateful.

Me and the pretty flowers

Me and the pretty flowers

If it wasn’t bad enough that I appeared to have lost control of my limbs and was walking around the grounds in a zombie style trance, barely managing to keep my heavy eyes open, Winnie decided that she had been ignored for long enough and decided to have an almighty paddy in the grounds public toilets. After years of suffering from Crohns I have a massive dislike for public toilets, but I am also always eternally grateful that they exist to help save me in my frequent moments of desperation. I hate how dirty and unkept they are, and that there is always the risk that you could be attacked by a random drunk/drug dealer hiding in one of the unlit cubicles, and that entering a cubicle is like playing chicken or guess who…you never know what will be behind the door or under the toilet lid SURPRISE!!! (yucky, ewh, I feel sick even thinking about the revolting things I have seen, why do women do that in toilets?) Anyway I ventured inside these outdoor toilets, which were not really that bad as far as public loos go..they had toilet roll which wasn’t strewn all over the place, and there was nothing nasty floating in the bowl (puke!!). I went to empty Winnie to find, horror of horrors, that the loo roll was in one of those health and safety round containers, and for the life of me I couldn’t find the end of it to pull down! So I stood there holding Winnie’s end with one hand and frantically searching for the end of the roll with the other..it was frustrating and by the time I had thankfully found it, I will leave it to your imagination, but it took a hell of a lot longer to clean her up than it would have done had that flaming protective cover not have been there!!!!

Yes, I know that wasn’t Winnie’s fault and it’s unfair to blame her, but for the rest of the

in the garden enjoying a few rare rays of sunshine yesterday before Murray mania

in the garden enjoying a few rare rays of sunshine yesterday before Murray mania

afternoon she threatened to kick-off whenever we ventured more than a metre away from the only loos in the hundreds of acres of grounds. She did it during the picnic, and I continued trying to eat my tea and grab bits of food and cutlery that kept being blown away in the wind, while feeling her swelling into a gas-filled balloon under my jacket. While we were looking at the weird and wonderful petting zoo animals, and even on the way back in the car where I thankfully fell asleep two seconds into the journey so didn’t notice her constant tantrums or the horrible bumpy Cheshire roads.

When I got home I raced straight to bed and slept for a lovely few hours 🙂 it was bliss, until Winnie woke me and insisted upon being changed again following her first slight leak, which was caused by the bag lifting up slightly in the heat I think. Which I handled much better and more calmly than I thought actually. I then had to dress her in the first bag I have ever cut for her, having run out of the ones the Stoma Nurse had cut…this was a nerve-wracking experience..lets just say I didn’t have much confidence in my own cutting abilities and accuracy and spent the entire sleepless night checking her for any sign of leakage or damage caused by her collar being just too tight.

Oh and before I forget, I spent the other evening, after lots of messing around not being able to find each other (first time I had used Skype) talking to a lovely lady across the pound about my life with Crohns for a book she is writing. It took forever and there were a few awkward moments, and hilarious moments where I think we just didn’t understand each other…she even called my accent lovely 🙂 HMMM!! Anyway when we eventually finished at midnight (there had been some confusion over time differences), I sat in bed unable to sleep worrying about exactly how much of my life I had spilled to her during the interview. And faced the horrible reality that this is how it must feel to be on the other side of the journalist’s notebook…a rather worrying feeling of hmm should I have said that. But, hey ho, if it helps others to come to terms with their disease I don’t care if they hear about my shameful poop accidents!

Moving on to my first BIG Bowl of cereal...before today eating out of tiny bowls for kids

Moving on to my first BIG Bowl of cereal…before today eating out of tiny bowls for kids

Anyway, that’s enough moaning and rambling for one day. I will be gutted when Wimbledon finishes this weekend, as despite the fact that I have been falling asleep at the worst possible moments (tie-breaks and match points) during Murray’s matches I have throughly enjoying screaming at the telly and watching my boyfriend transform into a madman, screaming and calling the poor tennis player all sorts of horrible unnamable things as he throws himself around the court in an attempt to make us all proud. He really can be a twat when we are watching sport (sorry babe), but it is funny to watch 🙂 I’m sure it’s just being passionate about the game, well that’s what he tells me.

So now I’m going to go back to writing my complaint to the hospital regarding my recent stay, where they tried to poison me by constantly trying to feed me lactose, cripple me with a badly placed epidural and basically left me wasting away, depressed, in pain and confused. As I don’t want to bore you so I have done a mind-numbing video about it which you can watch below.

Where’s Winnie at the races, at the seaside and doing ten rounds with Mike Tyson


Before I share any of the crazy adventures me and Winnie (the poo bag) got up to at the weekend, and

Please bid on these stunningly illustrated Disney books :)

Please bid on these stunningly illustrated Disney books 🙂

spill all my inner most thoughts and secrets, I must first ask you a massive favour….PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE bid on the eBay items which we (me and Andy) are flogging following our Bargain Hunt style adventure a couple of weekends ago. If no one bids, not only will I be horrendously out-of-pocket (despite how über glamorous I always look I’m not rolling in cash, mostly because I am a lowly reporter, and I’m addicted to nail varnish and expensive coffee) and lumbered with even more (luxurious) yet pointless items cluttering up my already stuffed to the brim flat, but I will have FAILED, YES FAILED, one of my challenges. Surely you guys (my dedicated readers :)) can’t let that happen 😦 And, if what I fear will happen does indeed come true, I will not even break even let alone raise mountains of cash for Crohns and Colitis UK to help them in their fight to help people understand the true pain of this evil, evil illness and possibly even find a cure!!!

WHY would you not want an amazing MANDY ANNUAL???

WHY would you not want an amazing MANDY ANNUAL???

I am not trying to emotionally blackmail you all (perhaps I am a little) but imagine the SHAME of me failing to sell an item on eBay. It was meant to be one of my simplest challenges, but the fact that no one has bid on the items which I battled exhaustion, hunger and a very hyperactive stoma to source out for you lovely people to buy, is making this challenge the hardest and most demoralising one I have faced so far….So please PLEASE PLEASE put a smile back on my face and bid on my lovely items…trust me you won’t regret it 🙂 Just remember a lot of determination, sweat and (almost) tears went into finding these goodies from those 400+ stalls…you would be raising money for a very good cause, saving me the humiliation of having to post on here that I have failed and sending a giant cheque with the figure £0.00 to an amazing charity…and make a little, very tired and sleep-deprived young lady and schizophrenic stoma bag very happy indeed, and stop her looking like this (pic of me in black and white looking very miserable):

If you don't bid, me, Andy and Winnie will be soo blue and never smile again!!

If you don’t bid, me, Andy and Winnie will be soo blue and never smile again!!

If you want to bid on the amazing items – a vintage Man United book; Stunning 20th C Japanese miniature cup and saucer; Knightrider collector’s item; Winnie the Pooh Book; Disney education and tales album set; Classic Mandy Annual; Sooty Book and a Bronze ornament of a brass player – please click on the links above (the words underlined DOH!!) or the picture (to right) which will take you to the seller’s page!

Anyway, now that the emotional blackmailing is over and done with, I can tell you about Me and Winnie and our rather exciting, exhausting and windswept weekend. Basically what follows is the story of a weekend where Winnie’s non-stop teenage tantrums finally pushed me into the dark world of gambling; Winnie suffered her first panic attack (or it may well have been stage fright) and I learnt a key rule to life with a temperamental stoma – never wear a jumpsuit!!!

So after months of waiting the girly day at the Races finally arrived. On Saturday morning I woke up after another typically restless night feeling exhausted and suffering from such crippling fatigue that I could hardly muster the energy to walk to the bathroom let alone spend a whole day screaming at horses and standing around in six-inch stilettos. All I had wanted, prayed for, begged for, was one decent night’s sleep, so that I wouldn’t wake up looking like a zombie crawling out of a grave with massive bags under my eyes and my hair stuck up like Sonic the Hedgehog…but, alas God obviously had other plans for me, and typically the night before the Races saw me sat bolt up right in bed with my normal skin crawling itchiness, and my poor broken body screaming to sleep while my brain ticked away over every problem, flaw and tiny hang-up, wittering on and on about how Winnie would leak and all the thousands of unnaturally good-looking punters were going to see crap dripping down my dress (pardon my French). I know that seems ridiculous, and the chances of that actually happening where, quite frankly, next to none, but I couldn’t get the image out of my head that I was going to have an accident in a very public place, and that, when it happened I would be stood in a pool of crap directly in front of a large gang of heavily made-up girls who would all laugh and point and shout “Ewh she’s got s**t dripping down her leg…”she is, isn’t she, she’s sh***ing herself” !! or some other horrible comment, involving me and a pile of excrement. All night I sat awake trying to distract myself by reading Clare Bolding’s autobiography, but nothing could shake the image of Winnie deciding to have her first proper paddy in the middle of Chester Racecourse and me, red-faced and humiliated, being escorted out of the paddocks by burly security guards and manhandled into the back of a police car for ‘defecating in a public place’.

Me and my beautiful girlies at Chester Races

Me and my beautiful girlies at Chester Races

On the day I needn’t have worried at all, because Winnie, out of fright or in an attempt to prove that I had seriously misjudged her, decided that she would simply stop working. She pretty much went on strike for the afternoon, and didn’t let a single morsel of food, gas or anything else that could have caused some sort of unpleasant surprise pass through her pink gates. You would think I would have been relived that I wasn’t having to run to the bathroom and back to sort out the growing bulge under my extremely pretty dress – if you haven’t met Winnie yet, you’re in for a treat.. she performs an amazing but humiliating magic trick, transforming me from a very slender size six into a beached whale, which is eight months pregnant with obese triplets…and most amazingly of all she does this magical trick in a blink of an eyelid – I wasn’t at all relieved. In fact, you could say that I was terrified by her new stunt. This was the first time that Winnie had gone on strike and it was pretty damn worrying. From the moment we walked into the racecourse Winnie just decided.. ‘nope, I am not playing this game, I am not going to work, I am going to block-up’, and she did – very effectively I might add. So while my friends sipped horrendously expensive champagne and shouted at their chosen horse to get its butt into gear (ok, not their exact words), I worried and worried about Winnie, constantly prodded her through my dress and, well pretty much spent the whole day panicking about whether there was something seriously (like rush to A&E and slit me open) wrong with her, and through attachment to my body, seriously wrong with me!!

The result of all this worrying is that I must have had a rather quizzical and bemused look on my face for the entire day, something that I blamed on not understanding the betting system, (which is true, I still don’t understand the odds, ranking or returns) and, to all of the thousands of people who saw my grumpy and concerned features, I must have come across as a right moody cow and a proper party pooper.

So anyway, anyway, anyway, back to the morning events. For months I have seriously pined for this amazing perfume which is well out of my measly trainee reporter’s salary price range. Let’s just say that if I wanted to buy it I would have to live off fresh air and baked beans for a couple of weeks – but then again the perfume would cancel out the horrible smelling gas from the student-esk diet!! #lol!! In fact I love the perfume so much that every day since the lovely lady in Debenhams squirted the yummy scent on my wrist I have dragged my exhaus

Awh my amazing gift from my amazing bf

Awh my amazing gift from my amazing bf

ted and broken body all the way to Browns in Chester to spray on Victor &Rolf’s Flowerbomb, just so that I don’t have to fork out the £70 to buy it. I have been doing this daily trip for almost six weeks now. I like to think of it as the  cheapest way to own a perfume….but in the past week or so I have been forced to try other perfumes. You see the staff are not stupid and have started to cotton on to what I am doing, and are now really rather annoyingly hanging around the Victor&Rolf stand and asking me if I need any help with my purchase, forcing me to make up elaborate stories about birthday lists, wedding presents and anniversaries – It was seriously getting to the point where I was going to be shamed into buying the product or be arrested for stealing hundreds of pounds worth of free perfume!! Anyway after waking from his angelic slumber and turning to face the Creature From The Black Lagoon, my lovely boyfriend walked me into town and bought, yes bought me the biggest bottle of Flowerbomb he could find. It was the singular most lovely and romantic gesture, which was totally ruined by the satisfied and knowing look of the saleswoman, whose eyes screamed “Thief Thief Thief” as she scanned the hideously expensive gift through the till. And, as a final act of disdain, she even refused to give me the pretty pink gift bag, instead thrusting the box into a clearance plastic carrier bag, which made us look like we had just been shopping at Poundland, not spent the equivalent of a week’s wages (ok, I’m over-egging this, but you get my point) on a bottle of perfume.

Anyway, after returning back to the flat happy as a Spring chicken with my first ever bottle of ‘real’ perfume – when I say ‘real’ I mean not mixed with water or bought for £10 from an Avon catalogue. Well, I was happy until I realised I had less than two hours to get ready, then I turned into a ranging maniac, racing around the place and basically stressing at my poor boyfriend (bear in mind that he had just spent a horrendous amount of cash on me just to see me smile) and unceremoniously shoving him out of the door so I could jump in the shower and scrub away any morsel of dirt, sweat or anything else minging in an attempt to transform myself from the crazy, sleep deprived madwoman in the mirror into a stunning Princess. It seemed like ‘Mission Impossible’, and it really was. Time raced past as I attempted to tame my wild hair, which I luckily had had cut and coloured the day before so only needed re-blowdrying and straightening, and slather myself with layers of makeup. I lost valuable minutes when Winnie decided to start working while I was changing her, spitting out yesterday’s dinner on my bath matt as I searched frantically for kitchen-towel and realised I had no idea where the dressings for Oscar where. Eventually, after days of consideration I had settled on the black dress, which was, and still is a big deal. I’m not sure if I have already told you (if I have I’m going to tell you all again anyway GROAN) but

Ready for the Races - THE DRESS

Ready for the Races – THE DRESS

I bought THE DRESS at Warehouse (my favourite shop, but can only afford, well justify, buying things in the sale) before I knew I was going to have my operation. At the time buying the dress was a big risk as: a) I committed the cardinal sin of not trying it on; b) it was basically backless so I wouldn’t be able to wear a bra; and c) it was long, and before my op I never, literally never wore dresses past my knee. THE DRESS is daring and well totally glamourous….I bought it because I loved it, and when, on the painful afternoon following my operation I bit the bullet and bagged up all the clothes I knew I would never be able to wear again due to the birth of Winnie, it almost ended up in the charity shop bag, but was saved only because I decided to keep it in the hope that one very special day I would be daring enough to at least try it on in the comfort of my own home. So imagine my surprise on Saturday when I put on THE DRESS and it fitted perfectly, in fact if you have to be picky you could say that it was a tad on the big size for my tinie post surgery frame. I was ecstatic and decided straight away that if I didn’t wear this dress to the races I would not only regret it, but I would most probably never find another moment to wear it again in my whole life. I owed it to the dress 🙂 I looked fabulous, in fact you couldn’t see Winnie at all! I was amazed…you would have to look really really close to spot the tell-tale creases of the over-lapping bags, but really you couldn’t see her at all 🙂 RESULT!!! One thing I had totally forgotten in a typical me way was that although it was getting rather warm outside it might get nippy later, and, with the open back and all I wouldn’t be wearing a bra…yes, you’ve guessed it, I forgot to get the nipple covers. WHOOPS!! So after all that trying to disguise Winnie I undoubtably drew attention to myself by having rock hard nipples sticking out through my stunningly shear dress as the wind picked up during the last race!! EEK!!

Dreaming of winning big!!

Dreaming of winning big!!

Anyway the day was gloriously hot, and despite ending up with a rather odd suntan due to the criss-cross style of my dress 🙂 it was a perfect day to join the flocks of punters tottering in their ridiculously high high-heels to Chester Racecourse. Despite Winnie’s protest I had a fantastic time, I didn’t win, but there again I didn’t bet anything that in theory I couldn’t afford to lose, so I would have never won big. I had a few frustrating moments, such as when I was determined to bet on one horse but changed my mind at the very last-minute, and, you guessed it folks, that horse won, while mine may aswell have had two legs as it came tripping over the finishing line what felt like a year after all the others were back tucked in the stables. Well I suppose I did win twice, but that was when me and two of my mates decided to club together £2 each (ooh last of the big spenders) to put a bet on three of the horses, and as there were only four in the race we won….well I say we won, we got our £2 each back and an extra £4 on both occasions – which meant my total winnings for a hard day at the Races equated to a grand £2.60 – not even enough for a glass of water!!!

After the races my feet felt like they were literally going to fall off. Having not really walked in high-heels since before my operation a whole day standing in the baking heat wearing extremely pretty, but very uncomfortable glittery shoes, had left my feet screaming for my peppermint cream and the safety and snugness of my pink fluffy slippers. And I wasn’t the only one who felt like my feet were going to snap in two. So, head hung in disappointment I staggered back home, totally gutted that I for once felt well (well not really, but better than normal) enough to hit the town and experience my first Races drink in the city, but was being let down by my stupid and treacherous feet. All I had wanted to do since the start of the day

Me and my friend with the backs of our dresses

Me and my friend with the backs of our dresses

was to go to a new bar in Chester called The Church – basically an old derelict church which had been transformed into a luxury bar and restaurant but still had all the original features – and drink a glass of champagne, to basically say, I DID IT…I MADE IT THROUGH ALL THIS HELLISH CRAP!!! But it seems no one else really wanted to do that, and around half an hour later I found myself back at the flat wearing my trusty nightie and attempting to wipe the layers of makeup off my face. I was gutted, I had been made to do the sensible thing, and it was a total anticlimax…I felt cheated of my celebratory return to the night-life scene and like I was being forced to admit I was still to sick to be my fun, sexy, 20-something-self!

And if that wasn’t unfair enough, the moment I peeled off my dress Winnie decided she was abandoning her strike. In fact she did it with such gusto that I spent the rest of the evening racing backwards and forwards to the toilet – and to make sure I was reminded he was there Oscar threw in a few paddies just for good measure! Despite only having two small, and horrendously expensive glasses of wine, (oh and a glass of race’s champagne kindly donated to my experience by my friend, SSSSH don’t tell), I spent the entire evening feeling like I had been hit, and then reversed over by a bus carrying horrendously obese people to fat camp. I mean it really was unfair!! It was a night filled with endless nausea, sweating, and gurgling and groaning from places I didn’t know existed, and to top it all off all the other hardcore Racegoers where partying hard into the early hours of the morning almost right outside my door, not helping the unrelenting insomnia by rubbing it in my face that they were having an amazing time while sensible me was curled up in a ball of agony wishing I would die.

Home and upset

Home and upset

The next morning I woke up looking like hell, a common occurence these days (as you can see), and feeling like I had done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson in the few hours of sleep I had managed to grab. It literally felt like an elephant had walked into my room and sat on my chest in the middle of the night. I could hardly stand up straight as I raced to the bathroom to empty Winnie who was, as per usual, so full she was on the brink of causing a nuclear poop explosion in my pretty bedroom. As I was trying to sort myself out and make myself look slightly human, changing Winnie after Oscar bizarrely managed to fill up with soapy water while I was having a shower PANIC STATIONS PEOPLE!!! when Andy arrived to take me to his house for a relaxing day reading and starting to learn Francias (which I hope is French for French #lol). Now at this point, taking into account that Winnie was obviously in a foul mood so I would undoubtably be needing to pop to the loo every 5 minutes to empty her, I have literally no idea why I thought “ooh, today would be a good day to wear my new jumpsuit”. Yes people a jumpsuit, you know the outfit that you have to literally spend half-an-hour undoing to have a pee. It is the straightjacket of the fashion world – even Houdini himself would struggle to get out of a jumpsuit in a bathroom related emergency.

Me sooo fashionable...sooo the wrong choice

Me sooo fashionable…sooo the wrong choice

To make matters worse, when we got out to the car we decided (yes, for argument’s sake I’m going to say it was a joint decision) that we weren’t going to spend the day lazing around the house in a hung over style state, scoffing our faces and watching re-runs of The Vicar of Dibley etc…instead we were going to drive around 2 hours to the seaside in Wales. This idea was put forward by Andy, and because I couldn’t think of anything better to do, and the weather seemed glorious in Chester and I assumed it would be the same in Wales, I agreed. BIG MISTAKE!! Firstly, we all know how I feel about car journeys, and how the state of Britain’s roads make me feel like I have just ridden a camel over a rocky mountain range, so while the two-hour car journey offered up some breathtaking views of the Welsh countryside as we passed through Snowdonia, I spent the majority of it curled up in a ball almost crying through pain and getting increasingly angry that the silly mountain ranges were making my phone signal die and I could no longer Tweet my pain to everyone in the world. And, secondly, I could not have been more wrong about the weather. We turned up at the quaint seaside village dressed in summer clothes, with not a jacket, or waterproof between us, to find we had left the Summer weather behind in Cheshire and here we were faced with a typical British summer day, with nippy winds that tore through my thin playsuit and left Winnie shaking to  the core. I must have looked  right idiot as most people were quite rightly dressed for an autumnal day, wearing parkas and jackets, while I was wearing floral jumpsuit and a demin jacket, and to top it off I was wearing my rock star shades – which ended up not being a ridiculous as they looked as they saved my eyes from being filled with the sand which sandblasted us whenever we dared to walk too close to the sand.

Anyway we managed to find a restaurant, where we had the normal issues of waiters and chefs struggling with my diet and I ended up making up my own odd sounding meal which was surprisingly ok. I battled with my playsuit again and again as Winnie filled-up faster than I was able to cope with!! In fact I am almost sure that she was doing it in the hope that someone would walk in on me in the tiny, fly infested toilet, with my playsuit round my ankles exposing my bare breasts to the world, as yes, because of my painful scar I wasn’t wearing a bra!!

Very windy and sandblasted

Very windy and sandblasted

It was a lovely little town and we had a lovely time, but due to the weather and my terrible fashion blunder we must have started the drive back just under 2 hours after we arrived! Poor Andy, driving two hours with me whining the whole way, to enjoy a mediocre meal and getting sandblasted and then being forced to drive another 2 hours back home…luckily for him I slept the whole way back and woke up with a stiff neck and feeling grumpy and disoriented.

So what have I learnt from this experience…NEVER WEAR A ONSIE OR PLAYSUIT WHEN STOMA IS ACTING UP, AND ALWAYS TAKE A JACKET!!

Counting horses to get to sleep…Balding tickles Winnie and into the Frying pan with Mr Fry


Another finished just seconds before midnight – HURRAH

I love reading so when I first drew up the list for my 101 challenges the idea of reading a book a week seemed like the most simple feat in the world for my little brain to conquer.I thought that with all this time off work following my operation that I would be devouring whole shelves of books, gobbling up the great world of literature so fast that I would soon be knocking on my favourite author’s doors begging for them to pen me a new novel just to satisfy my insatiable appetite. Well, that might be a tad over the top. But, lets say, I thought that I would be reading at least two books a week… I mean a couple of hundred pages a week, surely that’s easy for someone who as a kid won the council’s Acorn Book Club  Award for reviewing hundreds of library books after pretty much living in the dusty bookcases of my under-threat local library pouring over ketchup-stained (and God knows what else stained ) novels and picture books well into the night. I don’t talk about it, but that literary feat earned me a humiliating picture in the local press – the photographer scarred me for life by getting me to pose in my school library next to a pile of books my height, grinning like a demented maniac and looking like I was about to attack everyone in my path. Honestly there have been less scary pictures on Most Wanted and Crime Watch, the story’s headline may as well been ‘Crazy schoolgirl kills for books’ – lock away your bookcases and first editions people ,schoolgirl book murdered is on the loose.

Anyway I know I’m going off track, but despite that being one of the most humiliating experiences of my life,(many more where to follow with the birth of Facebook and camera phones and me basically being me) as back in those good old days when penny sweets cost 1p and you rang or called on your mates rather than tweeting or nudging them everyone bought the local rag called The Free Press and quite rightly pictures of my insane looking smile were waved around in front of my face everywhere I went…Everyone from the lollipop lady to my headteacher had a copy. And, to make matters even worse, being insanely proud parents my folks bought every picture of me and my sister that appeared in the local paper (which was surprisingly a lot, I think we were in it every week), and created a wall of fame that greeted every visitor, milkman, delivery driver and builder who had the misfortune to call into our house. I swear that one time I came down the stairs years later to find my poor local milkman (who I had a massive crush on – he was a part-time fireman) peering up at the wall of dreadful school pictures and looking to my horror at the book photo – this is one of the few moments of my life that I have literally turned the colour of the Ribena berry and hidden away in shame and disgust.

Anyway back to the challenge. So far reading a book a week has proved a lot harder than I thought it would. I have already told you how at the start of the challenge I struggled with the ramblings, non-stop bitching and, quite frankly, tedious parliamentary squabbles of Lord Mandelson, in his autobiography The Third Man. Since then I have not been as bored or frustrated with an autobiography or novel that I have wanted to throw it out of the window, most probably killing an unsuspecting builder or old lady tottering to the local pub for her daily Gin and Tonic, but I have been struggling to finish the books every week. It is not always the author’s fault, it is just that I never seem to dedicate as much time to my reading as I intend to these days.

Every Monday I start the week by picking a new book out of the massive pile of novels, short story collections and autobiographies, that I have borrowed from the library or bought at a ridiculously cheap price from supermarkets, charity shops or even borrowed from friends. I started the pile when I decided to start reading a book a week and that I needed to widen my knowledge of all things in the world by reading 50 autobiographies for this challenge. Each time I pick up a book at a store or randomly from the dusty shelf at the local library I always have every intention of starting the book that day…or at least that week, but now the pile is almost as high as my bed, and although I am determinedly plowing my way through them I can’t seem to stop myself from buying or borrowing any book that catches my eye making the pile seem like a never-ending challenge.  For every book I read and take to a charity shop or send back to the lonely library shelves, where it may remain gathering dust, unloved and unread for 100s of years, I seem to pick up two more – can’t help it, in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if at the end of this challenge I need to have the firemen air lift me out of this apartment after becoming a super hoarder, living in a flat piled so high with books that there is no room to move apart from a small path through the hardbacks winding its way to the toilet, fridge and microwave. So on that faithful Monday I chose the new book from the pile or, if I’m feeling a little more down with the kids, I flick through my Kindle to select a lucky book as my ‘chosen one’ for the week, then happy with my choice I settle down under the covers and begin to read.

Mind numbing EEEK

Mind numbing EEEK

Ever since I was young I have always had a very stubborn self-discipline attitude when it comes to reading. It doesn’t matter how boring, tedious, disgusting, so badly written it makes your eyes bleed or smelly a book is, once I have flicked open that cover and read the first sentence I have to carry on reading until the bitter end. Even if it takes me a year to read the book, which is what  happened with Tony Blair’s autobiography (which I am forcing myself to read in a week for this challenge – argh gouge my eyes out), I have to finish it. You see, as crazy as it sounds, I have made a commitment to the book, and, essentially, the book has made a commitment to me. Reading a book is like a marriage (ok, not quite as serious or important a commitment as that) you have to put up with the bad, forgive the unforgivable, and eventually you will be rewarded with the most amazing of surprises and treats, unless of course you are reading Dan Brown!!! (sorry Brown fans but they are all the same!!) Of course there will always be the moments when you finish a book and instead of thinking wow I’m glad I stuck with that, and feeling both elated you have finished and upset that it is over and you will have to find another that lives up to its standards, there are those books which leave you feeling like you have just wasted precious nights and hours of your life reading a literary turd that should have been shredded and burnt instead of being bound in a misleading eye-catching cover and unleashed on the world to make stubborn readers suffer.

My problem is that I start off with the best of intentions. I pick up the book, which is usually 400-600 pages long, and get cracking straight away, usually devouring three to four chapters in the first few hours. But then, for my sins (I would like to apologise to all books and authors for this) I get distracted by the shinyness of my laptop, lure of the tellybox or basically fall asleep through the sheer exhausting nature of looking after Winnie 24-7 🙂 Oh, and sometimes I pretty much pass out through just how boring the book actually is!! This usually means that despite the fact that I never have a full night’s sleep and so end up sat up most of the night with my tired eyes pegged open reading books, I still end up waking up on the Sunday and realising I have hundreds of pages left of a tedious autobiography or novel left to read before midnight or I will fail the challenge and have to start again from the very beginning. You see I am no cheat. If I say I will read a book a week I will, and if one week I don’t finish said book within the 7 day limit I will, in my sportsmanly food nature, start again, even if that means five months of non-stop dedicated reading is thrown out of the window and I have to start from scratch demoralised and broken.

I had such a moment with the Stephen Fry autobiography. On the final day (Sunday) I had left to finish the book I was left with 200 pages, YES 200, to read before

Fed up late at night battling through self-obsessed ramblings (fair comment)

Fed up late at night battling through self-obsessed ramblings (fair comment)

the midnight cutoff point. It had been a busy week and I had become completely mesmerised with my new-found friend YOUTUBE 🙂 and had spent many a day pouring over videos, reading blogs, listening to podcasts and basically doing anything that wasn’t reading the book. Despite sitting up every night plowing my way through the self-obsessed ramblings of this thespian and overly intelligent man, I was nowhere near finishing it. I was busy that day too and it was a battle against time, I just about managed it, and thank the lord that I did, as I don’t think I would have forgiven myself or Mr Fry if it had been his self-indulgent work that had spoilt my challenge. You see I chose to read Fry’s autobiography because I thought it would tell me more about his life, about why he is the way he is, and might just help me see past the pompous theatrical character who lord’s over everyone in QI and makes us all feel hideously stupid and lower class with oh so intelligent and snobby facts and figures. I hate judging people, but sometimes when you are pretty much forced to watch someone for years, I have to admit it is hard not to. To me Fry is a self-obsessed know it all, and I hoped that his biography would give him more depth, make him more human and basically destroy the image I had in my head of him lording it over the rest of us mere minions and laughing at the downright stupidity of us common folk.

Parts of his autobiography shook the foundations of my image of Fry…I sympathised with his childhood, his addiction to all things sweet, and with his struggles with trying to fit in. Parts of the book I found funny…but the moment that he headed off to his elitist university he totally lost me and i struggled to see past the self-indulgent nature of his storytelling and the fact he often referred to his struggles but said they were in a previous book 😦 I wanted to scream, but Steven I haven’t read your previous book…this is an autobiography, why would I expect to have to read a series of other memoirs before this??? Surely not??

Anyway as you can probably tell I managed to finish the Fry’s memoir by the skin of my teeth. In fact I think I finished the final sentence and shut the book with a sigh of relief on the stroke of midnight. It was a momentous moment that was quickly followed by me falling fast asleep with the book resting on my chest, making me wake-up in agony feeling like an elephant had slept on my breasts.

The morning after – trying to finish this really dreadful book (Fry’s that is comment comment comment) only a couple of hours left PANIC

Since the start of this challenge I have staggered the autobiographies with the works of fiction, mainly so that if the autobiogs get too hard going, they are, at least not coming one after the other, as this challenge is meant to be fun, not to turn into some mind numbing task that I will regret ever starting. So listed below are the books I have both indulged in and slaved over during the past few weeks (as you can see some weeks I have gobbled down multiple books and on others have struggled to swallow even one measly volume):

  • Peter Mandelson – The Third Man  (eye-opening sometimes in a good way, but also mind-numbingly boring) BIOGRAPHY 1
  • You Had Me AT Hello – Mhairi McFarlane ( a little too similar to my life, funny and easy to read) FICTION
  • The Wish List – Jane Costello (inspired my trip to Leaf tea room in Liverpool) FICTION
  • Dear Fatty – Dawn French (best autobiography to date, almost split my stitches)  BIOGRAPHY 2
  • The Law Clerk – Stan R Gregory (terrible for the book club) FICTION
  • My Life In Black and White – Kim Izzo (surprisingly good read picked randomly from library shelf) FICTION
  • The Fry Chronicles – Stephen Fry (self obsessed but at times enlightening and entertaining )BIOGRAPHY 3
  • The Gurkhas Daughter – Prajwal Parajuly (amazing collection of short stories about Nepalese people’s plights) FICTION
  • My Family and Other Animals – Clare Balding (delightful read, new found respect for amazing woman) BIOGRAPHY 4
LOVED IT...I want to ride a pony I DO I REALLY DO

LOVED IT…I want to ride a pony I DO I REALLY DO

I want to thank Clare Balding here for writing a humourous, honest and moving account of her childhood and young adult years, which kept me from poking my eyes out during the last few sleepless nights where my broken body felt like it was being eaten alive by this post operation itchiness that makes me feel like millions of little creatures are running around all over my body. I have never disliked Clare Balding, but, if I’m being honest (and what’s the point in this blog if I’m going to lie to you all), I have never really liked her. It is not so much because of her, it is the world that she represents that i just don’t understand. I belong to a world of hard news, bargain hunting in Primark, left overs in the fridge and a childhood playing with invisible pets and a punctured football, while in my judgemental mind she grew up riding award-winning horses and eating caviar from a spoon plated with rubies and gold #LOL!!! Her book made me realise that although she had a privileged upbringing, surrounded by race horses and even embarrassing herself in front of the Queen when Her Royal Highness dropped in during breakfast time, Clare Balding had not just an amazing childhood but a tough one too. She was just a kid but she managed such amazing and wonderful things, and changed my perception of the world of racing so much that I even wanted to ride a horse by the end of the biography, even though I am utterly terrified of even the tiniest pony!!! It is an irrational fear that they will kick me, well maybe not so irrational as my gran (who looked like the Queen bless her heart) was once kicked by a horse – in fairness to the poor animal she was invading his personal space.

One night, very soon after I first started her book Andy decided to stay over. Which is always a lovely treat as he is like an oven to lie next to and I can rest my freezing feet against his toasty legs – I recommend a warm-blooded boyfriend over a hot water bottle or electric blanket any day 🙂 Anyway, it was around 2am and I had woken up AGAIN covered in sweat as my body fought to digest what ever morsel of food i had managed to eat that day, and not been able to fall back asleep after emptying Winnie and taking my painkillers. Andy was sleeping soundly beside me as I delved into Balding’s book. I was reading happily away when she decided to share with me the time that her dad decided to try to make her a mug of hot chocolate by filling the kettle with milk…my silent laughter must have sounded like I was sobbing and I shook the bed so hard that I woke up poor Andy, who looked at me with the saddest sleepy eyes ever and rolled over and fell back asleep instantly. From then on when i was reading Balding’s book I put a cushion on my scar to stop it splitting from the laughter and a teddy between me and the slumbering boy…well one of us has to sleep.

If you are reading this Clare I loved your book. I should never have judged you, and you should never have to justify yourself to anyone, but I am sure with all your years trying to prove yourself to your dad, bitchy shoplifting schoolgirls and the entire British public that sort of thing doesn’t bother you any more. After reading your book I have to say that I truly admire your strength, determination and unfailing sense of humour 🙂 Thank you for writing such an honest book and for helping me through those endless moonlit hours filled with unrelenting pain and fatigue. You have a true admirer in me 🙂 Oh, and thank you for choosing a cover that lived up to its expectations and wasn’t a lie – there are too many alluring covers designed to lure readers into picking up utter codswallop with their stunning graphics and interesting titles. And thank you for tweeting me back 🙂 I love you for that….

Anyway next is the 100 Year Old Man Who Jumped Out of the Window – this has been on my kindle for yonks and I now have an excuse to read it for the book club…so, the rest of my books will have to be renewed, yet again (sorry Chester readers if you are waiting for one) at the library, while I go back to the digital modern world again.

If anyone has any suggestions for MUST READS or any more AUTOBIOGRAPHIES please leave a comment 🙂

OH AND BEFORE I FORGET – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE BID ON THE EBAY ITEMS – ANY PROCEEDS WILL GO TO CROHNS AND COLITIS UK  – PLEASE 🙂

IF I DON”T SELL THEM I WILL FAIL ONE OF MY CHALLENGES 😦

Seller number 1115518 

http://myworld.ebay.co.uk/1115518?_trksid=p2047675.l2559

DSINEY parade books

DISNEY parade books

Bronze brass player

Bronze brass player

IMG_0799

SOOO PRETTY!!!

SOOO PRETTY!!!

Challenge #33 – 100 NUDE MEN, Winnie and a very windswept me


ME, WINNIE AND ‘THE BOY” WITH BEN THE NAKED MAN AT CROSBY BEACH

I’m very tired today after a hectic BIG DAY OF ADVENTURE in Liverpool 🙂 – yes I know it’s not far away but we had a lot to do and I was basically frog marched around the city and the surrounding areas clutching my tummy and giggling with excitement 🙂

Actually I was so tired that I slept for the longest uninterrupted period for months and months – possible six months – five hours straight. And, because I usually wake up and then can’t get to sleep for a couple of hours in which time I empty Winnie (my stoma bag if you are a new reader) several times of gas and undigested spinach and tablets, I woke to my bag so full it was almost bursting. Honestly two seconds more in bed or if I had rolled over onto my stomach I am sure my bag would have exploded and transformed my room into a scene from a horror movie – well one on a farm anyway!!!

Thank god I woke up in time!! Anyway, anyway, anyway – oh before we begin on the challenge have to tell you that I tried Charter and Coloplast’s Ostomiss yesterday for the first time. If you don’t know what that is (and why wouldn’t you – get with it guys) its a spray or drop that you put in your bag to make it smell lovely and not like pooey eggs – I will add that normal people have these two but many don’t use them – there called airfresheners people 🙂

Andy ‘the boy’ spots John Barnes in Liverpool one – there is me and Winnie puzzled in background – NO IDEA WHO HE IS

So we had a funny moment in Starbucks in Liverpool at the Beatles Experience. I went to the loo after joking about posing with my darling Paul (McCartney) feeling gutted that we didn’t make it on the Beatles tour because I had forgotten to book – scatter brains DOH – to empty Winnie who was trying with all her might to ruin my outfit, figure and my day – when she is full she adds 100lbs to my tiny size 6 and age 11-12yrs figure (sickening I know)!!

Anyway, anyway, anyway. As I emptied her the smell of oranges filled the cubicle….safe to say I was shocked, and horrified. I had completely forgotten that I had put two drops of tangerine scented ostomist into Winnie this morning so I wasn’t paranoid about smelling like poo!

a little insight here into my life with Crohns/ UC – I always feel and felt like I smelt of poo, I didn’t (well I hope not guys) and whenever I passed a sewer, walked past dog poo or down Sealand road where raw sewage may aswell be lying in the street on a hot day, I always thought it was me!!!

WOW CAKES MADE OF SWEETS – ROTTING TEETH WEDDING LOL

I was totally puzzled 🙂 I stood there wondering what I had eaten. You can imagine my thought process…I haven’t had any oranges, orange juice…nope…sweets…nope. Then I realised and thought WOW this stuff really works, why don’t they do Armarni Code and Hugo Boss and all perfumes – but I guess that would cost a fortune like diamond encrusted stomas. So I left the toilet and a Starbucks worker was waiting to come in. All I can say is the smile she gave me as I popped out of the loo – probably cas she thought I was a man – i have to stand up and turn towards the bowl to empty Winnie looking like I have a willy –quickly changed to a quizical look 🙂 She probably thought WHAT THE F**K HAS SHE BEEN EATING??? – she probs thought I had scoffed a load of oranges in the loo and eaten all the peel – or had a really weird problem (which to some closed minded people I do)!!!

RIGHT enough of this rambling – its time to talk about the trip.

Image

me with a giant metal man – im like Thumbelena

The idea was to do one of my stoma challenges in Liverpool yesterday 🙂 Challenge #No 33 is to do 30 of Visit Englands’ things to do before you die. There are 101 things on this list but me and Andy (my poor, understanding, and beaten down boyfriend – affectionately known as “the boy”) decided I would do 30 because of the challenge having to be finished by the time I’m 30 (clever I know!!).

Below are our choices – I think this blog and challenge will end up costing me a fortune, one should be WIN THE LOTTERY 🙂

FOOD AND DRINK (7)

1 Taste oysters in Whitstable, Kent.

2 Have a pint in England’s oldest pub, Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, in Nottingham, dating back to 1189.

6 Mix martinis at Dukes Bar, in St James’s, London, spiritual home of James Bond

9 Tour the Black Friars gin distillery, in Plymouth, Devon.

15 Head to the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop, in the Lake District 

17 Tour an English vineyard, in Surrey, such as Denbies Wine Estate, the biggest in the country.

Lost in Liverpool!!!! Searching for Leaf cafe – I’m sure it’s not fictional!!!

HISTORY AND HERITAGE (4)

25 Gawp at the Gothic splendour of Lincoln Cathedral, tallest building in the world for 200 years.

27 Ride the Settle-Carlisle steam train, across the Pennines and Ribblehead Viaduct, which appeared in the Harry Potter movies

38 Marvel at St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall, a tidal island crowned with a superb castle.

40 Climb the 275 steps of the tower at York Minster.

ARTS AND CULTURE (6)

48 See Blackpool illuminations.

50 Gaze out at Anthony Gormley’s sea statues at Crosby, Merseyside.

52 Take a Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour in Liverpool.

53 Admire Banksy graffiti in Bristol.

55 Get in fancy dress for Bestival on the Isle of Wight.

58 Discover William Shakespeare’s Stratford

Me and Winnie with Liverpool’s wildlife

61 Head by boat to Farne Islands nature reserve in Northumberland.

62 Strip off at Holkham Beach, Norfolk – it’s a naturist beach.

64 See thousands of the world’s plant species at The Eden Project in Cornwall.

66 Look for dolphins and basking sharks off the Scilly Isles.

71 Spot dragonflies at Wicken Fen nature reserve, Cambridgeshire.

72 Join a bat patrol at Cheddar Gorge, Somerset.

77 Look out for snowdrops at Fountains Abbey, North Yorks.

HEALTH AND FITNESS (6)

82 Scale England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike in the Lake District.

87 Pony trek in The New Forest.

91 Canoe along the Wye Valley in Herefordshire.

92 Try swimming in Grassington, Yorkshire Dales National Park.

97 Learn the art of mountain biking, in the Lake District

101 Have a go at the annual Cheese Rolling at Cooper’s Hill, Gloucs.

If you want to do it too visit http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/st-georges-day-2013-101-1848785

Me at Leaf tearooms in Liverpool – Amazing!! Inspired to go by The Wish List by jane Costello

Anyway the idea was to do #NO 50 and #52 in Liverpool – but it didn’t really go to plan. Watch the video below to see what happened and to hear about the challenge…Winnie played up all day but didn’t leak (I’m still holding my breath for that to happen – I’ve been far too lucky so far). We saw a tinie little scottie dog chase a swan into a lake!!! You know a swan can break your arm…imagine what it would do to this dog 🙂 but it was ballsy and had more guts than me even when the swan snarled and hissed and the owners kept yelling Tracy Tracy come back, No Tracey – I know weird name for a dog!!!

OH NOOOO – Me and Winnie don’t get to do the Mystery Beatles Tour – poor Paul

Also had trouble with the roads…Cheshire’s and merseyside’s are bloody awful!! There are holes, followed by grids, followed by speed bumps, followed by crossings everywhere!! it’s like a flaming rollercoaster ride…except not at all fun!! I was almost sobbing in pain, gripping the door handle so tight my knuckles were white and wanting to shout are we almost there yet – again and again like a little child. In fact by the time we were halfway there my stitches felt like they would split open and I wanted to go home and die….but I have never let my illness stop me doing anything before AND HELL IT WAS NOT GOING TO STOP ME NOW!!!! I was seeing those naked men if it killed me!!!

But it was worth it, I can’t believe that I have lived in Chester for three years and been to Liverpool god knows how many times and never seen the statues!!! (MENTAL) The beach was beautiful but scattered with used tampons, needles and other rubbish (people are disgusting and they judge our toilet habbits – oh the irony!!) and ruined by the great big windturbines in the background.

So 1 down 29 of those challenges to go!!! EEK!!

Here we go – wish me (and Winnie) luck..


After more than a decade of avoiding the surgeon’s knife they finally managed to pin me down – well more like force – and try to give me a life without the pain and disruption of constant Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.

Almost a month has passed since they tore out my large bowel and left me with Winnie* my Poo Bag! And after a couple of weeks of feeling depressed, sorry for myself and down right disgusting, don’t forget out of my mind stir-crazy bored, I have decided to embrace my bag of well crap and leap into life filled with adventure and new experiences.

I suppose I am a medical marvel. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s/ UC (they have never quite decided which one as I have so many weird and wonderful symptoms) when I was 13-years-old after almost driving myself to an early grave by living with enormous blood loss and crippling diarrhoea for over a year simply because I was too embarrassed to tell anyone or get help. People simply assumed I had an eating disorder – and that is one of those horrible stigmas that has followed me around ever since due to closed-minded people’s disgusting judgements!

Twelve years later – and millions of needles, pills of every colour under the rainbow, scans and x-rays, tubes being shoved where the sun doesn’t shine, and hospital admissions that leave you black and blue and so thin you are almost see through – I have had my bowel removed after deciding, if possible, I never want to feel the pain associated with Crohn’s/ UC ever again; stay in a hospital ward / have a toilet as my best friend and second home / or have a rather embarrassing accident while stranded away from a toilet in town.

So far it hasn’t been plain sailing…but despite going crazy because I’m not at work (I’m a workaholic local newspaper reporter) and feeling pretty damn unhappy about my once flat stomach being covered in scars and bags, this is the best I have ever felt and it is, if I’m going to be honest with myself, pretty bloody fantastic 🙂

Now as my legs turn from quivering jelly and regain some of my tiny childlike muscles to allow me to walk to the coffee shop and local supermarket, and I have finally taken off my trakkies and pjs and stopped living like a permanent member of a sleepover club, I have decided to embrace my new life and try to do everything I have every wanted to do before but not managed because of my illness which (as much as I always said it didn’t) ruled my life.

So here it is the list of all the things me and my new fr-enemy Winnie have to do in the next five years. WHY five years you ask – because I will be 30 and 30 is the stereotypical movie / trashy book landmark for any wish list and I don’t want this to be a morbid “do before I die” bucket list.

And why am I doing this you may ask? The simple answer is WHY THE HELL NOT!!

I am sure that many of the things in this 101 challenge are simply impossible to achieve but I am going to give them all a really good shot, and who knows, like some (not naming any names) celeb bloggers I might even get a book contract/silly TV show out of this.

And on a less selfish note – I truly want to show others facing surgery or who have had it that you are not alone and that just because you have a Winnie (or an Oscar or Priscilla) or whatever silly name you give your bag, that your life isn’t over – in fact embrace it and you might realise that you are finally living for the first time!

As my friend said “it’s just a bag of shit, that’s all”…and that’s exactly what it is, my literally attached to me “friend” Winnie is a big bag of poo! I have realised f I don’t see the funny side when it farts and makes weird noises at the most embarrassing and intimate moments I will spend the rest of my life disgusted with myself.

SO HERE IS THE CHALLENGE – starting today Wednesday, May 29, exactly four weeks since my surgery I will try to complete these 101 challenges before I reach my 30th birthday in five years time ! So wish me luck 🙂

THE BIG STOMA BUCKET LIST

101 adventures of a bag lady 

SKILLS/ JOB

  1. Learn to speak (and write) French fluently
  2. Run a small business
  3. Write a poem and read it at an open mic night
  4. Take a night class in something random
  5. Learn to play the guitar
  6. Get nominated for an award and go to the ceremony in a show stopping dress
  7. Work for the BBC
  8. Get 1,000 Twitter followers
  9. Learn to say hello in 10 very different languages
  10. Write a column
  11. Learn to parallel park and do it on a main road (thanks Andy!)
  12. Live and work abroad
  13. Host a radio show
  14. Learn to draw a tree properly
  15. Write and illustrate a children’s book
  16. Learn about the economy and stock market
  17. Write a blog with worldwide followers
  18. Work for a national newspaper
  19. Have a novel/ short story published

TRAVEL 

  1. (20) Eat snails in Paris
  2. (21) Go to Disney Land and wave a wand in Hogwarts
  3. (22) Visit Prague and see a concert
  4. (23) Walk on the Great Wall of China
  5. (24) Pose for a picture in Times Square
  6. (25) Drink a whole pint (yes a whole one) of Guinness in Dublin
  7. (26) Go to Wales hiking and rent a cottage with hot tub and roaring fire
  8. (27) Get on a random plane to a random place at the airport
  9. (28) Climb the millenium Dome
  10. (29) Take a trip on a gondola in Venice and sing Just One Cornetto
  11. (30) Have a night out in Birmingham/Liverpool/Edinburgh/ Manchester
  12. (31) Go to an outdoor cinema
  13. (32) Camp at a festival
  14. (33) Complete 30 Visit England 101 things to do before you die (can’t be in this list)
  15. (34) Go on a really scary roller coaster

CRAFTS

  1. (35) Design your own clothes/ accessories and make them
  2. (36) make a funky and a sexy stoma bag cover
  3. (37) take a life drawing class
  4. (38) sell a piece of art
  5. (39) make a Christmas present – which is a quality gift
  6. (40) take a professional photograph
  7. (41) learn to cook – take a cookery class

FOOD

  1. (42) make a perfect cake (three tiers)
  2. (43) eat at a Michelin starred restaurant
  3. (44) throw a themed dinner party
  4. (45) make the perfect souffle
  5. (46) host a fondue and cocktail party
  6. (47) go strawberry picking and make jam

SPORT and GAMES

  1. (48) Sit on Murray Mound eating strawberries and drinking Pimms
  2. (49) Go to a basketball match and eat a pretzel
  3. (50) Ride a horse
  4. (51) Play a round of golf
  5. (52) Complete an army assault course
  6. (53) Run the Santa Dash
  7. (54) Learn the perfect serve
  8. (55) Cimb the three Peaks
  9. (56) Learn how to play chess
  10. (57) Play a full set of tennis
  11. (58) Learn how to skip
  12. (59) Shoot a gun
  13. (60) Drive a classic car
  14. (61) Learn how to play poker
  15. (62) Walk the Sandstone Trail
  16. (63) Compete in the Chester to Liverpool Bike Ride
  17. (64) Go Fishing
  18. (65) Learn the off side rule
  19. (66) Go cheese rolling

CHALLENGES

  1. (67) Volunteer for charity
  2. (68) Raise £1,000 for NACC
  3. (69) Sell something on Ebay (I know lame that I have never done this)
  4. (70) Read a book every week for six months
  5. (71) Do something just for the hell of it (more outrageous the better)
  6. (72) Go skinny dipping
  7. (73) Get a tattoo
  8. (74) Take part in a protest
  9. (75) Blag your way into a VIP section
  10. (76) Be an extra in a tv show or film
  11. (77) Sunbathe topless on a beach
  12. (78) Wear false eyelashes (I know pathetic but my lashes are falsy virgins)
  13. (79) Bounce down a road on a space hopper
  14. (80) Sleep under the stars
  15. (81) Live off £10 for a whole week (no cheating)

EXPERIENCES

  1. (82) Be part of a TV audience
  2. (83) Sit in the Commons for a debate
  3. (84) See Michael Buble (I know needs accent) live
  4. (85) Buy a designer handbag or shoes
  5. (86) Wear a stunningly expensive piece of jewellery
  6. (87) Stand for election
  7. (88) Rent a must-have designer handbag
  8. (89) Join a book club
  9. (90) Drink a whole cup of tea (how I go through 25 years without doing this?)
  10. (91) Milk a cow
  11. (92) Read Pride and prejudice (I never have!!)
  12. (92) Have a 24hr movie marathon
  13.  (93) Wear a onsie in front of others!
  14. (94) See a Broadway show (I know should be in travel)
  15. (95) Jump out of a plane (arrghhh obviously with a parachute)
  16. (96) Ride the London Eye (probably should be in travel)
  17. (97) Get a pen pal – write for a year and then meet up somewhere really cool
  18. (98) Read 50 autobiographies in a year
  19. (99) Campaign for something that matters – and win
  20. (100) Do something that scares the shit (sorry mum) out of you!
  21. (101) And FINALLY this one has been left open to you guys – think of something cool – not too dangerous please 🙂

Sorry for how horrendously long and tedious that was

Anyway…here we go the challenge has officially begun – WISH ME LUCK!!!