My Blakean Year

Remember my last blog? I ended by saying “…as delightful as March has been, I am ready for April now, pleaseandthankyou. What could possibly go wrong?” Well, let me tell you…

On the 8th April I had more spinal surgery as planned, the first of two procedures to fuse my sacroiliac joints. Everything went really well and I already feel much better. My right SI joint is recovering well and the surgeon also had the foresight to do the necessary diagnostic/painkilling injections in the left side while I was anaesthetised, to spare me that unpleasantness at another appointment. I was lucky enough that the operation took place first thing in the morning and I managed to escape from hospital after only one night, feeling very pleased with myself. Silly me! This is still 2019.

Our good friends Sandra and Sonya helped out with dog-sitting so that Luce could visit me in hospital and collect me. They had visited Ruby and Lola before and they are now their favourite aunties, obvs. As Ruby demonstrates:

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We are used to the whole back surgery thing now and everything was going brilliantly until a couple of days later when Luce started to feel unwell. By the next day, a Sunday of course, she was having severe abdominal pain and we had to call the emergency doctor. Really? Oh yes. Turns out the universe can indeed be that hilarious and she ended up spending six nights in hospital having a nasty appendix diagnosed and removed. She has now joined those of us who are ‘abridged’ (thanks to her friend Maebh for the lovely turn of phrase!) although things have moved on a lot since I had mine out about thirty years ago. This is now keyhole surgery, so she doesn’t have the classic lower right hand scar, more of a bowling ball arrangement of three small puncture wounds, as if she’s lost an argument with a very small triceratops.

Luckily for us, Sandra and Sonya immediately stepped in; between them they took over dog-wrangling, shopping, cooking etc, drove me to the surgery to get my staples out and to the hospital to visit Luce as soon as I was well enough to travel. I honestly don’t know how we would have coped without them, they have been absolute stars.

We are both recovering well now, but we also remain grateful for professional dog walkers, online grocery shopping and everyone involved in the invention of modern painkillers. On the plus side, it has given us a kick start towards a healthier lifestyle. We’ve been so stressed lately that things have slipped a bit. Luce is going to be taking time out from full-time teaching to do a PHD in family law over the next 3-4 years and we’ve been talking about getting into better habits now that we’re able to plan our time more easily. Neither of recommends this particular method, but we’ve both undergone a fairly radical unintentional ‘detox’, so we might as well make the most of it!

Most of all, I’m planning to use this time to get back to just enjoying being creative again. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to do that, because I’ve been so worried about keeping my business going, but I know I will be having surgery to fix my left SI joint fairly soon so there’s no point rushing things. Better to be patient and come back as strong and healthy as possible.

I daren’t look forward to May. Let’s just wait and see. This is Lola, waiting and seeing. I basically have the same expression.

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Bonus arty farty bit:

As ever, if you recognised the lyrical reference in the title of my blog, come and talk music with me! For those who are interested, My Blakean Year is a song by Patti Smith from the album ‘Trampin’:

“From pattismith.net : “[William Blake’s] life was a testament of faith over strife. he suffered poverty humiliation and misunderstanding yet he continued to do his work and maintained a lifelong belief in his vision. he has served as a good example in facing my own difficulties and feeling a certain satisfaction in doing so”.

I first heard ‘Horses’ as a teenager and Patti Smith opened my eyes to what music could be. These lines from the Introduction to the Songs of Experience from William Blake seem apt:

Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who Present, Past, & Future sees
Whose ears have heard,
The Holy Word,
That walk’d among the ancient trees.
(whole poem here)

Oh Come On!

I know, I know, I haven’t blogged for ages. Again. Where have I been?

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Ok, that’s me on the right but I haven’t  actually been holed up in a top secret bunker waiting for everything to stop being on fire. Although now you mention it, that doesn’t sound like a totally bad idea.

Here’s the thing. 2018 was… challenging, so boo to that. This year so far has been way busy and way beyond stressful. For those who want to know why, read on. If you don’t, just skip to the funny story at the end. I won’t mind, and it pretty much sums up the last three months.

In January we were involved in some nonsense which (and I have always wanted to say this) I cannot talk about for legal reasons. Suffice to say neither of us was a defendant and we have not suddenly become Thelma and Louise. Sorry to disappoint.

Later that month, my mum finally had a knee replacement she’d needed for a long time. I arranged to stay with her for a few days when she came out of hospital. That turned into nearly two weeks, as it became apparent she had been discharged without a ‘care package’, so no nurse visits, physio etc. Happily, she is up and about without crutches now and doing really well.

Shortly after that we lost our gorgeous old Etty dog. Hardly a shock, as she was at least sixteen years old, but heartbreaking just the same. She deserves her own blog which I will be writing very soon.

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In happier news, in February, we adopted these two gorgeous loons, Ruby and Lola, who ended up in rescue after their owner died. They also deserve their own blog, also coming soon.

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Regular listeners know I have been struggling with back problems, particularly over the last three years or so when I have also had referred leg pain (a bit like extreme sciatica). Good news is that I finally seem to have a diagnosis that makes sense! I’m booked for more surgery on 8 April, all being well. If that works I will have another op 8-12 weeks later, so things are looking up, but I have a little way to go yet.

All this has meant that I haven’t been able to work full-time for a while now, and hardly at all this year. I am so very grateful to everyone who has stuck around and supported Poochweasel and I’m determined to get things up and running again as soon as possible. Seriously; if you’re bothering to read this, you rock.

So yes, funny story: Here’s a perfect (and dog-related) illustration of how 2019 is going for us: to set the scene, we’ve been trying to get our house on the market for ages. Luce has some free time at the moment, so the plan was to to get as much as possible done before April. We made a start and the house was in… well, let’s call it ‘organised chaos’ as we sorted through clutter, rearranged storage, boxed up charity donations and so on. Last Tuesday afternoon, Luce took the dogs for a walk and Lola found some lovely, stinky mud to roll in.

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I ran her a bath and we popped her in as soon as they got home. We stuck Ruby in and washed her paws for good measure and congratulated ourselves on having such little angels who sat happily to be dried and barely made a paw-print in the bathroom. Then we heard a weird noise from downstairs… Turns out that the waste pipe under the bath had chosen that moment to give up the ghost.

We can laugh about it now and, on the plus side, the insurance company have been brilliant and dealt with everything very promptly. However, you would not believe the damage a dog-bath’s worth of water can do when it crashes through a ceiling! In addition to the other clutter, our downstairs rooms are now full of furniture from the living room and we are camping upstairs. The ceiling needed to come down and once that had been replaced, the entire room needed redecorating. Thankfully, all the work-people have been lovely, friendly, efficient folk who have made friends with Lola and Ruby, which has helped. When the decorating is finished, we need the electrician to sort the new light fitting, someone to assess the state of the wooden furniture and someone from ‘soft furnishings’ to approve cleaning or replacement of sofas, rugs etc. Such fun!

My work room is directly above this. Yesterday was the first day I was able to venture back in:

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Of course, our story is that Lola, affectionately known as ‘Tank’, broke the bath to avoid future cleaning. The irony being that everything in the house is now covered with a thick layer of plaster dust and the dogs are pretty much the only things that don’t need cleaning.

In conclusion, as delightful as March has been, I am ready for April now, pleaseandthankyou. What could possibly go wrong?

Fin.

Bonus music thing: If you recognised the lyric reference in my blog title, come and talk music with me! 😉  If you didn’t, meet the legendary Kathleen Hanna and the Julie Ruin:

 

If you enjoyed, I urge you to go catch up with everything else Kathleen Hanna. Look up her other bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre and/or buy Julie Ruin stuff here: Julie Ruin Store

So you’re super-connected now, all the freaks gather round

New idea… a short blog every week, rather than attempting to rewrite War and Peace every time and not blogging for ages. What do you reckon?

Thing is, especially with all the recent GDPR bobbins, it’s getting more difficult to reach people and (as I am my own PR department and there’s only one of me) I’m going to have to try and direct my efforts more efficiently.

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Allow me a quick moan about Facebook to demonstrate? I promise it has a point which isn’t just ‘woe is me’ but also ‘woe is you, because Facebook says you can’t see what you’ve chosen to see’. And a couple of useful suggestions to put that right. Ta. If you don’t fancy that, just skip to the end to listen to a pretty tune. Oh yes. ALL the new things.

Facebook is still the biggest social media platform there is and it’s free, so hurrah. I don’t just use it for work, I use it to keep in touch with friends and family and follow stuff I’m interested in too. But… I can’t help but notice that every time a useful feature allows me to choose my audience or organise my feed, they remove it.

For example, ‘interest lists’ used to allow me to arrange all the pages I ‘liked’ into different categories, like ‘bands’ or ‘dog charities’ or ‘greetings card makers’ so I could keep up to date with them or shop from them easily. It also allowed me to keep a ‘Poochweasel recommends’ list via my page and share other small businesses I thought my customers would like. This feature was quietly removed and now I have no easy way to organise the 3000-odd pages I follow.

Most recently they also removed the ‘targeted audience’ feature from business pages. This used to allow me to tag my posts with relevant interests, so if I made a little Roman Emperor dog, like this (which I did)…

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… I might use ‘dogs’ ‘history’ and ‘Ancient Rome’ and Facebook would prioritise showing that post to people who liked pages related to these topics. Now it’s just pot luck. Yah boo.

There are ways around these things but they’re clunky. You could choose to ‘see first’ and get notifications every time I post to my page but that’s annoying and intrusive and you’d soon get fed up. I could choose to pay for ads but I resent being bullied into it and, let’s be honest, how much do you enjoy seeing sponsored and ‘suggested’ content on Facebook? Exactly. Me neither.

So how *can* you choose what you see? Well, a lot of pages now have groups you can join (shameless plug: mine is here: Poochweasel Facebook Group). Group posts will show up in your feed and you can turn off notifications to avoid irritation. You can chat with makers, get to know other people who might like the same things as you and often grab special offers. I try not to just duplicate what’s on my business page (because having everything appear twice would not endear me to anyone), so you won’t necessarily see everything I make in my group but it will remind you that I exist and I always try to post interesting or entertaining stuff.

When it comes down to it, Facebook is all about interaction and the single best way to see pages in your feed and keep them in business is to visit them and interact with them. Facebook doesn’t show you everything, it ‘filters’ your newsfeed. If you don’t visit pages you ‘like’, it assumes you’re no longer interested and excludes them from your feed, which means you don’t see them. And if you don’t see them, you don’t visit them and… do you see how this works?! If you ever think “I wonder what happened to that page I liked?”, maybe take a second to look them up? If they pop up in your feed, spare a second to hit ‘like’ or post a quick comment. The same goes for your friends or family’s posts – it’s the only sure way to influence what you see.

Ok, so that turned out to be a bit longer than planned! I was going to talk about some of the other platforms I use, like Twitter and Instagram, but that will have to wait for another blog I think. Otherwise we’ll be back to ‘War and Peace’ and I’ll be posting this in October.

I’ll sign off with another bright idea; sharing a ‘thing’ on my blog that I’m particularly enjoying this week, just like I used to on my Facebook page. Take that, Zuckerberg! 😉 This week, I’m loving the new album by Courtney Barnett, an Australian singer/songwriter who you might not have heard. As it’s a beautiful day here in darkest Shropshire, I’ve chosen a song from an album she made with Kurt Vile which has jangly, ‘summery’ guitars and a sweet, silly video which swaps their vocals and makes me laugh. Enjoy!

You can read more about Courtney Barnett on her website   or  Wikipedia and follow her on  Twitter or Facebook

As ever, if the title of this blog post means anything to you, or you enjoyed the video I posted, come and chat music with me! 🙂