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It’s the obligatory graduation post! October 6, 2013

Posted by phoenixaeon in Degrees, Graduation, OU, Uncategorized.

So graduation day finally rolled around on Friday after a stressful couple of days preparation – making sure we all had smart clothes to wear, making sure everything was printed out that I’d need on the day, sorting out the train tickets, calling the train station to arrange for the ramp/assistance to get on the train, and generally just having panic attacks about public transport. After all, it was my first trip on a train since being in the wheelchair, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Having said that, I’d do a train journey again. The people at both stations were fabulous, which made my fears about travelling disappear.

Arriving at Bridgewater Hall was so exciting! There were people milling around in their gowns, their proud friends and families strutting like peacocks behind them (Kirst and me graduationor looking like they were going to get up to some mischief). Getting into the hall, we careened through the tide of graduates towards the gowning area. Collecting my gown, I was ushered through to a lady who helped with robing and bobby-pinning the hood to the gown – and my hair! Youch! Mummy and Niamhie graduationBut my little Princi Munchkin was very proud of me, once I was all ceremonially-garbed up. Feeling more and more like a graduate, I realised that I had forgotten to book in at the registration tables. I must’ve pulled the crazy ‘aaaarrrrgggghhh’ face in my desperation to locate the tables, but thankfully I quickly spied where they were and navigated Dad, my designated driver, towards them. Good job too, because it was here I received my seating tickets, introduction card and complimentary drinks tickets.

Then I arrived at the most important part of the day – finally meeting my friend Ali squared graduation 1Nexie, my online study buddy and crazy conversationalist partner for the last five years. I think I nearly ruined my make-up, I got so teary-eyed! I have to say, going across the stage for the degree conferment was amazing, but meeting Nex made my day. Distance learning can be so isolating, so it made it that much more special to have someone there who had shared the experience with you. We both understood how much we had put into our studies, the outside struggles and stresses we had endured throughout the time we were studying, and the good times, devastations, and late-night panic sessions around TMA and results time. I just wish I had been able to see her cross the stage for her presentation, but I was waiting backstage after taking a roller-coaster tour of the building after my own presentation (all the wheelchair accessible ramps are backstage). I did clap as loud I as could, though!

All in all, graduation day was brilliant! I am glad that Nex and my cousin K spent hours talking me into going, and that I was able to share the day with both of them. I was also glad that Princi’s school allowed her the afternoon off school so she could be with me too – despite her antics ruining a lot of photos, as she held leaves or rabbit-ear fingers above my head! crown of leaves graduationleaf face graduation But the biggest, serendipitous giggle happened during the outdoor photographs at the end of the ceremony with the arrival of this van. It was just perfect after being awarded with a First-class Honours degree (please excuse the badly cropped together image!): Smart Alex

Croupy with a chance of mintballs. December 15, 2012

Posted by phoenixaeon in Uncategorized.
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Feeling better.

Feeling better.

So, after two and a half years of perfect attendance, I had to force Princi to take a day off school yesterday. She came down with something on Wednesday, spending the evening and first thing in the morning on Thursday puking, but after a little nap and some Calpol she felt well enough to force the issue – she got herself sorted and dressed and told her Grandand to drive her to school. She didn’t want to miss anything interesting, or being able to type up her myth story. She hates missing school, so when I told her there was no way she was going on Friday after coming home on Thursday afternoon and flaking out next to me she got very upset. But after a day in bed yesterday and an early night (she was asleep by 7pm, an occurrence that hasn’t happened since she was about 3!) she woke up feeling ‘a bit better’ this morning.



As for mintballs, well, I’m on the chuffing train again! The email flashed up last night that TMA02 was ready for collection so, with a tub of ice cream in hand, I tapped and clicked my way like an expert tap dancer through the OU login pages to the TMA collection point. Shoving a spoonful of chocolate and caramel ice cream into my mouth as a consolation prize and hoping the brain freeze would numb my disappointment, my eyes popped out of my head like they were on strangely horizontal icicles as I stared at the result in disbelief. 85%! I was sure I hadn’t understood anything that I was reading, except for the Bakhtin stuff – I have had a critic crush on Bakhtin since EA300 – that I thought I would score poorly. More fool me! And for the first time during this course I really feel excited to get moving with the next TMA. Good job too, because once all the reading is finished (hopefully by Tuesday) I will have to try and blast through the essay before next Friday, as Princi breaks for the school holidays therefore providing absolutely no chance of getting the essay done in time for the January 10th cut off date (Princi’s back at school on the 7th). Damn the Christmas holidays! So with that in mind, I’m off to do some more reading.

The definition of morning. June 15, 2012

Posted by phoenixaeon in Conversations with Principessa, Uncategorized.
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This morning, Princi skips from her bed and jumps into mine.

“Urg! It’s too early, little Monkey! You can stay there if you go back to sleep,” I say to her.

She snuggles and cuddles for about a minute, but her twitchy, kicky legs let me know that she’s just not going to go back to sleep.

“Mummy? Well, I love you.”

“I love you too. Go back to sleep.”

“But Mummy, do you know that ‘opinion’ means ‘what you think’?”

“Yes. Go back to sleep.”

“What about loquacious?”

I drag my arm from under the warmth of the duvet and do the ‘talk, talk, talk’ action with my hand.

“And Mummy, what’s that word that means I’m very hungry?”

“Famished,” I say, but I know that this isn’t the word she’s looking for. “Ravenous.”

“Yes, ravenous. That’s it.”

“Now go back to sleep.”

Yeah, no such luck. She cuddles my arm for a moment. Then…

“Mummy, what does the H in H2O mean?”

“Hydrogen. Go back to sleep.”

“So that means there’s one hydrogen and two Os then?”

“No. There are two hydrogens and and one O. What does the O stand for in H2O?”


“Well done, that’s right. And do you know that you can draw a little picture of H2O with the O in the middle and two little lines representing the molecular bonds pointing to the Hs?”

A suspicious Princi looks at me questioningly. “No you can’t!”

“Yes you can. It’s called a ‘pictogram’. That’s a picture that represents a word.”

“MUMMY! I know what a pictogram is! You don’t need to tell me!”

“Okay,” I say. My eyelids are still feeling like sleepy portcullises, so I try again. “Then go back to sleep.”

“But Mummy… Do you know what colour the flag of Turkey is?”

I sigh. I’m not going to win. “Red.”

“Ha ha ha! No it’s not! It’s orange!” I can feel her excitement at her false victory. She hates me being right.

“No it’s not. It’s red.” I sit up. There’s no point in trying to sleep. I grab the iPhone and activate the Wi-Fi. I type ‘flag of Turkey’ into google. “Look.”

She looks devastated as she sees the image and reads the text description underneath.

“BUT MY BOOK SAID IT WAS ORANGE! MY BOOK TRICKED ME!” She hmphs a bit, then snuggles back down. “I think I might go back to sleep now.”

Yeah, just as the alarm goes off. Oh well, at least we get to sing along to Queens of the Stone Age now.

I see a shark fin on the horizon. September 20, 2011

Posted by phoenixaeon in Uncategorized.
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And it is almost upon us. Tomorrow is the Party Day of Doom! But not only is it that, it is also the Fated Day of the TMA Questions of Perpetual Terror. Aaaarrrrggghhhh! It’s like one evil heaped upon another! Yet I must like sin, as I am quite looking forward to both occasions actually.


I am possibly more excited about the party than Princi is, simply because she’s never had her own birthday party, so I finally get to see her getting excited about her birthday. And she finally gets to experience a party all about her. But then, how is that different to any other day? Every day is about her! Or so she thinks, anyhow. I am just hoping that the ordered-last-minute games/activities will be delivered first thing tomorrow. Yikes, I do like to cut things fine! But I am really looking forward to seeing the specially made cake. I am sure Princi is going to love it! Ooh, the anticipation of watching a shocked and happy Princi is so exciting!


And the TMA questions. Well, study mode finally kicked in this morning. I am chomping at the bit to get moving with the course and to saturate myself in myth. Having the questions will only motivate me more. Yay! So glad for the lessening feeling of dread. So glad to have some semblance of sparking brain activity. So glad to to be feeling more like myself and not some shade of my former self. About bloody time, too!


I think, then, it must be time for an early night. I still have lots of preparation left to do tomorrow, and the added anticipation of future learning will be playing on my mind too. So, off to Noddlington for me…


Argh! It’s a mini beast! May 23, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Principessa art, The Principessa Files, Uncategorized.
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So, during a glorious day of sunshine when even Princi found it too warm to play out, we’ve been drawing and watching DVDs. Well, when I say DVDs, I mean one DVD. Robots. It’s her favourite at the moment, despite having free reign over the other DVDs.

Anyways, Princi was happily lying on the floor drawing when all of a sudden she jumped up.

‘Argh! It’s a mini beast!’

She ran over to me, demanding hugs and comforting, before going back to look again.

‘Argh! It’s a horrible mini beast!” she screeched, before picking up a piece of paper. Scooting around to me again, she placed the paper on my knee.

‘This is what it looks like, Mummy,’ she said, and proceeded to draw the culprit. I was stunned that I could identify what it was she was drawing!

‘Oh,’ I said, once she had finished drawing. ‘That’s just an earwig.’

‘Yes, an earwig. But it’s still a horrible mini beast!’

‘It’s OK, it can’t hurt you,’ I said. Then an idea popped into my head. ‘Can you write the word “earwig”?’

(She’s been having trouble writing her letters recently. It was an opportunity to get some practice in.)

‘Oh, yes, I can,’ Princi said. ‘Earwig… That starts with a difficult spelling. E…’

So Princi began to write. Squeee! She’d written the lower case ‘e’ correctly, the first time I’d ever seen her do that without guidance. Then she shocked me again. She knew how to spell ear! I thought she might have been tricked by the ‘e’ sound and miss the ‘a’, but no. I really shouldn’t doubt my daughter! I didn’t know how she’d handle the ‘w’, but no problems. Then the ‘g’ came. She’s never been confident with ‘g’s. But not this time. First time. Pride burst in a big hug and lots of squeeee-ing. A drawing and some writing and spelling, all unassisted. So chuffed!

And here it is.

Princi's earwig.

Princi's earwig.

Of bogs and truths and gardens. May 9, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Bog Child, Children's Literature, EA300, ECA, End of EA300, OU, TMA06, Uncategorized, What goes on in Princi's head?.

Eeks! Eighteen days left. 3,000 words written. Coherent argument fumbled. Too much to do, too little time?

On the plus point – got TMA06 back today. Yay! Another good mark above 90%, so chuffed to little mintballs. That means if I can get 85% on the ECA I have managed a first. That would be amazing! I would be chuffing like a chuffing train stuffed with chuffed little mintballs! And yes, that an awful lot of chuffedness! But before then, I have to battle with the rest of the ECA essay. That is really dragging me down. Sigh.

I have just under 1,000 words left to find for it. That shouldn’t be too hard. No, it’s more the constructing it into a decent argument. I am having the crisis of confidence thing with this once again. I’m worried I’m not using enough references. Worried I’m writing too much about the plot of the story. Worried I’m not getting enough depth into the points I’m making. Generally, I’m just worried. It’s making me feel ill. Gah! You know, I hate exams, absolutely despise them, but right now I’d gladly throw my hand for it to all be over in three hours. That way I wouldn’t have the time to question my knowledge, to second guess myself. It’d just have to be done and that’d be it. But no, I have eighteen more days to sit and stew. Bugger and butt nuggets! So tomorrow it’s on with Bog Child. On with The Other Side of Truth. On with Tom’s Midnight Garden. And it’s on with working out the history and traditions that tie them all together, hopefully with some pertinent quotes and decent themes. I know I will have something to submit in seventeen days time (don’t want to push it to the limit in case of server overload on the electronic submission site), but if it’ll be any good is anyone’s guess. I’ll have to wait until August to find out. Argh!

And besides, according to Princi:

Botheration! There is difficulty in the crossing between Cape Horn and the Antarctic.

So there.

(That about sums up my state of mind!)

The pain of separation. May 3, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Downstairs, The Principessa Files, Uncategorized.

This morning, the first lot of stuff went from my bedroom now to the new room downstairs. While this is positive movement, it’s fixed in my head the anxiety that Princi is feeling about the move.

“Mummy, where’s that thing gone?” (meaning the CD rack)

“Uncle Gareth has taken it downstairs.”


“To put in my new bedroom.”

“But I don’t want it to go down there, I don’t want to be lonely.”

Eeks! She really doesn’t want this move to happen. Let me explain why. The whole of her life she has shared my room with me. Her bed is opposite mine, so that whenever she has needed extra comfort she only has to stomp (because she doesn’t know how to tippy-toe) across the room to me. When I finally move, there will be the physical barrier or the stairs. Now, the stairs are not the problem for Princi – she has been able to thump up and down the stairs since she was two and a half – rather, she has suddenly become very afraid of going downstairs at nighttime. She’s also afraid of doing most things at nighttime, including sleep. It’s finally dawning on me why this might be. Talk about me being dense!

When Gaz started taking the books downstairs, Princi ran into the room and nearly knocked him over. Of course, he told her to stay out of the way and this upset her.

“I have no friends anymore. Everyone is leaving me on my own.”

Yep. There it was. It’s change. She doesn’t want it. How could I have been so blind? That is why she has needed so much reassurance lately about where people are in relation to her geographical location. I have to tell her where I am (even though she can see and hear me!), where Nanny and Grandand are, where Uncle Gareth is (in the house next door), and where Aunty Lindsay, Aunty Kirsty and Uncle Jamie are (about a mile down the road). Despite being excited that she’s going to have her own room soon, she doesn’t want me not to be in it! My poor little babs.  We’ve been talking about it for so long – well, it must seem like that for Princi – that she probably thought it wasn’t going to happen. Ever.

Oh – here she is. Hang on a tick…

Aha! I have just found something that makes her feel a bit more comfortable with it all. She would feel happier in her own room if she could have a picture of Doctor Who on her wall.

“But it has to be the new Doctor Who. The Matt Smith Doctor Who!”

Fine. Matt Smith Doctor Who it is then. But until then, there’ll be lots of hugs and reassurance and fluffy, light-up teddy bears.

Well, I would write 4,000 words… April 29, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Children's Literature, Doctor Who, EA300, ECA, OU, The Principessa Files, Uncategorized.
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OK. Not quite 4,000 words yet. But halfway there. The plan is to have a workable full draft by a week tomorrow. That way, I’ll have a full plan to submit to the tutor and only the rewrite to do over the three weeks before the submission date. And then that’s that. Course is over. Noooooooooooooo! Despite my feelings that this last piece of work isn’t going to be as good as anything else I’ve done (and particularly not TMA05. The result for that still makes me smile with pride), I have absolutely loved EA300. It’s been so hard to get my head around at times, but the sense of satisfaction coming to the end of it is fabulous. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt like I’ve come away from a course knowing that I have learned something as strongly as I have with this. All I know is that I really want to continue on with it. But… I need to complete three more courses with the OU before I can even think about that!

Princi has also discovered something she likes to learn. She had her first session with Spanish Club in school today. She stayed back for an extra 45 minutes (I wasn’t sure she would like staying back at school, but she did. Yay!) and when she got home she told me about all the words she learned in Spanish. And she’d learned quite a bit. I was pleasantly surprised. The surprise stayed when she became really excited knowing that she could do it again next week. ‘But only on Thursday,’ she said, with a little look of disappointment on her face. Since then, she’s been playing on Spanish games on her Nanny’s computer!

Anyway. It’s time for Doctor Who before bed. Oh, and tonight it has to be old Doctor Who. She kicked off last night when old Doctor Who was all she could watch because the Broadband had gone down. Grr. But she happily watched ‘School and Chips,’ or School Reunion to the rest of us, and has decided that the old Doctor is better than the new Doctor for now. I’m sure we’ll get back to the repetitive viewing of The Eleventh Hour soon. She loves the food scene too much not to watch it again!

And speaking of the Doctor, here’s something that’s had me giggling today…

Ten rules for writing fiction. February 21, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Uncategorized.

For anyone who reads my blog and who doesn’t read Neil Gaiman’s blog (must be a veeerrrrry small number! Probably just one!), here’s the Guardian’s article for the ten rules for writing fiction:

Part one.

Part Two.

Thought it might be of use to some folks. 😀

Hangin’ tough. August 11, 2009

Posted by phoenixaeon in Uncategorized.

Last week I brushed off my disappointment of missing the distinction on the creative writing course and the receiving of my first rejection letter. I immediately sent the rejected poems to another magazine (well, I sent the sequence, anyway) and wrote off the pass grade 2 as the result of taking a risk. I felt better about it for a little while, but today I realised just how wounded I felt by both results. I am only now trying to get my head around it.

Now, while this revelation hasn’t exactly depressed me, it has made me realise that I’m going to have to toughen up and not be so harsh on myself. There are others out there who can do that for me and if I don’t want to learn from it then that is my problem. If I want to make something of my writing –  I think I do, but the backlash is making me question that – I need to get ready for some knocks and bumps along the way. I know this all sounds obvious. I thought I was ready, but I may have been expecting too much.

I am sure my writing isn’t as bad as all that. I also know that it can be improved, refined, and polished up. It’s all going to take time and practice, and the input of trusted peeps to keep me moving in the right direction. And I will move forward.

But for now… I think I will allow myself the time to lick my wounds. I am hoping the first rejection is the hardest and that I can take the next one that falls through my door/pops up in my inbox with a pinch of salt. For one thing is set in stone. I will get more rejections – in the smattering of acceptance letters I wholey intend to receive!