After Life ( Netflix TV series) – review

Ok so I would like to get it out there first that in truth I’ve never been a huge Ricky Gervais fan (which stems from seeing a clip of one of his stand up shows where he takes the piss about M.E ……….no, I’m not just a bit bloody tired!) anyway, I wanted to be honest and say that up front now.

My son however is a MASSIVE fan of him and watches (and re watches) both The Office and Extras some of which I love……..favourites being the Sir Ian McKellan and the Ross Kemp ( super army soldiers) episodes. I even a few years ago managed to get BBC audience tickets for a recording of him doing the David Brent song to be used in a show, so you know that shows a mothers love doesn’t it? On said outing my son lost his wallet and had to back into the studio to look for it, everyone else had gone and because we had been delayed leaving we were lucky enough to see Ricky Gervais come down the corridor past us………………………we didn’t stop and ask for a picture but did the casual look and nod instead………..honestly I think my son would have died of embarrassment had I asked for a pic but looking back I really should have for his benefit at the time.

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Film and TV reviews

This is something I have pondered about for a while now. My teen and I have always enjoyed going to the cinema and will talk non stop all the way home about whatever film we have just watched. My son has always been into his films and TV series from a young age, now at age18 he has developed into a great critic looking at actors, directors and how the film was shot, along with what he thought worked and didn’t. Its one of the things we really have in common and quite often he will ask to go with me rather than his mates as he knows I watch with a similar keen eye. I would love to start a blog/ Youtube channel or podcast with him as we have some great discussions after watching something either in the cinema, on Netflix or Now Tv………………..but to no avail……….he wont do it!

So, I have decided to do my own reviews on this little corner of the internet and hope they help someone along the way. They will not all be the latest releases from the cinema (although some will) but will also include binge worthy Tv series and those films released onto streaming services too. The aim is to help people find something to watch next, especially with so much on offer from so many streaming services it can sometimes be difficult to chose. I see people on Twitter a lot asking for recommendations of what to watch next and hopefully my reviews will point someone in the right direction along the way.

My son has always been one to watch on his Ipad as he can pop his headphones on and bring it around the house with him ( especially when he goes into cooking mode in the kitchen!). I actually get a lot of recommendations from him of decent films to watch, he has great taste and generally won’t be what you would expect from his age group. From about the age of 14 films such as Schindler’s List and Shawshank Redemption have been in his top 5. Even at the age of about 9 or 10 he would speed watch the likes of Jaws in about 10 minutes literally fast forwarding (think DVD’s) to the gruesome bits! His DVD and Blueray collection has the likes of American Psycho, Birdman and Saving Private Ryan, so not your typical collection for his age group.

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The Favourite – film review

Ok, so I haven’t been the quickest off the mark to go and see The Favourite and obviously saw that Olivia Coleman had won the Oscar for her role as Queen Anne.

I do however, with regards to cinema, like to let all the fuss die down before going on a quieter afternoon to allow myself to fully enjoy ( or not) whatever film it is at the time, without all the residual underlying noise of a full cinema……yes I’m one of those people! There are only a few films I will book to see on the opening weekends for fear of spoilers hitting me from Twitter and elsewhere.

So, let’s get the obvious out of the way now……………Olivia Coleman is outstanding  ( no shit Sherlock!) and she is compelling to watch. She’s always been pretty underrated for my liking ( I feel the same about James McAvoy just so you know) she has a total naturalness about her in any role she plays, but it’s so much more obvious in this film. It never seemed forced in any way from her throughout.

In fact, all 3 main females are strong in this film. That said I felt that Rachel Weisz the absolute glue that stuck the film together, she was sharp, ruthless and able to switch temperaments in a split second for full effect of her character. Her character was menacing but without force, just a slight change in the tone here and there and you literally didn’t know how far she’d actually go. The director Yorgos Lanthimos has a feel for showing the strong power dynamics of relationships and I loved that all 3 characters were entangled showing the underlying skulduggery that was typically present in those times in order to keep favour in court.

As for ‘THE’ sex scene, I’m not sure what I was expecting but certainly it wasn’t as shocking as it had been made out. It was perfect for the story, cleverly done and kind of subtle- again I think this benefited from Coleman’s overall naturalness. I was also prepped for the ‘C’ bomb being branded about, it was almost with spitting force here and there and again it wasn’t out of place in the way it was used, but I guess if you’re easily offended then overall it probably wouldn’t be the film for you.

The costumes were absolutely magnificent, and as a very novice sewer I can fully appreciate the work that went into making them. Having been filmed at Hatfield House along with Hampton Court Palace you can imagine the sets were stunning and beautiful which only added to the quirkiness of what was actually happening inside.

But I must say Downton Abbey IT IS NOT!  So if you love your typical period dramas, full of stuffiness and polite wordy exchanges this is probably NOT FOR YOU. In fact. I chuckled to myself in the bathrooms afterwards when an elderly lady ( clearly there with her daughter) stated………. ‘ I can’t say I disliked it………but it was a bit odd!’

I didn’t dislike it- I liked it very much. I loved the fact it was ‘off kilter’ from the start and throughout, I loved that it caught me off guard occasionally and the characters and story had me hooked from those early minutes. I loved the unconventional camera angles in some scenes along with the stark unforgiving lighting, and even though some of the music was grating on me, with it’s harshness in a couple of scenes, it worked and only enhanced what was happening at the time. I can see why Olivia Coleman won the Oscar for her role and I’m glad at least that Rachel Weisz was recognised with a nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting role.

 

                                                     Have you seen it and what did you think?

 

 

 

 

Confidence- where to find that stuff and how to get some!

I think most people, if asked, would doubt their own abilities in most things, we never really say out loud what we think we are good at- do you agree?

I was never a confident person by nature, I hid from photos as a teen, I always felt like I was the ugly duckling of my group of friends and was always very quiet in social situations ( unless I was at home, in which case my Mum would vouch for the fact I can be a mouthy cow!).

However, when I look back I had the confidence to join the armed forces ( Royal Air Force- literally 30 years ago when it definitely wasn’t the norm to do so), to leave the security of my family at aged 18 and pushed myself to do things I literally had no clue I could do ( shoot an automatic weapon, do gas mask drills in confined spaces with the unmistakable effects ‘tear gas’ , being dangled out of search and rescue helicopters as a ‘patient’ and even wing walking, twice, one of which was at an international air display!).

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How to stay in control of the housework with chronic illness

There is no denying the cleaning frenzy that has spread like wild fire online over the last few months, so I would like to say from the start this is NOT another jumping on the bandwagon post but more of a recommendation of what I found has worked for me. First of all I would like to make it clear that I’m not judging all of these accounts or slating one because I like another………..nope, I’m firmly in the camp that there is enough room online for everyone doing  their own thing in the way that suits them! So this is just a recommendation on what works for me ( and hopefully others too) in regards to my illness and pain levels.

I make no secret of the fact I have chronic illness which sees me deal with chronic, persistent pain daily…………in fact I cannot remember the last day I was pain free………….to be fair if I woke up pain free I would probably think I had died.

Anyway, before this HUGE cleaning frenzy craze took hold of everyone I literally stumbled upon an Instagram account that was less about just cleaning random things at any time and more about a cleaning method that allowed people to be housework free for the whole weekend ( I mean who wouldn’t want that anyway!) but was well thought out and covered the whole house on a weekly rotation while keeping to a minimal amount of time………. 30 minutes a day in this case. The more I read the more I knew this method would work for me as I like that sort of routine to follow.

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No big New Years resolutions here

I’m no spring chicken at 48 years old, and I have done my time over the years at making new years resolutions only to last a few weeks and fall right back into the habits of a lifetime, but with the added bonus of feeling like a failure to boot – and that’s before I now factor in a chronic illness that sees me deal with constant pain every day. I’ve certainly learned over the past 10 years of dealing with illness and pain that I have very little control of how my body will be from day to day. It eats away at any control you have over life in general, on a daily basis, let alone factor in dramatic new years resolutions like joining a gym, or getting out running or even walking for that matter. Any activity I do has a huge knock on affect that impacts what I will be able to do either later that day or for a few days after.

So this year, as with the last previous few years, I have opted for very small changes across the year that then accumulate to make a bigger change overall, without putting any pressure on myself or creating unnecessary anxiety. The changes are very small steps that creates a bit of a ripple into the year, and yet they can be totally achievable even with a chronic illness.

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The inevitable Christmas overwhelm

As I sit here writing this I am still  feeling the affects of drinking way too many cocktails at a Christmas party last night, and I am watching White Christmas for the very first time!

 

It’s the ultimate Christmas cliche isn’t it? Christmas parties, festive hangovers and idyllic lazy afternoons watching Christmas films and feeling like its just ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. However, what you don’t see is the inevitable Christmas overwhelm that I have now come to expect every year. My husband loves Christmas and says it’s his favourite time (and day) of the year………………..well I mean you would wouldn’t  you if you if it literally landed on your lap with virtually no effort whatsoever! That’s how it is most years, I sort ALL the presents (even for all his side of the family), I sort everything we get for our boys, I organise all of the food and treats………Oh and then I obviously cook dinner most years ( although thankfully I am not this year as we are at the in laws on the day). That generally leads to an annual Christmas meltdown for me at some point, normally fairly close to the big day, when I realise I haven’t got everything I need, haven’t wrapped anything and realise I haven’t got something we need for the actual dinner. Anyway you get the general picture.

Yet on good ‘ol social media everyone is literally Christmassing the shit out of life, putting their decs up as early as possible, having all their pressies wrapped by December 1st and their food order slot booked, and so can sit smugly back and take time for themselves to get their Christmas nails done, order their party dresses enjoy the wonderful festive season in all it’s glory.

Me, on the other hand, am still ordering stuff of Amazon, hoping I’ve got enough wrapping paper and already panicking about the ridiculously early morning I have on Saturday morning to go and get the all important fresh food shop. You see Christmas is very different when you suffer with chronic pain. It impacts every single day of your life let alone at THE  busiest time of the year. Trying to pace all the things you need to do with enough rest time in between, slowly running out of time and realising that if it’s all going to get done then there is no rest time…………..and that leads to flare ups and meltdowns, in my case.

So, my Christmas night out with my sewing group was fabulous and much needed and I knew today would be a wasted day in regards to getting anything done whilst also feeling a bit crap! ( however, I wouldn’t change that for anything as I had a fab time and it was totally worth it). But the overwhelm game is strong today which means I start to panic about how much I still have to do. On top of that, because its a busy time, I worry that I will have a massive fibro crash that will inevitably eat into the precious time I have left and therefore Christmas will be ruined! I know, I know it seems a bit extreme but that’s just how it is with chronic illness and chronic pain combined with the added activity and stress that leads up to the day itself.

But even without the illness, I think I would still feel overwhelmed. I can’t be the only one who gets like this though, can I? I literally feel like a total Grinch because I’m not drowning in festive hot chocolates watching Christmas movies all day long, with everything wrapped and ready.

So help me out here folks……………….am I the only one?

 

What to buy older teenage boys for Christmas

I’d like to think this is a gift guide with a difference!

First of all, anything I have suggested here I have bought my teens through the years or I know of friends who have bought their boys similar. Secondly, none of it has been sent to me to be promoted, so any companies I mention here I have actually used or bought from them over the last 7 or 8 years.

I also think that teen boys are much harder to buy for than girls ( probably because I don’t have girls but I would imagine with clothes, perfumes and makeup and jewellery most things can be covered and they are so expensive too so a designer item could certainly be covered as a main Christmas present!) and I appreciate I could totally be wrong about this, but I have only experience in buying for boys in this house and so I think that is where my expertise lies.

I also do not like giving my boys money! That’s just a personal choice I make and I also think they like it that way. Any family members who buy for them instead give them money so they always have cash to put towards something more expensive in the sales. We also aren’t the type of bargain hunters that go out first thing on Boxing Day to buy stuff in the sales either (again our personal choice). Therefore, I like to buy my boys things I know they want as a main present and then fill it out with the usual extras like, underwear, t-shirts, books, cd’s or films etc. That way we all still enjoy a chilled out morning with everyone opening their pressies etc as we did when they were little – and again they love it that way! Keep on Reading!

Does losing weight mean I am fatphobic?

This is a post that has been rattling around in my head for some time now as I think about my own weight loss. Any regular followers of my blog or Instagram will know that between in 2016 I joined Slimming World and lost almost 3 stone in weight by the middle of 2017. It wasn’t an easy task and obviously with having chronic illness and chronic pain I had to do it with food alone as I cannot conventionally exercise ( before my illness I used to go running 3 times a week). The weight had crept on over a long period of time and was a combination of my lack of being able to exercise, reaching for the sugary foods for a quick energy boost, and also my age. I have since kept that weight off for well over a year now and feel much better in myself having changed my eating habits for the better. Yes I still have the coffee and cake meet ups with friends, meals out every now and then, and also nights out drinking on occasion and I do all of these with absolutely no guilt attached. I am thankful I do not have the emotional connection to food that some others have and therefore don’t turn to food when I am stressed, or tired, or upset etc.

However, recently I have seen more and more people talking about, and living their life by, the whole ‘ body positivity’ approach and encouraging others to do so as well, and I love this mind set and approach to life and I also follow quite a few accounts that promote this on a daily level. But it has made me stop and think………….does the fact that I have actively lost weight and feel better about myself for doing so now make me fat phobic?

For me, the losing weight was a ‘self help’ approach to managing my illness. The extra weight I was carrying was making my life more difficult. I suffer with chronic musculoskeletal  pain all over my body, the extra weight was creating an abundance of extra pressure on my knee and ankle joints making it difficult to be on my feet or walk for any length of time ( I already use a walking stick most of the time when I am out of the house). On bad days when my fatigue levels where through the roof I found it almost impossible to hold my body weight up long enough to make a cup of coffee! It was making be breathless when I walked up stairs which increased my levels of dizziness tenfold.

I also had the fact that it just wasn’t a simple case of going up into the next size of clothes. I am only 5ft 1 1/2 ins tall ( I used to be 5ft2 but having recently been measured at my pain management group I seem to be bloody shrinking!) and I carry all my weight in my middle- so effectively an apple shape. Therefore, going up in the next size of trousers to accommodate my growing waist (or lack of) meant the rest of the garment was swamping me. Anything loose fitting on the top end, like a shirt, made me look like I was a kid dressing up in their mum’s clothes! Nothing was comfortable, nothing fitted well even when I bought from the petite sections of high street shops. My confidence was already on the floor as chronic illness had over the years stripped me of my job, of being active, of friends (believe me you are dropped like a hot stone if on a night out they feel as though they will be stuck with you at the table rather than enjoying themselves on the dance floor!) and of fully changing the life that I had planned.

Personally speaking, joining Slimming World ( and I know online people are very vocal about these companies preying on vulnerable people and taking their money- which I do acknowledge to a certain degree) and losing weight was a way of taking control of something when you have an invisible illness that takes all control away from you on a daily basis. I enjoyed the focus it gave me and I met lovely friends there which in turn became a sociable activity to do, I am still at my group as one of the social team helping out each week. I have been able to keep the weight I lost off for over a year and it has absolutely changed my way of looking at food. I eat more! I eat better, which in turn helps me try and manage my illness better and I now know I have done everything I can ‘self help’ wise to manage my illness on a daily level. I don’t ever feel deprived, I have a cake when I fancy one, I have a drink when I fancy one, and I have some bloody chocolate, again when I fancy it. Dare I say it, I feel much more comfortable in my own skin, not because I am a particular size, but because I took control and did something for myself to help with my illness which also raised my confidence – surely that’s a positive right?

                                       So I ask the question again………..does that make me fat phobic? 

Like I said above, I follow some fabulous body positive accounts who I chat to regularly and I love their accounts because I like them as people, I like them because of what they talk about and also because they portray real life. So here are just 2 of my fav’s…….

@sparkleandstretchmarks  

I love Hayley’s account because I think with her what you see is totally what you get , if that makes sense! her stories are always real and she shows the down sides as well as the good and will sometimes post even though she is showing her vulnerability. She talks about fatphobia and the social media implications with being self employed as a blogger, and the affect being a plus size can have on her working with brands.

@_alexandra_parker

I love Alexandra’s account because she also promotes body positivity but in a different way. She has done the slimming world thing to find it wasn’t for her. She has also given up drinking alcohol to help with her mindset and literally gets you thinking about everything…………….just everything! Again it’s a real non themed account and she will also show her vulnerabilities when things are playing on her mind.

There are lots of others I could mention such as @mollyforbes and more recently @this_girl_is_enough  (who can literally blow my mind some days on what she can talk about on stories) but these are the two main ones who got me thinking about my question.

Am I insulting people when I post about my weight loss?

Can I not take pride in the fact that I set a goal personal to me and I achieved it? 

Am I wrong in being happy that I have lost the weight even though it helps massively with my illness?

 Is it wrong to say that my confidence has improved now I feel better about myself after my weight loss?

I think these are valid questions and I would love to know your thoughts? I feel that maybe it’s something I can’t be proud of online as I would hate to upset anyone, yet for me I feel as though I have achieved something personal to me in my life.

Please let me know what you think?

Chronic illness/ Chronic pain code for what we say and what we actually mean!

Most of you will know by now I have ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), Fibromyalgia ( widespread musculoskeletal pain) and more recently Joint Hypermobility ( in hands- when joints can dislocate!). I have had chronic illness and pain since 2009 and even with high levels of pain medications including morphine I still experience pain 24hrs a day, 7 days a week and 52 weeks of the year. In truth, I cannot remember certainly in the last 7 yrs or so of a time when I have been pain free. I read recently that the full list of symptoms of an ME or Fibro patient is the same as a patient with AIDS around 2 months before death! The most frustrating thing about my condition is that it is completely INVISIBLE. There is nothing to see, no bruising, no swelling of joints in my case, no identifying marks on the skin………….NOTHING. BUT MY BODY IS WRACKED WITH PAIN DAILY.

Now that may be hard to believe – how can someone be in pain all of the time even with very strong medications? A normal person’s brain is not equipped to understand chronic, consistent pain at all. Yes they can totally empathise if someone breaks their arm, or has the flu or even something like appendicitis because naturally our brains can understand what’s seen as danger or acute pain –  pain that will be there until that body part has healed itself…………short term pain. They can imagine from past experiences how painful those things could be, but the normal brain is not equipped to understand a pain that does not go away! It’s just how we are made- and therein lies the problem.

Therefore, as you can imagine this can be the cause of all misunderstanding around consistent pain. People think it’s actually not possible to be in pain for that long or believe that it never goes away. They see us ‘spoonies’ up out of bed and dressed and dare I even say it, possibly even with make up on and possibly even smiling and chatting!!! I mean c’mon if you are in pain would you even be doing that?………………..ERM…………..actually yes sometimes you would! Not because the pain is reduced that day or any less severe, but more so if you didn’t make the effort ( and believe me you have no idea how much fecking effort that actually takes when you feel like death!) you would never leave the house or see anyone!

Then once you have a chronic condition like that when anyone asks how you are- they aren’t fully listening or really wanting to know simply because most of the time they don’t understand it, think you are exaggerating or even lying about the severity of the condition. As time goes, on I can tell you, that you definitely find out who your true friends actually are. Having to cancel going on a night out does not go down well once you’ve done it more than once. The invitations to go out or do anything start drying up because if the venue is somewhere where there’s dancing to be done no one wants to be the one stuck at a table keeping you company! If its a day out with a fair bit of walking your invitation gets ‘lost’ as no one wants to be lagging behind walking at your speed rather than be with the crowd. Believe me it happens………………………………I’VE BEEN THERE AND GOT THE T-SHIRT ON THAT ONE!

You learn very quickly that when people ask how you are they are generally being polite and I can tell you most spoonies will answer ‘I’m fine’ (which generally means I feel like death but with a pulse!) and the conversation will quickly move on to what they’ve been up to.

So, I thought I would do a quick reference to what we say and it’s translation to what we actually mean- you know just for the laughs!

I’m Fine!

Like I said above this is the general term for I feel like death but with a pulse- but I have made the effort to get up and dressed to either meet up or go somewhere.

I’m a bit tired!

I literally cannot hold my own body weight up, it feels twice it’s normal weight but I also feel as though I’m wearing a pair of lead boots walking through a swimming pool of treacle whilst someone is pressing down on my shoulders with their own full body weight!

I’m a bit sore!

Feck me I think I’ve just done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson then been thrown out of the ring to be run over by 2 double decker buses and then been set upon by a pack of feral wolves…………..DON’T FECKING EVEN TRY TO TOUCH ME (OR EVEN LOOK IN MY DIRECTION)!

I had a rough day!

ALL OF THE ABOVE…………but now I feel sick, have a migraine and cannot even swallow food or fecking blink……………so I’m unable to get out of bed, the blinds are closed, earplugs are in as noise sensitivity is through the roof. Just check me occasionally to make sure I’m still actually breathing!

So if you have a friend or a family member who has a chronic illness and suffers with chronic pain, then PLEASE recognise the above standard phrases and REMEMBER what they actually mean. It could make all the difference to our day. If you look closely enough you will probably notice that  our smile we plaster on our face is not reaching our eyes…………..look closely next time.

HOW ARE YOU TODAY?