Been a while since I updated here, and well overdue. The last couple years have been crazy busy, what with studying and getting the house sorted out. So a bit of an update post:

The house turned out not to be quite what we hoped. The electrics need redoing, which is going to cost, substantially, as it’s an old house, without the usual channels in the walls that the electrical cables run through. New channels are going to have to be drilled through, with replastering work following. So at the moment it’s a case of saving like crazy, and all redecorating work is on hold.

Michiel is now working. In some ways it’s the job of his dreams: he’s doing what he loves, for a company that treats him well, and he’s working (mostly) with other geeks. There’re drawbacks to it (mostly the commute – almost three hours every day at present) but I think it’s safe to say that he’s happy.

Study: the MA is almost complete. One more project to complete (5,000 words) and a dissertation (20,000 words) to do before the end of July. And then I swing into a PhD, which I’m really looking forward to doing, to getting my teeth into some really meaty research and grappling with issues. Should be a lot of fun!

Obviously time doesn’t really permit me to post much, and when I do post, it tends to be on a history-focused blog that I’ve started up. Or on Facebook! I think this blog has come more or less to the end of it’s natural life – I’m going to keep it ‘live’, if only because its good for me to see where I came from, but I doubt I’ll do much more in the way of updates to it, except perhaps the education page. I doubt too that many people read here still. If you do, and you’re not in contact with me any other way, or you would like the details of the history blog, please let me know and we’ll see what we can come up with. I might come back to do an update post every once in a while. We’ll see.

For now… it’s been an amazing nine years. I’ve gone from living in a pretty awful flat in Manchester, beset with antisocial behaviour problems, battling mental health issues and depression (largely situational), to attaining a whole series of qualifications, becoming a published author (oh, yeah, I wrote an article in an academic journal!), and owning my own house. It’s been an incredible journey, and it isn’t over yet.

Here’s to the next nine years!


The next few months are going to be ferociously busy, chaotic, and extremely stressful. I promised myself this weekend at least, to relax, to not do very much, and to just generally chill, but I’m finding that very difficult to do, and more to the point, not good for me. Its like I can feel the grasping tentacles of depression underneath me, waiting to grab me, suck me down into another cycle of depression (which I’ve avoided since last September, primarily because of college) – and the best way to sidestep those grasping tentacles is to keep putting one step in front of the other; to keep walking, and not to lose the momentum I’ve built up.

Obviously with the impending move there’re a number of things that have to be done in association with that, from obvious stuff like finding somewhere to live down there, packing, move notifications and so on, through to more obscure stuff like sorting through things, trying to pare down some of the stuff we’ve got. The house has to be given a really good clean before I can hand back the keys, and of course I’ve got to hand in our notice to our current landlords, as well as getting the garden looking decent. There’s basic housekeeping stuff to be done on the computer – such as sorting out the thousands of photos I’ve got, the websites I’ve bookmarked, and my directory structure on my hard drive, all in preparation for next year, because once my degree kicks in, I won’t have time for all that. I also expect (and hope), once I’ve gotten my place officially confirmed (around mid-July to mid-August) to receive a book list from the University for the books needed for next year. Any reading I can do ahead of the start of the course is only going to benefit me in the long run, as well as giving me some indication of what we’re going to be covering. I know the first year takes the long view, covering history in large sweeps of time, from the Anglo-Saxons through to modern day, from English history through to foreign countries, but other than that… no idea. Its exciting and nervous all at the same time!

I also have to sort out finance: not so much student finance, that’s all in hand, but DSA – Disabled Student’s Allowance. This is what pays for my notetakers/interpreters at Uni, and I think I have to have an assessment for it. Its one of those bureaucratic things that can go badly awry if you don’t get it handled right, so I have to hope that it does. I’m waiting on a letter from the doc now (confirming that I do indeed have Diabetes and IBS – this is down purely so that its on my records in the case of problems during an exam), so once I get that, sometime next week, I can get the DSA application in the post and hopefully kick things off with that.

There’s other stuff that needs to be done too, though. Firstly: I need to get my diabetes back under control… badly. With college work taking over everything, I’ve let things slip and slide over the last year and its showing on my waistline. I also need to work on coping mechanisms for keeping healthy eating patterns going when I go back to uni and studying, because my health cannot afford for me to continue the way I have been doing for the last 10 months. At the moment, I’m deliberately overdoing the sugar and rubbish, to make my body feel as awful as it can. I know it sounds counterproductive, but I’ve done this before (and its how I quit smoking, by the way: I chain smoked till I felt sick, went and had a sleep, then got up and didn’t smoke any more) and it seems to work to provide the initial impetus: the idea is that once you give your body healthy foods, its craving the vitamins and minerals and good stuff that it all just tastes fabby. The hardest part of any change in eating patterns is the first four weeks, especially when you switch to a low-carb diet, as your body craves the get-energy-quick-fix that it’s used to having, and it leaves you feeling distinctly grumpy. This is why I OD the way I do: it provides the incentive to get through that 4 week period, because after that, I start to feel absolutely bloomin fantastic, thankyouverymuch – I suddenly have zonks of energy, look and feel cleaner and purer (inside, I mean, not talking about hygiene!) and just generally all round bubblier. And with the impending move, that’s something I’m going to need, very badly.

Secondly: once we’ve moved there are things that need to be sorted out, ideally before I start at Uni on 3rd October. Some are obvious – registering with a new doctor, dentist, opticians, finding a new library, finding new shops, and so on. Some are more personal. We’re hoping to get a little 2 bed house, so that we can have visitors to stay. If we’re lucky enough to get that then we need to put some effort into finding suitable furniture for the second bedroom, as well as a second desk – at the moment, Michiel and I share a desk, and while that’s been okay for the last few years (its a big desk) and we certainly don’t have any space to put another one here, once we move I am going to want my own space for studying. We need to find new services too – such as a new internet provider, sort out the new house and unpack stuff and start to learn our way around Leicester. Its exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time. I just hope and pray that we’re doing the right thing with all this.

Whichever way you look at it, there’s a lot that needs doing, and if I allow myself to think about it all at once I rapidly start to feel very panicky. Up till now I’ve been able to tell myself “think about it when college is over” and mentally put it to one side. I can’t do that any more… and I don’t know whether its providence or what, but having something like this to do over the summer period is what I need to sidestep those grasping tentacles of depression. I just hope it doesn’t get beyond my ability to cope with – its not for nothing that they say a house move is one of the most stressful things you have to cope with in life….

But for now, for the weekend, I’m chillin’ out, baby. I’ve some books from the library (no history books!) that I can race through over the weekend. A college classmate (who’s become a good friend) has lent me a DVD, “The Notebook” so I’m looking forward to watching that. Mum lent me “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I”, and while I saw it when I was staying with her, Michiel hasn’t, so I have to watch it again. (oh *dear*(!)). She also lent me “The King’s Speech”, and I have a book on that too, from the library, so that ties in nicely. I’ve some DVDs I’ve bought/given to me as presents, but never watched: “Atonement”, “Cloverfield”, “Torchwood” (the boxed set), and of course, Torchwood: Miracle Day is on the box over the summer. (YAY! Captain Jack Harkness: purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr), and some stuff on the PVR which I recorded ages ago and never got round to watching, all of which I’m really looking forward to. Come Monday I start the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-thing again, sidestepping those tentacles and working to pack up this part of my life in preparation for a new life in Leicester.

I’ve been taking antibiotics for the last few days, antibiotics that have the unfortunate side effect of interfering with my liver’s uptake of Metformin. This is the medication that smooths out my blood sugar and helps to overcome the problems caused by my diabetes. What’s becoming clear over the last few days is just how much the metformin does – in the last six months or so (since I started college, really), I’ve been taking my body for granted again, taking the meds, and, although I was tracking my blood sugar, it didn’t seem to be rising and falling, regardless of what I ate, and I started to think … “hmmm. maybe I’m not diabetic after all”.

The last few days have truly put paid to that idea. I’ve been much more sensitive to my blood sugar, more than I ever was before I started metformin, and its really been a lesson for me. In a way, its a shame that I was started on metformin as soon as I was diagnosed: I wonder if I had had time with the blood sugar monitor, tracking my body’s true responsiveness to the food I eat, rather than the responsiveness dulled by the metformin, whether the lessons would have been learned better. As it is, I can’t stop taking the metformin just to learn those lessons – the drug stays in your body, much like anti-depressants, the person taking them needs to be weaned off them.

Tomorrow I’m off to my Mum’s: we’re heading to the interview I have at the last university to decide on the Tuesday and Wednesday (staying there overnight). I’m nervous about it as I have tests and its a big deal, but we’ll see what’s what. I may decide I don’t like it and I feel more comfortable at Leicester. We’ll see. Either way, tomorrow is a big day for another reason: 41 years ago, Mum and Dad got married. Its going to be a tough day for Mum, so I’m glad I’m spending the day with her. Times like this.. family is king. And I still miss my Dad. So much.

This last week has been… well. I won’t say the week from Hell as its not all been unpleasant, but it has been frantically frantically busy, and I’ve been existing on far too little sleep for the most part of it. Add to that all the stuff that was going on at home and today, well, last night really, was the first chance I had to sit down and just breathe and be still.

I had – officially – an essay due in on 10th March, on Hammurabi, but given that there was also an essay due in 3 days before on Greek Theatre (which I’ve handed in) the teacher has been flexible about the hand in date for that essay, so I set myself the unofficial hand in date of 17th March, a week later.

All well and dandy except..

Monday also saw the first day of the builders being here. Employed by the housing, its part of the rolling programme of improvements to all their properties that they’re doing over a very long period of time. They ripped out the tiling on day one. Sunday night we had to remove everything from the bathroom and move my crafting cupboard away from the wall cupboard which has the water cock in it. That’s led to a week of things all being in the wrong place. Michiel had to take care of letting them in as I was – of course – at college, learning about the fall of the Roman Republic.

[we’ve been given an unofficial task for that class, on 4th April we have to do a group presentation for the class, in groups of 4, all of us working on different subjects – our group has to cover the Gallic Wars. all well and good, and i understand why, its preparation for Uni where its a common tool but the people in the group aren’t communicating with me. Whether they can’t be arsed to do this or they are just plain ignoring my emails (probably a mix of both), I don’t know. but it makes it difficult and kind of stops me enjoying the classes at the moment, as I’m all tense, waiting for them to show up. which they haven’t, for the last 2 weeks. the one blessing is that its not marked work, so if this continues I shall just have a quiet word with the teacher and explain what has happened, and offer to do it on my own. Which is kind of missing the point, somewhat, but still.]

Monday afternoon I did some final research work for my essay on Hammurabi and packed.

Tuesday we had a class on Archaeological remains – Taphonomy – learning about Star Carr and mesolithic sites in Britain. It was an interesting class but it was split by a pretty useless talk on student finance – she presented it in general terms, and any specific questions she answered with “call student finance england about that”. *sighs*. it meant that the teacher had to rush to finish the rest of the class on Starr Carr, and in fact, we never did really finish it, we ran out of time.  Tuesday afternoon I went to the library at the college and tried to do my essay on Hammurabi. I got so far, but then I had to go – me and my suitcase were off to Leicester to visit the Uni there.

The bus from the college to the station was late, leaving me to run around like a demented chicken, then turned out the train from Manchester to Sheffield was late, so I needn’t have run around like a demented chicken, and even worse, it was rush hour, so we all crammed into the train like sardines. Get to Sheffield and run around like a demented chicken again, looking for my connecting train to Leicester before it leaves. Find a nice seat (finally!) and relax for all of 50 minutes before landing at Leicester at 8.30pm. Get a taxi to the hotel and checked in…

… and suddenly felt terribly lonely.

I hopped online (had my laptop and mobile broadband dongle with me) so I could talk with Michiel, which alleviated some of the loneliness, and then had an early night. 6 am I was up, having a shower, and an early eat-as-much-as-you-like cooked breakfast in the hotel dining room (sausages, beans, scrambled egg, toast, croissants, lots and lots of coffee and orange juice) before I packed up, checked out and headed to the University.

[I should explain at this point that a week before, on 9th March, Michiel and I had visited Lancaster University, one of my other considerations. While they welcomed us and made every effort to provide communication support (as have all the unis, when I requested it), I didn’t feel comfortable at Lancaster. Its a campus uni, out in the countryside, and it reminded me far too much of boarding school for me to ever feel comfortable there. In fact, I spent the whole day feeling slightly ill and it wasn’t until later that I realised why. Its a shame, because I really liked Lancaster (the town) itself, its a lovely market town, but I don’t think I’ll ever feel comfortable enough to study there for three years. I had also, in February, visited Manchester Metropolitan University (the old Poly) and was very impressed with them. Our archaeology teacher had also arranged an archaeology day at Manchester University on 8th March, which gave us an insight into what it would be like studying archaeology there, with talks from different professors and doctors on their specialities. One was on Star Carr – very useful! – another was by a man working on Easter Island, and was very very interesting, pointed out that so often people look at monumental structure like the Easter Island statues and ask why? when, really, maybe the question they should be considering is the journey that they would make to get that statue built and from X to Y. I haven’t applied to go to Manchester University, though, so that’s one out of consideration. Still, I’ve been getting a good overview and ability to compare universities out of all these visits.]

Leicester … I got a good feel from. The University is more like Manchester/MMU in the sense that its very close to the main town, but is surrounded by parkland and greenery, so it feels a very pleasant campus to be on. Its small (on the ground, at least, there are several towers at the Uni – the ship, the transformer and the cheesegrater!) – you can walk across it in 10 minutes – and it makes sense, the layout – I was telling the interpreters where to go by lunchtime – unlike Lancaster which was very sprawling and took ages to get anywhere. I liked the course structure – at Lancaster you have to do 2 minor subjects in your first year, which have to be different to the History I want to study. While I could find some subjects I like the look of (creative writing, for example), its a diversion from what I really want to do. Leicester doesn’t faff around with that. But like Lancaster and MMU, the first year is dedicated towards giving the student an overall arching theme of history, along with learning the techniques of being a historian, and then in the second year, you choose a variety of modules that are designed to build your own degree and specialisations. In the third year you do a dissertation and more chosen modules, as well as a special subject. Just about all the history degrees I’ve chosen to apply for are structured in this way as I think its something that would suit me admirably. But, back to Leicester: The student’s union has recently been revamped (take note, MMU!) and is very pleasant to be in and around. The library is wonderful – open 24 hours a day (music to my ears) and apparently the library toilets are so famous they have their own facebook page! There are lots of societies – including a Viking society which sounds SO much fun (Lancaster has an archery society which I would love to do again), dressing up in Viking gear and running around screaming!! The town, like Manchester, is home to two universities (De Montefort being the other) and as such as a very high student population. This is good because it means the student pound is important to the town and there are lots of bargains to be had, as well as rentals around the university. So all in all, Leicester is looking good, although I still have a couple more Unis to visit – the University of East Anglia at Norwich, on 30th March, and possibly one more, possibly on 6th/7th April, but I won’t hear about that one for some time yet.

My day at the University was over and done with by 3pm, and one of my interpreters very kindly gave me a lift back to the station. Unfortunately my train wasn’t until 6.15pm so I found a pub and had a coke, read until it was time to go, via Birmingham New Street, back to Manchester. I finally got home that day just before 10pm. Unpacked, had something to eat, briefly watched NCIS to try to unwind, then hit the sack.

While I was gone, however, the builders had ripped out the bathroom. toilet, sink, bath, they’d all gone. In their place was a new bath, new toilet, new sink, although they were yet, at that point, to do the tiling or fit the shower (they’d done the electrical fittings for the shower – big cable hanging out of the wall). It looked a mess, but they were good in making sure Michiel was happy with it all, but it meant a whole week of Michiel being up at 7am with me and since he still wasn’t getting to bed early, he was existing on around 4 hours of sleep each day. Not good.

Thursday morning I managed to get up and stagger into college. Had a class on the New Kingdom of Egypt (the Amarna Period, Akhenaten n all that), before staggering home and collapsing into bed for an hour. Tried to have a quiet relaxing evening – the builders had finished the tiling and put the shower in – before Friday…

Friday saw us up at 7am, again. The builders were coming to finish the bathroom, put in all the sealant stuff and fit the new floor. Michiel and I had to go to the hospital for me to have a colposcopy, previous pap smears had detected precancerous cells and the hospital wanted me to go there to have them excised with a laser. I was nervous about this – I knew it was going to hurt – and because the builders were coming too Michiel had arranged for Jay to be here to flatsit while we did the hospital visit. It was uncomfortable, very uncomfortable, from the local anaesthetic injected into my cervix through to the laser (and the smell of my burning flesh – they had a TV Screen, so she could see in detail from the scope what my cervix was like, very interesting to begin with but after she started with the laser, I couldn’t watch. I just couldn’t), it was highly unpleasant, but fast – the procedure was done in 10 minutes, which was the one good thing about it. 15 minutes after arriving in the clinic we were on the bus home, and after I got home, I crashed for a couple hours, sleeping off the worst of the pain and recovering some from the horrible week. Not really a moment to myself, not a moment to think, always someone needing something. I’ve not had a week like that for a long time and I hope i don’t have one again for a long long time! There’s not a lot of pain at the moment, some pain, which I’m knocking back painkillers for but I’m not worried. They said to allow a weeks’ healing time from the procedure, some people have to take a week off work, but I’m not doing that. I don’t have the time to do that!

On the plus side… the bathroom is now done and looks great. And we have a shower!

On the negative side… I still haven’t finished the Hammurabi Essay. *sighs*. but I aim to get it finished this weekend, and handed in on Monday. We’ve definitely no class on Tuesday (the moderator is visiting the college so the head teacher has made an executive decision to cancel classes to get the paperwork straight) and very probably no class on Thursday either, which is good, as it frees up almost an entire week for me to get some work done.

On 29th March, an essay on Roman Britain (on Wroxeter) is due in. Later that day I travel to Norwich, in a five hour train ride, for the visit day on 30th March, then home later that day. That will be tiring, although, since its a single train journey (no changes) I am hoping it will be less tiring than the trip to Leicester.

On 4th April we have this presentation on the Gallic Wars. *sighs*.

On 6th/7th April I may have this other University visit.

On 11th April I have an exam, on 4th Century Greece.

On 14th April we break for 3 weeks for Easter.

Thank god, is all I can say.

I got an essay back today. (still two with the teacher, and one I’m handing in tomorrow). 3 more distinctions, which brings my total to 13 distinctions out of 15, 7 for Archaeology and 6 for History. This is for the Archaic Greece essay, which is the first one I did after Dad’s death, and one of the hardest I’ve had to do (for that reason). In fact, I was just sitting down to write it when I got the news. Its not one of my best essays, so to still get three distinctions for it makes me really happy.

Remarks by the teacher: “Good. A very sound and well written piece that clearly meets the requirements of a very sound piece of work. Well written and well structured. No major problems here. An excellent effort for a first piece on this course. Well done!” (clearly “Sources of History” doesn’t count for the first piece of work.. !)

I’ve also heard from a fourth university. They’ve made a conditional offer, they want 75% of the marks to be distinctions, with the rest at merit, which is pretty tough. I’ve now heard from 4 of my 5 universities, all making offers. The final one is taking a little longer to decide, I have heard from them in that they are making their decisions now, and I will hear from them after 19th March. So, no decision making yet, but it is hanging over me. Have visited one university already, and I was very impressed with them. Visiting another on March 9th (hopefully), and another on March 16th (definitely, its all booked), and the fourth on March 30th (hopefully). The fifth is holding interviews on 3rd/4th April, so we’ll see if I get invited to interview, I’ve been told no offers without an interview, so we’ll see. Yes, I’m being very mysterious but i don’t want to jinx anything just yet. I will, however, write my impressions of the various universities down after each visit, post them on here, with their full names… after I’ve chosen my firm and insurance selections, sometime towards may/june (the deadline for me making a decision depends on when the final university makes its offer – if they decide late, i get more time before I *have* to make a decision).

Also: next Tuesday (8th) the whole class is off to Manchester Uni who is putting on an Archaeology day for the class, which should be fun. We’ve got other field trips coming up, including a big one – not sure where this will be yet, maybe Vindolanda (on Hadrian’s Wall) or York. Personally, I’m hoping for York. I like my creature comforts! (see, this is why I would make a terrible archaeologist.. i hate mud. I like archaeology for what it can offer in terms of knowledge, but I’d far rather other people dig it out of the ground for me…!)

I’ve also got a trip to hospital as an inpatient on 18th, my retinopathy appointment on 4th, oh, and I’ve had diabetes results back too. all looking very very good (will update diabetes page)  – except my weight. it’s crept up over the last 5 months.. not a lot, but I need to halt that and reverse it.. pronto!

I’m hitting another down cycle. I haven’t had one for a while: guess I was hoping I wouldn’t get another one (bit silly, but.. hey… I live in hope. Glass half full n all that). Guess it also isn’t entirely surprising, with everything that’s happened in the last month or so.

Unfortunately its also making it very very difficult to get college work done at a point where I really don’t need that difficulty. I’ve an essay hanging over me on the Egyptian Old Kingdom, which I need to get done ASAP. Another essay due in when I get back after half term at the end of February on Iron Age Britain, and probably two more shortly after, one on Middle Kingdom Egypt and another on Classical 5th Century Greece. I also need to keep ontop of what we’re studying now, as soon we’re going to be getting into the period where the assessment for some of these modules is exams, rather than essays. And, of course, there’s my Independent Research Project (the Disabled in Ancient Greece) which needs to be done by Easter, as well. So I’ve got to get my head down and plough through it all.

The difficulty i’m having is with concentrating – i find my thoughts drifting far too easily at the moment. I’m having to read, and re-read, and re-read a paragraph two or three times before it sinks in, because i’m reading without taking it in, if that makes any sense. That doesn’t have too much of an impact on reading – it just takes me longer is all. Where it really impacts on is in my essay writing. That’s the part I’m really struggling with at the moment.

But its also not going to get any easier. And frankly, if I want a career in academia, there are going to be other times where my mind is longing to be elsewhere but I have to knuckle down and just work through it. I keep telling myself: “Stop being so bloody precious, Liz, and just siddown and write!” but that is still seriously easier said than done.

I long.. i really long.. to just go to bed, pull the duvet over my head, shut out the world, and shut down. not to sleep, but to shut down, to not feel. to go comatose. in some ways, that would be so easy, such a blessing. And its the one thing I know I can’t do. I have to get through this.

End of.

Last night, of course, was the long awaited England vs USA World Cup opener. (You’d have to have been hibernating NOT to know about this, i think, even if you don’t watch any of the matches!). With not just one but two countries to support (The Netherlands needs supporting too – and god ‘elp me if it comes to England vs The Netherlands… !) of course we claimed our positions on the sofa last night when kick off came, and groaned and cheered through every agonising moment (well, Michiel did. I was half watching, being busy hand sewing a lace hem to a shirred top i’d made earlier that day – photos later, when i get it finished!).

The lessons learned? not so much the football as what goes *with* the football. I’d not had one of my monthly meal off the regime treats yet, so decided to lay claim to a bag of butter toffee popcorn that was calling out to me in the supermarket, crisps and those little mini scotch eggs that i love, and pizza, and make a night of it. So i pigged out. by the time the final whistle had blown, the popcorn had gone, the scotch eggs had gone, the crisps were half gone, and the pizza (only a 1/4 though) was soon to follow.

i measured my blood sugar shortly after the final whistle, just out of curiosity. 11.2 mmol!!! (normal range – that the body tries to keep the blood sugar to – is anything between 4 and 6 mmol, to give you some idea of how bad that is.) although its not THAT bad – from reading diabetic forums, there are some people who have 11.2 mmol blood sugar readings on a regular basis, which just makes me wince (I’ve read of some who go as high as 18. yowch).

Bu t that’s not really the lesson. The important part, and what i want to note down, is how we felt for the rest of the night. We both felt RAGINGLY thirsty. about 1am, Michiel wandered into the kitchen, doing the fridge explore, and grabbed a small box of cherry tomatoes. Popped one into his mouth, felt that wonderful cherry tomato explosion in his mouth and gave a groan worthy of me when i first had that haagen daaz icecream. He came back into the living room and handed one to me, telling me to eat it. I let out a matching groan. Funny how the body, now we’re not used to eating rubbish, craves the things that we know are good for us. There’s a packet of crisps in the kitchen now (which i bought for the Netherlands match, tomorrow), along with freshly baked bread. The thought of the crisps in particular makes my tummy churn. And i slept till 1pm this afternoon.

yes, i know. moderation is everything. but sometimes, just sometimes, you have to backslide spectacularly in order to know just how far you’ve come, you know?

lesson learned.

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