Tag Archives: blogging

On blogging: sex, drugs and George Orwell

fireworksToday is the one year anniversary of my blog.  In that year my daughter left home for Honduras and returned (in one piece), albeit speaking Spanish. I started the 5:2 diet and didn’t stop. Although I’ve recently found  6:1 (1 day fast, 6 eating as normal including treats) is enough to maintain ideal weight, improved and younger looking skin (so my husband remarked at dinner, although what he actually said was);

“Are you wearing much make-up?”

“No not much, why?”

“Your face looks different, smooth… umm….”

“Younger?”

“Yes. That’s it. I didn’t want to say because then you would think I thought you looked old before.”

“Did I?”

– aswell as keeping the ankylosing spondylitis under control, with minimum medication.

I wrote a novel ‘The Replacement Wife’, but have yet to secure an agent (I will not give up). A short story got short-listed in Mslexia. My son studied for and passed his A-levels (and is off to Warwick to study philosophy). We got a new dog called Fred, a rescue poodle mix (cockapooish) from Cyprus, who is cute, devilish and has a crock (as in ugly plastic shoe) fetish. And summer arrived and stayed (sort of).

I salute you.
I salute you.

But what of my blog? Who visited and why in the past year?

Nearly 12,000 people have dropped by. A lot of them repeat visitors (thank you).

Average visits per month has grown to over 1000.

The main search terms revolve around sex, drugs and George Orwell.

george-orwell-quotes-sayings-lies-truth-famousGeorge Orwell led 98 people here, not sure what they made of it.

Agnus Castus brings hundreds of people to my blog and dominates the top of the search terms as well as the majority of search categories. Quite rightly. It works.agnus castus flower

Lord John Shayler, who opened a strip club in Ampthill, which is no longer a strip club, came third in most searched term. Probably disgruntled Ampthillieans, the ones in the incongruous image below, posing outside the contested strip club for a charity calendar.

ampthill

And finally, 380 comments!! Thank you so much. One of the best things about a blog is getting a comment on a post.

I didn’t know if I would sustain my blog. I didn’t know what I would blog about. I didn’t know if anyone would read it.

I have sustained it. I still don’t really know what I blog about. But you do read it. Thank you.

Here’s to another year of sex, drugs and George Orwell!

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Agnus Castus: Not a rant, but ACTION!

I’ve had enough of big pharmaceutical companies dictating what I am allowed to take to improve my health and well being. Agnus Castus is a safe and effective treatment for PMT and I want to be able to buy it on the high street. Urged on by this organisation Alliance for Natural Health, I have written the following email to the MEP that represents my constituency – Glenis Willmott. Please do the same. You can find sample letters and how to find your MEP on the Alliance for Natural Health website.

Dear Ms Willmott,

I am greatly concerned about the way in which the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority and Member State governments have restricted maximum levels of vitamins and minerals in food supplements (on the basis of Article 5 of the Food Supplements Directive,2002/46/EC).

I am writing to you in the hopes you can do something about making it possible for me and many other women to obtain 20mg of Agnus Castus for treatment of PMT. Up until May 2011, getting the efficacious dosage (based on sound clinical data – see Schellenberg 2001, 2012) was easy enough, with Boots and many online stores stocking the product at a reasonable price. However, since the THMPD, the dosage has been restricted to 4mg per tablet based on Traditional Herbal Registration. No UK company has applied for Market Authorisation, so the MRHA informed me recently (unsurprising considering the cost), which would allow them to continue selling 20mg tablets based on Well Established Use. The THMPD has therefore taken away the only treatment that has worked for PMT; my alternative is to take 5 tablets a day at a cost of £20 a week – as it seems despite the reduction in dosage, there has not been a reduction in price, 4mg tablets cost the same as 20mg.

To impress on you the significance of this directive on my life, let me tell you what life was like before I stumbled across Agnus Castus in  newspaper article in 2008:

“For me the biggest issue was painful periods, so painful I stood at the top of the stairs and seriously toyed with the possibility of throwing myself down them either to knock myself out or at least end up in hospital. Unbelievable pain that had my lying in my own vomit on the bathroom floor wishing I would black out. I was prescribed morphine, which left me muddled, sick, and unable to drive to work the next day (as a secondary school teacher, I was missing 2-3 days a month, which was terrible for my students and my career prospects). I was offered anti-depressants: I said I wasn’t depressed. They recommended exercise, cutting out caffeine, eating more healthily. I did all those things. I still spent 3-4 days a month dealing with constant grinding pain that stopped me sleeping, eating, working, living. The consultant suggested the Mirena coil. I said I didn’t need contraception. He said it was like a chemical hysterectomy. I agreed. I just wanted the pain to stop. The pain was so overwhelming, I barely registered the irritable bowel, painful breasts, anxiety and tearfulness.

The evening after the coil was inserted the pain started and didn’t stop. After three days, where I was in so much pain, I considered overdosing on morphine, and absolutely no support from the gynae clinic who had inserted the coil, even when I begged them on the phone to see me, I ended up in A&E, crying, shaking, vomiting and delirious. They gave me a lot more morphine, which made me even sicker. I pleaded with them to remove the coil (possibly hysterically, it is all a blur). They told me Minera coils are expensive and I should give it more time, before giving up. I hadn’t slept for three days. I was exhausted and distressed. My husband insisted they remove it. The pain stopped immediately.

I was a bad patient. The gynaecological consultant had run out of options. I floated the idea of a hysterectomy. I was told it was a drastic measure, and  I should have tried harder with the coil, because they didn’t like to recommend hysterectomies on woman of my age (37 at the time). It was suggested I try the coil again. I told them I would think about it. I left, depressed and lost. Menopause seemed my only hope, but that was ten years away yet.” Extract from my blog and for the full post and more posts about Agnus Castus and the countless women who have commented see link:  https://julietocallaghan.wordpress.com

As you can see Agnus Castus was life changing, I have not missed a day of work since. I know many other women for whom this herb has been a life and marriage saviour, but unfortunately even if a woman was to find out about the benefits of Agnus Castus and bought it on UK high streets, she would not realise the recommended dosage (4-8mg) would render it ineffective and she would assume it doesn’t work, leaving very few alternatives (all with terrible side effects).

I urge you to act on this subject, which is based on sound scientific principles as judged by leading integrated medicine institutions, the Alliance for Natural Health International and other respected and independent organisations.

Please let me know what action you might be prepared to take to bring to end this strangulation, which benefits large pharma companies and keeps UK citizens chained to dangerous and less effective treatments for PMT and other ailments.

From the activity on my blog, there are many, many women left in pain and confused by the result of this directive.

Very best wishes,

Juliet O’Callaghan

You can use my letter as a template, but do give your personal story of what life was like before Agnus Castus. I feel better for doing something rather than just whinging on this blog.

On Education: Those who can’t, teach – and thank goodness for them

Wilshaw and Gove seem intent on denigrating teachers, for whatever political/ economic agenda they are currently pushing.

gove terminator

Sir Michael said regional chiefs were being given orders to root out poor-performing schools, chains of academies and local authorities in each region.

In particular, they will be told to crackdown on schools that:

• Fail to stretch the brightest and weakest pupils by placing them in mixed-ability lessons;

• Enter large numbers of pupils early for GCSEs simply to bank a pass-mark before moving pupils on to other courses;

• Consistently mislabel poorly-performing pupils as suffering from special educational needs to disguise weak teaching;

Critics have warned that many schools are failing to place children into ability bands because of “ideological” opposition to the system by teachers.

I could blog about the lack evidence they have for their spurious assertions, in particular the idea that teachers are against ‘setting’ for ideological reasons, and the unsubstantiated assumption that mixed ability classes damage the most able.

The view that, at least for certain subjects, learning is best when pupils are grouped by ability seems to be widely held by teachers and others, as is evident from the setting that takes place within comprehensive schools. […] We may also note that despite widespread belief in the benefits of setting, it is not a view that is really supported by research evidence (Mosteller et al, 1996). Evidence of the effects of Selective Educational Systems.

I could rage on about how unfair it is, and how teachers (me included) are seriously considering why we work in a profession that is Wilshawseen as an easy route for lazy,whinging people, who can’t do anything else. I could give you a run down of my typical day and the variety of roles I must simultaneously fulfill – but my job is no more difficult than many other jobs that involve dealing with emotions, expectations and hopes (nursing, policing, social work, childminding, youth workers, probation officers and on and on).

Instead I want to tell you about my teacher, Mr Hallet, who worked at Bushmead Primary School in Luton in the late 1970’s and earlydanny_champion_of_the_world_pic 80’s. I guess I was around 9 or 10 when he became our form tutor. I do remember it was love at first sight. His front teeth slanted backwards and when he spoke, a line of spittle would extend from his top lip to his bottom lip. I loved that line of spittle. I loved watching it break and reform as he shared another exciting fact about the world. He had dark hair, I think he was tall, though I was very, very short (kinda like a munchkin) – I didn’t get much taller as it happens. Whenever I remember Mr Hallet it is summer (why is it when we think of our childhoods it is always summer?) He read us Roald Dahl’s  ‘Danny Champion of the World’ under a broad oak tree on the grass border that surrounded the playground every afternoon, until the bell went for home time. I remember lying on my back on the cool grass and looking through the leaves, while plump pheasants drunk on hand sewn alcohol-laced raisins plopped on the ground around me. His mellifluous voice wove pictures  in my head. I do wonder if he is one of the reasons I love reading and writing. I cried when I left primary school. I swore I would never forget him. I never have.

On a side note, he was also partly responsible for the one and only broken bone of my childhood. A greenstick fracture of my right wrist. On a residential field trip, he offered aeroplane rides on his feet. I couldn’t wait for my turn and possibly pushed myself to the front of the queue. To be in his gaze was to be in heaven. His soles pressed against my tummy, gently, as he lifted me up in the air, grasping my hands in his and flying me around. Over-excited me, shouted; more, harder, Greenstick_fracturefaster – and then all I remember is flying over his head and thinking, I am really flying, before the grass came up suddenly and I realised, too late, I had let go of his hands. The rest is history. I didn’t cry. I didn’t want him to think I was a baby. My wrist looked wonky. It hurt a lot. He took me to hospital. I came back to the outdoor centre with a white plaster cast. He cuddled me and bought me an ice-cream. My parents came to collect me (once they had been found in the time of BMP -before mobile phones). I made them take me straight back there the next day and stayed for the rest of the week. He was the first to sign my cast. He was my first love. He may also have been the reason I became a teacher.

He made each and everyone of us feel special, important, unique and loved. I am so glad whatever it is Mr Hallet couldn’t do, meant he chose to teach.

In this little corner of the blogosphere, let’s celebrate those teachers who made going to school an adventure. Who made a difference in our lives. Who chose teaching, not because of what they couldn’t do, but because of what they could.

we salute you
We salute you!

And I salute you, Mr Hallet, Teacher at Bushmead Primary School, Luton, and I probably still love you too. love

Got a teacher you want to salute. Remember them here. Share your stories. Let’s remind all those beleaguered teachers (including me) why it is one of the best jobs in the world. And Mr Hallet, if you read this, thank you.

Please do share.

A review: My top ten for 2013

Time to review my list for 2013, one month in:

  1. Get an agent- well, I jumped. MS is sent.
  2. Get a publisher – depends on 1.
  3. Fast twice a week – yup, still doing it. Still feel great. Husband starts it tomorrow.
  4. Meditate regularly- not once. I really must start doing it again. Make time.
  5. Enjoy the moment (live in the present) – always trying, but would help if I meditated.
  6. Worry less (see no. 5) – nuff said.
  7. Read more books – reading two at once, currently. Spent a great train journey, immersed in Sadie Jones, Small Wars.
  8. Write more (instead of procrastinating on the internet) – well I’ve sent the MS and my friend and I are challenging ourselves to write something new each month and put it in our shared dropbox.
  9. Keep blogging- love my blog.
  10. Accept change is part of being alive and embrace it – I’m getting on a plane to Honduras! And looking forward to it.

Starting blogs is a habit of mine

me and Archie

I know I started one (or three) somewhere with lots of links and things, but can I find it or them? Nope. Though I have found, I only make up just less than one page on a google search. Not a great web presence then, which brings me back to why I have started yet another blog. You see the problem is this: I need a web presence to create a platform for my writing – literary agents apparently google you, when you send a submission (covering letter and first 3 chapters of your novel, for non-writers reading this) – but (and there are two):

In between working full time as a teacher and running the home and everything else known to man and woman, as well as writing short stories and a novel or four, keeping up with writing groups on and off line, reading blogs about writing and publishing, entering competitions and preparing submissions, and reading lots and lots of books, where do I find the time to write a weekly blog posts, with links and pictures and other exciting things?

Well, here I am anyway – avidly reading blogs on blogging for writers, like this one from Ann R. Allen’s blog, which is why I have used my name in the title, ( it should also aid me finding it, though I hope this time not to lose it in the first place); and this ‘get started’ guide from Jane Friedman.

Yet already I am getting cold feet.

Which brings me to my second ‘but’:

Why would anyone want to read what I have to say (says the aspiring author)? I don’t know what I think about most things most of the time. There are fundamental things I am sure about, hurting other people, physically and psychologically is wrong (excluding consensual acts of S&M); the only person who can make you happy is you; no one is all bad, or all good; and, every pudding should be accompanied by clotted cream. But beyond that, I am a bit airy-fairy, prone to seeing the other side of the argument.

Most recently, I have found myself wavering around the whole benefit debate. I am proud my country has a safety net. As has been said by many, including Gandhi and Pope John Paul II; a civilised society is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable members. I have often used the argument that benefit fraud is  a very low incidence (despite what the papers say) and any system that protects the weak will be abused by the minority (and should not be reason not to have one). But, I can’t deny the fact that there are some families in the second and third generation of career unemployment, collecting their ‘wages’  from the state, with no compunction to get a job or an education; their lives lurching from one self-inflicted crisis to another.

The state protects many vulnerable people, but in doing so, infantilizes and institutionalizes some. These kidults (having children of their own) are locked in an egocentric world, where their needs are paramount and those of others, not so much ignored, but not perceived.

So I don’t know what to think? And I don’t know what the answer is? If we don’t have benefits then the most vulnerable will suffer. But if we do, then we sustain, and possibly create, an underclass.

If you have a view on this, then please pile in. I have feeling a number of my posts will end, not with an answer, but a question and a plea for help to unravel what it is I think, I think.

Until next time. Au revoir.