Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Hello again

Well, that last update was a while ago, wasn't it? Sorry about that.

Apparently I am currently putting on the "watch Abi have a breakdown" show. We are still in very preliminary stages, where people are asking me whether or not I am sleeping properly (getting to sleep is taking far longer than is necessary), but it would appear that I am not putting on a very good front at the moment. However, Christmas is coming and bringing holiday with it. I have another six days I must take before Christmas, most of which I shall add to the beginning of the Christmas holiday - I should get about two weeks off, which should give me a bit of breathing space, along with a chance to catch up on sleep and (gasp) tidy the house.

It is very frustrating, though, this whole not coping thing. I know that I am in an enviable position - I have a secure job which I can do well, I have a committed boyfriend who is being very friendly, I do a lot of things I enjoy doing, my health is mostly good, and my family are great, and I have friends who are there for me when I call on them (although I do need to work on having enough time to be there for them, too, even when they don't call on me).

So yeah, I am a bit frustrated. And, to be honest, I am probably mostly blogging right now because there are things I need to get on with - some joinery homework with actual writing (which I tried and failed to complete on Sunday, on account of not being able to write anything better than "and this is strong because the big bits stick together very well because they have a very big surface area for the glue", and giving up in shame) and some soap making - there is only one month to get the stuff dry before Christmas, which is as long as it needs, which means that it all needs to be made by now at the latest. Which didn't happen. Which is not a good thing. I shall have to do some tomorrow. Which is what I said yesterday and the day before. But things got in the way.

I also need to practise the carols, but I did about 1 1/2 hours of (sometimes half-hearted) practice already, with the pedals, so that is less urgent.

Tomorrow I start to learn joinery so that the organ builder firm will consider my application to be an apprentice organ builder. I shall be making mortise and tenon joints, and endeavouring to avoid removing any fingers with a chisel (or any other sharp (or blunt) object, for that matter). I do not yet know whether or not I have an aptitude for this - it could be very embarrassing. On the plus side, if I am dreadful at this I can pursue the PhD guilt-free, as I will (hopefully) know that I have given organ building my best shot. As the time draws closer I am getting more apprehensive - this is going to require a lot of self-discipline. Which I am clearly not showing by blogging instead of describing mortise and tenon joints.

So that is where I am at. Not a happy little teddy bear, nor very coherent, nor on top of things, but confident that things will improve soon.

Bugger this. They won't improve soon enough for my liking, because the conditions for improvement are not there - I need more free time, and for a higher proportion of the things I do to be interesting - I want to achieve things, and to have time to achieve them well. I predict that things will improve either in a year, when the organ builders decide that I am the apprentice they really need because of my enthusiasm and excellent woodworking skills, or next September when I give up my job a month before the PhD starts so that I can stay somewhere cheap and calm for a bit (I'm thinking of one monastic community in particular). That is more realistic. They will get slightly better after this carol concert is over, though, assuming that I do not die of embarrassment during the event. It is looking promising, insofar as I thoroughly messed up the last verse of "O come all ye faithful", but it was pronounced a success by the conductor; if all that I have to do is play some notes, loudly, and finish at the same time as everyone else, I should have very few problems!

Sorry for moaning. I know that I shouldn't, but it was that or no update today. Anyway, it's all minor stuff - it's only thinking that makes it feel like more. Alas, I think a lot.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

A thought about creation

Now I propose to get a bit deep. No doubt this will be deeply flawed thinking, and I apologise for that. My humble thoughts are but the beginnings of an idea I shall fail to pursue any further due to lack of commitment and any particular theological bent.

The Bible says that we are created in God's image. What if the image of God is not to do with what we look like at all. Perhaps God only designed our insides. Perhaps the image of God is to do with how we are and what we do. Perhaps the image of God is just love. It doesn't matter what we look like* on the outside at all.

Yes, that is the thought. It seemed like a bigger idea when I was thinking it...

You might be interested to know that I am having a comparatively articulate day, in which writing original things seems like a very real possibility. This is gratifying to me, but the joy may not quite have worked its way to you.

*I reckon that God just set evolution rolling, anyway, and I am not convinced that He planned an end point per se, although I reckon that He did always intend to have people evolve. But not necessarily in this shape. But maybe in this shape - I can't rule out that He liked this particular design...

I like to think that, although He is omniscient, there was a little bit of Himself He kept in the dark about what was going to happen to all the creatures and plants, and to Earth, as evolution took place, so that He would always be surprised. I expect omnipotent beings can do that.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

My favourite type of migraine

Well, I had a lovely time visiting the parents this weekend. Anne and I went shopping, and I was able to buy a few essentials, most of which were what I was attempting to buy.* My aunt's birthday present still hasn't been bought, but I do have a little extra time for that. The goth shop was not very interesting, unfortunately. Perhaps I am getting old.

Nana seemed well, considering. "Considering" being the operative word.

From 9pm on Saturday until 10pm on Sunday it wasn't very interesting/fun at all, so I shall ignore that bit of weekend.

Yesterday evening was the first practice for the Carol Concert for which I am playing the organ. The playing was mostly passable, with some good bits. This was gratifying.

About 40 minutes into the practice my vision went rather blurry; I wondered if I was about to pass out. I thought about it for a short moment and decided that passing out at the console while rehearsing was bad for a couple of reasons: I would look rather stupid; it was a long way to the ground so I would probably injure myself when I reached the bottom. I therefore removed a couple of items of clothing in case I was too hot, and tried to follow what was going on/pretend everything was OK.

After a little while of this (I am so glad that I took the time to learn much of the music thoroughly), it occurred to me that I hadn't passed out, that removing clothing had not made any difference at all (and that I hadn't really been too hot to start off with, after all, but removing clothing is a small price to pay for that particular insurance policy), and that perhaps I had a migraine starting. This seemed more likely.

I made it to the end with few incidents, although the unfamiliar soprano descants I was sight-reading did not always go well. Fortunately they, at least, seemed to know what was going on.

By the time the practice had finished, I could almost see properly again, but I had a bit of a headache coming on. I absolutely love my migraines, as far as migraines go, because they haven't really worked out about the headache thing (it's all about the vision, or lack thereof), and as such they don't hurt very much at all. I went out and got some food and a drink, settled down for a bit, had a couple of paracetamol, and the headache went away within about half an hour. When it went, it left behind that wonderful feeling I get when I have been feeling really ill, but have just realised that I feel better. That feeling is always enhanced by going straight to sleep, but I had a meeting to attend, and so could not do that.

For the rest of the evening, my brain was fried. This morning I woke up with more visual disturbances, and today my brain is fried. More fried than usual, that is. Typing is not very accurate, and I don't appear to be able to make sense of a lot of things. For example, a friend e-mailed me to ask if I'd like to go climbing tomorrow. I replied that I can't make it today, and that it is a shame she didn't want to go tomorrow. She replied to me, and I think that it is sorted out now...

And I visited the doctor this morning. I am going on steroids via inhaler to see whether or not that causes my lung capacity to become more impressive. I shall see him again in a month to discuss the outcome, and decide what further action to take. He seems to be taking a very measured and sensible approach, and has also given me a handy tip about inhaler usage, which will help me to extend my Mastery of All Things just that tiny little bit further.

Alas, my Mastery of All Things is still in its early stages and does not cover such things as coherence and interesting posts. I promise you that you will get an excellent, interesting post when my brain returns to normal.**

*There was a chisel which did not match up to the description I was given exactly. The more I think about it, the less appropriate it seems. I shall be told to get another one this evening, I am sure.

**Not sure how you are going to enforce this one, to be honest. I think that the word "return" may be my loophole. Failing that, "normal" is to be my loophole of choice.

Thursday, 13 November 2008


I have just pulled a weird little muscle in my hand attempting to manage a particularly big and difficult chord. It hurts. It also explains where that weird pain I had in my hand the other day came from. RSI, here I come! O Come O Come Emmanuel, go away!

So how does one exercise and stretch that muscle in the dip in the hand between back of hand and wrist? Should I be playing more studies? Should I put healing things on my hand? What? I have just deployed a tubi-grip... Should I just stop being stupid and over-ambitious (although I don't see how I can play this chord without being over-ambitious - my hands aren't very big)?

Humph. Not impressed.

Crossing things off

Today I went to yoga and made a new friend, then ate soup full of vegetables. All in all, it was a productive lunch hour. This new friend* is interested in coming climbing with us, and could well increase my climbing flexibility: he may be available when the others are not (they come as a group - I am the odd one out). Also, he can teach yoga, and is stronger and more bendy than I. That is likely to make me more competitive. I shall have to build up my core strength first. As this was the first yoga session I have attended for several months, I expect to be stiff tomorrow, but I may be able to do something later on.

However, yoga cuts in to my organ practice time. I didn't get a chance to practise on the organ at all today, and have to make up for it this evening on my fake piano. No doubt as the deadline to learn the carols approaches** I shall be less and less relaxed about the whole thing. I must try to get a few intensive sessions in this weekend. AARRGGGHHHHH! Sorry. That just slipped out. Deep breaths. Nope; no luck there. Slow breaths, then. There, that's better.

Sunday's hymns have now been chosen, and are nice and easy. Robyn, the guitar player, will be there this Sunday, so I only have to play two - the first hymn and the final hymn. That makes it easier.

By the way, does anyone know what happened to HWSNBN? I think that maybe someone stole him. The robot with whom he has been replaced is lovely and obliging, with some helpfulness and a sense of humour thrown in. I'm not complaining; please will whoever did this leave it with me for a while (for ever?)? They have obviously gone to some effort to make sure that the switch was not detected - the robot is communing with its computer friend upstairs as I type this, and HWSNBN's mum seemed to think it was the genuine article, but I know better. It coped with gentle teasing in a mature manner and then prepared some vegetables for dinner. That is not HWSNBN. Anyway, as I said, just passing comment. The robot is welcome to stay, to keep the bed warm, and to drive me to see my parents tomorrow. I hope it lives off food and drink, though - I don't fancy learning how to recharge it. Where would the plug go?!?

And on that note, I say "Oh crap! Is that the time? I'm never going to learn any hymns at this rate!"

*OK, so perhaps "friend" is a little premature. We shall see...

**The first deadline is Monday - in four days time - for a rehearsal. I must sound as though I know what I am doing so they do not dismiss me out of hand, and hate me for being incompetent. That would be embarrassing, and would result in a lot of my effort being wasted. The second deadline is Sunday 7th December, at 7pm. I think. I am not doing the maths to work out how many weeks that is until I can play what I need to play without making any mistakes (i.e. 12th December at 8pm, probably).

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Plodding along

Time continues to pass, as is its wont. I continue to make minimal progress in most areas of my life.

Here is the list of many of the things that need doing by me at the moment:
  • Start going to bed on time (really important - I'm too tired to think at the moment)
  • Get more exercise
  • Eat better food
  • Process some forms
  • Shred some paper
  • Work out how to ignore de-construction noise outside my office (I mostly shred paper)
  • Wash my mug
  • File massive amounts of paper
  • Change my bedlinen (HWSNBN has complained, but has refrained from stripping the bed himself. This annoys me, especially as I do re-make the bed when it has been stripped. In fact, stripping the bed is the single fastest way to make me re-make the bed. He is being too lazy to allocate work to me.)
  • Deal with the massive pile of washing
  • Invite a friend round to learn how to make soap
  • Write to my friends
  • Sort out my trip to see Louise
  • Sort out holiday for the rest of the trip week
  • Speak to big important person about access to an organ I want to play
  • Speak to less important person about access to the insides of a big important organ I want to poke around
  • Book the car in for a service
  • Buy come joinery tools - they need to arrive before Tuesday
  • See the doctor about not being able to breathe properly (Tuesday)
  • Learn how to play the following on the piano (for rehearsal) and organ (for accompanying 500 people, apparently): O Come O Come Emmanuel; Once in Royal David's City; While Shepherds Watched; O Little Town of Bethlehem; O Come all ye Faithful
  • Speak to Dave the Organist about that music he promised to give to me last year
  • Put some stuff on a website
  • Read lots of books about organs
  • Read a book about joinery (start before Tuesday)
  • Read some fiction books (low on the list - the library has surrendered its organ books to me, so I have a few to keep me going)
  • Be nice to HWSNBN, in such a way that he feels appreciated (maybe I should try not suggesting that he is lazy on the Internet)
  • Put photos from my camera on a different website
  • Put some clean clothes away
  • Start planning/assembling a birthday present for my aunt (ideally before Friday)
  • Get in touch with the vicar and pick some hymns for Sunday, then learn how to play them
  • Tell people with whom I go climbing that I am not going this evening, due to being too tired and lazy
That seems to cover most of it. It actually doesn't look so bad written out (except for the bit about accompanying 500 people on the organ - not much margin for error there). Alas, as soon as I try to get motivated to do most of it (i.e. most individual bits - I propose to tackle them in sequence, not all at the same time), it suddenly seems a lot more effort.

This lunch time I managed to squeeze in 15 minutes of organ practice. I established that O Come all ye Faithful is coming along nicely, and that an utter numpty wrote in the footings for O Come O Come Emmanuel. That would be me, I suppose, as I am not aware that anyone else is in the habit of writing in my carol books. I have attempted to remedy the problem,* and am a little happier with the situation now. If only I could play the thing... Fortunately, much of this piece is manuals only; I shall have a bash at that tonight.

*I only write on music in pencil, which makes it a lot easier to remedy mistakes.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Bonfire night

Today is Bonfire night, as far as the city council is concerned. To this end, I shall be going shopping, having some food with Serena, watching the fireworks, going to the pub, then going to The Field to see more fireworks. Oh yes, and I must practise the hymns for tomorrow. I said that I could play the first one, which I probably can, but I was actually thinking of a different one when I responded with enthusiasm. As I have learned both of them, and I am seemingly a little dense, I often confuse them for each other. I started learning tomorrow's hymn sooner, I think (probably about a decade ago...), so it may be deeply ingrained... Anyway, my pedal technique has come on in leaps and bounds (as it were) these past few weeks, so I am hopeful. If I arrive on time tomorrow morning, I shall give it a go.

Yeah, there's not really anything worth reading today, either. I am confident that I shall have something to say within a few days, though. Now I must have a shower, in order to have some chance of accomplishing everything is is necessary to accomplish within a suitable time frame...

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

There is a mosquito bite on my heel

Either that, or I am having an allergic reaction to the hypo-allergenic plaster I had on my heel during the day yesterday. The latter is more likely (it's a bit of a funny shape for a mosquito bite), but the former makes a better title, and must not be ruled out.

So, I suppose I could tell you the story of why I have such sensitive heels. What a story that is, tinged with youthful impatience, and the dreams only teenagers can dare to dream...

When I was about 15, Doc Martens were cool. They were so cool, in fact, that my dream at the time was to be a cathedral organist with a nice house and boyfriend, and green DMs with yellow laces. Well, I got the green DMs with yellow laces.

Alas, DMs, even green ones, need a bit of wearing in. This may take as long as wearing out takes, from what I have heard. In the meantime, they shred heels.

And so it came to pass that my heels were under DM attack every day. Rather than being sensible and letting my heels recover, I commenced a love affair with fabric plasters (fabric plasters, how I miss thee), wearing plasters on my heels at all times for a period of several months. The end of this period was brought about by the first evidence my body threw at me regarding my lack of fitness for this life and the chemicals therein: my heels started to itch somewhat impressively, with raised white patches corresponding to where the sticky bits of the plasters had been. They itched every night for a period of several weeks (they probably itched during the day, too, but what I remember are the nights as I was trying to get to sleep. Yes - am remembering uncomfortable lessons in labs at school now. Ooh, that was itchy), and I could not make it stop. If only the wonders of hydrocortisone had been pointed out to me... Or perhaps I should have resorted to that old trick of letting Mother know that there was something medically wrong with me. For some reason I cannot fathom, I do not want people to know if I am actually ill. I feel embarrassed to say so. Mother, had she known, would probably eventually have taken me to the doctor, who would no doubt have introduced me to hydrocortisone. Mmm, steroids.

After my heels had stopped itching every night, my skin came up with a different trick: plaster marks reappearing in the bath. I got a cut on my leg (my manual dexterity with a razor was not up to much), and used a plaster on that; it took longer for the reaction to happen, but for weeks afterwards it was impressive to see the plaster mark reappear in raised white format at bath time. With itch effects. Eventually that went away, too, and I stopped using non-hypo-allergenic plasters.

So yes, I am sensitive to plasters. Hy heels seem to be the most sensitive bit of me, but I can usually get away with a hypoallergenic plaster for the day. Three weekends ago I did use a standard plaster for the evening on the same heel. Perhaps that is what did it.

Now the special tablet is kicking in, and my heel feels a little better. My body feels as though it is on the verge of declaring full-scale itch warfare any day now, though. I think that my doctor's scepticism about the efficacy of evening primrose oil against itchiness* may be wearing off, which is a pity. Hey - the special tablet should have made my shoulders stop itching. Why aren't you working properly, you naughty tablet? Come on - hop to it!

*I went to see him about my general lack of perfection a few weeks ago. Among other things we discussed the gluten intolerance, the failure to inhale effectively and my amazing hairy itchy legs, which were merely being amazingly hairy at the time. He expressed scepticism that the evening primrose oil was stopping my legs from itching, even though as soon as I started taking it the first time my legs improved, and shortly after I stopped they got worse again, only to improve when I started again. He asked me to desist, and to come back when I could show him a rash or something. I got the impression that his scepticism might have kept the itching away, but these past couple of days my arms, back and shoulders have been itching. It's a lovely bumpy rash, and my skin goes nice and bright pink. I have so much fun with my skin.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Sunday bibble, organ, and soap

Last Sunday, after having finished my organ practice, I had a very hard time motivating myself to pack up my bags and leave, which seemed to be especially heavy. Going to church this morning, I was surprised to note that my music bags were not that heavy after all, and came to the conclusion that there was something weird going on.

To be a little informative, I keep about 20 music books in my main music bag, plus two hefty hymn books and my organ shoes* in the second bag. I have never weighed them, mostly because I do not have any suitable scales, as opposed to because I am not that anal. I am that anal.

So, today after church I did some organ practice. "O Come all ye Faithful" is coming along nicely, I think. The piece I really want to play next week for Remembrance Sunday is not. Bugger.

Anne, my baby sister, was disgruntled when I "suggested" that she should be practicing the piano very slowly indeed, several bars at a time, keeping to a set rhythm, but I insisted that it would do her good. In a rare bout of insight, I realised that this would also do me good, and spent a while working on about five bars over and over and over and over again. After this, it was considerably less bad. I must do that again. In fact, I must do it again tomorrow. I must leave work on time and not spend two hours e-mailing important people this time.

After a couple of hours of organ practice,** I decided to leave. When I picked up my music bags, they had once again magically become very heavy indeed. On the plus side, the nuns hadn't shut the gate this time, so I was able to get off the grounds without wrestling with unwieldy bits of wrought iron. It does beg the question of why organ practice seems to take so much out of me. It must be the mental effort combined with the overdue lunch.

I know - my life sucks so much. I have to spend a couple of hours doing something I love, then carry two heavy bags 100m to the car. I can almost hear your heart bleeding for me.

I then went shopping, and bought my first Christmas present (excluding soaps, of course). HWSNBN has indicated that it will not be very well-received; it is perhaps a bit too practical for its intended recipient. However, it is just the sort of thing that she needs, and it is not as though I shall not be making her a special soap scented with her favourite perfume. Which makes everything better.

I also bought some toothpaste, some caustic soda and some coconut oil; the latter two are for soap making. Oh, and a chewy, noisy rattle-type object and three vests for my friend's new baby, who I may get to meet this week. So far I have only seen one photo of her; she looks very cute indeed. Her dad assured me before she was born that she would be a quiet baby who slept a lot. I will be very interested to find out how that is going.

When I returned home, I set to decanting the coconut oil from bottles to take-away containers. I don't know whether or not you have encountered coconut oil before, but it is solid at room temperature. Mine comes in narrow-necked bottles - I get the feeling that their packaging was dreamed up by someone more accustomed to warmer climes, in which the coconut oil would be pourable immediately.

As I am an impatient sort of person, and do not fancy heating up bottles of coconut oil every time I want to make soap, it was necessary for the contents to me melted and stored elsewhere. In a bold and imaginative move, I put the bottles on a radiator for a while to give the oil a chance to melt without costing me any additional money. Of course, had I been organised, I could have put them on a window sill in summer, and also paid less for them (the price of coconut oil has gone up). However, I did not, so there is no point beating myself up about it on such a wildly public forum (yes, your views are welcome). When they were melted (which took no more than five hours in any case), their contents went into take-away containers to set again - I can remove measured quantities of oil with a spoon now. Tomorrow, they get lids, then they go to join all of my other oils. Now, if only I can convince HWSNBN to buy me some more olive oil, my collection will be as complete as I can afford at the moment. Just in time for Christmas soap. Which, incidentally, is coming along nicely.

It is Grandad's birthday on Tuesday, and I shall be sending him some soaps for that. Had I thought far enough in advance, I could perhaps have got some siblings to take them back, but I did not, and nor did I have all of the soaps I now have. I tell you, it's a little soapy empire here. I have run out of suitable storage space. Quick! Send shoe boxes!

Grandad's soaps are all wrapped, except for the one I made yesterday, which is on the radiator, in a desperate attempt to get it a little more dry before I send it to him tomorrow morning. As the radiator went off nearly an hour ago, perhaps now is an opportune moment to rescue it. Then I shall read that book I was supposed to read instead of going on the Internet. That would be useful.

*Typically, organists will have organ shoes. These should have smooth, not too grippy soles (so the feet slide easily over the pedals), a bit of a heel (to make it easier to avoid hitting notes in between the two desired notes) and the sole should not be much bigger than the foot (to reduce the probability of hitting more notes than desired). Mine are OK except that the sole is a bit wide. I am looking for another pair, but they are surprisingly difficult to find. You will be reassured to know, I am sure, that my new man shoes do not seem to make my organ playing significantly worse; they will be useful when I become an organ builder.

**That is the figure I would like you to believe - I started at about 12 and finished at 14.20, so obviously I did do two hours, at least.