Work related injury

I’m pretty sure the title is going to bring me a lot of Spam and a good few google references but hey ho, what the heck!

On Tuesday afternoon while showing students round Norwich cathedral I had a freak accident. I couldn’t repeat it if I tried, I’m sure. I managed to poke myself in the eye with the sharp corner of a plastic document protector that was covering my notes. It hurt rather a lot, even at the start, and I whizzed off to the loos to be able to see what I’d done as well as remove the mascara that was now running with the tears and making things worse.

I couldn’t see any damage, but then it’s quite hard to see your own eye, so I put in some drops and went back and reported the incident to the virger in charge of such things. By the time the group (47 French students aged 11/12) were ready to move on, the pain was increasing rather than decreasing. It started feeling like a white hot needle through the eyeball. I continued the tour with one eye screwed shut and a tissue clamped over it. My colleague for the day was new and had never done the tour before; I suspect he’s going to be absolute pants at it when he does. He makes up for lack of colour and verve in personality by having tattoos and piercings instead.

Once the students had dispersed for free time, I went and sat down at Starbuck’s to try and compose myself. The pain waxed and waned and sometimes I thought it was going away only to be almost floored by it. I sent a text to my husband to ask that he meet me from the bus so he could take me to A+E. He rang me back to suggest I went in Norwich. I couldn’t do that as the new guy was so clueless so I said I would wait. The journey home was interesting as an exercise in self control. I had to keep one eye open to make sure the French driver went the right way but thankfully, this chap was a super driver and didn’t need any help at all. I don’t think anyone heard my occasional whimpers.

I bundled off the bus, reported briefly to the staff member who was meeting the bus and went to A+E.

Unlike many times, I didn’t have to wait long before seeing one of the nicest doctors I’ve ever seen. Result was I was told I had a tiny scratch on the eyeball, that it would be OK by Friday and was given drops of varying sorts and some co-codadmol. I also got the explanation of why it hurt so much; basically the pain causes the pupil to contract suddenly sending the whole eye into a very painful spasm. I’ve been wearing dark glasses even at home and while it still hurts a bit, it’s not agony.

Needless to say I had to ring in sick yesterday morning, losing me a day’s pay. There was no way I was going to come in to try and teach a class of lively kids when I’d have to wear glasses like a celeb avoiding the papparazzi, let alone the pain issue and the fact that i coulnd’t see properly. If I’d felt more supported at work I would have asked if I could have had an assistant that day but as it’s not that sort of place any more, I didn’t. I spent a quiet day listening to music and reading with one eye.

One very curious thing though.

Having become temporarily like Odin, I had extraordinary dreams that night and again last night, full of symbols and meaning.

I may write more of them later

A poor fit

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and musing, while running round like a bluetailed fly.

I’ve spent my life as the proverbial square peg being hammered into a round hole; so much so that I feel I have actually lost my real shape and have become an amorphous blob that squidges and squeezes and stretches to fit whatever space is available. I also feel this is reflected too in my struggles not to turn into the Fat Lady at the Fair.

OK, you could say I’m flexible or adaptible. Or that I am multi-talented and able to turn my hand to anything. All of which are true enough.

What I am getting at is the constant erosion of my perception of who I am and where I fit in this life. I’m many things, obviously. A teacher, a healer, a mother, a wife, a writer, a poet, a ….well, fill in whatever label you feel might fit me from what you’ve seen and read here. But beyond all those things, who and what am I?

My current profession is a poor fit, to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I am a good teacher, a very good one if I set aside false modesty. I’m a bloody good guide and courier. But to do these things, something essential to my soul is shunted to that inner “backroom” like an old carpet bag waiting for collection at the end of the day. I don’t pretend to be anything, or anyone. But a huge section of the real, the essential ME is missing.

I constantly have to monitor what I say among people, constantly simplify my language, my choice of topic. Some of that might be put down to being among folks whose first language isn’t mine, but even so, you’d think I’d be able to speak my thoughts in the staff room. I thought so too, until someone had a go at me last year.

Life for me is the Bed of Procrustes. You may remember the story of the Greek chappy who made his overnight guests sleep in a bed that supposedly fit everyone perfectly. Well, if the guest’s head was over the head end of the bed, Procrustes whopped it off with a sword. Ditto the feet. If someone was too short, he mashed them and bashed them out until they did. He met his end at the business end of Theseus’ sword, but his legend lives on.

I simply don’t fit.

As far as I know, I don’t fit anywhere. Apart from the fact that the interview I went to last week was almost certainly pointless because they’d already earmarked their internal candidate, I would not have been appointed because I would have been too good for the job. I know too much; I’ve read too much. I’d have made the others feel very uncomfortable. And I hate that. I don’t feel superior to anyone, and yet, it seems as if people perceive that I must.

I’m too big for Procrustes’ bed.

So what goes, then, my head or my feet?

Or should I be a modern day Theseus and in some strange esoteric way beat the bully and free myself?

Answers on a postcard…

No, really. Any ideas of how to beat this metaphor and ease my own reality would be gratefully read. I’m increasingly uncomfortable.

Three wishes

I have posted this before but I can’t remember where.

I got soaked right through today not so much by the torrential rain as by the cars whizzing through puddles at the side of the road and sending massive sprays of fithy water all over me.

I am deeply weary tonight on all levels. One of my colleagues who I value highly quit today. She quit for the same sort of reasons I would quit were it not for sheer cussedness and determination not to be forced out.

Anyway, those over a certain age in the Uk may remember a brand of bubble baths and soaps called Three Wishes, which was marketted as being something from a fairytale. Mine are from a rather Grimmer Fairytale, I think.

Three wishes.


Every time I reach breaking point,

I find that I do not break.

Every time I reach the end of my tether,

I find that the tether is made of elastic.

Every time I think in pain I can’t go on,

I find that somehow against the odds, I do.

Sometimes I wish that I might break,

Shattering into a million relieved fragments,

Sparkling like road-crash diamonds

Both beautiful and horrible at once.

I wish that when I feel that collar

Press and pull my aching throat,

That it would snap, burst asunder

And leave me sprawling on the ground.

And I wish more than anything,

That when I feel I can’t possibly go on,

Tired and worn from trying too hard,

I might be given grace and space to stop.


Too tired to…

…do anything, much…

But I still have to write my lesson plan for tomorrow, despite the fact that frankly today’s was a complete waste of time. No one let us know in advance that the highest level class was pre-Intermediate at best. I got the second from bottom, a little above elementary. One of my colleagues had brought in Intermediate work, on the assumption that since the age we’d been told was 14/15 years old, that was roughly the level. I didn’t see her at break to find out how she got on; she got the lowest class.

The kids were nice, though, and I know their teachers from the last two years. But due to yet another administrative blunder, there were insufficient staff to cover the afternoon activities, so I stepped manfully into the breach. I’ve walked miles, this afternoon, as well as the miles to and from school. Plus, (wah!) I didn’t expect to be doing anything but going home at lunchtime, I had no lunch with me, I had my briefcase and not my rucksack, and I hadn’t put any suncream on. So I got home at about half five, ravenously hungry, sun burned and with aching hands from carrying a heavy briefcase all day.

I’ve now eaten, soothed the burns with aftersun and my hands sort of work again, and I’m putting off the moment when I begin my lesson plan for tomorrow. There’s been a lot of things to annoy me today but these are the few I feel I can share.

Once I’ve done my plan, and maybe the one for Thursday, I’m running a bath and turning into a jellyfish…

A meditation

Crystal Cave Meditation

 For this meditation you may like to have a crystal to focus on; a geode works especially well. Remember to turn the phone off and make sure you are not going to be interrupted. Using either soft music or a natural sounds tape of perhaps a stream will enhance the experience but is not essential as long as you have reasonable quiet around you.


Breathe slowly but without forcing it. Allow yourself to relax and become calm but alert. Let your eyes close naturally and become still.


You walking along in the cool air of an underground passage; the tunnel is lit with softly flickering candles in niches along the walls. The sweet smell of beeswax reaches you every time you pass a niche and your movement causes the candlelight to flicker. It’s very peaceful here and you sense that many people have come along here before; it’s totally safe. The carefully smoothed walls of the tunnel glisten and gleam in the candlelight; when you touch them they are slightly damp and slippery to the touch.


Continue along; the floor slopes steadily but not alarmingly and after a while you come to an opening ahead of you where a light gleams. Go through the opening. You are in a large cave, lit only by candlelight. A single candle floats in a pool of very clear water in the centre of the cave. It seems far lighter in here than you might expect from just one candle and you look round for the reason.


The whole cave is lined with the finest and most lovely crystals you can imagine. You are inside a living geode, a bubble of earth where crystals have grown for centuries. The light from the single candle is reflected from each facet of the tens of thousands of crystals that cover every inch of the walls and ceiling of the cave.


It’s simply breathtaking.


You sit down near the pool of water, there is a low stool carved from oak and you find it very comfortable. As you sit and marvel and the cave, you notice something else. The pool of water is not still; bubbles rise steadily from the centre and you see now that water softly spills over one end of the natural stone bowl, and into a groove in the floor where it trickles away with a lovely sound like living music.


Sit quietly and enjoy the radiance of the earth-born crystals and the music of the earth-born waters. The air is cool and fresh and moist and any difficulties you may have had with breathing vanish in this pure healing air. You feel deeply peaceful and at one with the earth. Touch the water and scoop a little in your hand and bathe your face with it; feel the worries and cares melt away.


Stay as long as you wish, feeling the deep healing this place gives to any who visit, and when you feel it is time to return to the outer world, whisper your prayers to the cave. They will be heard.


As you leave, your movement sets the candle flickering and the light dances and casts rainbows across your face. 

Return up the stone passage way and find yourself back where you began. Breathe deeply and when you are ready open your eyes. You are home.   


         I wrote this after I found a geode on the beach today;  I was sorely in need of some peace and I hope that you will find some reading this as I did writing it. 

A letter to my gynaecologist

I wrote the following letter about three years ago after the fruitless attempt to treat the endometriosis. In it, I explained in detail my thoughts and feelings. When I next saw my gynaecologist, we had a very good and open and frankly more human and real discussion. He expressed substantial admiration for my ability to articulate my feelings so clearly and accurately, and even entertainingly, about very complex issues. Suddenly we were on even ground and a real respect had been established between us. After this, I chose to have chemical intervention, which proved to be intensely disruptive and it’s value limited by the fact that I could only endure it for three of the six months that were suggested.

We moved from this health authority to our current location four months after this letter was sent. It sits in my file still(I spotted my letter head last time my file was open) and I have no evidence it has ever been read again.     


Thank you for your skills yesterday. Whatever the anaesthetic was this time, I don’t feel anywhere near as bleary and confused as I have done in the past. I had a brief discussion with your registrar (whose name escapes me but who charmed me with her Dublin accent) about what next. I was unable (due to post-operative wooziness) to be sufficiently articulate at the time, and time itself was too limited to explain some of my reactions in a way that wouldn’t be confused and emotional. Therefore I am taking the time now while my brain is a little less fuddled to write my thoughts. It’s much easier doing it this way; face-to-face, I would find it daunting trying to explain concepts that probably belong more in a philosophical debating arena than in a consultant’s office. Please bear with me if you can.


Having seen the photograph of my uterus and ovaries, I can see clearly how much more extensive and aggressive the endometriosis has become; frankly it looks a horrible mess in there. My optimistic feeling that there would be just a few small patches easily dealt with using a laser has simply not been borne out. I suspect there are other active patches elsewhere in my body that couldn’t be seen yesterday. As far as I understand it, I have three options:


1) Radical surgery (i.e. a complete hysterectomy)

2) Chemical intervention (to induce a temporary menopause)

3) Do nothing and suffer!


One of the reasons I am writing to you now is to try and glean as much information about each of these options so that when I attend your clinic on the 18th of August I come as fully prepared to make a decision as I can. Therefore I wish to ask some questions about each of these options now and try also to explain my thinking on each of these subjects.


1) Radical surgery. A hysterectomy would mean in essence an early menopause. I assume this would also involve the removal of one or both ovaries, given the gunged-up and stuck-down nature of both ovaries. When we discussed this before you blithely mentioned HRT and I tried to explain my objections and didn’t get terribly far before I gave up feeling too upset to persist. This is where it starts to get complicated. Since the onset of the Industrial Revolution, and probably going further back to the time of the Commonwealth (the one under Cromwell) there has been a steady decline in the richness of symbolic life, both public and private. If you read accounts of Tudor weddings, you will notice at once a great deal more LIFE amid the bawdy revels. A modern wedding pays more homage to the great gods Commerce and Materialism than it does to the very human attributes of love, sex and fertility. The ritual life of this culture has become diluted almost to nothing and we lose the deep human connections and integration of life in all its fullness; rites of passage that were once celebrated with gusto are pale shadows of what they once were. Christenings are polite social affairs, mere excuses for a family party (believe me, we get a lot of baptism families though our doors who know nothing and care less for the deeper reasons for baptisms!) and not the rite of passage they once were, that acknowledged the darker side of life that meant both mother and child might easily have died in childbirth. While I wouldn’t go back to the past with its horrors, I think the modern birthing chamber with all its high tech equipment and experts at hand, has lost something of the deep human wisdom that we should still be able to access without losing the very welcome safety of modern medicine. All our former rites of passage have either vanished or have become pale shadows of themselves and none more so than the menopause. You may blame the media but the icons held up for our admiration are the young, the slim and the impossibly beautiful; women are exhorted to spend enormous sums of money that most can’t really afford on skin creams that claim to wipe away age. As a society we are scared stupid  (and I use the word advisedly) by ageing. Women fear the menopause like never before. They fear that if they cease to be taut and unwrinkled they will cease to be desirable. But life is a journey not a destination and I can map out my life (and all its riches) by the scars and marks on my body and by the lines on my face. The spiritual journey of ageing that begins at the menopause is not one I wish to bypass. I’d like to be able to complain about hot flushes and sagging boobs like most women do and share that journey with other women; I’d like to explore what lessons my changing body has for me. If yesterday you had discovered something more sinister in my body, then I would have no hesitation in saying yes to surgery. While there is no more important rite of passage than death, I’d rather avoid it a while yet!


2) Chemical intervention. I think you mentioned an injection of some sort. I’d need to know how long I would be taking this for, what side effects would there be and what sort of results I can expect. I don’t want to be taking pills etc forever when I might not need to. There is a history in my family of early menopause. Also, and slightly off the subject, when I was first treated for depression about fifteen years ago I was told that the Prozac I was given was a temporary measure to stabilise me until I was able to begin psycho-therapy of some sort. As a result of moving house and health authorities I was finally able over ten years later to come off the tablets, only to be told I was no longer ill enough to merit the expense of therapy! While this is not quite the same as the treatment you are proposing, I do not wish to take medication longer than is necessary. In the case of my depression, I was well enough to tackle some of the causes of my illness only a year or two down the line, but due to moving areas had gone right to the bottom of the waiting list; this occurred time after time until I was told that since I was no longer critically ill, there were no resources for helping me further other than continuing with medication. At this point I realised I was on my own and my recovery since then has been due to factors other than medical ones.


 This brings me to another point of concern about either surgery or chemical intervention. For thousands of years men and women have attributed both personal power and creativity to their reproductive organs. I tried to explain this to you in clinic but failed miserably. I do not believe that the possession of a womb alone makes me a woman; I do not assign my femininity to this organ. But there is a psychic (as Jung would put it) link between a physical organ and the metaphysical attributes of that organ; the belief of thousands of generations of people see to it that this link persists even in modern sceptical peoples. We are all inheritors of this wisdom whether we know it or not; witness the number of women who would have happily said good riddance to their wombs, who find their libido and their sense of self declines after menopause or hysterectomy. Even when this is a temporary thing, it’s still important to note that primitive impulses and emotions still affect the modern person. One of the things that has most profoundly influenced my uneasy truce with depression has been my creative life and it is something I treasure in ways I am not sure anyone else will understand. While I am not a world famous author, my work is vital to me, and anything that might undermine or destroy that inner dialogue that fuels my writing, is unwelcome. I’ve suffered enough Dark Nights to know I do not want to be tipped needlessly into another one by anything I can avoid. Both the physical effects and the non-physical or psychical effects                    of either chemical menopause or surgical menopause might have such an effect. To lose the rich inner life I have used to great effect in both poetry and novels would be the equivalent of a lobotomy. I hope this explains in some measure my reactions to either course of action. This does not mean I am refusing either; I just need to know quite what is involved and what my reactions (at least the physical ones) are likely to be so that I can weigh up what I might gain and what I might lose. Ideally, I lose nothing but the pain.


3) Do nothing and suffer! I suffer already, with pain three weeks out of four, one week being almost agony. What concerns me most, having seen that photo, is what damage this horrible stuff is having on the areas of the body it adheres to. I could see scar tissue, I could see it beginning a stranglehold around one fallopian tube and I even got appendicitis! What else might it do? I’m talking worst-case scenario here. Does it ever just burn out and stop, or only at the menopause? How far can it travel and how much damage could it do? And yes: can it ultimately kill me? If I had second sight and knew that my menopause would kick off in two years, seven months and six days time, then I would grit my teeth and endure for that bit longer. But I have no means of knowing that and I could carry on till I’m sixty like one of my aunts. While I would like to think I have the power to endure pain I have no means of ending, I am sure you would agree I would be stupid to want to endure pain that I could stop; I do not seek martyrdom. But I am caught in a situation that has no easy answers and while this final option is in many ways the least attractive, it does have the merit of being familiar. I am not unusual in fearing change. I suspect that one of the reasons why rites of passage have always been so crucial to the emotional lives of people is that they validate change by publicly recognising that it is happening; we need to know that what is happening to us is right, is acceptable and is part of the process. They dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s; they tell us and those around us that this or that is now reality. They give us safe ground on which to stand.


 I hope that this letter helps you to understand that I am wrestling with issues that are for me profound and important, vital even. I don’t expect you to comment on my exploration of these issues but even if you don’t agree with a word I have said, I hope that I have conveyed at least in part how important these issues are to me and therefore why my reactions have been so strong and seemingly illogical. I also hope that you will be able to give me as much clear information on the three options so that I can make my decision based on facts as well as emotions and spiritual and philosophical theorizing.


Once again, thank you for your skills yesterday and also for wading through what seems to have become a dissertation.



A big thank you… everyone who came and read. I felt your presence here, even those who did not comment.

I’m feeling a bit better today…the tap is now driping not gushing and I got through the night without much trouble.

I realise now that as I’ve got more than one problem, none of which is easy to sort, I need more than one solution. Some of the problems have come from trying to fix original problems, but have just complicated the issues. I’m the kind of person who has arthritis but is allergic to Ibruprofen (and yes, that’s also true), for whom the Chaos butterfly is not just a theory but a daily reality. 

Anyway, I do hope you kind folks will stop by from time to time. I do write other stuff, not just “icky” things. I even write quite nice poetry and short stories and  articles.

Once, more, thank you!


I saw a nice doctor this morning.

His opinion was it was too early to do anything much, which I logically concur with, and after he’d taken my blood pressure twice(once lying down and then standing up to compare them and see if there was a sudden drop) he seemed happy my recent blood loss had not had a serious effect on me.

The trouble with all this is simply that I don’t know what to do. I don’t feel either well or ill, just a bit wobbly and tired. I felt fine on Sunday, bit of cramps but nothing to worry about, so I went out for a nice walk in the forest, in search of the Dartmoor ponies they released there. Husband and dog were with me and it was fine. Couple of miles on even ground and then home for tea. But by half one in the morning, I was bleeding heavily again.

I just don’t know how to go on. Should I stay home, wilting, or forge onwards regardless? I can’t find any helpful information anywhere, nor can I find anyone I can actually ask for advice where I won’t feel stupid and a bit of a hypochondriac, because no one has told me WHY I am bleeding this much, or this erratically.

I haven’t seen a single female doctor either; they don’t have one at my GP surgery. I’m not saying men can’t imagine what it feels like; but that said, can you, guys? And after a good 34 years of menstruating, I am surely the best person to know if something is normal for me or not.

I’m starting to wonder if I would have been better off going to A+E on Saturday morning and making sure I got some proper answers. I’m not working this week, but that doesn’t mean I can sit around doing nothing all week. I want to know how long this is likely to go on for; I’m teaching next week, and the ladies among you may well understand how being in public with an erratic bleeding pattern is nerve wracking. Moreover, in July, I have a day trip to Boulogne as well as a probable 3 day trip to Paris.

I’d really like some decent medical advice and support. Just ’cause I seem calm and logical and sensible it doesn’t mean I actually know what’s happening to me; I don’t want a fuss, sure, but I’d like some understanding.

Sometimes being a bit of a Stoic just doesn’t cut the mustard, and today is one of those days. I’d like to scream and faint and go all girly, just this once, please….