Book Review x 2

There’s a reason I’m reviewing these books together, eagle eyed readers of the first book will hopefully know why. 

Love, Nina – Nina Stibbe 

Recently turned into a Friday evening comedy by the Beeb, Stibbe’s memoir of her time as a nanny in the late 70s/early 80s, told through the letters she wrote to her sister Vic, back home in Leicestershire, from literary London, are very funny. Several well known literary figures frequent number 55 and live in the street, including Alan Bennett, who joins the household for dinner most days. 

Stibbe doesn’t know anything about being a nanny but neither her employer or charges seem that bothered, and in fact S&W (as she calls the boys she looks after) seem to relish her inexperience. She’s quite a quirky type, with a habit of not wearing shoes, but so it seems are the people around her. 

I enjoyed this, definitely more than the TV version – where Bennett is replaced with a random grouch called Malcolm. It is funny, touching and warm. 

The Lady in the Van – Alan Bennett

This slim volume contains Bennett’s record of the years Mrs Shepherd lived in a dirty van on his driveway. Recently made into a film with Maggie Smith, who also played the role on stage, it’s also humorous and Mrs S is eccentric to say the least. 

The link is a single reference made to Bennett’s driveway occupant in Love, Nina, where she tells her sister that Bennett has the only drive in the street but it’s occupied. 

Both offer a slice of London life among the literati during the reign of Mrs Thatcher, and I think, compliment each other quite nicely. 

Have you read either of these books? What did you think? Let me know in the comments. 


Anxiety takes the night watch

It’s 1am, I have to be up in a few hours, I can’t sleep. Anxiety is having a field day in my tired but still switched on brain.

Anxiety says, what about those debts you can’t pay, or those job interviews you’ll probably screw up, or the flat you haven’t cleaned, hmmm, let’s dig up several years of stuff that you still don’t know how to resolve, let’s go over all of those things till you want to scream.


#MyPillStory PCOS & the Pill

On Twitter there’s a thread sharing stories about women’s experiences on the pill, under the hashtag #MyPillStory.

Here’s mine.

I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) when I was 16, joy. It’s a wretched condition with horrid, embarrassing and sometimes painful side effects, coupled with colitis, it’s a complete arse.

Basically my body rejected the concept of procreation early on, and cysts form in clusters on my ovaries, stopping them from working. I had periods normally for two years, that then just stopped.

It took ages for the doctor to decide what was wrong with me. Symptoms include sudden weight gain, loss of periods, excess facial and body hair (just what every teenage girl needs), stomach pains.

There is however only one thing worse than having to sit in the waiting room of the maternity building at the hospital aged 16, with a full bladder, waiting for the ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis, being silently judged by a bunch of old women who think you’re pregnant.

That’s being trapped in the lift in the maternity building aged 16, which only goes up to the birthing suites and the screaming, then back to the floor you came from, when you’re desperate for a wee, a creepy male gynaecologist asked you if you were “a good girl” in your appointment and you have to get the bus home because your mum had a meeting and skipped the appointment.

My mum is a nurse and midwife, at that point I needed her to decode the doctor jargon for me. Mostly because being told that the condition you’ve just been diagnosed with could potentially kill you, tends to stop your brain from attempting to decipher anything else.

There seem to be two main ways of treating it – regular ultrasound scans and finger crossing, or hormones in the form of the Pill.

Many women take various contraceptive pills to prevent pregnancy, as my uterus wouldn’t bother with that left to its own devices (without extra oestrogen my periods stop, the cysts return and I risk one bursting and at the very worst, killing me), I take it to treat a syndrome that affects thousands of women.

Everyone’s PCOS is unique, because we’re all unique, and this is only what I know from my experience.

I have tried four or five different pills, with varying results.

Dianette – no longer prescribed for PCOS according to my GP, it gave me crippling period pain and horrific mood swings. Stopped taking it after a particularly bad day.

Progesterone only – you don’t have periods on this type of pill and take it continuously. Not really recommended as PCOS sufferers require oestrogen which this doesn’t contain. Gave me recurrent thrush which drove me crazy.

Microgynon – a really popular brand, my best friend was taking this one and seemed to be doing well, so I asked my Dr for it. Period pain worse than ever, couldn’t walk for crying and curling up.

Yasmin – my current pill pal. So far, three years into taking it, no horrid side effects. I do still get really bad cramps but at least I can stagger around. Does interfere with my gut issues, which is fun, but out of the mix this has been the best for me.

Every woman is different, and every experience unique. For more stories check out the hashtag and maybe share your own experiences.


National Poetry Day

Cherry blossoms - via Twitter

Here’s one of my favourite poems for National Poetry Day.

The Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths 
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W. B. Yeats



It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…


I live with Christmas’ number two fan (his mum is no. 1) and this weekend we put the tree up and made our little flat all festive.


We also discovered that rats are scared of the sound of Michael Buble singing (or maybe it’s when trees suddenly grow inside the house). They quite like the sound of Santa Paws and extra treats.


We also wrote cards and wrapped presents to the sound of a gospel choir singing Christmas carols and discussed which films we will watch to get into the spirit.


We’ve started our own little traditions and have ornaments that mean something to us, like the way all the ones on my parents’ tree have meaning and a story.


I apologise in advance to whoever gets the cards I wrote last, my handwriting can only keep it together for so long before becoming unintelligible.


We have a mix of traditional and contemporary decorations. There’s a Nativity scene and a herd of reindeer, Santas and angels. We’ve even got our first few cards up.


Over the last few years I’ve got quite good at snagging cards and wrapping paper in January’s sales so we’re stocked up well in advance, not scrambling about trying to grab the last pack of cards or roll of paper.


I have a weird relationship with Christmas, growing up it was all about the Sunday School presentation and getting a decent looking Christingle orange and not having my hair set alight by my friend’s little brother (small boys and lit candles are not a good mix).


Presents were not ostentatious or in their multitudes, we had nice things but my mum the ex-hippy doesn’t really do commercialization and she’s religious.


My best memories are of Christmas days at my grandparents, with Grandad’s gag gifts while dressed as Santa and my Nan’s mostly sherry trifle. My cousins bickering over the post lunch TV selection, my dad sleeping off the two types of potatoes and the washing up being done in shifts.




Domestic Abuse can kiss my arse…

When you read this I will be doing my 10k for Refuge UK – the largest domestic abuse charity in the UK. They help women and children fleeing abusive homes by providing them a safe place to stay and helping them access legal support and put their abuser away.

My number

Sadly this is something that exists in all stratas of society, regardless of wealth, privilege and education. But because it goes on behind closed doors we are often oblivious to it. 1 in 4 women in the UK will experience some form of domestic abuse – whether it’s physical, mental, financial or sexual. That’s a staggering number. Then there are children who suffer a secondary, equally harmful abuse, despite what a lot of people seem to think, children see and hear everything – imagine the effect this must have.


Yes, men can be victims too, and it happens in same sex relationships as well as opposite sex ones. But women are overwhelmingly the victims.

Having worked with victims of crime for the last 6 years, I have seen first hand how awful this can be. From the client who cried in our office for two hours because she was too scared to go home, to the story a women’s aid worker told me of the husband who threw his naked wife onto the street, telling her that she could leave but take nothing that belonged to him and as she hasn’t worked (he hadn’t let her) even her clothes (and by his logic) children belonged to him. These women need help to be safe to be free of the terrifying control their abusers have.

So if you would like to sponsor me – all the money goes to Refuge, I just get sore feet and blisters, please click here.