Monday, 31 March 2014

Marching on (HO HO)

Sorry. March has been a delicious relief from oppressive grey weather and I feel a lot better in a lot of ways.

I went for a cycle on the first. As I've previously mentioned, I've basically not been cycling at all in the last few months. This one was a bit of an effort, but I had fun… And then I went for awesome Lebanese Food at Kambis with Skylark, to celebrate their one year anniversary of existence.

I don't go to the cinema very often. And I'd never been to the Dukes at Komedia before. It was LOVELY and the Lego film was somehow simultaneously ridiculous and hectic and over-the-top and yet still amazing. Excellent.

I am SOO sexy. (And so glad that I don't have to have any more fillings for the foreseeable future.)

So I had a weird day. We had a big meeting in the office, and because it's lent, I couldn't have any of the super fancy meeting biscuits. I spent much of the meeting utterly failing to concentrate, just staring at the numerous bowls of delicious biscuits. I ate four pieces of fruit in about two hours which is UNHEARD OF, I was just desperately trying to stop myself thinking of biscuits. (Turns out it doesn't work).
Later, I found out my Nan died that morning. She really loved biscuits too.

Went to the cinema AGAIN. Craziness. Grand Budapest Hotel was also brilliant. Popcorn is so weird though.

Down days happen.

Because I am clearly terrible at concentrating in meetings, spent another church PCC meeting drawing the other people. I'm getting better at it though! This was a sad one because our vicar is moving to another church and he's GREAT. I know most people are very cynical about the church and religion, but it is and has long been a huge support to me, and much though it doesn't come down to one individual person, he has watched out for me and checked in with me during some of my harder times during the last few years. Sometimes it's just nice to know someone outside your immediate circle of family and friends cares. It's hard to explain. Anyway, hopefully they'll give us a replacement who's just as awesome.

Had a delightful public transport adventure day… first travelling to one of the colleges I work for in Beckenham (TRAAM!) and then into central London and on up to Glasgow ready for Nan's funeral the next day. What could have been a very stressful journey if things had gone badly was a blissfully smooth, calming and contemplative journey, because things went well. Stayed with friends Rhi and Stoo in their lovely Glasgow flat.

This was the picture of my Nan in the order of service. The graphic designer in me was bothered because it was terribly printed but that felt very petty. I never knew her like this, in fact I don't think I'd ever seen a picture of her younger than about 50 before. She had specifically asked that I read the poem 'Daffodils' at her funeral, which is a very specific wish that I sort of had to go ahead with. Reading things is hard when you're sad though.

Finally got round to hacking away at the garden a bit. Alex built us a nice seating area. Feeling a bit better about being out there now. Also cleared away all the cat shit and tried to build some anti-cat defences out of branches. Cats don't like spiky twigs.

Um… green phase? These are just some of my most reliably functioning felt pens. Alex was ill for a while. He was pretty miserable.

Had a rant on Twitter about the government's 'beer and bingo' idiocy. Described it as being 'just the tip of my rage iceberg', so decided to draw my rage iceberg.

This one goes out to all the people who feel sad that CHORES ARE NEVER OVER. At least some of it is because I'm too much of a perfectionist (Alex recently bemoaned the fact that he doesn't see any point in cleaning because he often sees me going and cleaning exactly the same area he'd just done - I think this says equal parts about Alex's dubious cleaning skills and my excessively high standards)
But anyway. Some days it just feels worse than others. So I did this drawing instead of going and dealing with some of it.

Another down day. But I did this college while watching House of Cards and both of those elements were so much fun that I felt completely happy again by the time I'd finished. Must collage more often.

BIRTHDAY! It was a mixed day, truth be told. I woke up to nice cuddles, which was nice. But then when I took my potentially awesome home-made cake into work to share with everyone, I discovered the flour hadn't combined properly and it had quite a few little white floury lumps. Not enough to totally ruin it, and it was still delicious, but that made me grumpy. And then when I went to get a birthday lunch at Iydea, the lady accidentally gave me the lentil filled roti, which I couldn't eat because lentils make me go all wrong inside. So that made me even grumpier. Then I had a weird interaction with a colleague where I think it sounded like I was being overly critical, and I felt really bad afterwards. But then I got productive for a bit, left work early, got an awesome fringe trim, and spent ages trying on clothes that didn't fit in H&M. When I got home I had a bit of a moan to Alex about housework (triggered by the aforementioned house mess issues). However I didn't realise he was a bit miserable anyway after a bad day at work, and just ended up making him feel terrible and grumpy and sad. But we hugged and made up and I took him out to Terre a Terre for my birthday meal and it was SOOOOO GOOOD. Afterwards I went over to the Norfolk for a pub quiz… for a brief while I was paranoid no one would show up, but then LOADS of people showed up and were all super lovely to me because it was my birthday, and I was filled with birthday joy.

That whole thing sounds like the diary entry of a teenage girl. I still am a teenage girl at heart though. (I can't believe it is now 10 years since I was 16)

That's like THIRTEEN AND A HALF MILES. It felt effortless though, because the wind was behind me, so it doesn't feel like that much of an achievement. I had fun though, and it made me fall in love with cycling again a bit. This is here… which was one of many really nice bits to cycle.

Went to vegfest (a vegan festival/conference) at Hove Town Hall. Tried loads of tiny little cubes of fake meat and fake cheese on the end of cocktail sticks. So basically, fake meat is sorted. There are loads of amazing fake meats. Fake cheese though - that's something science really needs to turn its attention to.

Cycled to work today for the first time since about November. I won't claim it was some kind of awesome epiphany. It was quite an effort. But the awesome light evening made it feel so much nicer than it has for ages.

Onwards to an April hopefully filled with more cycling and cuddles and tasty food and light evenings.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Adventures in my lower intestine [TMI warning]

So I've decided to write a slightly unusual blog, which isn't especially creative (I was going to try and illustrate it, but after googling 'colonoscopy' I decided to mostly let google image search illustrate it instead) but believe it or not, I think this is a subject which the internet doesn't have enough of.

And that subject? Positive experiences of having a colonoscopy.

Miley Cyrus is having a GREAT time!

Uh OH! Too much information alert! If you're not into stories about me pooing out everything inside me and then getting a camera shoved up my bum in the name of medicine, you'd do well to stop reading now… but honestly? I actually think you should carry on, because you never know when one day it might be you who needs to go under the… um… pokey camera stick? And you'll google it to try and reassure yourself (always a bad idea), and all you'll find is horror stories.

Because that's how the internet works. People rarely come back to write about things when their experience could be summed up as 'fairly tolerable, actually' - they come back when they want to rant to the world about what a nightmare they had. As a result, when you go on the internet to find out a bit more about what you might be in for, you'll scare yourself silly.

I was motivated to finally get round to writing this after a friend of mine very bravely asked on Facebook whether anyone could reassure her before she goes for the procedure this week. A couple of years ago when it was my turn, I was too scared/embarrassed to actually talk to anyone I knew (apart from a few close friends), and I wish I could have had some reassurance about the whole thing.

Back to the beginning of the story - about 23 years ago.

When I was a toddler, I made the bold decision that I didn't like pooing, and wasn't going to do it any more. So I didn't. For two weeks. In the end, my parents had to take me to hospital to be 'unclogged'. I have nearly no recollection of this - all I remember was crying on the toilet, and then sitting in a hospital bed eating green jelly.

 Breakfast of (3 year old, constipated) champions

But it was the beginning of a not-so-great relationship with my digestive system… I still hate pooing, and poo, but have come to accept them as a necessary evil in life. And for most of the rest of my childhood, things went along ok. I had to take laxatives every so often, but no biggie.

However, gradually, throughout my late teens, my digestive system started misbehaving. Never terrible, but just enough to be annoying. Anyway, I eventually went to the doctor, and told her all my symptoms, and she asked for a stool sample. Not long after, I got a letter informing me I would need to attend the hospital for a preliminary appointment before having a colonoscopy.

 My friendlier version of the Bristol Stool Scale. If you experience all of the poop varieties on a regular basis, you got problems. 

So, as you do, I googled it. This might be how you've got here. Unfortunately for me, there weren't any happy colonoscopy stories on the internet, and I proceeded to get absolutely terrified.

This was not eased at my preliminary appointment, where it was explained to me that BEFORE they put the camera up my behind, I would have to poo out everything inside me. Oh, and I might puke a bit too. As someone who dislikes pooing and is actively phobic of vomiting, I had a cry right there and then, and the doctor awkwardly summoned a nurse to hand me tissues and gently pat me on the back.

In the weeks running up to the procedure I was filled with dread, but here I am to tell you, you shouldn't be scared! It's absolutely FINE!

When the time came, I had my mum stay with me to look after me in case things got scary, and she helped me prepare the 'evacuation' medicine… all 4 litres of it.
Basically, you stop eating the night before the night before the procedure. The next morning, you start drinking the solution - a small glassful, sipped slowly, each 15 minutes. Don't just chug each one at the start of each 15 minutes… it's salty and vanilla flavoured (which remarkably isn't quite as horrific as it sounds), and the internet is full of horror stories of people just vomiting it straight back up again. Sip it, slowly. You're going to be doing a lot of slow sipping (4 litres worth), but it could be worse. It's especially helpful if you have supportive company to just hand you a glass of the stuff every 15 minutes so you don't have to think about it too much.

After a couple of hours, you'll start pooing. Make sure you're at home for this bit, and with exclusive access to a toilet. Got company with you who need to poop? Tough. Send them to the nearest public toilet, your need is greater than theirs.

But honestly, it's really not that bad. Diarrhoea has always distressed me, but this felt very controlled somehow, as it was medically induced. It's didn't come with the aggression and discomfort of a genuine upset stomach. For the first few hours it kind of has some resemblance to normal poops, but by the end - and this is the aim - you're literally pooing water. It's strange, and disconcerting, but not by any means horrific.

Once you've drunk all of the solution and done all the poops, you will be SO HUNGRY. I think I went to bed at about 9 that night, just because I was so miserable about missing dinner. I was also, however, quite relieved that I hadn't vomited, died, or pooed myself inside out. All viable irrational scary thought processes beforehand.

The next morning, it was time to head to the hospital, and I was scared again. Not helped by a trainee nurse who tried and failed to put a canula into my arm three times. By the time a fully trained nurse came to do it, I was clearly very shaky and a bit tearful, and perhaps that explains the rather generous use of whatever drugs they put into me next.

A few minutes later, I was lying on a hospital trolley, being wheeled into the theatre, feeling high as a kite. My main thought process at that point, was 'wheeeeee! trolley!' which I vaguely remember actually saying out loud.
This is not necessarily the most reassuring diagram.
The doctor probably won't be pulling that face, and the
thing they put inside you is NOT THAT BIG.
You might be smiling that much though, if you
have the same reaction to the sedatives that I did

I gormlessly smiled while the doctor who was to perform the procedure introduced himself - I have no idea what he was called but he looked a bit like Jay Rayner.

He instructed me to lie on my side in the foetal position, and asked if I wanted to watch. Hell yes I did! The world is a beautiful and fascinating place! I want to see inside of me!

I dreamily stared at the monitor beside me as the camera explored the fleshy pink wonderland that is my lower intestine. At one point, some remaining fluid caught the light, and refracted rainbows across the screen. I remember faintly saying "It's like a disco in there" and the nurse gently patting me on my shoulder. I also remember the doctor carrying out the procedure complimenting me on how well I'd managed to 'clear myself out'.

There weren't any polyps or people inside my lower intestines, thankfully.

They warn that you might experience discomfort as the camera thing blows air inside you to inflate the intestine for a better view. I don't really remember discomfort… there may have been some, as I do remember making vague 'errr' and 'aaah' noises, but quite what relation they bore to my physical sensations, I wasn't entirely sure at the time, and have no idea of now.

Once he was done, I was briskly wheeled into a ward and told I might want to have a nap for a while.

No napping for me! I was suddenly buzzing! I lay rigid on the bed, staring at the ceiling and experiencing an immense feeling of warmth, comfort and wellbeing. After a while, I sat up, and was given a cup of tea. I was told to take it easy, but within about half an hour I felt ready to go home, and so that's exactly what I did.

None the worse for wear, and having done some fairly spectacularly enjoyable farts to get out all the air they'd inflated me with.

I was so terrified of the procedure itself that I'd barely thought about what the result of it might be — turns out… there was nothing to be worried about, as a letter which arrived in the post a couple of weeks later informed me. Final diagnosis? Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Final conclusion? The NHS is bloody brilliant, and colonoscopies are nothing to be scared of.

Oh, and if they offer you drugs, take all they'll give you, because I'm pretty sure that being high as a kite throughout the procedure definitely made the whole experience ALMOST fun.

(I hope that wasn't all TMI. But if this helps even one person who was freaking out like I was, it will have been a worthwhile exercise)

Sunday, 2 March 2014


February feels like it's been stressful, but on the whole I think it's been good. In visual diary terms it's been quite satisfying, although I am questioning whether I'm actually getting any better at drawing things, or whether I'm just being quite 'comfortable' about the whole thing and not really challenging myself (which was the original point)...

Anyway. It's as much about documenting my life for my own satisfaction as it is about my growth as an illustrator, so at least I'm succeeding at one aim.

Every so often, our work photographer takes my photo. This is an ongoing ritual, as despite him being a very good photographer, I basically hate a lot of things about my face (or at least the way it presents itself in photos), so he's never managed to get a shot I'm actually really happy with going on the website or being used on my business cards. (Although if you want to see one from a few years ago that I did agree to use, plus an interview of me talking about me, go here…)

Weather, eh? I actually drew this before it all properly kicked off too.

SO MUCH not into this.

So I have IBS. On the spectrum of 'things that can go wrong with your digestive system', it's fairly minor, but some days it's still a MISERY. Also I wish it was more societally acceptable to talk about pooing, because my life would sometimes be a LOT easier if it was ok to just say "I'm going to go home now because I need a poo"

Bought myself some snow boots which is probably ridiculous overkill as I live in Brighton and it's almost certainly not going to snow any time soon but it's good to be prepared right? Plus cosy feet are the best feet.

Fortunately it's never this much mouldy tupperware in one go. But still.

On a similar note to what I was saying before, I worry that sometimes I procrastinate genuinely fun creative tasks in favour of more boring but more predictable tasks that I know I can already do and am good at. It's a problem. Must try harder.

The final stages of organising a holiday to the Peak District for me and 7 friends. I feel like I was mostly spectacularly efficient, but I wonder if I sometimes create unnecessary work for myself, simply because I love doing certain kinds of admin/advance planning.

Bake club will be the death of me.

Thought I'd done relatively well this year at not having my usual annual norovirus freak out, but it turns out a colleague being off sick with a stomach bug two days before my week long holiday was enough to push me over the edge into obsessive hand washing and avoiding all finger foods. (Fortunately I got over it much quicker and more thoroughly than I have done in previous years)

While I managed to thankfully NOT get a tummy bug before holidays, I did successfully manage to pick up a horrible cold which left me with an incredibly annoying hacking cough for the entire week away. BOOO!

Other than my cold though, the holiday was lovely. Plenty of walks and boardgames and lovely friend catch-ups. I'm glad I didn't play this particular board game (Archipelago) though, as I don't think I have enough space in my brain to contain even half the rule book. It went on till AFTER MIDNIGHT and I drew this slightly poor picture not long before then.

We stayed in this lovely cottage, which comes very highly recommended. The layout inside was just awesome. I took some spare time to try and test my perspective drawing skills, and did better than I often do, which was nice.

Well, this 'comic' (not actually funny, just stuff that happened) is fairly self-explanatory I guess. A brief moment of boredom before a walk. (Click to view bigger)

I walked from Whaley Bridge to New Mills on Wednesday, which was so lovely I did it again on Thursday. I had to wait a while for the train on the way back so I drew New Mills Newtown station, again, to try and test my perspective drawing skills (this one was harder as I had nothing to lean on!). I finished it off once I was on the train and the ticket conductor walked past and said it was 'right good'.

Back along the canal. I'm not sure if I'd actually enjoy a canal boating holiday (I'm slightly unsettled by not being on dry land) but I'd sort of like to try it. Canal boats looks great.

Another quick perspective drawing test before heading home. The lovely kitchen table where big long breakfasts and cosy dinners were shared all week.

Here's a picture of us all (except Sarah, who took it), in front of a MASSIVE AMAZING DAM.