Archive | life RSS feed for this section

Becoming by Laura Jane Williams – A Love Letter Shaped Review

19 Jun

I realised writing a review for Becoming by Laura Jane Williams* wasn’t going to be easy very early on when reading it. I have had such an emotional reaction to this book, writing the kind of review you may be used to on my book blog Once Upon a Bookcase just isn’t going to cut it. So, instead, this is part review, part love letter to Williams, and part a post about me and my hurts. (This is pretty long. You have been warned.)

Becoming by Laura Jane Williams

Dear Laura,

It’s difficult for me to find the words to explain how much Becoming meant to me. I’m a huge fan of your blog Superlatively Rude, and admire you so much as a writer, so Becoming was always on my wishlist – to read more of your words, to hear more of your story. But it ended up affecting me on such a deeply emotional level. You’ve changed the way I think, you’ve made me want to be braver, and you’ve made me face and accept parts of myself I had always turned away from and ignored. Continue reading


Turning Ninety With Dementia

31 May
Me with Grandma

Today is my Grandma’s 90th Birthday – 90th! It’s such an incredible age to reach; there are so many people who don’t get to anywhere near 90, and yet Grandma has.

My uncle threw her a birthday barbecue on Sunday, and there were quite a few family members there. Four sons, two daughters-in-law, and three granddaughters. One uncle brought his two dogs over as Grandma loves them, and another uncle is visiting for the week from Denmark especially for her birthday. It was a lovely, lovely day, and she really enjoyed herself.

Reaching 90, Grandma is bound to have had a wealth of experiences. She has seven children, 13 grandchildren, and three great grandchildren. Because of two of her sons living in various places over the years, she’s visited a number of countries. There are so many things I would love to ask her, but so many things I’ll never know the answer to.

Why? Because Grandma has vascular dementia. Continue reading

Live Your Life to Your Own Schedule

3 Apr
Live Your Life to Your Own Schedule

I come from quite a large family, and on my father’s side, I have 11 cousins. Out of all of us, I am was born third. Jane, the second eldest, got married to her husband in 2013. Tom, the fourth eldest, got married to his wife in 2014. Last year, both Liz and Dave became parents. Continue reading

Six Years of Friendship

29 Mar

“Hey, how are you? If you even remember me. Lol.”

A message I received on Facebook. I went to the guy’s profile page to see if I did remember him. Vaguely. I kind of recognised his face, but I couldn’t tell you where from. I awkwardly replied saying I vaguely remembered him, and he told me we used to chat after one of us found the other on a penpal website years ago. I remembered the site, and it was probably me finding him, to be honest, as I would try making friends with a number of people. But I still didn’t remember him from back then that well. I still don’t. That message was sent six years ago today.

My best friend Adam and I have been friends for six years! Continue reading

How Do You Celebrate After Loss?

15 Mar
Nan and Me

Today is my birthday. I’m now 29.

I’m normally the type of person who loves celebrating birthdays. Of course, when I was younger, I loved receiving cards and presents. That joy and excitement I felt as each one approached has never left me, though now it’s less about what I’m given, and more about the celebration; getting dressed up, spending time with the family, eating good food, and, yes, getting some love. This birthday is different though, and I have been wishing it was further away each day, as it steadily came closer. This is my first birthday without my Nan.

I was really, really close to my Nan, as a child and as an adult. I would take time off work just to visit her for a week; take her to lunch, take her out for a drink. Have her cook me steak in gravy, and laugh while she got angry at her favourite soaps’ storylines. Just spending time together. So I’m really struggling with her not being here today. Christmas was hard and upsetting, but today is worse. It’s my day, and she’s not here. It’s been almost a year, and I’m doing ok in general, but I’m feeling her absence much more strongly today, a day in which she was always present, even if I didn’t actually see her. I live in London and she lived in Kent, so it was more likely than not that I wouldn’t see her. But I would always receive a card in the post, one that was a bit of a “story” – what my family call cards that have a lot of words. I’ll get a card from her with two, maybe three pages of verse, a card she had taken the time to choose amongst many, the one with just the right words to express how much she loved me. Not this year. She would always phone to wish me a Happy Birthday, ask me what I received, and what my plans would be for the day. Not this year. Continue reading

A Hope For a Brighter 2016

13 Dec
A Hope for a Brighter 2016

2015 is coming to an end now, and I absolutely cannot wait. I’m not waiting with excitment, I’m waiting full of sadness. 2015 has been an incredibly awful year.

Back in April, my Nan died. The cancer she had been battling for over a year finally beat her. We knew that her sister Jane had cancer too,and was diagnosed in 2014, but with treatment she was doing well and the doctors were hopeful. Towards the end of Summer, we discovered we were told wrong. Her cancer was terminal.

A few weeks later, their brother, Paul, went into hospital with pneumonia. While there, he had a stroke, and now has dementia. Not the slow, progressive kind; within the space of two weeks, Paul went from being fine, to not recognising his own daughter, and completely forgetting his older sister had died. Continue reading

Steph Was Here

16 Sep

Suicide. It’s such an upsetting thing to hear about. On the news, in news papers – even in books. Whenever I hear that someone has committed suicide, my heart sinks. It’s so terrible to imagine someone in so much pain, them thinking this was their only way out. It’s unbelievably sad.

But it’s nothing like the shock and sadness felt to hear that someone you know has taken their life. A week ago today, a colleague of mine died. I’m terribly sad to say that I didn’t know Steph very well; during the whole time we worked for the same company, I think we only worked together maybe four times. But she was always friendly and funny, and I liked her. Four days before she died, I was working with her. Three of us were together, having a laugh and a joke while we worked. We were having a good night. Then four days later, Steph was gone.

The day I found out was awful, I spent the day working in a kind of fog. My heart broke for Steph, for how she must have felt to do what she did, the pain she was hiding. I’ve wanted to say something for a while, but wasn’t sure what I could say – especially as I didn’t really know Steph. But it’s important to me that I say something. That you see Steph as a person, and not just another statistic. So I’ll tell you what I do know.

There was a girl. Her name was Steph. Steph was in her 20s, and was a part-time bookseller. She also worked at an animal shelter. She reviewed for a movie review site. She’d recently found a new job that she was due to be starting soon. She was a really nice girl. Steph existed, she lived in this world.

Steph was here – and now she’s not.

I hope you can rest in peace now, lady.

If anyone reading is having problems, please get in touch with The Samaritans. There’s help out there. You’re not alone.

Enjoyed this post? You can follow me here:
Bloglovin’ | Twitter | Instagram

Remembering the London Bombings

7 Jul

On Thursday 7th July 2005, I woke up to the sound of the phone ringing. I was in Sixth Form at the time, and had a day off (or it was already the Summer holidays. I don’t remember that part clearly.), and was enjoying a lie in. I was the only one home, and it wasn’t normal for the house phone to ring – if someone wanted to reach me, they would have called my mobile. I went downstairs to answer the phone, curious.

It was my dad. The building where he worked, and others nearby, had been evacuated, and he wanted to me turn on the TV and see if there was any news about why. I told him what the news reporter told me: there had been a power surge.

A few hours later, I had gone to meet my mum at my nan’s house for lunch. That’s when we discovered the truth. London was under terrorist attack. Bombs were going off on London transport. I remember sitting there in complete shock, absolutely terrified. We were all on our phones one way or another, trying to find out if our loved ones who worked in the city were ok. Thankfully, everyone we knew were alive and well.There was relief that my uncles and my cousin were safe, but that relief was nothing compared to the horror felt over what was happening.

Our eyes were glued to the screen all afternoon. With every new piece of information, the terror mounted. What next, and where? How long will this go on for? Our safety didn’t feel like a certainty anymore; it was something snatched away at the push of a button.

I remember hearing about the 38 bus, seeing the images of it without its roof, the remaining metal twisted and bent. If the bombings happening in London hadn’t rocked me enough, the sight of that 38 bus knocked me sideways. Part of the bus’ route is just a ten minute walk from where I live. I had been on a 38 more times than I could count. Everyone I knew had frequently been on a 38. It was one of the most common buses in my area. I was no longer walking on solid ground, I was sinking in my fear. That bus could have been much closer when the bomb went off, practically on my doorstep. This was happening to London, this was happening on a 38 bus, this was happening to my home. Later we learned that had my uncle not been running late that morning, he would have been on that particular bus.

And then there was the image that tipped me over the edge. The news reporter was talking over live footage of an ambulance arriving at a hospital. They had just taken the victim out of the back on a stretcher, and were just about to head inside when they stopped, and started performing what looked like CPR right there in the road. There was a real person on my TV screen, having hospital and ambulance staff trying to save his life in the street, right now. That wasn’t Casualty or any other hospital programme, that was real and happening as I watched it. It all got too much, and I broke down.

Tears of fear over whether that victim on the trolley would survive, and tears of fear and sadness over the whole situation. I was inconsolable, and even now, just remembering it, the tears are ready to fall.

At 11.30am today, I will be taking part in the minute’s silence to remember the 52 people murdered, those injured, those affected by the terrorist attack, to remember how this city and the amazing, strong people in it survived and moved on, but also to remember the people and places who are still being affected by terrorist attacks today. I hope you’ll remember with me.

Enjoyed this post? You can follow me here:
Bloglovin’ | Twitter | Instagram

Don’t Dismiss Your Pain: On Sexual Assualt and Rape

29 May
Don't Dismiss Your Pain

I’ve wanted to write this post for quite a while now, but I’ve been scared to write about it. It’s not something I like talking about, nor something I like reliving. But I feel it’s important to say, and I’ve not seen anyone else say it, so I’m going for it.

I was sexually assaulted when I was 11-years-old. I was followed home from school by a boy several years older than me. He touched me, and threatened to rape me.

What happened that day affected me for years. I was robbed of my innocence, and was terrified, now in the knowledge that I could be hurt and violated in such an unimaginable way.

I had no social life; I was too scared to leave the house on my own – the only times I did was when I went to school, went shopping when my mum asked me to, or to visit my Nan who lived five minutes away. Otherwise, I only went out if I was with my parents. Because of this, I’ve always had trouble talking to new people and making friends. It’s something I have to force myself to do.

As a teenager, I had no interest in boys in any real way; I was petrified of the idea of letting a boy get close, of being in the position where I could potentially get hurt. All I knew was fear. and later – after realising I had wasted all those years because of what he did to me – anger.

There have been several articles about rape and sexual assualt that have been coming up in my Twitter feed in recent months. They would sicken and disgust me, but I would feel such admiration for these women who were speaking out and moving forward from their ordeal. At the same time, I’d think about my own experience and would have one thought; “What I went through wasn’t that bad.”

I’d feel guilty for the fear and anger I had felt because others have been through worse. I’d dismiss what happened as not that big of a deal in comparrison, dismiss my feelings. What did I have to feel so angry about, what was I so scared about, when I had got off so lightly?

I’d been feeling this more and more as the weeks went by and the more articles I read. It occurred to me that others might be feeling the same, and it stopped my thoughts in their tracks. What was I thinking?!

Yes, there have been others who have been through so much worse, but that doesn’t make what I went through any less traumatic. And the same goes for anyone else who has been through something so harrowing. We have every right to react and feel the way we do.

I recently had a conversation about this on Twitter with New Adult author Tammara Webber, who has been very open about her experience of rape. Despite having gone through something worse than I did, she completely understood where I was coming from. “That is EXACTLY how I felt about what I went through – that it wasn’t bad enough, comparably.” She went on to tell me about a friend of her’s whose experience she felt was worse than her own. It seems most of us, no matter what we’ve experienced, could feel that someone else has suffered more.

“It doesn’t lessen what you suffered,” Webber told me, “or your ability to sympathize with anyone along the whole rotten spectrum.”

No-one should be subjected to rape or sexual assualt. No-one. And no-one who has suffered at the hands of another should feel that their experience isn’t worth their reaction. We’re allowed to feel scared, angry, sickened, disgusted, and violated. We have every right to feel the way we do.

As Webber says, “Don’t dismiss your pain.”

Enjoyed this post? You can follow me here:
Bloglovin’ | Twitter | Instagram

There is Only Now

27 Jan
There is Only Now

“There is only now, and if now is only two days, then two days is your life and everything in it will be in proportion.” – Ernest Hemmingway, To Whom the Bell Tolls

In June 2014 my Nan was told she has terminal cancer, and was given six months. It’s now been seven. She only has a few weeks left. Every weekend I visit for a few days, and each time she’s deteriorated a little more.

She is considering each and every day from here on as a bonus. She knows it’s close, so she’s making each day count.

By spending time with the people she loves.

By doing her Arrowwords and Crosswords, with the whole family joining in to help.

With going out to town, just to be out the house, when she’s up to it.

Watching TV programmes and movies she likes.

Eating her favourite meals.

It doesn’t sound like much, but she’s doing the things she enjoys, the things she is still capable of doing.

For Nan, there is only now.

We never know what’s around the corner, when life will be snatched away from us. If you were living in the now – if you stopped thinking of your future as weeks, months, years – how would your life be different? If now is all you had, what would you change?

How would you spend your time? What would you want to be doing more of? What would you eat? Who would you want to see?

What relationships would you repair? Who would you walk away from?

Would you be at the same job? Or doing something completely different?

What would you not put off until next week, next month, next year?

What would you stop doing altogether?

I know there’s no way to wave a magic wand and change everything over night. But something popped into your mind, right? Some small change, something you’d like to do…

There is only now.

Are you making each day count?

Enjoyed this post? You can follow me here:
Bloglovin’ | Twitter | Instagram