Woolly Writer Competition

I think it is save to acknowledge that my entry into the Woolly Writer Competition hasn’t won (as the winner is being published today), so here is my entry. I wasn’t expecting it to win. I only entered because I’d made up a silly story for the competition. I was “edging my bets” 🙂

She slowly turned the ball of bright red yarn over in her hands, imagining all the wonderful things she could make, but before she could pop it into her basket, she felt a tapping on her shoulder. Startled, Ethel turned and gasped. Shock caused her to drop the wool and the basket. She held onto the display rack so that she didn’t fall over. Of all the people who could have been tapping her on the shoulder, this was the last person she expected it to be.

In fact, was this really a person? Ethel was looking at a living replica of the toy that she had finished making that morning. He had the same straggly hair and the slightly wonky eyes which were bright green in colour. There was a small stain of tea on his cheek. His smile was slightly wonky and pink because Ethel had run out of red wool. He wore a black cloak and had a yellow belt buckle. He had navy blue boots and a green waist coat and wore orange and purple stripped trousers.

“This must be a big surprise,” the toy admitted. His voice was smooth and deep – very manly for a toy!

Ethel couldn’t speak. She just stood, rooted to the spot. Should she feel threatened? Should she feel scared? Was this a dream? Was she going a little bit crazy?

“I had to meet you,” the toy said. “I have spent the last month listening to your stories. I have heard your woes and your fears. I’ve heard your laughter. I just had to come and meet you.”

Ethel swallowed hard, trying to pinch herself. She couldn’t believe that there would be any other explanation than she was dreaming that this encounter was really happening. Put the sharp pain on her forearm told her that this was a very real event and that she really was awake!

“I don’t mean to startle you,” the toy said, gently. He reached out his arm and on his sleeve Ethel saw where she had dropped a stitch. She hadn’t noticed at the time. In fact, she hadn’t noticed it until she was sewing the toy together.

“Please,” the toy begged. “Why don’t we go for a cup of tea? You’ve told me many a time that tea and burgers make the world a better place. And then we can go and sit on the beach that you kept telling me about.”

Ethel smiled, weakly. She wanted to go with the toy, but there was a nagging thought in the back of her head that was suggesting that this probably wasn’t the safest plan – to be alone in a quiet village with an enlarged toy that she had made and left on her kitchen table? Was it safe?

“How about it, then?” the toy pressed.

Ethel nodded. She followed the toy out of the shop and walked alongside him. Although she could see every stitch on him, she had to look closely. Otherwise, besides for his rather odd sense of fashion, he looked rather normal!

Ethel led the toy to the café on the beach where she ordered two burgers and two teas. She went outside to the balcony and joined the toy.

“I presume you can eat?” Ethel asked.

“I can,” the toy confirmed.

After they had enjoyed their meal, they took a walk along the beach.

“I’m glad that I’ve met you”, the toy said, putting his arm around a now relaxed Ethel. “I just had to meet the person who had filled me with so much love. I was saddened when you put the last stitch into me this morning. I knew that it would mean I wouldn’t get to listen to you anymore. I knew that the stories would stop. I had to meet you to thank you.”

“Well, it’s a bit of a shock for me,” Ethel admitted. “It’s not every day that your own creation comes to life!”

“No, it isn’t,” the toy confirmed. “I think it’s all the love that you poured into me that has allowed me to come to life.”

“I’ve made you with love,” Ethel confirmed. “I have made you for a very special little boy. I’m sure that he will love you, and I hope that you will take good care of him. I’m not going to be able to see him for a while and I wanted him to have something to remember me by until we’re together again.”

“I will take very good care of him,” the toy promised, giving Ethel a squeeze.

“I’ve had such a wonderful afternoon with you,” Ethel confessed. “But, I’m guessing that this is going to end?”

“Unfortunately it must,” the toy sighed, sadly. “You made me as a toy. You’ve even made me as a gift. I am supposed to be a toy. I want to be a toy. I just knew that I needed to meet you.”

“I’m glad that you did come to me,” Ethel replied, smiling fondly at the toy. “Do you have a name?”

“Not until I’m given one,” the toy answered, curiously.

“I’ll let the little boy name you,” Ethel decided. “But, I do wonder, how will you get back to being a toy?”

“It’s simple,” the toy announced, letting go of Ethel. “Close your eyes”.

Ethel closed her eyes. Warmth swept over her. The world sounded like a clearer place. She could hear the sea crashing against the shingle coast line and she could hear the seagulls chirping. She could smell the salty air. Just as she realised how alive her senses were, something told her to open her eyes.

She opened them. She was alone again.

Ethel strolled back towards her house, which sat on the beach. She raced inside her house and into her kitchen. There, on the table, just as she left him, was the toy. Beside him, though, was the ball of bright red yarn that she had dropped in the wool shop at lunchtime.

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At 2pm…

I don’t know where I got this idea from, or how it is supposed to translate, but in my notepad is a blog post idea titled “at 2pm”. Here I am, at 2pm… Well, I logged into WordPress at 2pm. I have just spent the last ten minutes reading the new blog posts of the blogs that I’m subscribed to. I thought, that I could use this title to just write ‘freely’ for a bit. The only other time I write freely is in my journal.

I’m currently sat in my living room with Doc Martin on the television. ITV3 has been a great source of entertainment over the past couple of months. I get lots of good programmes on here, such as On the Buses, George and Mildred, The Royal, Rising Damp, Heartbeat, etc. I call ITV3 the “ITV comedy channel” because the programmes mostly make me laugh.

While I’m sat here, I can see lots of things that need doing. The first thing: housework. I haven’t done anything this week. I need to do some laundry – I probably have two wash loads piling up. Because of my laundry, I’m also wondering if I can dust my shed (you read that correctly), clear it out and get some organisation in there and hang a washing line in there for drying my towels and bedding during the winter. Either that or I need to invest in some more clothes airer’s – but I’m quite fussy about the style!! Of all thing to be fussy about, that’s one! I hate using the one I have because it stands up quite tall and takes a lot of space up. Those panel ones, that fold out in three, they don’t take up as much space because I can stand them in front of a wall (or a radiator!).

Anyway – that’s one thing that I need to sort out. I also have a couple of knitting projects that I need to finish. I am knitting two shawls and one scarf. One of the shawls is nowhere near finished but I have to have it in the post by next Tuesday (first class). It’s not that I don’t want to finish it, or that I don’t have the motivation to finish it; but I am filled with dread that there is actually quite a bit of it left to do in less than one week.

I lose a bit of a knitting day on Sunday because I am going out with a friend. We’re going to see a dog. It’s part Pug and part-of-another-breed-that-I-can’t-remember. I’m quite excited to go and meet this puppy. I’ve been brooding over puppies lately. Maybe because it’s been decided by nature that I definitely can’t have my own babies now, I am brooding over little baby puppies. I really want a puppy – I know rescue dogs need homes, but I’d like to get a puppy as it is (in my case) replacing a baby. Maybe one day…

I suppose, if my friend is coming on Sunday, I ought to have a bit of a tidy up. I should throw the hoover around and make some kind of an effort to look less like a slob and more like a snob. I’m just my paternal grandmother in disguise…

And, I’m worrying that I might forget to do something that’s so trivial that it makes no difference if I remember to do it or not. In fact, I will go and do it right now: I will go upstairs and get a packet of post-it note tabs out of my box…

…I have got my post-it note tabs. While I was getting them, I visited the toilet and I put my jeans into the washing machine on a daily quick wash. I need to wash them separately in case the colour washes out because they’re relatively new.

The post-it note tabs are for a project I’m working on. I need to bookmark some pages so I know where to find them when it comes to typing the project up over the next few weeks.

Maybe if I did less writing and more knitting, the shawl might get finished by Tuesday’s last postal collection 😉

I’ve been writing for 25 minutes now and WordPress says that I have written over 700 words – which I think is plenty enough for a blog post. I have another 25 minutes of Doc Martin to watch and a few chores to do before I sit down again at 4pm for On the Buses, and George and Mildred. I don’t watch the Wild at Heart programme. I think it’s a great programme (I like big cats and elephants) but it’s full of terrible acting… So, off I go to do my chores… I hope I haven’t bored you too much (we’re now 800+ words)…

Entry 14

Entry 14 from Journal of a Nightmare Patient

I find the doctors ward rounds rather intimidating. There’s an entire gang of them! They all turn up at my bedside. I feel like an object in a museum, or an animal in a zoo, rather than a person. During their ward rounds they’ve been focusing their attention on Nanna. Have they forgotten that I’m sitting in the bed? It makes me angry, but I know that I’ve brought this on myself because I haven’t exactly been engaging with the doctors; I’ve barely been responsive to them since I was admitted into the hospital. I’ve not made myself involved in my care. I’ve just been a passenger.

I’ve met a palliative care nurse called Isabelle. She has a wealth of knowledge and has so many tricks up her sleeve to remedy my discomfort that’s being caused by the ulcers in my mouth, and my sore throat. She’s armed me with a few coping strategies, too. Some are really helpful, even if I wasn’t sick!

Isabelle has helped me find my voice. I know that Dr Augustus, nor any of the doctors, can answer whether I’ll live or die, but I’ve thought of other questions that I’d like to ask:

  • What’s happening to me?
  • What’s the plan?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What will these treatments involve?

Isabelle helped me to pose my questions and during the last ward round Isabelle made the focus shift to the patient in the bed (me). It gave me the chance to ask my questions. I feel that I’ve made the first step in involving myself in my care. I feel a bit more in control.

What’s happening to me? My bone marrow has failed so I’m not making any blood, making me susceptible to infections, bleeds and anaemia.

What’s the plan? To keep me topped up with platelets and blood (supportive therapy) and to refer me to Professor Charles at The City Hospital.

What are my treatment options? There are several:

  1. We must wait to see if Shit Face is a good enough match. He’s had his blood tests and they’re waiting for his results.
  2. ATG to try and divert my immune system away from my bone marrow.
  3. If ATG doesn’t work, I could have a second course of ATG or they might look to the registers for a bone marrow match.
  4. No treatment, and I die.

What will these treatments involve? I’ll have to go to The City Hospital as The Town Hospital can’t provide me with these treatments. I might get serum sickness from the ATG. I might get graft versus host disease from the bone marrow transplant. I might get 100% better. I might become 100% dead…

Entry 4

Entry 4 from Journal of the Nightmare Patient:

Dr Augustus and his team (there are so many of them!) have visited me on the ward this afternoon. He shared with me the diagnoses that he’s considering: aggressive leukaemia or aplastic anaemia.

I’ve heard of leukaemia. I know that’s a serious disease even without the prefix of “aggressive”. I know that leukaemia is cancer. I hope it’s aplastic anaemia and not leukaemia. Aplastic anaemia doesn’t sound scary. Aplastic anaemia doesn’t sound life threatening. I can’t remember what Dr Augustus said about aplastic anaemia – I wasn’t ignoring him, I just wasn’t really listening.

Of all the questions I could have asked him, I could only think of one that I want the answer to! It forced its way to the forefront of my mind. It blocked out all other questions that I could (and maybe should) have been asked:

“Am I going to die?”

No matter how many different ways I worded the question, Dr Augustus gave me the same answer: “I don’t know”. I know that he doesn’t have a crystal ball. I know that he can’t look into the future. I know he can’t give me the answer that I so badly need. He doesn’t know himself whether I’ll live or die (hence “I don’t know”). He only has the facts as they are presented before him. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen. He doesn’t even have a final diagnosis for me; he’s only working on speculation. But, Dr Augustus’ refusal to answer with anything other than “I don’t know”, infuriates me. What kind of a doctor is he?! He must have some idea!!!!????

I’m now sat on my hospital bed, crying my eyes out like a pathetic child. The nurses have drawn the curtains around me to give me some privacy. Or have they closed the curtains so that I don’t scare the other patients?! I feel alone. I’m terrified.

What’s happening to me????

It isn’t fair. I’ve only come to the hospital for a routine operation. How has it lead to a life-threatening disease being diagnosed?????? Until last week I had been leading the life of a “normal” twenty-year-old. Now, my world is being tipped upside down.

[Link to the .com store]

Entry 42

As promised in Monday’s post, I am re-blogging to entries from Journal of the Nightmare Patient which I previously shared under my ‘nom de plume’. This is the second entry from my e-Book:

One infection clears up. The prospects of being discharged are promising. Then, another infection makes itself known.

The cycle keeps repeat itself, over and over again.

There’s no respite. None at all.

As soon as the doctors think that they are on top of things, something else comes along. We are constantly taking one step forward and several steps back.

I’m fighting a losing battle.

I’ve lost count of the number of central venous catheter’s or PICC lines I’ve had put in and removed as a precaution of being an infection source. Every time the doctors take one line out, some form of line goes back in a few days later before it has to come out because of an infection risk.

I feel alone. I don’t know whether I’ll live or die. I struggle to find anyone who understands what’s was going through my head. People are getting bored of me declining invitations to socialise. They’ve stopped inviting me out altogether now because my response are always the same: “no, I’m in hospital”. Most communication has stopped and they leave me alone as they carry on with their lives. But then there are friends, like Gazza, who I’ve neglected. Texting consumes effort and there isn’t much to text about. Phone calls are near impossible when my I feel so unwell and my signal is rubbish. Maintaining friendships has became difficult because I feel too tired to make the effort. But, I’m also looking after number one. I know I push  away the people who care about me because I’ve convinced myself that one day they’ll also get bored and forget about me. I don’t know how to get out of this horrible cycle.

I feel isolated. The cards of well wishes pile on the door mat from people who don’t usually give me the time of day. These well wishes are meaningless. Whenever I’m alone in this isolation room, I’m surrounded by these cards, but where are the visitors to keep me company? Despite offers of “if there’s anything I can do, let me know”, which seem to be steadily flowing in, very few have delivered on the “you could come and visit me” suggestion. The worst excuse for not visiting is “I don’t like hospitals”, which disheartens me. I don’t chose to be here. This isn’t a holiday for me.

I’m also worrying about my money… It’s an expensive luxury to be a patient. The sick pay has run out and I’m living on an incredibly tight budget.

Being a patient doesn’t stop the financial obligations. Being a patient doesn’t mean that everything suddenly becomes free.

When I’m in hospital, direct debits still have to be paid. While in hospital I have to pay to watch TV and access the Internet. I have to pay to read a newspaper. I still have to buy birthday cards and the toiletries that I need.

When out of hospital I have to pay my way. I can’t walk out of a supermarket with a basketful of shopping without paying. I can’t do activities which cost money for free because I’m sick and not working. It would be more economical if I had gone to prison – at least prisoners (apparently) earn money while serving their sentences so that they have some cash once they’ve served their time!

There’s also a battle for me to claim benefits while I’m sick because I can’t attend their appointments to prove that I’m sick. I don’t understand why it’s so difficult when there are so many people claiming a load of benefits, leading comfortable lives and even get a house chucked in for free if they need one! Benefits are supposedly available for those in need but I see that they’re more easily available for those who plan to never work and opt for the easiest way of life. I have to prove that I’m unable to work, and even then the benefit assessors haven’t accepted the many hospital letters that I’ve supplied them with. The work shy and lazy bums appear to be more equipped with the knowledge of how to claim every benefit that they’re ‘entitled’ to; I must have missed that lesson at school. Living on benefits shouldn’t be a way of life. Benefits should be capped. They should only be available for times of real hardship.

Entry 23

As I promised in Monday’s post, I am re-blogging the two entries from Journal of the Nightmare Patient which I had previously shared under my ‘nom de plume’:

After my last entry, I gathered my possessions together. I made sure that I was ready to leave as soon as Nanna and Grandad arrived. I was determined that I would not stay in this hospital any longer. I don’t want to stay in a hospital where the staff have no respect for me as a person, and where I can’t be ill in peace. I don’t want to be somewhere if no one listens to my voice.

While Nanna spoke with the ward manager, and tried to reason with me, Grandad stayed by my side. I’ve cried hard today. I was quite distressed this morning. I couldn’t bear to be here for moment longer. Grandad took my bags, and took me to the car.

The ward manager tried to justify my experience during the night with the fact that I’ve been transferred to this ward on a weekend, and late in the evening. I’m sorry, but it isn’t an excuse for a shitty night.

Grandad drove me back to The Town Hospital. We went to A&E and I was taken to a side room to protect me from the other patients. The nurses learnt about my recent medical history and ensured that my IV antibiotics were administered in a timely fashion, and called for Professor Bertie, who was on call today, to come and see me.

Professor Bertie wasn’t happy that I had discharged myself from The City Hospital. Both he and Nanna pleaded with me to return. It was horrible.

Professor Bertie told me that without treatment I could be dead within six months. He was blunt. He was cold in delivering the icy truth. I suppose that he had to be.

I really didn’t care.

I really don’t care.

I didn’t want to return back to this ward. Instead, I spoke about biodegradable coffins, and cheap funeral arrangements. Nanna became upset. Grandad was searching for alternative solution; he asked about private care, but Professor Bertie says that isn’t an option.

I focused on my baby half-brother who was lying in Nanna’s arms. He is only a month old. If I were to refuse to come back to The City Hospital, by the time I die, he’ll be about six months old. He’ll have no memory of me. What about all of my other siblings? What about Nanna and Grandad? What about Dad? What about all the people that I’ll be leaving behind with only a memory that I once existed?

Facts and figures swirled in my head. Out of all the people in our country, only up to 150 of them are diagnosed with aplastic anaemia per year. I’m unlucky to be one of them. I’m in the minority group, yet, I’m never lucky enough to be in the minority group of lottery winners! No matter how the odds are stacked, I am the loser. With the treatment that I’ve been sent away to receive, there is a 70% chance that it might work – but the way that my luck is going, I am likely to be in the 30% group of it not working.

The thought that I’ll be leaving behind a memory of having once existed, returned to me. Do I want that memory to be one that I’ve fought against, or one that I’ve cowardly given into because I don’t want to stay in a place where I’m treated in a way that I don’t like? Do I want that memory to be one that the people who love me can reflect upon with pride in how I’ve fought, or anger in how I’ve given up at the first hurdle? Do I want the baby to know me or have to hear about me every now and again when I’m occasionally remembered?

They made it sound like a special favour when they told me that the bed at The City Hospital was being held for me. I had to make a decision, and I had to make it quickly. I feel emotionally blackmailed by the emotions in the room earlier. I feel cornered because The City Hospital is the only place where I can receive the treatment that I need. It feels that the only person watching my back is Grandad. Maybe he and Nanna are playing “good cop, bad cop”?

Reluctantly, I’ve come back to The City Hospital. I cried for the entire journey which disappeared so quickly. Unless I want to succumb to this disease without a fight, I have no other choice. I know that I’m not in control; this isn’t a decision that I’ve chosen to make but one which I feel I’ve been forced to make.

I’ve gone to bed without any dinner. The food doesn’t appeal to me, and I’m exhausted. I haven’t eaten anything today, but given that I hardly eat most days, it doesn’t bother me that much. The choice of food that I saw on my way to my isolation room didn’t appeal to me; it either looked very dry, or looked very watery! Thankfully Nanna and Grandad are “allowed” to bring me ready meals which can be cooked in a microwave while I’m a patient here.

Do I really need permission to eat food that I like while I’m in hospital?! Do I really need permission to have anything brought in from home??? This isn’t a bloody prison!!!!!

Published

This year, I finally finished editing and consolidating the journals that I kept during and after my treatment for aplastic anaemia. In April, I decided to take the ‘brave’ step by publishing my finished piece of work. Under the nom de plume of ‘Ethel Shambles’, I uploaded my finished accomplishment on Amazon.

Last week, I was looking for a different cover for my eBook and wondered “why am I hiding behind a pen name when I blog under my real name and I Twitter under my real name?” It seems rather odd that I have fulfilled one of my ambitions (to write) and then hide behind a nom de plume when I don’t wear a mask for anything else. So, I have made another ‘brave’ decision – I edited the information for the eBook and published under my real name: R. J. Sefton.

By changing this information, I can no longer offer it as a paperback copy. It would seem that I have complicated things by changing the author, because the paperback has an assigned ISBN number. I will try and figure something out, but for now, my work is now available from Amazon on the Kindle for £1.99. Apparently when advertising the link, I ought to provide it with links to the .co.uk and the .com stores (according to some sources), so I have hyperlinked them accordingly.

This week, I shall upload the two ‘entries’ from Journal of the Nightmare Patient which I previously shared under my nom de plume so that they are available to read again. Should you wish to read the finished version in its entirety, well, you know what you’ll have to do…

(The two entries have been uploaded: here and here)