For the Love of Books…

Peter Kay

My Peter Kay book – goes down well with a cup of tea

(Photograph by Sam Rose)

Every so often I come across someone that for whatever reason, makes a part of my day worthwhile and today was one of those days.

My husband was off today so we had been making the most of our day off and went shopping.  I had been planning on getting buying a Kindle for quite some time and today we went in to one shop to have a look as I had seen them advertised there for $110.

As we went to the section where the Kindles were, a young guy asked if he could help us, he looked a bit geeky and had a huge friendly grin and gave us a warm welcome.

‘Can you help me with buying a Kindle please?’ I smiled at him, it was hard not to you see – smile at him, he just radiated something that I could not quite put my finger on.

‘I love actual books personally and have a huge collection’ He said in a fretful voice to nobody in particular – almost as though each Kindle he sold would destroy the lives of the precious paperbacks (who knows, that might happen).

I laughed and agreed that there is nothing like holding a book in your hands, the touch and the smell and losing yourself in the work that someone else has poured their heart, life, soul and imagination in to.

‘You like books too?’ He gasped as though he had come across the key to the ‘secret club’ and then checking to see that no-one was watching, he pulled his phone from his pocket and showed me a picture of his home ‘library’ which I will have to admit, was bloody impressive.

We both stood there and admired the pictures of books neatly organised in Author order, standing to attention waiting for someone to grab them off the shelf and enter their secret world.

‘My God that is awesome, you have heaps of them’ I gasped enviably and felt quite embarrassed at my somewhat poor in comparison pile of books on my bookshelf.

‘And that is just on my book case, you haven’t seen what is on my floor’ He nodded proudly causing my husband to laugh. It was like I had unlocked the key to something but I don’t quite know what, because this guy suddenly became animated and had stepped out of his sales assistant role.

I told him how cheap it is to order second hand books from Amazon UK and even with shipping, still beats the books in the charity shops and how I am currently reading a book on criminal psychology.

‘Oh my God I LOVE stuff like that’ he said looking like he was going to burst and then went on to tell me he loves to imagine what life would be like living centuries ago as in some of the books he has read.

‘I have a book about Jack the Ripper – I haven’t read it yet though.  I would have loved to have taken a peak into those times’ I told him, he nodded happily in agreement.

I explained to him that Facebook has destroyed my ability to focus and read a book and how I was trying to cut down on how much time I spend on social media.

‘I don’t have Facebook or social media’ He said firmly.  I will admit to staring at him as though he had two heads – or even three, I mean NO social media????

He went on to say that for every hour he could spend on Facebook he could be learning something constructive, like last week he learned to make excellent coffee and next week he would learn something else so why waste all that time on Facebook when he could be doing things to better himself? He had a good point, a very good point.

I mentioned that I am writing a book and was on the second draft, I didn’t dare tell him what it was about though – that would just be embarrassing, I mean how can you describe a world of talking dogs that have adult social lives and drink dog beer?  That takes a special person to understand that not to mention a certain sense of humour to ‘get it’.

Meanwhile customers were asking us if we could move as we were blocking their way and I still didn’t have my Kindle – but that didn’t matter because this guy was far more interesting than any Kindle I could have bought or any book I could have read.

‘I wish that I could find a book club local to me’ I said wistfully.  I secretly wondered if he was in a book club of some sort, but saying; that he had so many books that he could probably run his own book club and I most certainly would have liked to become a member of it as well.

Never have I seen someone so young have such a passion for books and reading.  All I will say is that wherever that guy will end up working, I hope it is doing something that makes his face light up like it did today.

After searching in various places, he told us that the Kindle we wanted was sold out and then offered to knock some money off the next (more expensive) model (with a back light which I don’t need – or perhaps I do as my eyesight is crap).

I didn’t take him up on the offer but we thanked him for his help and went somewhere else where it was on sale for $90 and I managed to get a protective case for $24 which was a bargain and you can’t beat a good bargain.

My books are now all downloaded on to my Kindle which is in its new case and is charging in the bedroom and is almost good to go. It takes a bit of getting used to not having a back light but as each time I read a book on my phone I end up on Facebook or chatting on my phone which I am trying to cut down on, that can only be a good thing.

But how glad I was to have met someone like him, a young guy (student?) and obviously very creative. To witness someone become so passionate and animated about something was love was comparable to taking a brief step into their world.

When my book is published I shall go back to the store and drop him off a copy, he may read it, he may not but just to have a place on that book shelf of his would be quite a privilege.

As for my Kindle, well it is nice and all that and modern technology has allowed me to store hundreds of books on to one device which I can carry with me without the weight of actual books.

But if I am honest, if I am really honest, there is nothing like the beautifully designed cover of an actual book, with the promise of a whole new world inside it where the characters are waiting to show you what is happening once you turn that first page.

I love books, the smell of them, the feel of them and especially how something so small can be so powerful to the imagination.

Whether or not Kindle will eventually replace actual books remains to be seen but as long as there are people like the sales assistant I met today, there will always be a secret library somewhere in the world.

Samantha Rose (C) Copyright May 2017

Quite Simply – Menopause

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Just because the sun sets on one stage in our lives, it will always rise in another

(Photograph by Sam Rose)

There, I have said it – the very word that many women deny all involvement with or are embarrassed to even say, preferring the words ‘I am at that time of life’ or ‘a lady of a certain age’ but very few will say ‘Hey sweetie, I am in the menopause – let’s have an ovary party and celebrate the retirement of my reproductive organs’

I wonder if there is there an element of embarrassment associated with this time of a woman’s life?  Has society got some unwritten rule that it should not be discussed and to do so is like admitting that you are on the slippery slope down to old age, incontinence, big knickers and genitals like Wallace and Gromit’s mouth (letter box).

I recall once having a discussion about menopause (you know, just women’s talk) with a lady who I shall refer to as ‘Ethel’ in her mid 50s and she said to me in a guarded voice ‘Oh no, I am not there yet, nowhere near it in fact – years away’, then she nodded several times for good measure and self reassurance.

It was said with such ferocity and passion that I could imagine her as an 80 year old lady in a nursing home claiming that her ovaries still have the fertility capability of a nubile 20 year old while saying ‘Still a long way off yet, no menopause for me yet dear’.

Or perhaps when she has passed on, it will be on her grave stone ‘Ethel, died aged 100 years old but by God her ovaries went to the grave good as new’

Tales of Horror…

I am not going to lie though, the stories that I have heard about menopause have been pretty scary.  Things like light bladder weakness (LBL) and peeing yourself if you cough, laugh or don’t get to a toilet straight away are somewhat alarming.

Have you seen adverts showing pads for LBL that omit a pleasant perfumed odour if you ‘leak’, well who in the name of God invented those?  Imagine people get to recognise the perfume that is secreted on these pads and the minute they smell it, they point at you and yell ‘Oh my god, she has pissed herself!’  You may as well put a high viz vest on saying ‘LBL’.

Claims that pelvic floor exercises are next to Godliness obviously have some truth in it and up until now I have never paid much attention to it and why would I?  Clenching myself for counts of ten at bus stops have never been on my agenda, mind you I never get the bus so I suppose I could do it in Coles supermarket with the end result being a pelvic floor you could crack coconuts with.  Now that is something to aim for (cracking coconuts I mean and not urinating yourself).

Hot flushes, mood swings, weight gain – come on ladies, we know the score and have read all about the symptoms.  We have all heard about the Pandoras box of hormones that Mother Nature chucks at us when our time of life is nearing so let’s talk about it and those that don’t like it can turn around and put their fingers in their ears the way they do when Trump gives a speech or poverty adverts come on TV.

The Puzzle that is my Body

If you have read my previous blogs you will know that I have an auto immune disease and adrenal insufficiency.  My fight or flight hormones are not as they should be and sometimes I think that my hormones are having a party and I am not invited but that’s adrenals for you, they are a bit naughty like that.

Anyway, the other month I had my hormones checked for menopause because at 49 years old, surely it has to be on the way, I mean really it must.  My last test was negative and I was in the ‘Who me? I am nowhere near it, years away club’ because at that time I wasn’t anywhere near it and I wasn’t in that famous Egyptian river of ‘denial’ either – I still had the hormones of a non menopausal woman.

But this time I went to get my results from my doctor and I sat patiently waiting for her to read them to me.

She frowned at the results and said ‘You are in Peri-menopause, have you noticed any symptoms?’

Feeling a mixture of shock and ‘where the fuck has my youth gone?’ plus a good measure of happiness and ‘Yee ha, does this mean I am a grown up?’, I told her that no, I hadn’t had any symptoms and I certainly wasn’t peeing myself when I coughed/sneezed or sweating like joint of gammon in a butchers window.

‘Well you are there, your results show you are definitely in it (Peri-menopause)’. She confirmed and then as quickly as you like, she changed the subject on to something else leaving me wondering where my certificate of congratulations was.

Congratulations – I think….

After my consultation, I decided that after that news I should celebrate with a bacon roll and a lovely healthy can of coke plus a bag of chocolate covered peanuts (yes I know, crap food and all that stuff – not one gram of toss was given that day about that).

Nothing can prepare you for how you might feel for being told you are starting menopause.  It’s a normal healthy part of being a woman – even if the symptoms can be awful.  Suddenly you have left the ‘No not me, I’ve got years ahead of me yet’ club, and you have entered the ‘Shit, it’s actually happening’ club.

Whilst munching on my bacon roll, I digested the news and wondered how in the name of fluffy kittens did I not know such a significant process was taking place in my body? I mean really, how. did. I. not. know?

I had plans in my mind that when it happened, I would be greeted with some hot flushes and night sweats that would take the top off my head and blow steam out of my ears and nose while my face went bright red and hot enough to fry an egg on.

I had plans that I would be on the phone to my sister discussing my hot flushes and minge problems in true girly fashion and had I been living in the UK, we could have done that over a glass of wine or three and chocolate coated peanuts.  There are baby showers, hens parties so why not menopause parties, we could have a cake in the shape of a lady-garden and everyone could bless it or something.

And really, why should it not be celebrated when we have gone through so much to get that title of ‘Peri-menopausal’?

Because I actually believe that it should come with a ‘certificate of achievement’ and a trophy to make up for the years of periods, period pain, PMS, plus the vast amount of money spent on sanitary protection and painkillers, not to mention the hassles of birth control and a week of hating anything with penis.

I had plans that I would have sensible and respectable chats with other women at the same stage of life as myself, we could discuss and compare symptoms over a Chai Latte and a custard cream biscuit.  But most of all I had plans that I would know that it was happening, like a gentle tap on the shoulder and the ‘Menopause Fairy’ saying ‘Samantha, it is time – welcome to Peri-Menopause, take my hand and I shall show you the way’.

But no, not even a ‘Catch ya later flappy vag, Estrogen is now leaving the building! Hope you enjoyed the ovarian cyst we gave you last year bitch, enjoy the hot flushes when they arrive and god bless your lady garden because it’s sure gonna need it!’  Nothing, not a thing, no warning – I mean how disrespectful!

It was like some secret hormonal party was taking place in my body and until the doctor told me, I had not been privy to any part of it.  Any hopes that I had of that magical moment of realising something different was happening to me, had been cruelly dashed because I genuinely did not have a clue.

In fact I reckon my ovaries have blindfolded me in the night, kidnapped me and let me out in planet menopause wondering where the hell I am and how did I get there – like Back to the Future with Marty McFly but no chance of turning the clock back.

It was with some elation that I drove back to work that morning, once it had sunk in that is.  Because my body cannot do anything normally, I can’t get coughs or colds because of my overactive immune system.  Even my periods have never really been normal and only lasted 3 or 4 days if that and sometimes they never rocked up at all but then again, adrenal insufficiency can play a nice game of ‘hide and seek’ with your menstrual cycle so I have discovered.

So this news was actually very good to hear because for the first time in a long time, I was normal and that actually feels quite good.

On the way back to the office I sat waiting at the traffic lights in my car, blasting out ‘Rebel Yell’ and feeling very ‘rock chick’. I scoffed the rest of those damned chocolate peanuts like a starving person and rebelliously took swigs of coke from the bottle while waiting for the green light.  It was at that moment that I decided that I was more than entitled to my very own mid life crisis, but what form that will take remains to be seen as I am still planning that one.

At home

‘How did your appointment go?’ My husband asked me when I got home from work.

‘Great, I have started menopause!’ I beamed at him and then quite suddenly felt like a grown up for saying it out loud – did this mean I had to start acting like one?

‘Since when?’ husband asked looking surprised.

‘Doctor said judging by my hormone results it must have been a while, so I don’t know’ I shrugged my shoulders and poured myself a glass of wine.

‘How come you didn’t know? I thought all women knew this stuff?’ he asked.

‘I don’t know but I plan to call my sisters and discuss my hot flushes with them and talk about menopause symptoms’ I told him and then gulped my wine down rather too quickly because I was still thirsty from the bacon roll and the chocolate peanuts.

‘But you haven’t had any hot flushes or symptoms’ my husband started to say.

‘They are coming, I don’t know when but I have heard most women get them and I should think mine are on their way and then I will blow steam out of my ears and nose’ I said knowingly.  Like I would know, my hormones never tell me anything the bastards – but that is how I imagine it to be like and I am sure it will be.

Later that night

I stared at my reflection in the mirror from different angles wondering if I had changed, surely something like this happening means that you notice changes.  Shouldn’t the lady-garden suddenly look like a wizened prune or something, or grow a grey goatee beard just like Billy Connolly’s?

Or would it wear a pair of horn-rimmed old ladies spectacles and look at me with a newly acquired look of disapproval if I didn’t act my age.  But no, I still looked the same and there was no grey goatee panty beard, no horn rimmed glasses and no disapproving looks -nothing at all.

Conclusion

Well now I am officially in the Peri-menopause club, I shall at some point be discussing the hot flushes (when they start) with my sisters over the phone with a glass of wine and lets not forget those chocolate peanuts because I can wholly recommend stuffing a bag of those babies down in celebration when you get this kind of news.

How do I feel? I feel kind of mature, a bit like a grown up that has risen above any childish antics.  I have a kind of peaceful serenity about me to the point I may go and start listening to Cliff Richard and bake muffins (and if you believe that, you believe anything!)

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go and work on the book that I am writing about dogs that talk, do childish things and have social lives.

Peri-menopause – now wearing that badge and totally owning it.

Samantha Rose (C) Copyright October 2016

Useful Links

Menopause Support

Red Hot Mamas

Cliff Richard songs – in a crisis only Cliff will do

Chocolate covered peanuts – your life saver

God love Billy Connolly

 

 

What’s around your corner – ‘bubbles, baths and candles’


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My Shower – the place to warm my hands up!

A year ago I was living in a tatty little duplex – 3 bedroom house.  An old building in very poor repair and in dire need of decorating, renovating and modernization, however it was our home and we were lucky to have it even if we couldn’t afford to patch it up.

The house had a shower in it which is fine, but I hated that shower with a passion.  As you can see from the photo, it was old, had tiles comparable to that of ones used in the school showers at my old school and it had that horrible frosty shower glass with wire in it and the shower door was broken.

As I have an auto immune disease which affects my joints, I remember placing my hands which would always turn blue with cold; under the shower in a bid to warm them up and I would end up staying there, standing while the boiling water splashed over me until i was bright red and shrivelled.  Anyone with joint issues will vouch I am sure, just how good a soak in a hot bath is and can match a panadol any day of the week for joint and muscle pain.

What was my wish at that time? I shall tell you; the one thing I would have loved to have more than ever was to my very own bath, a bath to soak my aching joints in and warm myself up when cold and what is more; a bath with bubbles and candles to go with it.

It seemed impossible, it would mean selling the house and moving, it was in the ‘too hard basket’ and as my husband wasn’t fussed about a bath, I assumed it simply wouldn’t happen and for five years we remained in that house with that shower that I hated and grew to dread using.

A bath – a pipe dream, it would never happen and I was sure of it.

To cut a long story short, last year we found a house that we liked, we put in an offer which was accepted and our house sold within a week.

You know where I am going with this don’t you?  Yes, the new house had a bath in it and I remember the very first day I used that it, I filled it with boiling water and bubbles and I didn’t forget my candles either.

 I lay in my new bath and kept topping up the water until my skin went pink and shrivelled. Never had I been so happy, never had my joints been so happy either.

Such a little thing made a huge difference to my life and all it took was a change – albeit a large one, but one I could have made years ago had I been open and receptive and certainly not daunted by it.

ImageMy bath – complete with bubbles and candles

Darkest moments and all that….

We all go through dark moments in our lives where we literally cannot see the wood for the trees, where we cannot envisage a light at the end of the tunnel and wonder if we will ever get a lucky break.

I truly believe that at some point in our lives, we will take that journey and whilst we have no control over that, how we view it and deal with it is entirely up to us.  It is our choice because at the end of the day, we do have a choice about how we deal with things.

I was going through a very very dark and traumatic stage in my life, I had a period of not working, going through a legal case and we had to take a mortgage payment  ‘holiday’ which had two weeks left to expire.

I remember walking around the local wetlands where I live, it is a 6km walk and I was marching along with my little dog totally oblivious to my surroundings – I could have been anywhere, you could have walked past me naked and I would not have seen you, I was literally wrapped up in my own sad little world of worry.

Hearing a noise of a parrot, I glanced to my side and saw a pink and grey (Galah – pink cockatoo), actually there were several of them on the ground.  I love parrots and birds and never tire of them and here was this group of cockatoos right in front of me.

Stopping to look at them, I had one of ‘those moments’ where reality hits and does so quite hard – a moment of clarity if you like.  I was so busy worrying about what I didn’t have, what might happen and various events that had not yet happened as in losing my house, that I was totally blind to what was actually going on around me – life.

I stayed where I was for about ten minutes and took in my surroundings, the parrots flew off and I remained exactly where I was taking stock of life, of me and the choices I could make in how I dealt with things.

Grabbing my phone, I decided to take a photograph of that very moment so that I could look on it should I ever need to remember what was important in life and that is living it and not worrying about it.

To this very day, each time I look at this photograph I am taken back to that moment, to the sounds, sights and smells and I remember how far I have come in so many ways.

ImageThe photo I took of Beeliar Wetlands, Western Australia 

Things can change when you least expect it

Two weeks before we were due to contact the bank, I was offered a lifeline in the form of some temp work which gave me some much needed confidence as well as a wage to pay the mortgage.

A couple of temp jobs later, I was offered a permanent role in a job that I love and that isn’t far from where I live, the people I work with are fantastic and I really could not wish for more.

I am one of these irritating people that totally look forward to going in to work and consider myself very lucky to be in this position but a few years ago, I would never have imagined being where I am now.

Are things perfect in my life now?  No, far from it and I won’t elaborate either but one thing I will say to anyone that is going through a dark patch in their lives and that is things can and do change in the blink of an eye.

No matter how convinced you are of your future, it is not certain, it is not guaranteed and simply cannot be predicted.

Just keep an open mind and don’t shut off a path because you are nervous of taking it; because you never know what is around ‘your corner’ and if you’re lucky, it will contain baths, candles and bubbles.

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No words needed – South Beach, Fremantle, Western Australia

Samantha Rose (C) Copyright March 2014