It's far too long since I last posted, and I left you all in a bit of limbo. Sorry about that. I'll come back to what happened with the rest of my Cambridge admission, and some of what has happened since, but it's a bit complicated to integrate into this post.
2015 was a difficult year in many, many ways with an awful lot of ill-health, but I will let my Review of the Year questions tell a bit more of the story - the ups and downs...
1. What has been your biggest achievement this year?
Probably getting onto the Patient Input Platform (PIP) for the RASP (UK) study into severe asthma. I was asked to apply for a position on the PIP, but there was definitely no guarantee that I was would be successful and still had to fill in the application form (2000 words required) and be interviewed by someone from Asthma UK and someone already on the PIP.
2. What made you laugh most this year?
I think it was during a day of geocaching that I had with a my friend Ruth up at Bamburgh and Holy Island. We had lots of fun and a huge amount of silliness, especially when it came to finding our last cache of the day, 'Cache and 'Tache'
The biggest laughs were as we kept the 'taches on and made our way back to the car, but ended up causing some passers-by to stop their car and chat to us because they were laughing at us so much.
3. What unfulfilled hopes do you have for the past year?
I hardly wrote anything during 2015, either on my blog or otherwise, and I had been hoping to write a fair bit for both my book about my asthma and also my children's book. I know this is a direct result of how difficult the year has been so I'm trying not to be too disappointed in myself.
4. What has been your favourite/most listened to piece of music this year?
There's a Peter, Paul, and Mary song we do at choir (Flotsam) called 'Jane Jane' that I absolutely love singing. I particularly love the arrangement that we do (arranged by the MD, Andrew Scott - Scottee), but I have listened to the original version a lot too.
I have also listened to a lot of Bellowhead CDs both in the car and at home. They're so enlivening, and I've needed a lot of that this past year.
5. What was your best holiday this year?
Well, as you know, my holiday didn't go as planned, but I did have an absolutely fantastic time in Wales before it all turned disastrous in Cambridge, so I will answer this with the Welsh part of my holiday.
6. What new skill, if any, have you acquired this year?
I don't think that I've actually acquired a new skill this year, but I have developed my crocheting skills, and crochet, of course, was my new skill for 2014.
7. What's the best book you've read this year?
My answer to this goes hand in hand with my answer to question two. One of the things I need to be able to do to write is to be able to read, but I've hardly been able to read at all this year either. My concentration for reading has been shot this year, partly because of events - particularly those early in the year - but also because of illness. My diabetes has developed a lot over the past several months and has made me feel terrible, as well as affecting concentration. Anyway, as a consequence, for the first time probably in my entire life, I have only read one book this year, and that book wasn't at all taxing. It was Danny Wallace's 'Random Acts of Kindness'. I am ashamed of this awful tally, although I know that like the writing, it is a symptom of my state of mind. I am currently trying to adhere to a kind of reading programme agreed with my psychologist so that I can read a book that she is keen for me to read. I am looking forward to being able to read again.
8. What has been the biggest challenge of this year?
My health. It is always a challenge, but there have been more challenges this year, particularly with the development/worsening/instability of my diabetes. I have also had a huge number of infections that have required something like thirteen or fourteen courses of antibiotics throughout the year.
9. What is your happiest/fondest memory of this year?
I have two that are of particular note. The first was a moment with my younger brother, C, that I can't fully explain. It was in the couple of days I had in Cambridgeshire after my Addenbrooke's hospital admission, and in my brother's back garden. I can't really describe the moment adequately, but it was a moment of closeness with him ... a unity and togetherness.
The second happy memory was an afternoon I had a couple of weeks ago with my nephews O and D. My brother, M, and his two children were visiting from London, primarily so that M could sort a few things around Dad's will/belongings. He only had one full day to do this so I offered to look after the boys for the afternoon on that day. I took them first to Vincenzos for lunch - they're big fans of pizza and have been to Vincenzos lots of time before with me and my brother, and in the past with Dad too. After that we went to the Centre for Life where they had a brilliant time for the next four hours! I hardly ever get to have my nephews to myself like this so it was a very special day for me, and I know that the boys enjoyed it too. M had given O their emergency mobile so he could call if anything went wrong with me (health wise), and also if he just wanted to call. O decided he did want to call his daddy while we sitting in the planetarium just so he could tell him what an excellent time he was having, and that he was very excited that he was about to watch a film about something called Hubble 25. I had explained that Hubble is a big telescope and camera in space and it's been up there for 25 years, all of which really grabbed O's interest.
10. Of what one creation of the past year are you most proud or pleased?
Hmm, this is tricky as I've made a few things that I've been really pleased with, but I guess one of the things that I was very pleased with was a Christmas present I made for my friend R - some planter labels I painted on small wooden spoons.
This isn't the best photo, but it's the only photo I have of them, and it was taken before they were varnished. Mind you, the varnish was satin so it didn't make them particularly shiny. It was more for protection of the paint than anything else.
11. What new hobby did you take up/old hobby did you reinstate this year?
I don't think I did take up a new hobby this year, and I didn't really reinstate an old hobby either. However, there was quite a time over the summer and early autumn that I didn't do much crochet other than the blanket I've been working. I started a 3-6-5 blanket on 1st January 2015, doing one hexagon a day every day of the year. With times in hospital and other times of being ill at home I got very, very behind at points, and although I eventually managed to catch up with making the hexagons it took me until sometime in October (I think) to catch up with attaching all those hexagons onto the blanket. I did manage to catch up, and I actually finished making and attaching the last hexagon at 11.30pm on 31st December 2015, and that was including the few extra hexagons that I had to do to make the blanket a finished shape. I've spent a fair bit of today working on the border/edging of the blanket, but think I ought to finish it completely over the weekend :)
12. What one thing would you really like to do next year?
There are a few things I can answer to this. First, I'd like to write more ... write something. Second, I'd like to lose weight and get a bit fitter. Third, I'd like to get a haircut with a new style. The third one is most immediately achievable, and I'm planning on making an appointment at the hairdressers for next week.
13. What was the saddest thing this year?
This is an easy one to answer. The death of my dad, and then this so immediately followed by my precious Isobel Artemis going missing and never returning.
14. What has been your best discovery of this year?
Two things - the beauty of the part of Wales that I went to in September. I hadn't been to Wales since I was a child, and never to the southern part of West Wales that I went to this year. I fell in love with that part of Wales, and it was a brilliant discovery.
The other excellent discovery of this year was a recipe for barbecue sauce that I can have (providing I use a Becky-friendly balsamic vinegar, which isn't easy to come by). Oh, and this Becky-friendly barbecue sauce goes amazingly with the unlikely deliciousness that is barbecued gem lettuces. Try them, they're amazing, and make lettuce into something that's actually exciting!
15. What news story of this year has had the biggest impact on you/do you most remember?
Gosh, there have been so many terrible things in the news this year, but I think it's probably been the European refugee crisis, and also the African Ebola crisis. Both are/have been truly awful, and the migration/refugee situation shows no sign of abating. I have also been appalled by the UK government's response.
16. What's the best film you've seen this year?
I've only been to the cinema twice this year. The first time was just a few weeks ago when I tried to go and see 'The Lady in the Van', but it was sold out so ended up seeing 'Brooklyn' instead. The second film I went to was a couple of days ago when I went to see 'Carol' with my mum and step-dad when I was up with them for Christmas. 'Brooklyn' and 'Carol' are very different films and difficult to compare, but perhaps 'Carol' just pips the other to the post. Not sure.
17. What was your best buy this year?
No hesitation at all in answering this. By far my best buy was my gorgeous and delightful kitten Katinka Manjulika.
She is gorgeous, nutty, and has brought me so many smiles and huge laughter. My precious girl.
18. What has been your best day out this year?
I think probably the day out I mentioned before with my friend Ruth when we went geocaching up at Bamburgh and Holy Island. It was a day of great fun, great friendship, great weather, great laughter, great silliness, and of pushing myself to do more than I would on my own.
19. If there's one thing you did this year that you'd do differently if you could, what would it be?
I've thought about this, and I'm not sure there's anything major major major that I would do differently, but to put a bit of a spin on the question, if I could have fallen differently on 30th July when I fell in the park whilst trying to show some young friends what fun geocaching could be then I would. I would have fallen so that I just fell and got muddy rather than fallen and torn my ACL and MCL (in layman's terms, I badly hurt my knee), with which I'm still having problems and for which I'm still having physio.
20. Is there anywhere you'd like to visit next year?
I'd like to go back to Cambridge and not end up in hospital. I'd like to see my brother C and his family again while I'm down there, catch up with some other friends who live in that direction, and also meet up with my older godson who's now at university in Cambridge.
21. Name one thing that you did this year that you'd like to do again?
I'd love to have my nephews for the day again. I'd love to take them out somewhere else, perhaps for the full day, doing other fun things, and have another day on my own with those gorgeous boys. I love being an aunty.
22. Who gave you the best advice this year?
Oh gosh, I don't know. It was probably my psychologist who is great at giving advice. Maybe it will turn out to have been the kind of reading programme I'm meant to be doing and before long I'll be back to being able to read.
23. What new skill would you like to acquire next year?
I think I want to learn to knit. I love crochet, but you can do different things with knitting and I'd like to be able to do those different things. I've bought a book from which I'm hoping to learn, and it's in the same series as the book from which I learnt to crochet, so I'm hoping it will work for me. I have lots and lots of yarn, so the only thing stopping me from starting to learn now is the fact that I don't yet own any knitting needles. Quite a stumbling block, come to think of it. I'll have to do something about that in the next little while.
24. What was your favourite TV/radio programme this year?
Okay, this is where I have to confess to my guilty secret of the latter part of the year ... Hawaii Five-0. It's much more violent than most things I watch, but it is also complete escapism, in part because they always catch the bad guy in the end. Most of the time it takes itself a bit too seriously, but there are times when that slips and you see it almost mocking itself. I've been watching all the episodes from all the modern series and loving them! Also, the theme music is fabulous!
25. What would you like to make more time for next year?
Probably writing. And reading. I need to be able to write. I desperately want to be able to write, and not just my blog, but the other things that I wish I'd been able to write last year.
I think I also need to make more time for time with friends. I have seen friends this last year, definitely, but there have been great swathes of time when I haven't seen many friends, mainly because I've felt so poorly so much of the time and haven't had the energy to go out and meet up with folk. And leading on from that, or perhaps incorporating it, I need to make more time for church. Again, I haven't got there much over the past year because I've felt so ill so much of the time, so I'm hoping to be able to get back to church, and because many of my friends also go to church I will see them more too.
26. What has been the biggest disappointment this year?
Hmmm...this is a tricky one to answer. I know what the answer is, but I'm not sure it's something I want to put into the public domain. Let me see ... I guess it's the way a particular relationship turned out.
27. What was the best or most enjoyable concert you went to this year?
I went to two concerts of particular note. The first was The Proclaimers, which was excellent, but it's the second that gets my vote for the best and that was Bellowhead. They are the most excellent band who I have always loved seeing live. They fill the place, whatever the place, with joy, and I have always come out of their gigs feeling, 'This is what living is about!' Extremely sadly they are disbanding after something like thirteen years together, so the gig I went to at the end of November will be the last of their gigs that I ever go to, but it was absolutely fantabulously brilliant with dancing not just in the seats, not just in the aisles, but dancing around the aisles - folk doing the conga around the auditorium. Such a brilliant atmosphere, and all the guys and gals on stage obviously loving it too. As my seat (or rather, wheelchair space) was on the far side of the auditorium from the exit I had to wait until most folk had left before I could cross the auditorium to go. However, while I waited for people to leave I noticed that a couple of the band members had come back onto the stage to clear away their things, so I took the opportunity to trundle over and ask if they'd sign the CD I'd bought in the interval. They were lovely, friendly, chatty, full of the joy of the gig, and had no qualms at all about signing my CD :D
28. What do you think was the best thing you did for yourself during the last year?
To be a cryptic, I allowed myself to be honest with myself about something that has been surprisingly liberating.
Something completely different and about which I have no need to be cryptic, getting Katinka was definitely a brilliant thing to do for myself. I know some folk have reservations about me having a cat because of my lungs, but sod it, I'm ill without a cat so I may as well be ill with a cat. And most importantly, Katinka has brought back my smile and she gives me so much joy. I was completely miserable after Dad died and Isobel went missing, and ever so lonely. Katinka has renewed a life in me that was fizzling out and I love her to bits.
29. What is the biggest difference in yourself from this time last year?
Hmm, I'm not sure that I am terribly different in any very significant way ... unless I refer to my cryptic answer to number 28, and that's not actually a difference...
30. What are you most looking forward to about next year?
Having fairly recently been started on insulin for my steroid induced diabetes, I am looking forward to feeling significantly better than I have for quite some time. After a steady and steep progression in my diabetes, and several times ending up needing to go to A&E with very high blood glucose levels, my GP referred me to the diabetes centre at one of the city's hospitals. It took several weeks for the referral to come through and for the appointment date to arrive, but once I got to see the consultant I was very impressed, and have continued to be extremely impressed with the service the diabetes nurses provide. They are gradually titrating up my insulin dose (currently on 18 units of biphasic insulin) and I am in very regular contact with the diabetes nurses while they do this. I will be seeing the consultant again in three months, by which time I'm hoping to be feeling a huge improvement. I'm already feeling a lot better than I was, and it's only as I begin to feel this improvement that I realise quite how utterly dreadful I had been feeling the entire time before, so roll on the rest of the improvement! I can't wait!