Sunday, 23 August 2015

Summer thunderstorms and a revelation

The sky is a swirling mass of greys, whites and blues with the occasional flash of lightning.

Yes. It's August and I am finally feeling settled enough to write a blog post. It's been a while. My last post was back at the start of May shortly after being told I was being let go just after my first Sherlock convention.

WARNING: It's a long post. Get a cup of tea. I talk about autism.



I've never been made redundant after being in the same place for so long, always either terminating a temping contract myself, being told I wasn't suitable in a temp role or resigning so it was a first experience. I managed a final team meal and drink on my last day which was lovely and mostly managed to keep it all together.

I have been temping since the start of June with just a Friday off before I began agency work. I am now on my third temping role and feel I might be settling in for a few months which is when things will be reviewed again.

I also went back to my GP after going to her in December of last year suggesting I might have mild autism. I felt bolder as a result of being on my medication and seemed to be in the mood to sort things out personally.

This time I spent longer talking to her and refused to budge when the inevitable "but you seem alright. I meet others with worse autism and they don't even know they're autistic" comment arose. I dug my heels in saying my sister had been diagnosed and that a lot of situations seemed to be happening which seemed to align with a classic case of Aspergers syndrome in my work life as well as my personal life. She asked me what I thought a diagnosis would bring and whether I thought it would change things. I answered that my sister seemed to have a much higher understanding of herself and had just got married. I said it had helped me to understand why sometimes we seemed to get wires crossed and be unforgiving, despite an initial period of anger with her after her diagnosis had quelled.

This seemed to work. I spoke positively about my sister and how she had adapted her life and that I was concentrating on staying in work. Sometimes mental health professionals are very sarcastic about the reason why you want a diagnosis. They sometimes think it's an excuse to go off sick from work and go on to benefits so I have been careful to keep all my conversations very work focussed. I am continually seeing examples of how autistic I am demonstrated clearly at work. How people's expectations of me are very high but I get tripped up by bullies, how I can't make small talk, how I feel in a busy office, etc.

So eventually, after six pages of A4 notes had been handwritten about me (my mother prefers to handwrite notes) as a child by my mum and after which autistic traits I had displayed strongly had been listed and handed in, I waited to see what would happen.

I received an appointment for a pre-diagnostic assessment very quickly. They seemed to have a sense of incredible urgency about them. I then attended and have been referred for a full assessment including family members. Strange for someone who doesn't really need a diagnosis, huh?

Anyway, I won't criticise the NHS but I do feel the resistance to give any kind of diagnosis other than a mental health related one is a little shocking. It's all to do with money in my view - receiving it from anti-depressant companies for mental health and having to pay for other diagnoses like autism. Well, sorry if I've cost the NHS money but Aspergers syndrome is so serious it's classed as a disability so **** you.

I thought about writing a post about how you can deal with someone with Aspergers syndrome. If I was neurotypical (someone without autism) I would love that, so here are a few tips:

1. Don't crowd someone with Asperger's. Aspie people tend to like to talk to one person at a time. I need to watch someone's face and body language intently. I can't do this with two or three people. Keeping track of a group conversation is hard. I can manage it but my word it drains me.

2. Don't shout or pop balloons or blow a whistle around an aspie. I find noise tolerable but wearing. Sudden noises are awful. I always know when someone with autistic traits has clued into the fact that I'm sensitive and wants to bully me - they make sudden loud noises. I have been bullied in this way.

3. I like anything repetitive. If we spoke about planes last time we spoke and I liked it then talk about planes again.

4. If I talk about the same subject at length then please try and cut the conversation short politely.

5. Don't be offended if I walk past you without eye contact or saying hi. Please don't think I'm rude. I sometimes don't see the point if we've already said hi or if I only saw you the previous afternoon.

6. Don't touch an aspie. Don't slap my back or place your hand on my shoulders. This has happened to me at work and it really really stressed me out so much.

There is loads of information on the National Autistic Society website. You can also donate through this website. I have had to stay on hold for two hours to speak to someone on their helpline which has changed my life a little.


I have been knitting quite a bit - I'm knitting a present for a friend and am over halfway through the purple cushion knitted with some yarn my sister spun for me for Christmas.



My blanket has been folded up since June - it's cool enough to knit small things but it's a little bit too hefty now. I will start again in September I'm sure.

Thank you for all the support in between posts. Thank you to all my new followers over on Facebook. It's been really nice to feel missed. I will hopefully decrease the distance between posts from now on.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Changes

Well it's been five weeks since my last post so I think they're speeding up a little bit! I got a three figure readership which is good considering my lack of words and pics or indeed, regularity.

There have been a few eventful things which have happened in those five weeks. At the top of the list is managing to go up to London for a Sherlock Convention. It was a brilliant day.



I thought I would feel a bit lonely and spaced out in the talks but the whole day was like a blissful dream. My medication held fast so I didn't have any problem sitting in the hall - in fact I was hugely relaxed. A very unusual experience and one I will treasure. It gives me confidence when I sit somewhere I usually panic and feel blissed out. Although of course, staring at Rupert Graves wouldn't make anyone panic! It felt like such a perk to sit amongst such an intimate audience and have him entertain us.



Apologies for the blurry pics - there are more pictures and news from the day in a more coherent form on Cumberbatchweb.

I have been so inspired by the day that I have plucked up the courage to go and see Louise Brealey (Molly in BBC Sherlock) at the Bristol Old Vic at the end of this month. I will be on my own again but I'm sure I won't feel lonely.

I have been getting a little shaky recently as I knew my contract at work was due to finish at the end of May. The team are moving offices halfway through May with me still in it but I got my notice last week. The responses I've received so far have been amazingly positive and I'm quite confident I will find something good soon. Now I have the notice and I'm job hunting I feel quite a lot better, and of course I have the Louise Brealey play to perk me up if I feel down...



I am just over halfway through the rainbow blanket and a quarter of the way through my cushion. I keep folding it because it looks so good when neat. I have used it to cover my legs and fallen asleep happily underneath it a few times.

I recently blogged about my doctor agreeing that I have mild autism but not enough to get a diagnosis. It's amazing just how much of your life it affects. I have joined the National Autistic Society and have been reading about things I didn't even imagine were linked to autism like some autistic people liking the weight of a heavy duvet or blanket at night. I don't quite understand it but I guess I'm one of those people. I'm not sure how I can alter this part of my life in summer. Any suggestions?

I have received a sum total of two writing rejections since I last blogged. I'm a bit sad that each rejection still feels like a boulder falling from a mountain while I have feet of clay. I took a few weeks off from writing, editing and sending out this time so I feel very much refreshed. My latest flash fiction story is about a trans girl and her boyfriend and I'm hoping someone somewhere will like it.

Anyway - I'll be back in a week or so (she says) to update you all with any news.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

You need rain for a rainbow

I have been busy over the two months since I last posted on this blog. I have finished half of the Cottage Blanket designed by the wonderful Attic 24.



Words cannot adequately express how much this comforts me when I sit on the sofa and find it waiting for me to begin crocheting. Through the last two months I have had many ups and downs and have been quite busy at times so the thought that this will be waiting for me when I get home or get off the computer is a very wonderful feeling indeed. I have had a lot of rejection in the last few months but that's inevitable for a writer and I am learning to be thick-skinned. Usually I need a day and then I'm ready to go again.

I have finally had three stories published through the brilliant Womentoring scheme and my ace mentor Vicki Jarrett. The three stories are in the current issue of The Next Review which you can buy for just £4.50!



Last month I attended my sister's wedding which was held at a lovely hotel in the Ribble Valley in Lancashire. The room where the ceremony was held looked out onto rolling countryside and was very romantic and happy. I had only been to one wedding before so was quite nervous and didn't know many of her friends but they are all very friendly, interesting and intelligent people so there was nothing to worry about there. I even ended up dancing until 1am. Not like me at all. Wonderful.



So this rainbow is indeed spreading some much needed cheer into my life and the lives of my loved ones!



My sister has started to spin and gave me a lovely hank of hand dyed and hand spun texel wool which has lovely flecks in it and feels nice and tweedy. I love tweedy yarn and it's really soft when knitted up. I launched into knitting a cushion without really thinking about it as I just wanted to knit with it as soon as possible. However, I think there's only enough for one side of a 42 x 42cm cushion. So I will have to think about what I will stitch on the reverse side! Isn't it knitting up beautifully though.

So a great two months overall since I last blogged. I will try and make the time to blog but I'm always tempted to use odd bits and bobs of time to write or submit stories at the moment. I will aim for once a week again though.

Happy British summertime!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

January rainbows

Well...I've well and truly had another blogging break over Christmas and the New Year. Over my two weeks of leave from work I spent a lot of time going for walks, writing, crocheting a blanket...and listening to my Mum cough!



We still managed to have a relaxing break but we didn't manage any proper days out as Mum was feeling poorly and I'm not always very motivated to go off travelling on the trains and buses by myself. So I spent a lot of time listening to beautiful music on Radio Three, Classic FM and Six Music and crocheting.



We went for a few walks and it was nice to have some sunshine on Christmas Day for once so we spent an hour or two in the morning exercising our legs before we sat down for our meal.



I spent a lot of time over the two weeks honing a collection of six stories ready for submission to a formal year-long mentoring scheme which involves two free week-long Arvon writing residentials. I also had to write a one thousand word statement and a page of biography from scratch to go with them. I then had to print four copies of everything. I managed it but it was the most effort I've put into any writing submission since my dissertation ten years ago at university. It was a steep learning curve as I had submitted the stories to my current mentor who provided brilliant and very useful feedback so I felt encouraged to carry on editing.



My Attic 24 blanket was amazing to crochet. After I had got the hang of the simple pattern and I had completed the first two rows I was away and am loving every minute of crocheting it. I'm getting on better with a simple crochet project after work. It helps that it's split into two row segments so I have a limit if I don't want to do much.



Look at all those ends! Like life in general - ends need threading up and securing carefully. I'm sure I'll find them not too bad at the moment as my head is clearer since I went on medication. It may not be for everyone, or a long-term fix due to side effects which tend to irritate after a year (for me personally) but for now it's helping me swing along nicely while I have some uncertainty in my life. It's helped my concentration which has always been an issue - perhaps you can tell from this blog post that I have been able to 'settle' to projects better recently.

I'm having a weekend all to myself at the moment - my Mum is away with my sister at Centre Parcs in a spa as a pre-wedding treat so I have plenty of time to write and crochet. I hope you're having a lovely weekend wherever you are.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Cycling and a spot of crochet...

I've been feeling a bit snuffly as a result of fighting off a bug this week so have given myself plenty of crochet time next to my new bluetooth radio which I have told everyone about three times over at least.



I treated myself a few weeks ago to this lovely blanket kit from Wool Warehouse designed by the lovely Lucy from the Attic 24 blog. Lucy has been amazing to read - I found her a couple of months ago and she's really inspired me to forge ahead with colourful crochet. I'm opening this kit on Christmas day (or maybe when I come off work for two weeks from the 20th December!).

We have the Christmas decorations up now and I have finally finished my not-very-taxing task of buying three presents (!), so I am feeling a bit more festive. I plucked up the courage to attend a lunch with some collegues I hadn't met before on Friday which was nice. The three course Thai meal was delicious and it polished off the week nicely. This week I am having another meal through work which will be something to look forward to. As an introvert with a depressive tendency (!) I do find it hard and can come across as aloof and unfriendly but if people are nice and put me at ease I'm usually fairly OK.



I have reached a grand total of 32 crocheted squares for my pink blanket. I was going to branch out into other colours but I just love the two pinks together so have just kept it pink and white. I think some of the squares are a bit skewed at the moment and will need to be blocked before I crochet them together but overall I'm pleased with how pleasurable I'm finding crocheting the same square over and over again.



Last Sunday I went for one of my bike rides along the canal with my mum and it was beautifully sunny. Mum and I have been having lots of discussions about autism lately as a member of my family has recently been diagnosed with Aspergers. I was unsure whether to forge ahead for a diagnosis as my doctor thinks I am only just on the autistic spectrum, obviously thinking my difficulties in life stem from other medical conditions. I am quite prepared to save up and go private to achieve a diagnosis if I can't get one through the NHS as I do feel it affects my life and you are entitled to quite a bit of help and support once diagnosed.

On a happier note I hope you all have a wonderful week of present buying and house decorating. I love this time of year and am looking forward to having two weeks of sleep in's and doing whatever I fancy...

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Lazy days...

I had such a lovely day on Sunday...



Finally getting to wear my lovely knitted hat which I finished earlier in the year...



Knitting my Stephen West shawl out of Rowan Felted Tweed DK...



Celebrating Advent Sunday and looking forward to opening the first window on the house (there are now three open of course!)



A walk through the park...



Playing with my camera and sitting thinking and jotting in my notepad on my iPod...



Then finally a lovely walk home watching the sky turn from blue...to pink...to black...

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Book Review: Crochet Your Christmas Baubles

I was delighted to be asked to partake in another blog hop for Stitch Craft Create. Their new book 'Crochet your Christmas Baubles: 25 Christmas decorations to make' is such a cute easy-to-make gem.



Of course now is the time you should be digging around in your stash for red, white and brown acrylic or cotton to crochet with for Christmas and this book is your perfect companion. If you're anything like me you'll relish the chance to have some handmade decorations on your tree with a bit of character for a break from all those mass produced stars and glittery balls.



I had a go at making the mushroom myself from the ebook I was sent to review and this is the result! I haven't made up many small dolls or figures in the last year so I was a bit out of practice and just finished him this morning but I am quite chuffed with him. The pattern was awesome to follow and I didn't have any problems understanding it - I just lacked patience which of course increases the more you make up.



The pictures were very clear and the patterns are great. It's so simple to make the baubles. If you are stuck for time this is great for you.



The basic crochet stitches are outlined at the back of the book for you to learn if you don't have any experience of crochet.



The ebook is available to download at the Stitch Craft Create website.

You can also check out their Craft eBooks and Downloads page and their Handmade Christmas page.

You can see the other blogs participating in the blog hop.

Share a picture of your own handmade Christmas decoration with the lovely people at Stitch Craft Create and you could win £100! Just add your photo to their share board or use the hashtag #SCCXmas on Twitter or Instagram.

Thanks to Rosie and the team at Stitch Craft Create for sending me this lovely ebook and inspiring me!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness...

Well, it's been three weeks since I blogged. A few things have happened.



Frankenstein quote by NoodleBookArt from Scotland on Etsy

This is, appropriately, a quotation from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I saw the NT Live Encore of the play with Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch on Thursday evening. The evening didn't start well (we ate out and didn't enjoy it) but as soon as the play got going I was transported into the story and Jonny Lee Miller's stunning performance. It throws up lots of moral and ethical questions as I'm sure you know, and it has been called the first science fiction novel to be published. I'm really enjoying seeing the NT Live productions and have seen Skylight with Bill Nighy and A streetcar Named Desire with Gillian Anderson. They have all completely blown me away and left me wanting more London theatre.

I watched 'Bright Star' this morning which is a film about the poet Keats and his lover. She was an avid fashion designer and seamstress so there was much to love about that!

About ten days ago I had my application to the 'Womentoring' project accepted. I spent quite a few hours on my submission and am so delighted and overjoyed that I found the confidence to even apply. I am now being mentored for a short while by a professional female writer for free so that's delightful news.

In other nice news - local gift shop and art gallery 'Ginger Fig' have asked me to help them create a window in the shop on the theme of 'Wish you were here'. So I have been looking into patterns for that.



I am still avidly reading as I have found my concentration has improved considerably since taking my medication. All I want to do sometimes is just read. It's probably because I attempted a couple of complicated (for me) lace knitted shawls which do require me not to be tired which means they rarely get knitted at the moment. As a result I am crocheting more and hope to show you some finished projects soon. I have just got into reading 'Attic 24' believe it or not. I always meant to start reading her blog but read too many blogs. I have recently had a clear out and she is on my new list! Yay!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Handmade on Etsy!

Here are some beautiful handmade items I've found recently on Etsy:



Wild Flower Hand Dyed Yarn by Spin City UK in London, UK.



Pair of Birdhouse Storage Baskets by Cornlet in Cornwall, UK.



Crochet Pattern - Owl Basket by CrochetEverAfter in the US.



Mother of the Groom mug by SweetWilliamLondon in London, UK.

I've just bought the owl basket pattern and can't wait to whip it up for the living room to tidy all my clutter, sorry craft and knitting!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Book Review: Fun of the Fair by Melanie McNeice

'Fun of the Fair' is a bright delightful book full of colour and fun.



It contains five fabric soft toy projects for children and/or adults. There's a Pony, an Elephant, a Lion, Seals, and some Monkeys too.



The patterns are at the end of the book and can be printed out full size if you use the ebook or photocopied simply if using the hard copy. They look super easy to use. There is two pages of stitching advice such as how to do satin stitch and a page full of supplier information.



I was really impressed by the look and design of this book - it's rainbow colours will appeal to children and those who are looking for something super-cute and funky to make.



Thanks once again to Rosie Johns at Stitch Craft Create for sending me this lovely book to review. Fun of the Fair is available now to buy in hard copy or ebook on the Stitch Craft Create website.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Back from a blogging break

Other bloggers don't shy away from taking a break over the summer. Julie from Little Cotton Rabbits has done this in the past, although she has a better excuse than I do with young children finishing school every July.



I wasn't planning to take time out but my blogging mojo left me during the hot summer months when the temperature was often 25-27 degrees. I just about coped with full time work but by the evening I was simply exhausted. On top of this I was stressing about my driving theory test and desperately revising*. This isn't the first time I've tried to pass the driving obstacle course, previously having fallen off the oiled slide a few times, but I'm feeling reasonably confident now I've visited the doctor, which I probably needed to do anyway due to ongoing issues which flared over the summer. Having a female driving instructor who I can talk freely and get on with has helped too**.

Crafting has been keeping me going through all this and overall I'm feeling much more relaxed when doing it. I'm also able to switch off more during my leisure time which I had noticed I wasn't doing. When I begin crafting or reading I'm fully relaxed and not drifting off into a shopping list in my head or worrying about whether I have done my laundry. I also feel like I'm cocooned from the world when walking around which is strange, and some people wouldn't like it, but for me this is extremely freeing.

I've been crocheting some granny squares for what I hope will be a king size blanket for my bed. I've done about eight so far so there's quite a way to go, but I figured I could stop at a lap blanket size and finish if it was going on too long.

I'm using cascade 220 which is really nice to crochet with and the choice of colours is amazing. I'm paying for it bit-by-bit to spread the cost.

It's nice to be back. I hope you had a lovely summer!

*I passed!
**In the UK you have to pass a theory test which consists of two sections - one where you answer questions about the rules of the road, road signs, etc. The other half is a series of video clips in which you have to react quickly to hazards, such as people pulling suddenly out of junctions. Then you are permitted to take the practical which is a 40 minute assessment of how you drive and control the car.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Book Review: Sew Cute to Cuddle by Mariska Vos-Bolman

I was sent this book to review via email and what a present I have received!



'Sew Cute to Cuddle' lives up to its name. It's so cute and sweet it positively drips honey from every page. The colours and designs leap off the pages of the book.



The fabrics used for the toys are not specified but are kept vague. 'Red cotton fabric' is specified instead of being specific about which designer she has used for the toys but that keeps it open and you could easily find similar. I have found whenever a new book comes out which specifies fabric this opens up the possibility of the range being discontinued and therefore dating the book. It also puts people off who may want to stick to a budget.



A few of the toys need extra bits and bobs like fusible webbing or steel balls to shape them but most of them just need cotton, felt and stuffing. Oh, and of course thread to sew them. They look very easy for someone new to sewing and you could enlarge the patterns to make the toys larger if you find small toys too fiddly.



The step-by-step instructions are very easy to follow. There are pictures and written instructions so you won't get lost if you don't understand the writing as there will always be the picture to refer to. Of course the beauty of an ebook on your computer means you can directly print them out instead of turning the book upside down onto your photocopier and you can enlarge them more easily.



Overall I would say this is a very accessible, cute and lively book which would be great for kids or adults alike. The toys are exceptional and I am sorry to say I have not had the time to make a toy, but they are definitely on my 'to make' list for when I want a break from crochet and knitting!

Sew Cute to Cuddle is available now from the team at Stitch Craft Create.

This book was sent to me to review after a speculative email offer from Stitch Craft Create. Many thanks to Rosie at Stitch Craft Create.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Book Review: Fairytale Knits by Katharina Ritter

'Fairytale Knits' by Katharina Ritter was published in 2011 and is a smouldering dream-like collection of fairytale-inspired knitwear for women and children.



There are twenty designs - all of which are themed on fairytales. Each pattern is based on a character or a story. The cover design features fingerless gloves and is based on 'Sleeping Beauty'.



One of the distinctive features of this book is that the patterns do not specify the yarn to be used apart from its weight and whether it is cotton, wool, etc. Most of the patterns only have two clothing sizes (10-12 and 14-16 for example) so there is not much use getting this book if you are unusually small or above a size 16 unless you are advanced enough to alter the pattern to fit you.



However there are five children's patterns and eight hats, bags and mittens to knit so the majority of the book is not comprised of women's clothes.



The photography in this book is stunning and magical. I loved the Tom Thumb children's sweater and the Rapunzel knitted dress. The charts and blocking diagrams are very clear. There is no advice on how to knit from scratch in this book so I would recommend it as an advanced beginner collection.



'Fairytale Knits' by Katharina Ritter is published by Search Press and you can purchase it from their shop.

Thank you to Search Press who sent me this book to review at my request.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Book Review: Christmas Cross-stitch Treasures by Joan Elliott

Yes - I know it's July and the temperature is about to hit 30 degrees later this week, but if you want one of the larger cross stitch pieces from this book finished in time for Christmas you're going to have to start around now (although there are smaller patterns too!)



This is a truly delightful book full of beautiful timeless classic cross stitch designs. There are 18 patterns in total and the level of detail in each one is amazing.



At the back of the book there are three A4 pages full of advice on how to start to stitch - this includes working from charted designs, stitching with beads, french knots and finishing up. The issue of framing your work while stitching isn't covered. This isn't essential but there is a wide choice of frames, particularly at the larger end of the scale which may have been helpfully explained here since the projects are very big and may be cumbersome to hold. However these instructions are enough to get you started and don't waste space for those who are already in-the-know.



Eight of the 18 designs are large and will occupy your hands for a few months or weeks - dependent on how busy or experienced you are. 'The Snow Princess' stood out as particularly special in my view (pictured above). Usually there are a couple of patterns I don't like but I could imagine myself stitching all these designs.

The charts are very clearly printed and the numbered threads are given for Anchor and DMC - something you don't always get with a cross stitch book. This enables you to easily shop for a variety of threads if you are on a budget. Joan also has worked out how large each design will be if you stitch on 11, 14, 16, 18, 25, 28 and 32 count aida.

This book was sent to me at my request by Search Press. Please buy 'Christmas Cross-stitch Treasures' by Joan Elliott from Search Press. Thanks to Search Press for sending me this book to review and for generously linking to my blog.
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