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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A 22 mile bike ride – jelly legs & a bruised bum & hitting streets with Police


Until today the longest bike ride I had done since my ileostomy operation was around three miles. And that had been a struggle. Come to think about it, three miles was probably the furthest I had ridden anything in years, and that was far enough for my skinny little legs.

A quick and much needed break - no I didn't fall off

A quick and much needed break – no I didn’t fall off

So this morning me and Andy (my boyfriend) woke up to a lovely autumnal morning. It was a little cold but absolutely stunning. I woke up fairly exhausted after spending the night on reporting duty trekking around Chester City Centre with some lovely police officers as they tackled drink and drug related crime in the city in the aftermath of the last race of the season. I was with them most of the night running around, trying to keep up with their long strides, and, well trying to not get lost in the crowds of unbelievably drunk women swarming through the city’s streets.

It is a year since I did a very similar operation with the police in Chester. I remember how exciting it was, but how the whole time I was watching the drug dog sniff out wads of cocaine from revellers outside bars and clubs I was constantly panicking about needing the toilet. You see I may not have been in the peak of one of my IBD flares, but I still needed the bathroom around six times an hour, or I would be left gripping my stomach in agony and struggling not to curl up in a ball crying like a baby. I remember managing to throw the pain to the back of my mind until the break – which was after at least three hours – before getting back to the station and locking myself away in the cell-like toilet, and silently sobbing in pain as I tried to ‘let it all out’ before we hit the streets (without loo breaks) yet again. Ok, I hear you say, I should have said something, I’m sure they would have let me pay a pit stop, but I couldn’t and wouldn’t slow them down…I absolutely refused to stand in their way.

townhall_policeThis year was different. With my ostomy bag I hardly had to worry. In fact I made it from 7.30pm until I go home at 11.30pm without having to empty or change Winnie. Yes I did worry I would be caught out, and yes I did worry about needing the toilet – but I don’t think I will ever stop doing that – I’m a bit like Jason Bourne these days when it comes to rest rooms. I did panic when Winnie started going into overdrive at the custody suite while I was looking around the cells where some of the revellers would be sleeping off their booze that night. But she survived and to my relief I didn’t end up having to change Winnie in a cell with no basin and a metal loo!

Anyway, after groggily getting out of bed we made the decision to go for a bike ride. Yes we realised that the 20+ mile round trip was a big ask after hardly stepping foot on a bike since my operation, but after traipsing miles and miles around Rome that didn’t seem like such a leap into the dark for my legs. Oh, and there was a pub to be stopped at on the way…so that helped as an incentive.

I didn’t regret it one bit. The weather was beautiful and cycling along the canal was both exhilarating and peaceful. At first we were forced to weave around walkers, dogs and fellow cyclists as we battled along the canal, but then we finally found ourselves alone, apart from a few ducks and MASSIVE dogs and the scenery became simply something else. For a couple of miles we battled on despite the towpath teetering out altogether leaving me exhausted from the grassy mounds underfoot, or wheel. Then realising I was never going to make it back if we carried on, we finally went onto the road and cycled the rest of the way to the pub…a thousand times easier, apart from the fact Andy got a puncture and we had to stop every-so-often for him to pump up his withering tyre.

The pub itself, The Shady Oak, was quaint. Set on the side of the canal the views were

Waiting patiently for food - I'm screaming inside lol

Waiting patiently for food – I’m screaming inside lol

breathtaking. However the service left a lot to be desired and they didn’t take visas or any kind of cards whatsoever. It was an odd phenomenon going into a cash only pub. That’s when we realised we had cycled 10+ miles and probably could only afford a handful of chips between us!! Luckily we had a bit more and managed to share a buttie and chips – from a ridiculous menu I must add, and a ridiculously long wait of around an hour and a half!

Anyway a few other things happened, but all in all it was a magical day. Now sat on the sofa I feel proud. Ok, I’m no Sir Bradley Wiggins but I dug deep when I thought I had nothing left and managed to complete a 22 mile bike ride, which is amazing when you think six months ago I couldn’t walk up 10 steps without having to stop for breath. I feel healthy, but wobbly. In fact I can’t walk at all without my legs shaking, and my bum feels like it has been head butted by a bull. But it is a good healthy sort of pain, one that I am sure will make me walk like a cowboy for a few days, but one that I can be proud of…this is a pain that means my fitness is coming back…so, I guess I like it!

I can’t wait to do it again. It’s happened, I’ve got the cycling bug!

The last stretch - oh and there is my bessie mate in the car next to me - small world lol

The last stretch – oh and there is my bessie mate in the car next to me – small world lol

Ostomy underwear – is it worth it?


Every woman has secrets in her underwear draw, but since my operation mine has been filled with the most hideous underwear known to mankind. Gone are the lacy shorts and girly panties from the days before Winnie, now my top drawer is filled with underwear that even Bridget Jones would be ashamed to be caught out in.

My comfizz underwear - amazing support but not sexy!!

My comfizz underwear – amazing support but not sexy!!

Ok, maybe I’m being a little unfair. The ostomy underwear has saved me from some extremely humiliating moments post surgery, where bus loads of pensioners, tourists and even crowds of rich race-goers have been saved from the sight of my full to bursting ostomy bag and red raw scar by my sturdy prescription pants after rouge gusts of wind whipped up my skirt around my waist Marilyn Munroe style while walking through Chester city centre.

But although they were saved from a flash of Winnie the onlookers did get a flash of most probably the most ugly knickers they have ever seen. You may disagree but all the underwear I have had to date which caters for women with a stoma either resembles washed out grannie pants or those magic knickers Gok Wan enjoys promoting so that all us girls can suck in layers of fat and miraculously loose inches off our waists to fit into that dress which is two sizes too small.

My ‘prescription’ knickers are exactly as they sound. Yes they might be a step up from the paper ones you get given at tanning salons (which I can never figure out which way to go on), and yes they may cover your modesty completely by being the size of a tent, but they definitely look like the sort of thing you would find in any NHS stock cupboard. They are in basic colours – white, black and navy blue – and have a little bow along the seam, where some thoughtful designer has added a little frilly trim in the attempt to add a tiny bit of femininity to the otherwise unflattering look the underwear gives. I class this underwear in the same bracket as my laundry day knickers, or the ones I used to wear as period pants as a teenager…I definatly wouldn’t go on a night out in them, and I even have a separate part of my draw reserved for them just so I don’t put them on by mistake (which I assure you wouldn’t be easily done).

I must sound hideously ungrateful. I know that these knickers are designed to help me feel more confident about life with an ostomy. I know that the little hidden pouch is meant to make me feel more safe and secure. I also know that millions of women probably adore this underwear and it has probably helped so many people to regain their femininity and adore their figures again. But this blog is all about me being honest, and I have to admit that when I am wearing the special underwear I feel far from special, and to be fair, I don’t think Winnie enjoys it too much either.

I have the whole range, white, black and navy blue. Why? Because when I had the operation I was given a pack by my stoma nurse which had leaflets in about all the products you could get that would make you feel more attractive with your ostomy. I have to say I was excited by this…I had been dreading life with a stoma and the idea of my boyfriend seeing my bag made me feel sick to the stomach, so I thought some sexy underwear would do the trick. Unfortunately what the nurses failed to tell me was just how shockingly expensive this specially made underwear would be for me to buy. For the price of one pair of the anywhere near nice knickers these brochures had to offer I could have bought at least one high quality sexy, lacy launderie set from a high street store.

Some of the stuff in the brochures was nice, and yes I think it would have made you feel much sexier. But it would seem feeling sexy with a stoma comes at a price, and it is not a price everyone can afford to pay.

I ordered as much as I could on prescription. And when it came I was excited, that was until I put it on. The knickers are plain (which is what I like), as high-waisted as Simon Cowell’s trousers, and extremely high legged. Ok, I’ve always had my bad Crohn’s day panties and I have to admit since I was a teenager I have always carried around a spare pair of panties in my bag in case of a IBD related accident, but these are really something else. Winnie and Oscar (my two bags) get squished together under a protective panel, which, in fairness to the designers does help control them and hide them from the world when wearing clothing, but makes the plastic opening to the bag dig into my groin in a really painful and uncomfortable way. And, I tend to find that the knickers can be counterproductive as you don’t notice your bag is full until you really are on the edge of a nuclear explosion!!

There are other designs available, but from the leaflets I have to say the leopard prints and garish colours just don’t look classy enough for me. If I didn’t have an ostomy and was forking out those kinds of astronomical prices I would be expecting silk and pretty designs, not bold floral patterns, and that goes without saying you will never find a bra to match them.

Ok, I have to admit I do wear them when I’m doing exercise or going on a long day out where having the extra support wouldn’t hurt. But the moment I get home I peel them off as quickly as possible in favour of my pre-op shorts and knickers. To date the only ones I have grown to even slightly like are my Comfizz knickers and vest, which help to keep my forever peeling away bags and dressings in place by sucking me in like someone has wrapped me in cellophane. Credit where it’s due, these vests and pants really do hide your bag, they smooth me down so much you wouldn’t know Winnie existed, but peeling them off at the end of the day, you will breathe a sigh of relief as your ostomy escapes the tightly gripped prison and gets a gasp of freedom for the first time in hours.

I just don’t understand why there can’t be more choice out there, and why there isn’t more tasteful underwear for younger women who just want to wear something that is comfortable and sexy. Since my bra shopping experience last week, where I felt the need to warn the poor lady (I don’t really know why) who measured me in M&S not to be alarmed as I’d had an operation (I think she expected to see blood and guts, not just a little rash and a clean ostomy bag), I’ve decided to wear whatever underwear I feel comfortable in.

Ok, I’ve not thrown it away, as it has its uses, and, well I’ve paid for it with my taxes anyway, but I’ve decided to go back to the land of no VPL, silk and french knickers (I know I’m sharing too much here). I just want to feel good. My new bras make me feel sexy and feminine and teaming them with NHS pants just doesn’t seem right.

Anyway I think Winnie likes the feeling of just being free.

N.t: If you disagree and have found some amazing ostomy underwear please share. I would love to find out where others have purchased from.

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Confessions of an ill person


If you looked at me you wouldn’t know I had an incurable disease. I look like everyone else. Ok, maybe not exactly, I’m a

You're ill?? You sure?

You’re ill?? You sure?

little (ok a lot) on the thin side, I’m often covered in bruises from millions of blood tests, and sometimes, if I’m lucky, you’ll spot me sporting a rather trendy hospital bracelet with my name on (in case I forget) and a gown that shows my bright red bum off to the whole world like I’m a baboon. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I’m not in a wheelchair; I don’t have to walk with crutches; I have all my hair; I have all my limbs; I don’t look a weird colour, pale or sickly; and I don’t have any disfigurements…so to the naked eye and to the world I’m not ill and I’m most definitely not disabled, which you would think would be a good thing right?

Most of the time it is! I am so grateful everyday that I can walk, jump, run, swim, and that I have the freedom to do the things that I want to do without being confined to a wheelchair..and I have to add that I have all the respect in the world for those who aspire to amazing things despite the preconceived limitations of their disabilities (aka ParaOlympians). But just because you can’t see my aliment it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. As a Crohns/Colitis sufferer I don’t want anyone to treat me differently, but I don’t want to have to walk around waving a sign saying “I’m ill…honest!” just so that people will let me into the disabled toilet without shaking their heads and muttering “how disgraceful, how dare that young woman use the disabled loo…there’s nothing wrong with her”, or maybe let me sit down on the bus when I’m obviously about to collapse through the effort of trying to stand up.

So as a long-term sufferer of Crohns/Colitis (still don’t 100% know which one, they’re now leaning towards Colitis) here are my confessions:

Before the op smiling as ever, but seriously ill!!!

Before the op smiling as ever, but seriously ill!!!

I know I’m a positive person. It’s a skill I have moulded from years of crippling pain, disappointment, broken promises and self hate. For most of my life I have lived a lie that has been so bloody convincing that I don’t really know what’s real anymore. If you were to meet me you would see what everyone else sees – a confident, happy person, who never gives up and never lets anything get her down. No matter how much it hurts, no matter how much I want to scream in pain, no matter how bad your horrible judgements because of my skinny frame or endless toilet visits, no matter the blood, injections and fatigue, I still manage to plaster a smile across my face.

You could spend all day with me and never notice that I am holding myself together with a tiny string of energy that is fraying and threatening to snap at any moment. I spend every day as a different person, a determined person, a workaholic, the sort of person who would never let anyone down, who won’t quit until the job is done and who gives everything 110%. I’m like a whirlwind in the office, and I guess my pet hate is lazy people. I never stop, my energy to others seems unrelenting, and my positivity in the face of so many issues seems to be endless. But inside I’m screaming as my body eats itself alive. If you were to look closely maybe you would be able to see the pain in my eyes, perhaps behind my blue eyes everything is empty? Perhaps if you stopped and really looked at me, pushed aside my over-the-top laughter, thick make-up and endless chattering, you would be able to see me my hands twitching with pain from arthritis as I attempt to scribble down an interview, or the way my body twitches as pain rips through my bowel or the deadness in my eyes as I try to cope with the face every morsel of food I ate for the past year has just ended up in the toilet bowl again.

Smiling so much can hurt. Living a lie every day takes a lot of energy and being positive when so many things are quite frankly shit is just draining. I don’t let many people see the real me. I guess I’ve never liked her. To me the real Rachel is ill all the time, she is weak, she is sick and she is not worth bothering with. The real Rachel is the person who crawls into bed and gives in to the pain and the fatigue. She is the side of me who throws up food quicker than it’s cooked. She is the person who is afraid of social events where people will see how little she really eats. She is the person who lives in track suit bottoms and baggy t-shirts, is covered in bruises from endless blood tests. She is the person who knows that feeling well will never really last, that the treatments will never really work and that it’s just a matter of time that my illness will kick off again.

That Rachel is the one I become on the night’s I arrive home alone, she is who I become when I unscrew that positive grin and put it to bed on my nightstand every night.

You could say there are two versions of me. There’s the Rachel that people see in public and then there’s just me, bare, naked and exposed. That’s the person people see when they visit me in hospital covered in wires and trying to hold back the tears. So now you know why I always want you to call ahead if you’re visiting – it’s so I can transform into the better Rachel, you know, that positive person you all know and love. She’s not for me…no, she’s for you.

Well she used to be….now the lines blur. I’ve been living this lie so long I might just be starting to believe that I really am as determined, hopeful and positive as she is every day. 

Why am I confessing all this? I guess it’s because of what happened yesterday…

Yesterday I woke up full of hope, questions and enthusiasm, ready for my meeting with ‘Mr Miracle Hands’ my

TRENDY

TRENDY

life-changing (I may as well say life-saving) surgeon, whose amazing handy-work brought Winnie into the world and banished some of the evil disease that has tormented me for the past 13 years. I was almost excited to see this ‘wonderful’ man, who I hoped was going to be full of answers and solutions to some of the weird problems I have been experiencing since my Ileostomy operation nearly 12-weeks-ago. I guess I thought that he would be able to snap his fingers and every issue would just vanish in a puff of smoke, that he would smile sweetly, say “don’t worry it’s all over, you’ve suffered for long enough and that’s it.. you can live your life now. We will fix you and from this day on your only worries will be whether your bum looks big in an outfit or which weird combination of coffee, milk and syrups to order from Starbucks”. He said some things, but to my disappointment it was nothing along those lines.

I guess I should be grateful, since the operation I have felt better than I have ever felt – well, that is, ever since I can remember. The crippling pain that caused black-outs, screaming ‘kill me now’ in public bathrooms, and left me literally crawling up cubicle walls, is gone. But it has been replaced by something else…something so much further down the scale that most of the time I don’t even notice it, but it’s still more pain than most people could deal with on a daily basis. You see the complications, the infections and the scar bursting open following my life saving operation have left me with more problems than before. I was used to the old problems caused by UC/Crohn’s, but these are new, alien and confusing problems and pains that, honestly, I am finding bloody hard to figure out.

My hope had been the ‘miracle hands’ surgeon was going to have all the answers. My hope had been he was going to say “let’s take out that remaining bit of colon, I should never have left it in, it is far too diseased”. I hadn’t expected him to take it out there and then, but I had hoped it would be soon. When he cocked his head to one side like a sad puppy and said ‘at least six more months’ or ‘possibly never’ due to scar tissue, complications and risks,  I have to admit something inside me died. I think the little flame of hope of living a totally normal life flickered and gradually burnt out. Obviously, me being WELL ME, I didn’t burst into tears or throw the all mighty ‘it’s not fair’ tantrum (believe me I wanted to), I think I made a totally inappropriate joke or laughed. In fact I even carried on doing it when he peeled back my wound dressing to reveal a very sore and oozy patch of skin that was like a scene from Alien, and expressed his horror that I’d managed to put up with such pain in the sweltering heat! I even made a joke when he declared he would have to put a THIRD stoma bag on it to drain the never-ending stream of puss:

ME: (something along the lines of)  “ooh so your adding another tool to my tool belt!!!”  (I’m sure he saw through my little act, I know my mum does (she always has)…

My three bags and some very sore skin

My three bags and some very sore skin

Anyway I couldn’t believe it A THIRD BAG!! I didn’t sign up for this. I signed up for just the one, when I signed that consent form and allowed this man to hack away at me I was under the understanding that their would be no complications. he would simply whip out my bowel, fit me with an ileostomy and that would be that…BUT NO!!! I should have known, I really should, nothing I ever do runs to course…my body screams DRAMA QUEEN!! I even joke to my surgeon that I am the most dramatic patient he has ever had – unfortunately he agrees! I was so desperate not to get another bit of plastic bagging attached to my skin that I wholeheartedly agreed when he said the only other option was to stick a knife in the over-granulated scar tissue and drain out the puss! Anyone passing the room at that point would have thought he was offering me a package holiday by the OH YES, FANTASTIC, PLEASE that was excitedly coming out of my desperate mouth. unfortunately he refused to do that, and I found myself whisked to another room, nurses buzzing around me, sticking one bag after another to my skin in an attempt to find one that wouldn’t make me look like Michelin Man once I had my tshirt back on.

Anyway, back to the surgeon. I quizzed him on everything. Now that they had my large bowel did they finally know what I had..surely they did? The truth was, after looking at the results he still couldn’t tell me 100% if it was UC or Crohn’s. He confirmed the results ‘swayed’ towards UC, but that it looked like they wouldn’t 100% know until they removed the rest of my colon, then it would be a waiting game to see if the disease attacked my small bowel…if so, it was Crohn’s Disease. What a fun game 🙂 I can’t wait to play that one, maybe we should put bets on it!

Hmm hope all this isn't for forever

Hmm hope all this isn’t for forever

By the end of the appointment I had been called brave, tough and a ‘good coper’ – I didn’t feel any of those things. It must have shown as at the end of the appointment, as I was being whisked off to get my third bag plastered to my ever-growing tool belt, the surgeon grabbed me in a big bear hug and held onto me like I was being taken off to die. He told me how brave I was, how well I was looking, and how much I had been to stay so positive despite what I had been through. It was awkward but nice…despite everything that has gone wrong, the wonky epidural, the split-open scar, the infections, I would still, if I had to, trust this man with my life (even if he is a bit touchy-feely and holds my hand during appointments).

And after all this crap what did I do? I didn’t go home and cry did I NOOO!! I went off to the beach with my parents and pretended I was happy as larry about the whole thing…and because I did I had a really nice day. But today as I ring the specialists and surgeons for the 10th time and get “ring the other team” or an answer machine message, as I desperatly try to force them to put me on meds for my remaining colon, which is becoming more and more diseased and painful by the minute, I am feeling desperatly low and upset.

Me smiling at the beach

Me smiling at the beach

I guess I have figured out, finally, that I’m really bloody ill and a quick-fix operation is not going to cure me. I’m frightened. Frightened about what the future holds, about my health and the impact it will have on my life, about future surgery, about more time off work. The truth is that despite my happy face, quick wit and go get ’em attitude in life, underneath it all I am bloody terrified.

And you know what???? That’s ok, I’m allowed my bad days.

Here’s Winnie – meet my temperamental stoma


Yesterday me and Winnie celebrated our 10-week anniversary. But, because all I remember about the day the surgeons ripped my once flat stoma open and tore my poor and battle worn colon out, is being dopey and drugged up and feeling the sort of pain and soreness that you would expect a person to feel when a major organ has been ripped out of their body, I tend to think of the day after the op as the first real day me and Winnie spent together.

So true!!!

So true!!!

A lot has happened since I woke up groggy from the massive dose of anesthetic and realised that my worst fear had finally come true – my once flat stomach had been torn apart and a giant pink stoma was now erupting from the surface. Me and Winnie have been on a lot of adventures together, faced horrible challenges, snuggled up in sweat pants with hot coco when we’ve not been feeling well, and have had some God awful ‘I hate you so much’ fallings out.

I’ve struggled to accept her need to constantly make embarrassing farmyard noises in totally inappropriate situations, while she has put up with my inability to stay away from foods that make her sick (I promise you not matter how much you hate it, I will always eat loads of spinach, even though you spit it out whole). I’ve put up with her non-stop attention seeking and ability to fill-up faster than the speed of life, while she has struggled to keep up with my stubbornness and inability to put my feet up and just rest.

We go together like Brie and Bacon

We go together like Brie and Bacon

We have had our highs and lows. Ok, more lows than highs at the moment, but just like any long-lasting relationship at first you have to learn to put up with each other. After living for 25-years with my colon, I now have had to get used to life without one of my major organs and accept Winnie as an alternative to using my arse to go to the loo 🙂 it has been a major learning curve, but one I have got used to and accepted a lot quicker than I ever thought I would.

Now that 10 weeks have passed I thought it was about time that I showed you Winnie. I mean I’ve been telling you all about her, praising her and bitching about her for the past two months, and I, very rudely, have never introduced you to her. Now to everyone who said they wouldn’t read my blog if there was anything gross in it, I apologise, but even though she sometimes (well a lot of the time) does gross things, Winnie is NOT gross…she is totally natural, and I would still be seriously ill without her. So here she is. My surgeon and stoma nurse say she is perfectly formed, and she is 🙂 n.t I’m sorry about all the scars and how yucky they look, but if I wait for them to heal without showing you Winnie we could be waiting for years!

So here you can see Winne, Oscar (who is poking out of my stomach and causing me all sorts of problems at the moment) is the one who looks a little like a second belly button or  thumb print, and Felicity the fistula. You can also see my very itchy scar from the operation, surrounding my almost non-existent belly button, which has been swamped by the itchy rashes caused by plasters, adhesives and dressings. I thought I would always hate this scar, and at the moment I do, but I know that I will grow to accept it in the end – well hopefully.

Winnie the very temperamental stoma, released for good behaviour for a minute or two

Winnie the very temperamental stoma, released for good behaviour for a minute or two

Winnie is pink, problematic, has a split personality disorder, and is 25mm big (which is a hell of a lot smaller than she was when she first came into this world). We have days where we hate each other, but you know what she has saved my life, and she is a small price to pay for a life without the crippling pain of Crohn’s Disease.

I didn’t show you Winnie before because I was scared to. It sounds silly now but I have been dreading this post, and even though I wouldn’t want to admit it I was putting it off. But now I have show you her I can’t understand why I was making such a big ho ha about it. So, say hi to Winnie world!

As you all know, before I was forced to have my emergency ileostomy op I was scared, well shitless, about the idea of having anyone go near me with a sharp knife to slit open my poor skin – I won’t go into how terrified I was about the idea of having a stoma, or we could be here all night! I guess I never thought I would be sat here showing the whole world a picture of her, I didn’t think I would even be able to look at her. 

And here she is looking very sore from the hot weather :( I'm sorry Winnie - not her best look

And here she is looking very sore from the hot weather 😦 I’m sorry Winnie – not her best look

Despite the fact I had narrowly avoided having the surgery many times before, in the days before my operation 10-weeks-ago I may have accepted the idea of having an ileostomy bag but, I have to admit, I was still bloody terrified about having a stoma. After drawing those little x-marks-the-spot marks on my then flat and untouched stomach, and chatting to me about sizes of bags, accessories and all the other fun things that as a fashion mad lady I would usually love to hear and chat about (not in this situation tho), my lovely stoma nurse Maria gave me a pre-ostomy reading and prep pack.

This was just two days before the surgery, so there was no backing out. The slot was booked, the surgeons prepped, and my bowel was rapidly disintigrating…so, really there was no backing out of it. So I opened the pre-op pack and started devouring the literature in an attempt to get myself ready for my new arrival. All the shiny coated booklets where filled with images of happy smily people drinking coffee and taking bike rides in the sun and they were eating all the time! I mean, what’s with all the eating? Nearly every page was filled with images of either shiny-grey-haired pensioners laughing over orange juice and croissants, or smiling families tucking into picnics on sunny lawns…all the booklets seemed to be telling me is YOU CAN EAT ANYTHING WITH AN ILEOSTOMY!! And that really wasn’t the reassuring message I needed….it all seemed really over-glossy and fake, I needed something real, a picture of someone who was just, well like me.

My stomach the night before my operation - wish i had never taken this it makes me feel sad to look at

My stomach the night before my operation – wish i had never taken this it makes me feel sad to look at

What I needed was maybe an extract from someone’s blog, the real truth about how someone my age would feel after such a major operation, you know WHARTS AND ALL! I think if I could have read something honest, someone who said they had also felt really frightened, and that it hadn’t been all plain sailing with their ostomy but that it had been worth it in the end, that would have been a great help… so if you’re reading this and you’re from one of the pharmaceutical companies please, please, please think about putting in some honest stories from young people, instead of just filling those brochures with fake, plastered on smiles which wouldn’t look out-of-place in a pension or life insurance commercial.

Me with all my gadgets - my utility belt :)

Me with all my gadgets – my utility belt 🙂

Anyway, anyway, anyway, inside this pack there was a fake stoma and a bag, so that you could basically give-it-a-go, sort of try it on before you buy kind of thing. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience but I attached the fake squigy foam stoma to my marker x, filled up the bag with water from the communal tap on the ward, and attached it to my stomach. Then, according to the booklet, I was meant to walk around with the bag attached to me for a couple of hours to get used to the feeling of wearing it all the time, but it was just too heavy and uncomfortable, and the first time I emptied it, it made me feel so emotional that I started to cry as the water gushed from my stomach. So I took it off…I just didn’t want to have to deal with it until after the operation, when I guess I wouldn’t have a choice.

Cutting all my new manuka honey bags :) thanks Charter :)

Cutting all my new manuka honey bags 🙂 thanks Charter 🙂

What was worse than that was I had realised that I didn’t think I would be able to deal with touching and changing my stoma myself. I was really worried that I wouldn’t be capable of it, that for the rest of my life a nurse or a friend would have to deal with her. This was because when I was reading the literature I couldn’t look at the picture of the stoma…to me it looked pink, gross and slimy. A bit like a willy or worm sticking grossly out of someone’s stomach..and this one was a perfectly formed, no stitches, no poop, no blood stoma, so how was I going to be able to deal with mine post surgery? I did, but that is a different story, for now I want to tell you that I put my hand over that horrible picture and wouldn’t look at it even when my nurses tried to get me to.

I even took a picture (see above) of my stomach the night before the operation. I guess it was a souvenir picture so that I could always remember what my stomach looked like before the scars and the stoma. You know, something to show the grandkids and all that. I wish I had never taken it, and have deleted it off my phone, as I was spending too much time looking at it and feeling sad.

But now, as I show you this picture I know that I am 100% fine about having a stoma. I feel fine about the idea of having Winnie for the rest of my life. I mean, if that means a life without the crippling pain of Crohns, the constant toilet visits and the inability to follow my dreams, or even nip to the shops for fear of having an accident, having a little pink lump on my stomach that occasionally farts in public is a small price to pay.

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.

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!!!