Monday, 15 December 2014

Blogmas: 15th Dec: Christmas Movies

Apologies for the failure of blogmas but I'm in hospital waiting for my lungs to heal from the surgery I had three weeks ago. Unfortunately my lungs have become inflamed and possibly infected and I'm suffering with symptoms of a chest infection as well as pain and general unwell-ness. It's been a rough week and getting out of bed is still a huge struggle. 

Today one of my nurses has brought in Fred Clause, The Polar Express and Elf for me to watch while I'm in hospital. I've been feeling pretty down and all the nurses have been trying to cheer me up. They know me by now and they know it really isn't me to get so relentlessly sad. But to be honest and thoroughly sick of being ill. I've never felt so weak and unwell for such a long period of time. It's been three weeks since I was able to stand up without being filled with dread. I mean I'm not asking for the world. I just want to be at home and feeling reasonably okay for a significant period of time. The fact that life doesn't seem to want to give me that simple thing is really starting to wear me down. It's ten days till Christmas though. I still have time to get better and the fact I'm feeling well enough to blog is an improvement. I've not been thinking about Christmas because I'm so scared that I'm going to be unwell but now I've decided to just go with it. Better a Christmas feeling ill than no Christmas at all! Let's face it I'm going to be home for Christmas whether my doctors like it or not. I just hope I can get out of bed long enough to enjoy it. 

For this post I'm going to go through a couple of my favourite movies, which I'm going to be watching before Christmas to get me back in the Christmas mood. 

Frozen (2013)
I've stuck this in here because it's a great film to get started with when holding off till December is getting a bit too much. It's wintery but not too Christmassy that you'll ruin the magic. I love frozen. I love musicals and Disney films, and I'm also a fan of Indina Menzel and I love winter! So this film is perfect for me. I actually couldn't stop crying the first time I watched it because it was so beautiful. I had taken a little too much morphine at the time, but still. 

The Santa Clause (1994) and The Santa Clause 2 (2002)
It's just such a great idea for a film. Santa falls off a roof and a random guy ends up having to do the job of being Santa Clause. It's brilliant, funny and as Christmassy as you can get. 

A Christmas Carol (2009)
A modern film that is true to the spirit of the original book. The voices are just perfectly chosen and the animation is really exquisite. As someone who studies film, I can tell you that this is really something special. It is a little scary so not for little kids but definitely one to watch with a good sound system. 

The Polar Express (2005)
Another brilliant example of modern animation. It's a lovely, magical and imaginative story and really beautiful to watch. I really can't get over how good animation is nowadays. It feels almost more real than live action. Be prepared to fall into this magical story. 

Love Actually (2003)
I'm not usually one for sickly romance but it's Christmas so you have to make an exception. Love Actually is brilliant and with it's stellar cast there's something for everyone. It's a must watch at Christmas.

Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
My personal favourite! It's just so magical and feel good. I love the message of the film and I'm convinced that Richard Attenborough is actually Father Christmas. It's such a beautiful film, it's been my favourite since I was young and it still is. 

I've already watched Frozen and The Santa Clause but I'm saving most of these until it gets really close to Christmas. Miracle on 34th Street has to be watched on Christmas Eve. Obviously there are quite a lot more but these are the ones I couldn't do Christmas without. 

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Blogmas: 7th Dec: Decorating

I live mainly in the back room of our house, the conservatory, which we've made into a nice homely space. It's nice to be surrounded by windows rather than walls. It looks out onto our garden, which is pretty big so it doesn't feel like I'm trapped inside all the time. There's always lots of daylight and I can always see the outside world. We decided that now I'm out of hospital we're going to decorate it earlier than the rest of the house. As we get a real tree we can't put it up too early or it'll start dying before Christmas but I need some Christmas cheer so it's time to liven up the place! My Christmassy feeling has been a little dampened by my recent stay in hospital. It definitely needs rekindling with some Christmas cheer.

So I put on my first Christmas film The Santa Clause, and mum brought in all our new Christmas decorations. I attempted to help at one point but standing up didn't feel very nice so I sat on the sofa and told mum where to put it all. She'd bought me a little Christmas tree, fairy lights and decorations and I stole some of our good old decorations we usually put on the big tree. It looks really festive now and as it gets dark so early these days, it's nice to have some twinkling lights. Fairy lights are pretty posh now. We've used the same old ones for years, the ones where if a bulb goes the whole lot goes and you have to try a new bulb in all 150 plugs to figure out which one it was that blew! I secretly love doing stuff like that. I was that child who spent all day threading tiny beads onto strings just for the fun of it. There's something quite therapeutic about it. 

Now I've just got to write my Christmas cards and order all the presents and I'll be ready for Christmas! We've started getting Christmas cards through the door and I'm very excited. I only have about 6 people to send cards to so I'll have to find a way of longing out that particular activity!
Before all the hospital drama I wrote a little something for friend who's going through the same as me and blogging about it too. She posted some pre and post transplant experiences, including my experience, a couple of days ago, which are really interesting. It's certainly a good point that this festive time of giving is a great opportunity to join the organ donor list. Have a read at

Saturday, 6 December 2014


Last Friday I had an operation to fit coils in my lungs to stop a significant bleed. I won't shock you with pictures of the blood I coughed up because it looks slightly horrific and the Hollywood film industry decided a long time ago that any character who coughed up the smallest amount of blood would be dead by the end of the film so now everyone panics. They fitted 4 coils in the end and blocked off a portion of my lung, which is now very painful as the bit of lung is dying away. It's a particularly unwelcome pain as it hurts to breathe and I feel like I'm struggling with my breathing now. Partly because of the pain and partly because I feel so weak and unwell. My lungs take a long time to heal when they have been ventilated during surgery but I don't know how much of it is my body struggling to cope without the bit of lung that is now dying. The pain should pass, but whether I get all of my lung function back we'll just have to see. 

I feel like I've struggled a lot this time, even though in reality it was much better than my last general anaesthetic surgery and there was really brilliant care in the Intensive Care Unit but somehow I feel a little defeated. I think this was just one surgery too many for me this year. Five in a year is just ridiculous. I've probably spent over 3 months in hospital altogether this year and I'm getting tired of it. How much more bad luck does life want to throw at me? 

I always find the aftermath harder than the surgery itself. Coming out of hospital, although amazing and long awaited, makes me feel insecure and unsafe. It's a huge change and even though it's a good change, it unsettles me. I don't think I can really explain how I feel. I suppose it's normal to want to bury yourself away when things are going wrong and I think that's what I'm feeling. It's hard for others to understand when they can see you visibly improving. It's like your physical health and your mental health go in opposite directions. When you're too ill to think it's all so easy to cope with but the better you feel physically the more your brain realises how awful it all was and starts eating away at you. I am improving. The pain is much better and although everything feels so difficult, I am managing to walk and slowly climb the stairs and wash myself. It's only been a week, of course I don't feel back to myself yet. I'm doing really well, I just have to keep telling myself that. 

I guess you could say I feel a bit down. But I'm cheering myself up with the prospect of Christmas. Keeping busy is the best thing to do I think. I don't usually blog until this horrible feeling down phase has past because I feel under pressure to be as strong as people think I am but I really want to put this week behind me as soon as possible. It's time to cheer up and stick on some Christmas songs and movies. It's the most wonderful time of the year, after all. 

Friday, 5 December 2014

Blogmas: 5th Dec: Christmas Reads

The Christmas period is a great time to kick back with a good, easy reading book. It's December and everything must be Christmassy so here are my favourite Christmas reads.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
I've mentioned it before and it's a Classic. Every child must have this read to them on Christmas eve. Preferably a lovely old fashioned copy that is full of incredibly detailed pictures. The one I had as a child was illustrated by Douglas Gorsline but Christian Birmingham and Robert Ingpen both do some lovely, detailed modern alternatives. You might think children like cartoon pictures but all the books I loved as a child were beautifully illustrated.

Grimm Tales For Young And Old by Philip Pullman
This is a lovely collection of the classic Grimm tales, which as the title suggests is perfect for any age. The tales include some of the classics we all know and love along with many you will never have heard of. Pullman is one of my favourite children's writers. He has a wonderful gift for storytelling and it is shown perfectly through these short tales. It isn't strictly Christmassy but there are festive stories in there and I always feel like fairy tales have a sort of Christmas magic about them.

(Signed copy!)

The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson
I can't tell you how much I adore Beatrix Potter, her stories and her beautiful drawings. This new story by Emma Thompson retains the magic of the original tales in this special Christmas story full of beautiful pictures that are quite remarkably similar to Beatrix's own creations.

(Can you tell yet that my favourite module at University was Writing For Young People?)

(The Snowman (1982). Copyright Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The Snowman
Again, a classic. You can't have Christmas without the film but the book is beautiful too. I've called this "Christmas Reads" but I think I'm more impressed by artwork than anything else!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
This is probably the closest we're going to get to adult literature. This story has everything and explores both the light and shade of Christmas. Dickens is famed for brilliant characterisation and storytelling. We loved him back then and we still love him now. If you've never read a Dickens book, read this one this Christmas.

A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
If you love words, you're going to love this one. It's beyond poetic. "All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hand in the snow and bring out whatever I can find." That sentence just makes me melt. It's a beautiful read but the audiobook is lovely too so if you're pushed for time this Christmas and you love a Welsh accent this is one you can listen to. It is actually an illustrated children's book but there's no reason why anyone won't love it, and if you're Welsh, well it'd be rude not to!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Blogmas: 3rd Dec: Christmas Traditions

We all have those little festive things that we do every year without fail. We all want to hold onto the traditions of your childhood because we all know Christmas was so much better then!

The time when Christmas really begins is when Mum and I choose a Christmas tree and put it up together. We've always done it together and only when I was really small do I remember my brother and Dad helping. We're both really particular about everything. You have to have a real tree. You just can't do Christmas without the smell of pine. The baubles go on first and then all the little trinkets go on next. We have a lot of trinkets that don't all really match but they all have a little story behind them. I like my tree to have some character. We have a lot of other decorations too, candles and little nativity sets and angels. Mum always makes a wreath from some of the lower branches of the Christmas tree and we hang live mistletoe over the door. If there are spare fairy lights I'll usually put them in my room so it's all nice and festive in there too.

Since my Gran has lived out in the countryside, going Carol singing around her village has become a bit of a tradition. But obviously this year if I'm feeling unwell it might be difficult to do. I might just have to join in at the end for mulled wine and mince pies!

On the subject of mince pies, mum and I always have a tradition of making mince pies. When I was young I didn't like them so I used to make holly and star shapes from the left over pastry and put a tiny bit of mince meat on the top and then I'd get a nice festive treat without having to eat too much mince meat. I like mince pies now so we just make them but it's a fun tradition to do it together.

More recently going to the Christmas Market in Bath has become a great festive thing to do. They have lots of stalls selling homemade gifts. There's lots of food too, usually things that are a little bit different but still very festive. It's always really busy but it's a great place to get unusual presents and Bath is such a beautiful city, especially at Christmas. My boyfriend and I used to go while we were at university, my brother lives in Bath and my often often goes too so there should be a good chance of getting there this time.

As my mum's remarried we have a few new traditions to add in. Now, we always have at least three nativity scenes around the house and on Christmas Eve before we go to bed we add baby Jesus to the scene. The child in me just loves this and it's such an unusual tradition. The other thing I do every Christmas Eve as my own personal tradition is to read The Night Before Christmas. I know all the words now so it's mostly a case of reciting it and looking at the pictures but I've done it since I was old enough to have it read to me and it's definitely a firm tradition now.

When I was little my brother and I used to open our stockings in our parents' bed but now they both have new partners and we're older that would be a bit weird so we open them by the Christmas tree but always before all the presents under the tree. After presents my Gran, Grampy and Aunty come round for another round of presents and the most amazing lunch. In England our Christmas dinner is similar to American's thanksgiving meal. We eat turkey, cranberry sauce, sprouts, red cabbage, roast potatoes and parsnips, it's basically just the best roast dinner you can imagine. I know it's different in other countries. I met a Swedish girl at uni who said she had meatballs for Christmas dinner!

As I say, the last few years I've spent Boxing Day with my dad so that's a bit of a tradition now. The only year I'd planned to spend Christmas Day there I got glandular fever and ended up going on Boxing Day anyway. We usually have bubble and squeak (which is basically all the leftover potatoes and vegetables mashed up and pan fried. It's eaten with cold left over meat and pickles). It's the only time I have bubble and squeak so I always look forward to it. I open my second stocking (oh the joys of having split parents!) after lunch and then we all just chill out and chat. My other grandparents are usually there too, so I see all of my other half of my family.

And then that's Christmas gone! But we've still got nearly a month of merriment to enjoy first! I can't wait to get through my little traditions, then bring on Christmas Day! 

Monday, 1 December 2014

Blogmas: 1st Dec: Welcome to Blogmas!

I've decided that with the amount of spare time I have on my hands it would be a good idea to do Blogmas! If you don't know, Blogmas is a bloggers challenge to write a blog post for every day of December up until Christmas. Now, I'm cheating and doing every other day and I'll explain why. Day to day I'm not the most active person and half the time I just spend my day resting. I can drive but I need someone with me to push my wheelchair so I can't just go out and do something interesting whenever I like and I think if I blogged every day I'd just end up talking about how I haven't done anything and how tired I am. And that won't be very interesting. I want Blogmas to be engaging and all the posts to be Christmas themed. I'd rather do fewer posts that are good than more that are dull!

There will be 13 posts in all, the last being on Christmas Eve and I have a very special post planned for that day! Christmas is my favourite time of year so I'm excited to write about it. Updates on my life and the surgery I'm having, and will be recovering from as you read this, will go up as normal separate posts in between my Christmas series so I hope you've got some reading time on your hands this month! 

It's finally the first of December and I can officially be obsessed with Christmas. I've been trying to keep it in so far because I don't want to get too excited too early and run out of Christmas movies and Christmassy things to do. But I'm glad I waited now because what better way to cheer me up post surgery than a million Christmas movies and songs? Bring on the festivities!

I've already started ordering Christmas presents. I can't get out on my own to buy people presents so I'm doing it all online. I know what I'm getting everyone, it's just a case of ordering it all now. I've gone slightly over the top with presents this year but I figured I'm not really paying for much these days as I don't get out a lot so why not splash out at Christmas? And I think everyone deserves thanking for everything they've done for me since my health has really declined. Christmas this year means a lot to me because I feel like we all need to have a really good time, forget about heart disease for a bit and just enjoy ourselves.

Happy 1st December! I hope your festive month has got off to a better start than mine!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Here We Go Again!

Yes, I'm back in hospital! And waiting for an operation on Friday (tomorrow). I know, I'm about as unlucky as they come! It's been about 5 weeks since my last procedure. This will be my 5th operation this year and 18th in my lifetime. Certainly getting my moneys worth out of the NHS anyway.

Last Thursday I started to cough up quite a lot of blood. About 25mls every 4-6 hours. By Saturday it was getting worse so I was admitted to hospital for lots of tests. Now they've looked at my CT scan (where pictures are taken of radioactive contrast in the bloodstream) and they can see a bleed in the middle of my right lung. They're not happy to leave it and I know from experience that these things rarely go away by themselves when it's my body. Last time I had this it just kept coming back until they fixed it. So I'm booked in for Friday to have coils placed in the bleeding branches of my lungs, which will hopefully seal them off. They don't really know how many they're putting in yet. They're just going to see what they find.

It's not a particularly huge operation but because it's me they're going to have me under general anaesthetic and they have a bed booked in intensive care for when I come out. It's going to be a long operation I think, because it's really fiddly. I'm going down really early in the morning and they're hoping to have me asleep by 9am so I think they're anticipating a long one. I am usually pretty rubbish at recovering from general anaesthetic and it tends to be worse the longer the procedure. My body doesn't like starting up again when it's been effectively shut down by the anaesthetic. It takes a good few hours for me to gather the energy to open my eyes and then it's a slow process of recovery. I'm stable in medical terms but it just doesn't feel very nice. But I'll be out of action for a while.

Now this messes up my blogging plans a bit because I have a lovely Christmas series planned! I think what I'm going to do is set up the posts to publish themselves automatically for the first few days as I will most likely be too ill to deal with it. I've had the foresight to write some in advance as I have a lot of hospital appointments this month and I was worried I'd be too busy to write all the posts I'd had planned. I'll have to write like mad now to get them all done but it's not like I don't have the time on my hands. So remember to check back on the 1st and 3rd of December for the first of these as I may not be able to update you from my Facebook page when these go up but as soon as I'm able to I'll make sure I remind you all.

Have a lovely weekend, do some Black Friday shopping and get ready for the festivities!

Blogmas: Dec: The Christmas Tag. Posted posthumously

I thought this would be a good easy reading post as I'll be honest I haven't done much to blog about for the last few days. If you don't know what a tag is, it's basically just a set of questions on a theme that people answer and then invite others to answer. 

1. What's your favourite Christmas film? 
It has to be Miracle on 34th Street, the 1994 Mara Wilson and Richard Attenborough version. It's just so magical and uplifting. I am saving it for Christmas Eve! 

2. Have you ever had a White Christmas?
No, it doesn't snow much in December in England. It's snowed on my birthday quite a few times in mid February but it mostly rains this time of year!

3. Favourite Christmas song? 
Probably Fairytale of New York. I think that's the most British answer to this question. It's not the most cheery of songs but I like my music a little bit sad. As a more traditional Christmas song I'd probably go for Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas because it just reminds me of cosy nights in with hot chocolate. 

4. What's the best part of Christmas dinner?
All the little extras you don't get at any other time of year. Red cabbage, sausages wrapped in bacon, a mountain of sprouts and my mum does these amazing Parmesan roasted parsnips. Yummy! 

5. What is your favourite Christmas sweet treat?
Stollen cake! I could eat it every day but I only have it at Christmas or it'd ruin the magic. 

6. What's the best Christmas gift you've ever recieved?
I prefer to get lots of little presents but I think the year that sticks in my mind from my childhood was the year before I went to Disney World and my parents bought me almost entirely Disney themed presents. Mostly involving Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh as he was my favourite. That was a good year. I've had some amazing dolls houses and big presents too but I was too young to remember if they were birthday or Christmas presents. 

7. How are you at wrapping presents?
I'm pretty good. The trick is to cut the wrapping paper the size you actually need and not trying to fold up a huge amount of paper that then won't stick down with tape. I can do the snazzy scissor thing where you just push the blade a long the paper with no need to cut and I can curl ribbon. I'm a perfectionist so my present wrapping is definitely very neat. 

8. Do you make New Years resolutions?
No. I'm pretty determined so if I want to do something I just do it when I think of it, I don't wait for new year.

9. Do you stay in your PJs or dress up for Christmas Day? 
I don't sleep in much so I have to actually get dressed into pyjamas when I get up on Christmas morning. I open all my presents and then dress up for Christmas dinner. I usually get clothes for Christmas. I love having something new to wear on Christmas Day! 

10. Do you have a Christmas wish this year? 
Just that everyone has a lovely time and that I'm NOT in hospital! 


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