Category Archives: Work and Studying

Mastering The Enemy …

mastersYou know when you can’t string a sentence together with MS and your brain goes foggy?

Yup? What better time to start a Master’s degree (insert smiley face here).

That’s the way I was thinking two years ago (MS does funny things to your brain).

Back then, MS was The Enemy Incarnate, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, and had to be defeated at all costs. I had been writing random blog posts for a while (still do, lol) and wondered whether I could write anything else. So, I looked around, called a few universities and signed up for a Master’s.

It was then that sheer terror set in. On many levels:

  • MS – brain fog, memory issues, parking …
  • Age – how would it be to go back to Uni when I was the old enough to tell the students off?
  • Style – or lack thereof. How to pretend I fitted in. Scarf? Glasses? Something academic-y?

So, I got my mugshot taken for my ID card, shuffled along to the first meeting and wished I had shuffled right back out again. I was completely and utterly out of my depth, brand new notebook and pens notwithstanding. My fellow students used words like, ‘protagonist’ and ‘Stein-esque’.

My first attempt at a short story (about a decapitated mouse) was met with silence and a withering response. Too complicated, too long, too … strange.

The thing is. I wanted to give up. I went so far as to try to formally withdraw from the course. It wasn’t for me, obviously. I grew to hate my headless mouse and everything it stood for – a symptom of my failure.

But. I trucked along. I attended most of the tutorials, inspired by my fellow students. We critiqued each other in uniquely British-polite ways and nudged each other along the path to true creative writing.

And so I came to the dissertation.

Long story short, it evolved from a germ of an idea into a little pod. And with some nurturing from my friends, it grew into something I’m really proud of. It’s 10,000 words. Just had to get the critical essay done and that would be me – a Master’s.

One problem.

My essay is terrible.

I have six weeks to turn it around and send the whole thing in.

Sounds like a lot of time, but every time I try to sit down and write (re-write):

  • The cat is on my seat
  • The plants need watering
  • The fridge needs rearranging
  • The Teenager needs an emergency cash injection

I will get there. I will purge my dire sentences, such as, ‘I pull no punches with my story’ and change them to something like, ‘with my narrative, I will not hesitate to draw upon brutal imagery’.

Doing this is my way of getting back at MS. I want to push my boundaries, explore new areas and prove to myself that I can still ‘Do’.

The January deadline is looming and keeps me awake at night, along with the usual nerve pain.

As for now, I’m off to organise my books into alphabetical order and clean my fork prongs with a micro-cloth.

Really.

p.s. I cannot end this post without a very special mention to the supremely patient Dr. Kate North, my dissertation tutor. Thank You.

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What Lies Beneath

hardhatI’m becoming increasingly aware that I’m not really getting away with it at work.

And there was me thinking it would be the dead giveaways – the tripping over every single thing, the fatigue, the balance.

No.

It’s being ‘too well’.

MS, eh?  – you’re never too ill nor too well, eh?

I’ll explain: over the last four years, I have calibrated (shackled) myself to MS – so I now obey MS like a good servant and go to bed early, wake up early (in the dark) and more often than not, fall asleep on my sofa after work. That’s how I deal with the clinical fatigue and nerve pain. And it kills me, I hate it. But …

… luckily, I work for someone, The Boss, who also starts early. Result! Or so you would think. I truck up at 7am, yawning, the first person there, and catch up on a little light University reading. The Boss arrives, we chat over coffee, day begins. I then finish at 2pm.

And that’s the problem.

Honestly, I don’t mind being called ‘Half-Shift’. I can take the jokes, the swearing, the rib-nudging.

As the lone female in amongst upwards of seven blokes, I think I can roll with the punches and to be fair, I’ve developed a thick skin, which can only help me in the dating scene, no? Every cloud.

Plus I can speak knowledgeably upon many subjects, including drainage, tracking down antique architrave and where to source the best windows this side of the M4.

But, because I can hold my own, the shouts of ‘Oyyyyyyy-oyyyy Half-Shiiiiiiiift’ when I leave at 2pm are growing ever louder. And I’m not happy.

What they don’t realise is:

a) I earn less than them

b) Having to lie on the sofa for hours on end is not, NOT, a cushy life

c) I would give anything to have a normal job. One where I didn’t have a pink hard hat

So, yes, my co-workers have a laugh at my expense. And you know, no matter how hard I try to explain, they don’t understand. I’m not saying I want a ‘softly-softly’ approach, far from it. I’m made of far tougher stuff.

But, a wee bit of understanding wouldn’t go amiss? And what they don’t see is:

  • The ridiculous nerve pain
  • The twerking/twitching in my head and arms
  • The dead feet
  • The garbled speech (I cover this well – I’m Glaswegian!)
  • The utter soul-destroying fatigue
  • The endless days I have to take off work to recover from a spike in symptoms

I just wish, for once, they would be chuffed to see a peep with MS, still working, still trucking along. Despite everything. Rock and hard place …

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Simply The Boss …

mugJust when I think my life is bad, The Boss proves me completely wrong.

Not only is he juggling three jobs at the moment, he is also without a van, his phone and his hair.

I’ll explain:

A few weeks ago he was in a crash at a notorious roundabout. Luckily no one was badly hurt and it wasn’t his fault (it was an 84-year old, on his way to his birthday party, poor thing).

Sadly, his beautifully sign-written van (designed by moi) is a write-off and was sent to the Crusher Yard last week – a day of sad reflection for us all.

So he hired an interim van after much grumbling about lack of shelf space and roof rack. Last week he had to sort out the plasterer at one of the jobs, left his phone on the dashboard for a minute (d’oh) and came back to find the van broken into, the phone gone and half his tools as well.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, after sporting a Donald Trump-esque haircut for a while, he went to a new hairdressers and came out with a razor-thin cut, looking like someone I saw recently on Crimewatch.

And finally, to top it all, he’s had to put up with me going through an MS floaty-exacerbation-of-symptoms.

I worry about him.

At work today, I tripped over countless times. I took ten minutes to doze in the corner. All the while, he was on my phone, sorting out a new van, chasing up his new phone and working out which tools have been taken. He collects them as a hobby so this in itself was a monumental task.

Anyway, as I was packing up to leave, he said he’d worked out a plan for the week and ran through it for me. I gently reminded him I was having a blood test on Wednesday and seeing my neurologist on Friday, so wouldn’t be in work those days.

I left pretty sharpish.

As I got in my car, The Teenager sent me a text, ‘Sixth form party tonight, can you iron my jeans? Can I have some money?’

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The One When I Argue With a Mini-Digger …

miniI love my job (the boss may read this).

It’s quite sedentary, excellent for an MSer, working as a project manager on a building site.

I deal with architectural plans on room-sized paper print-outs, customer’s wishes and all the rest that this job entails, mostly keeping the neighbours happy. I sort out who should be where, when and why. And if they’re not, why not?

My boots may be muddy but I enjoy pontificating, pointing and generally positing from an elevated position.

And so it was this week. I directed our newest recruit to the sewage drain and explained the brick-y stuff to our very handsome builder – not for nothing he’s known as ‘Handsome Dave’.

The Boss was happy; we had a newly-delivered mini-digger and dumper. I won’t boast, but I’m pretty good on the mini-digger (I get to sit down all day, what’s not to love?). There’s even a space on the dashboard for a cup of coffee, if I’m careful.

So far, so good. I sat down, showed off a little, then a bit more. Swing. Swoop. Swing. Get me.

I was trucking along, then paused when I had to take the mini-dumper to the pile at the front. Easy.

Problem was, it had rained. I tried my hardest, got the pile of mud to the bigger pile of mud out the front, positioned it carefully, and just as I was about to tip the contents, the dumper went all wibbly and started to fall.

What would you do?

If you’re me, you try to catch it as it’s falling.

So, I did.

Massive burn on my arm. Extremely painful.

I have a handy tip – never try to catch a one-tonne piece of equipment. I ended up at my Doctor’s, muddy boots removed and carried through the surgery when I explained what had happened.

‘Um, yes, I tried to catch a falling mini-digger. Is it bad? Ah. Really? Ah. Infected Right. I see?’

Long story short, I was soldiering on – I waited four days until the burn was so bad even the apprentice asked my why I hadn’t had it checked out.

As I apply the latest plaster and take the antibiotic, I still think I’m lucky that I have a job I love, despite the … setback …

In other news, I have written an extra 1,ooo words of my Master’s …

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I (Heart) My Boss

grand prixRemember everything mean I’ve ever said about my boss?

I take it all back.

Last year I tagged along to the Austrian Grand Prix with him – which had more to do with me having lived in Austria for two years, speaking the lingo (lol) and sharing the drive (yes, we drove, from Cardiff to Graz).

I’m not a petrol-head by any stretch of the imagination and spent most of the race in Austria tugging on the boss’s arm, asking, ‘where’s the loos?’, ‘why’s that car crashed?’, ‘when does it get to the exciting bit?’ and ‘can we go home now?’.

This year is different. He was toying with various Grand Prix locations, weighing up the prices. He worked out it was only a couple of hundred quid more to have me go along with him, than for him to go as a single traveller. Knowing that I was adept at travelling and scanning a guide book in the blink of an eye, he has asked me to accompany him to his Grand Prix of choice this year.

Singapore.

Sing-a-blooming-pore. Ah. No way. Absolutely no way. 31 degrees in September? I really don’t think so.

I said to him, ‘that’s soooo sweet of you, you know, to organise this ‘works do’. I mean, most boss’s are happy with a Christmas party at the local Carvery. Erm, have you thought about Belgium? Very clement, I hear.’

‘D’uh, we drove through Belgium on the way back from Austria last year. I’m striking out, being more adventurous. Just like you advised me to do?’.

‘Er, boss, when I said ‘adventurous’, I meant, perhaps going to Sainsbury’s for your ready-meals rather than Tesco’s?’

‘Yeah, well, I like Singapore Fried noodles, so it was pretty much a safe bet’.

‘Ah’.

‘Listen. You in? Or you out? I’m paying?’

‘Well, when you put it that way, erm, yup, it sounds, erm, pretty amazing’ (googles Dengue Fever quickly).

So the upshot is, I’m going to Singapore in September. I’ve rationalised it in my mind by thinking, ‘it’s experience, I could maybe write the next great novel out here, I might have the experience of my life’. If the heat doesn’t get me first.

I had a chat with the boss about what I should wear – always a touchy subject, being a fat-ish person.

‘Doesn’t matter – they’re all here to see the race, wear what you like’.

‘Like, I know, but a hint about the kind of hotel we would be staying in would be helpful?’

I should have known.

‘Raffles. Singapore’.

All my worst nightmare have come true. That epic, five-star hotel in Singapore? The hotel that invented Singapore Slings? The hotel that gives you a butler, just because they can? Gah. Really? I am neither rich nor thin. Will they accept me as a fat interloper?

Deep breaths.

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