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Dreadful Nonsense

"I've read your blog. it's really funny. you should write a column." - Jon Ronson


23 September 2011
It's pay day today. I went online to my bank to check my balance, move some money around and cry in despair at my ever growing mountain of debt, and continuing lack of opportunity to fuck off to New York at a moment's whim. 

At the top of the screen was one of those cheery messages that massive corporations like to ask of their customers, to pretend we're all mates together, everyone on equal terms, best buddies.  You know, "thinking of going on holiday?" or "thinking of buying a new car?"  Only this one asked me "thinking of starting a family?"

Now, hormonally I am pretty much getting back to normal following the operation.  Emotionally I don't think I've even properly started to process what's happened.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I haven't and I'm afraid there is a massive emotional nuclear explosion waiting to go off at any moment.  I promise I'll steer clear of blogger when it happens, because I feel it may not be pretty, and may involve some kind of radical haircut and/or new tattoo to fully recover.

(Don't worry, you'll see photos of both)

Anyway, the intrusive enquiry from a faceless corporation about my thoughts regarding pregnancy, child bearing, fertility, fucundity or whatever it was they were specifically looking for in order to get me to take out a loan or credit card or overdraft or whatever it was they were offering made me a little bit angry.  So I answered their bloody question.

I sent them an email in direct response, in fact.  I said, yes, I was thinking of starting a family.  Sadly though, I continued, I had recently lost two pregnancies.  I had also almost died last year, I told them, due to extreme blood loss following one of the losses.  I'm now riddled with scars, I told them.  I'm still feeling pretty angry about the whole situation, I said, and while they may think that their marketing strategy is a lovely, friendly, clever one, they may want to rethink slightly their intrusive, over personal, upsetting and frankly fucking rude questions when people are simply logging on to see if they can afford a take-away over the weekend.

I'll let you know their response.


05 September 2011
I was sitting in my brother's kitchen yesterday, holding my five day old nephew, who had just been fed and was now fast asleep, drunk on milk, in my arms.  New born babies are amazing and terrifying to me.  Their breathing is so fast and odd, their movements while they sleep so comical, and the miniature perfection of their features - ears, fingers, mouths - so beautiful to look at.

My Mum reminded me of a story that I have been told about my whole life.  Just after I was born, a girl came to stay with my parents.  She was pregnant, unmarried, and unable to go home as it would bring disgrace on her family (a situation which was still ridiculously and disgracefully common in Ireland in the late 1970s).  She had her baby, and he was immediately taken from her and put up for adoption.  She stayed on with my parents to recover, and used to spend hours just holding the new born me.  Mum said that she said that being able to do that, being able to hold a new life in her arms, was the only thing that helped her to carry on.

It is wonderful and appalling how history can repeat itself.

My Brilliant Life

30 August 2011
When Jon Ronson was invited to submit a raffle prize to auction at his school reunion, he put together a package that he called "My Brilliant Life".  It included copies of all of his best selling books, and a note left for him by Nick Hornby (I think), which said something along the lines of 'sorry I missed you'.  It was to prove to the school bullies that his life was so great, so much better than theirs.  I love that package.

I realise that is also how I treat my blog, for the majority of posts.  When I can bear to look through the archives, I am struck by what I have left out.  How lonely I often was in Edinburgh, for example, or how much pain I was the year I was ill in Dublin.  I wonder now, if I had been blogging regularly at the end of last year, would I have gone into much detail about my operation and slow recovery?  I imagine that I would, but would probably have tried to put a positive spin on it, end on a joke and a picture of a jack russell.

I know that the Misery Lit genre of writing was very popular at one time.  Stories of people's miserable childhoods, from Angela's Ashes to the countless child sexual abuse memoirs, to anything written by Katie Price, people seem to find entertainment in reading about terrible deprivation, misery and suffering.  I don't understand why.  I have never, and will never, read those books.  I had started a project to read all of the Booker prize winning novels, but had to stop after reading about 10 in a row.  Holy Xenu, they are all miserable.  If your main character doesn't miscarry, divorce, lose all their limbs and/or drown their own child within the first 20 pages of your book, you are not going to win the Booker prize.  I couldn't take it.

Don't get me wrong, I love a bit of misery.  My favourite book in the whole wild world is Dave Egger's And You Shall Know Our Velocity, which begins and ends with the death of the main character, but it also screams JOY and LIFE.  I don't understand why people would choose to read accounts of other people's misery, save only for the realisation that their own lives, in comparison, aren't so bad.

But I don't want to make this a miserable blog.  I want to make it about My Brilliant Life: my perfect, entertaining, silly dog; my wonderful, understanding, occasionally idiotic husband; my challenging, rewarding, interesting career; my prize-winning (I can dream) cherry tomatoes.

So it's suddenly very hard to keep updating this blog, when so soon after I had decided to start it all up again, I go and lose a second much wanted pregnancy.  I don't know how much I want to write about it here.  It's not just my pain, it's my husband's pain.  And I'm still so early in my recovery and it's all still so raw and painful and emotional and devastating and downright unfair.  And that's not how I want people looking in to see my brilliant life.

So I may take a moment to step back and assess what I'm doing here.  I'm going home to Ireland for cuddles soon, so will post when I get back.  Probably with many photos of My Brilliant Holiday and My Brilliant Family.

In the meantime: My Brilliant Dog.

Wednesday morning

24 August 2011

One of the best things about being at home and sick: lie ins with the dog.

Round Two

22 August 2011

"To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness." - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest.

Anyone who follows my twitter account may have noticed over the weekend that I was in hospital.  It's the second time I've been in hospital in the last eight months.  It's the second time I've had emergency abdominal surgery in the last eight months.  It's the second time I've had an ectopic pregnancy in the last eight months.

I'm not going to give too much of a talk on ectopic pregnancies.  There are lots of good websites out there.  http://www.ectopic.org.uk/ is a very good one.  Their forums are particularly good if you're looking for support, or a place to go to release the mental when you feel you've been mental enough around your friends and family.  I just want to give some context to what happened to me.

Only 1% of all pregnancies are ectopic.  Of that 1%, 97% of those occur in the fallopian tube.  That's what happened to me in December.  The fertilised egg got lost on its journey to the womb, lodged at the neck of my right tube, started to grow, became a foetus and at six weeks reached a size that my body could no longer tolerate, causing a rupture and two litres of blood to flood into my abdomen, almost killing me.

Recovering from the operation, I was told repeatedly, first by the surgeon, then the nurses, then my GP, then various website forums, my friends, my family, everyone - this will not happen again.

The chances of it happening again are, in fact, increased if you've already had one ectopic.  They shoot up from 1% to a 10% chance.  That means (and if you're good at maths you'll have noticed this already) there's a 90% chance the next pregnancy will be in the right place.

90%.  I'll take those odds.

I took those odds.

You'll remember I mentioned above, of all ectopic pregnancies, 97% occur in the fallopian tube.  So, when at four and a half weeks pregnant I started bleeding again on Wednesday night, I also started to panic.  I asked my GP for a referral to the early pregnancy unit.  The EPU refused to see me.  There is a ridiculous idea held in the medical community that ectopic pregnancies cannot be seen and will not cause harm before you are six weeks pregnant.  

This.  Is.  Not.  True.

It took me one panic attack, one bout of sobbing down the phone at a receptionist and one emergency appointment with the GP to convince them to refer me to the gynaecology registrar at Brighton Hospital.  Then, after five hours of blood tests, three unspeakable (and one unlubricated) internal tests and two intravaginal scans, they finally acknowledged that this fucking pregnancy was also fucking ectopic.

And brilliantly, it turned out, not even in the fucking tube.

No, my second embryo was sneakier than the first.  It suctioned right on to the ovaries.  Do you know the chances, statistically, of that happening is EQUAL TO WINNING THE LOTTERY?

They operated within 24 hours of finding it, this time a less invasive method than slicing my abdomen clean in half.  There was, thankfully, no internal damage, and they only thing they removed this time was the pregnancy.  The ovary appears to be unharmed (although time will tell if that is true) and I only lost 200ml of blood this time, rather than the full 2 litres.  I'm currently at home, walking slowly, taking pain killers and trying to get my head around the fact that first a foetus and then an embryo tried to kill me in the last eight months.

I feel like Lois Griffin.  I'm terrified about getting pregnant again.  What if it's successful, gets to the womb, grows into an actual human person?  What would it do then?

L11, Brighton County Hospital

21 August 2011

I took these photos early on Saturday morning, while pacing the corridors trying to get rid of cramps caused by the air that they pump into you when performing abdominal surgery.  This is done so that they can see clearer into the area they're working on, so they don't accidentally cause damage to the bowel or major blood vessels.  I'm all for being careful.  I just think, if you're going to inflate, you really should deflate again before closing up.  That's my top tip to any surgeons reading.

Corridor, 6am.

In Emergency, Break Glass.

Two By Two, Hands Of Blue.

To Be Or Not To Be

30 July 2011
There is someone in my Twitter timeline who I seem to regularly unfollow, and then quickly refollow.   I have followed and unfollowed her quite a lot as Twitter to me is, for the most part, a jolly and silly distraction, filled with links to animal videos,  laboured puns, fascinating discussions and local knowledge.  I found it stressful to occasionally see people in pain, as you do when people post about break ups, or death, or illness.  Her conversation, you will see, occasionally veered into the profoundly unhappy, and so I followed and unfollowed, but I always found her too fascinating to leave permanently.

Last night, she tried to commit suicide.  It was something she had referenced quite often, usually at weekends, usually late at night, usually drunk. I didn't see the post in time.  I don't know what I would have done if I had, but I hope it would have been helpful.  Thankfully, last night, someone else read her posts, and reacted accordingly by calling the police.  The police came, she was brought to A&E, she is still alive today.  This is all wonderful, and I hope she now gets the help that she needs.

I was curious to see what sort of response she got, so I had a look at her @ feed.  I wasn't surprised to see that, at the very time she tweeted in a moment of profound despair and without hope, some people saw fit to call her "selfish" and said it was "unfair" of her to post about it.

My response to that is to want to hunt each of them down and punch those people right in the face.  Really?  You think that's helpful?  If someone was diagnosed with lung cancer, would you whisper in their ear they should have been more careful about what they were breathing in?  Should people drowning stop splashing about and drawing attention to themselves?  You unsentimental fucks.

Suicide is not a simple matter.  It's not an easy decision.  For a lot of people, it doesn't even feel like a choice, but a necessity.  But for the most part, it's also not a death wish.  Suicidal people don't want to die, they just can't see any other option.  Life has become unbearable; death seems like the only alternative.

There are alternatives.  The first one is Maytree.  I was a volunteer at this wonderful place for three years, and it remains one of the most powerful experiences of my life.  It's a house in Finsbury Park in London, where people in suicidal crisis can go for five days to sort their heads out.  It's not a medical institution.  It is run and staffed almost entirely by volunteers.  It is free for guests to stay.  Guests can come and go as they please.  Their belongings will not be searched.  They will not be sectioned.  They will simply be talked to.  Talking is what Maytree does best.  All day long and all night long.  Just talking about everything under the sun.  It's amazing.

If you heard what some people have going on in their heads, the opinion of themselves that they hold, the things that they have experienced, the losses they have had to endure, the horrors they have seen, then you would wonder that they are still alive at all.  Suicide is not an act of reckless abandon, it's not selfish, it's not the easy choice, and it is not the only answer.

Please think carefully about how you use social media.  It's all very easy to throw out an opinion here, a judgment there, a stupid comment that you don't really mean.  It could genuinely mean life or death to someone feeling most vulnerable at that time.

Maytree:  www.maytree.org.uk
Phone them on 020 7263 7070

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29 July 2011
One small bit of admin: the comments *are* working, but only if you click on the title. You can then comment below the post. I'm working on getting comments on to the main page, but I've tried for 30 minutes already and I now remember the old BlogRage I used to suffer from back in the day.

I will keep trying. In the meantime, please let me know you're out there - click on the header and leave a comment or tweet me or email me. Or fucking skype, if you must. I hate skype. Just let me know you're there. Massive thanks.

Forbidden love

24 July 2011

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Christmas Day 2010

23 July 2011
Deep breath, everyone. We're diving right in at the deep end.

You may have noticed that two of the tabs at the top of this site are set to lead you to the blood donation websites for the UK and Ireland. (There's also one for NZ - LORRAINE, I'M LOOKING AT YOU). This is because I think that most of my readers will be reading in those two countries. I'll be tracking my traffic, and if there are more hits from elsewhere, I'll add on one. This is very important, and I'll tell you why.

On Christmas Day, I had a blood transfusion which saved my life. To give credit where credit is very much due, a surgeon, his team and a plethora of nurses also saved my life, but without that donated blood, I'd be pretty dead now, and that would be sad for all of you, but very much sadder for me.

I'm going to tell this story because it's my story. The thing with almost dying (and if you've almost died, back me up here) is that quite quickly what happened to you becomes the property of everyone around you. People will tell you stories of where they were when they heard you nearly died. They will tell a lot of other people about what happened to you. Then those other people will tell you about how they felt when they heard from the other people about what happened to you. And somehow you've lost control of the story.

In early December, I found out I was pregnant. This was excellent news, because I wanted to be pregnant. It was going to be brilliant and exciting and amazing and we had for a long time been discussing names for our future child and there was a lot of grinning at each other and holding of hands and nervousness but most of all excitement and anticipation.

But then on Christmas Day, something inside me ruptured. It turned out my pregnancy was ectopic, which means that the embryo had become stuck on its journey down my fallopian tube (the right one, fact fans) and didn't quite make it into the womb. It then set about growing happily, steadily, for six weeks in a space where there literally isn't room for a developing baby.

Therefore on Christmas Day, it reached critical mass, and everything around it ruptured. I started bleeding into my abdomen. You'd think this would be astonishingly painful - and it was, for about 30 minutes or so. After that, I started feeling okay. So THANK XENU AND ALL THE OTHER MADE UP GODS we were staying with my in-laws, because my mother-in-law who is a retired midwife insisted we went to hospital. I honestly think that, if it had happened at home, I would have gone to bed, and then never woken up again.

Once we reached A&E things went downhill. I collapsed twice (the second time I passed out, I did a wee on a nurse's shoes). I started shaking uncontrollably (this was apparently shock setting in) and when they tried to do an ultrasound they couldn't see anything at all, because at that point I had bled four pints of my own blood into my own abdomen. I was made to sign quite a few forms, but still didn't understand that this was all quite serious when they told me I'd have to have surgery. My exact reaction was, and I quote "Are you serious? Fucking hell". Those would have been some of my last words.

Note to self - must think of better last words.

The reasons I'll still here to tell you this story are many and varied, but some of my highlights are:

1. My mother-in-law. As previously mentioned, I'm not one for making a fuss, and once the internal bleeding started, it took some pressure off the rupture site, and I actually didn't feel too bad. I would have stayed at home, and died.

2. Because it was Christmas Day, we were able to cruise right into A&E, be immediately assessed, quite rapidly transferred, and because it was Christmas Day, there weren't many other patients in the lady-care unit I was transferred to. Therefore, when I collapsed no less than five nurses were around to assist.

3. The on-call surgeon was already prepped and ready in the hospital, because he had just finished doing an emergency Cesarean birth. Therefore, it has just occurred to me, I was saved due to the birth of a baby on Christmas Day.

And I still have the nerve to be an atheist.

The long and short of this is: Give. Blood. You simply don't know who may need it next.

(If anyone has found this post searching for "ectopic pregnancy", please feel free to contact me with any questions. It is a truly hideous experience, one of the most difficult things I've ever been through, but you can get out the other side. Please get in touch.)

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22 July 2011
Forgive me, Blogger, for I have sinned.

It is exactly three years since my last blog post. In that time, everything has changed immensely, and also nothing has changed at all. I'm still in a job I hate, I'm still not getting enough sleep and I still can't drive.

I have, however, got married, come to terms with having a dog, moved house, changed jobs, almost died, got another tattoo and met Jon Ronson.

I will write about some and/or all of those things over the next few weeks.

Hello all. Welcome back.

*the most common search term to find this blog. I dread to think.


Hello there. Warm, isn't it?

Who the hell are you?
My name is Sharon, I am clinging firmly to the illusion that I am still in my twenties, and I am the owner of this blog. And if you didn't know that, I'm not sure what you're doing here.

Who is Shazzle then?
That is me, you idiot. I used to blog completely anonymously, and then I got bored of that and started posting photographs of my face. It is an - admittedly completely useless - attempt to stop my twitter account and blog being found by past, present or future employers/clients. It's not working all that well.

What the hell is the site all about then?
Funny you should ask. I have no idea. It started off as something to muck about with at work, and has turned in to something that I muck about with at work, so there's no real content, meaning, direction or point to it. Which is quite a good reflection of my life. [NB - this is a rubbish rip-off of the excellent Rob Newman "pointless fuck" joke.]

Why the title?
It used to be called What did you say? because that was my usual refrain as I don't always hear people when they talk to me, because I get distracted by what they are wearing or something happening just behind them. But I thought that sounded slightly aggressive, so I changed it to the first thing that made me laugh. It was then called Drugs Make Me Cool, which at the time was an ironic reference to the fact that I was always trying to give up smoking, and I am genuinely afraid that most fancy recreational drugs will kill me. For example, penicillin would kill me, and I've never taken cocaine because I think that might kill me too. I do like valium though. The Drugs title brought me a lot of new hits from people trying to "make drugs". So I changed the title again to Dreadful Nonsense because that is how Stephen Fry described his book and if that's good enough for him, it's certainly good enough for me.

What do you do for a living?
I used to have a cool job, where I would go to comedy and music venues every night, and sit in the dark at the back of the room where I would sneer at the performers and then go home and write nasty things that would be published the next day in the newspaper. This was because I enjoyed making snide and flippant comments about things people have often put their very souls into creating. Still, someone has to.

These days, I work with recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. No, I'm not still a journalist. I'm an addictions counsellor.

Where do you live?
Thank you for asking. I left London once the urge to kill others became stronger than the urge to kill myself, and I now live in Lewes, which is near Brighton in the south east of England. It's a very odd place. Odd in a very brilliant way.

I live with my husband D and our dog CJ, a lot of tomato plants, a large collection of Tigger pillows (mine), statues of angels (mine), hundreds of tennis balls (CJ's) and a huge collection of books about war (D's).

What is your favourite colour?
It seems that this Frequently Asked Question style approach is quite a restricting style, since I have already run out of questions to ask myself. If you have any further questions, do tweet/email/yell at me and I'll do my best to respond. But to keep learning about me, why not read my blog every day and then ring me and ask me to elaborate on the stupid points that I made while over-tired the night before?


What sound do Japanese chickens make?*

22 July 2008
I was robbed today. I think it's the first time in my life I've ever been robbed. Having just realised that, you'd think I'd be sitting here thinking how I'm the luckiest little girl to ever stalk this planet, but you'd be wrong. Very wrong. I want to seek bloody, painful vengeance on the sod who robbed me today, such is my level of sulking wrath.

What was taken doesn't seem like much: my iPod cover (but not my iPod), a bar of chocolate and, most worryingly, a handful of valium. My wallet was searched through, and discarded when they didn't find any cash (happily, they left my credit cards and massive debt behind), my handbag was also rifled but they similarly didn't find anything (I have virtually nothing of value) and THANK THE BABY XENU AND ALL THE LITTLE CHILDREN they didn't take my laptop.

I'm guessing, from the pathetic list of stolen items above, that it's an opportunistic idiot who took these things, someone who is actually the clinical definition of a kleptomaniac, someone who is stealing for the thrill rather than for the profit, because the ridiculous thing is that THE IDIOT GOT INTO MY ROOM WITH A KEY, AND THEN HELPFULLY LOCKED THE DOOR BEHIND THEM AGAIN, which means it can only be one of the cleaners or a member of the university staff and, obviously, shouldn't be very difficult to find if anyone actually tries looking for them.

But I'm not sure anyone is going to.

The thing is, the Uni are being particularly unhelpful in light of all of it. Initially I was accused of leaving my door unlocked, and then they said that it was a very unusual thing to have happened, and in the next breath said "and anyway, it can't be the cleaning staff, because the last robbery was on Saturday, and they aren't here at the weekends".

The last robbery?

Equally when I went to the OU office to report it, they said, oh my goodness, not again.

Not Again?

Mother fuckers have had petty thieving like this going on for the last two weeks and they've done nothing about it up until now. Nothing at all, including not telling anyone about it, not informing the police, not getting the uni staff involved, not making a paper trail and basically sitting on their hands making sympathetic faces and giving the "but what can you do?" eyes to everyone who has been reporting their lack of chocolate over the last fourteen days.

Honestly, you'd think that when I mentioned the valium going missing they might have paused for a moment, but no, one of the ladies piped up from the back, "Isn't that weird, because yesterday that other man reported that his medication was stolen too..."

Yesterday? Other man? Medication?

Honestly, university staff is universally retarded.

This has ruined my day, and also looks like it's going to ruin my week here. I'm trying to think of how much worse it could have been, how they could have taken Mr Pipps (my iPod) or Eggers (my laptop) or - horror of horrors - my Tigger Pillow that I got from the Disney Store, but I really can't see past the idea that some fucker stood in my room appraising all of my belongings, and just picked out which one suited them best. The bastard even had the audacity to unplug my iPod from the speakers, take off the iPod cover and then plug the iPod back in again which I think shows such a brazen attitude that I might have to peel their skin right from their face if I ever get the chance.

*The title refers to a google search that led someone to this site. I hope they found their answer.

Yes. That's right. I've blogged.

21 July 2008
I'm at Open University Summer School. It's the end of the first full day, and I am exhausted. I've been exhausted for the past five weeks. Last night, I went to bed at 10.30pm. Today, I had to nap from 5.00pm to 6.00pm just to have the energy to go to dinner. This is all because, five weeks ago, He Who Only... and I became parents.

I haven't written in this blog for a long time. Initially, it was because I didn't have the time, the ten minutes or so, in a day to sit and purge my brain of whatever inanities I usually find to type about. And then the long stretch of time between my last post and the next time I found myself with the 10 minutes to type seemed to make it more difficult, because I felt like my silence required explanation. People started to email me and to facebook me, asking for new posts or whether or not I had completely given up on blogging. I have no idea. Probably not. Finishing things frightens me. I don't like endings. I like long, messy goodbyes, regular denials if possible, and lengthy post mortems which are perversely really just to keep the dead thing alive in some way.

(In October I go into therapy.)

One of the problems is that I have got so many things that I could be blogging about, but so many of them are completely inappropriate. I would love to write about work, but obviously that's a massive no-no, and I'm stupid but I'm not that stupid. I really long to blog about my voluntary work, but confidentiality is such a large part of what I do that I don't know the last names of the people I work with, and they don't know mine, and if anyone accidentally came across any entries relating to what I do there, and put two and two together, I would lose my place in that wonderful charity, and a really important part of my life. I would adore to be able to blog about my relationship, and detail all of the things that happen in my head and compare them to what is actually happening in the room between us, but that's the quickest route to singleness, plus a lot of his friends used to read this, and that would just be embarrassing at the next one of the MANY THOUSANDS of weddings we'll be attending.

And to do all or any of these things would also mean me finding a 10 minute gap in a schedule that simply doesn't have 10 minute gaps. Talk to me five years ago, and I would never have believed that I was (a) the member of a gym; (b) the member of a gym in North London; (c) struggling to find time to attend said gym; and (d) actually missing my trips to the gym.

My life at the moment revolves around four things. These four things take precedent over all others, and all four of these things irritate and delight me in turn. These four things, in no particular order of importance are my boyfriend, our skinny dog, my job and my studies.

I'm starting my Masters in October. This is the Masters that I applied for, told everyone I was doing, then decided I wasn't going to do, told everyone in my life that I wasn't going to do this Masters after all, then went to the interview anyway, then got offered a place, and then accepted, deciding I'd probably turn it down later down the line, and now I'm starting in October and have had to tell everyone that I told I wasn't doing it that I am, in fact, now doing it. I'm doing a Masters in Counselling because I enjoy listening to my little sister whining so much that I decided I'd like to do it full time and actually get paid for it. Plus, I like to feel important, and obviously listening to people's tragic tales will give me a lot more to blog about and will fill up the chapters of my inevitable book version of this blog when the fucking publishers finally find me and offer me the book deal.

Some of that isn't true.

I'm so terrified about doing the course, I can't even begin to consider what it would be like to be an actual grown-up counsellor out there in the world with clients and everything. It seems really perverse to be spending so much money, so much time and so much energy doing something I'm not entirely happy or confident about, but there is also a part of me sure that this is the thing that I should be doing, that I should definitely give it a go. And, you know, otherwise I'd have spare time in which to relax and sit down and some spare cash for food and luxuries like socks and fresh fruit and pay the television licence and who really wants to live like that anyway?

And just to make sure that I go completely insane before I even start the course fully and say goodbye to the last of my nerves, we got a small, skinny, abused and abandoned dog from a rescue centre five weeks ago, and said dog has been ruling our lives ever since.

Her name is Claudia Jean, CJ for short. We named her after the press secretary in The West Wing, because she is also long and thin, and to be honest she really does look a little like Alison Janney. CJ eats everything she can get into her mouth – sticks, poo, vomit, grass, dandelion heads, pebbles. She especially likes pebbles. She tries to crunch them down, and then when we ask her to drop them, she defiantly looks up at us and swallows them whole. We then get to pick them back up the next day, when they appear in one of the five different times she poos every day.

CJ's metabolism is something that we're obsessed with. She's very underweight and even though we feed her enough to floor a Doberman, she doesn't seem to have put on any weight in the five weeks that we've had her. This could be due to the fact that she never stops moving. She is never tired, until the moment when she collapses on the floor in front of us, or on the sofa behind us, and then won't move again until 5.00am the next morning when she's up on the bed licking He Who Only... on the face and wondering why the heck we're not up already, because there are balls to throw and joggers to try and bite. We are now feeding her puppy food in an effort to bulk her up a bit, which she is given three or four times a day (and probably more than that, because me and He Who Only... are currently engaged in a bidding war for her affection, a war that we have not spoken about but which we are both all too aware of. He thinks he has the upper hand because he eats meat, and therefore gets to slip her some little meaty treats off his dinner plate when he thinks I'm not looking, but he doesn't realise that because our dog is an undiscerning retard who, last week, lapped at a slimy pool of dog diarrhoea like it was the most delicious delicacy she had ever been offered, she doesn't care if it's tofu or bacon).

The little skittle never stops moving, and it's difficult for her to settle in the evenings when me and He Who Only... try to sit down to watch some West Wing (the scenes in the press room endlessly entertain us now, with all of the journalists urgently yelling our dog's name in unison from the television). He Who Only... has devised this fantastic game where he hides one tennis ball while throwing another tennis ball as far as he can throw it (which is impressively far). CJ takes off after the first ball and joyously brings it back, at which point He Who Only... produces the second just before CJ comes skidding to a halt in front of him. She drops the first ball as if she never cared for it in the first place, and takes off after the second which He Who Only... will have hurled off over the horizon, and so the game continues until CJ is barely crawling towards the balls. This means that she is then tired enough to go to sleep when we get into the flat, and we can watch telly in silence rather than with her proving her importance every three minutes by dashing over to the door to bark at imaginary nothing. This also means that any of the calories that we've managed to get into her during the day have been well and truly worked off, and she is still so skinny that you can see every bone and every muscle in her tiny, incredibly buff looking body.

I'll be honest with you, ladies and gents, since I don't think anyone is reading this right now anyway, I didn't really like her when we got her. Or rather, I didn't like what she brought to our Nest'O'Love, which had previously and wonderfully just been the two of us, with nothing to distract our attention from each other and how we could make each other laugh. All of a sudden, our lives were about trips outside, regardless of weather conditions, regardless of time of day or night, every 90 minutes or so, all of our conversations were about what she had eaten, the consistency of her poo, whether she was happy or content or nervous or worried. Our sleep was distressingly interrupted by barking fits, by her crawling up on the bed between us, and then lying down horizontally and kicking in her sleep. Morning wake up time is now any time from 5.00am when CJ decides she can't hold it in any longer, and absolutely nothing will persuade her to pee on the very expensive puppy pads that I bought off the internet that promised they were infused with such a pungent aroma the dog would be desperate to urinate all of them. (We had even talked about it before buying them, worried that she wouldn't want to wee anywhere any more but on these pads, as some of the posters on the internet forum I read warned. The little madam just sits on the pad at the front door and whines to be let outside.) After the first 10 days of dog ownership, with broken sleep and arms hurting from being pulled on the lead, legs aching from walking outside all hours of the day and night in the rain and the sun, and mind desperate for another topic of conversation other than how many times the dog had pooed that day, I consider whispering to He Who Only... what the voices in my head were increasingly urgently whispering to me. That we should give the dog back. Give her back to the rescue centre, because this one thing that I had been wanting since forever just wasn't working out the way that I wanted it to.

And I didn't like that He Who Only...'s attention was diverted from me, and that he was shooting those gooey looks that used to go towards me onto a skinny, furry animal just because she had decided to wrap herself around his neck and fall asleep breathing right into his ear. That's what I used to do. That was my rightful place.

But now, it's all changed. I haven't seen CJ since Thursday (it is now Sunday as I write this). He Who Only... took her up to his parents, since both of us were going to be away for the weekend, and we didn't have anyone in London that could look after her. On Thursday and Friday night, staying in our Nest'O'Love on my own, it wasn't He Who Only... that I looked for in the middle of the night when I woke with a start, but CJ. I spent this afternoon in the class in which I was supposed to be exploring how to use the online resources that the course is offering us looking through photos of our holiday in Galway two weeks ago and going all gooey eyed at the photos of my tiny hairy baby. I really miss the way that she smells when she's all curled up and sleepy, and I'm even missing her standing in my head in the morning, shoving a pair of He Who Only...'s socks into my nose as a morning greeting and way of getting me to get up and throw sticks for her before I go to work.

It's a very weird lifestyle change, a complete turnaround from the carefree, footloose way that we used to live and that I don't think either of us really gave serious thought to giving up. Now one or both of us have to be at home without fail within about 6 hours of leaving the house. We can't go away for the weekend, or out for the evening, without precision planning and packing an extra bag full of chew bones and rubber toys and her trusty little Liverpool FC food bowl. Windows must be checked and double checked in case she hurls herself out of one in a fit of rage at the sighting of a cat or another dog or – her worst enemy, besides horses – a cyclist.

Cyclists drive her crazy. Joggers she doesn't like – she wants to chase after them, and will bite their ankles and calves if she can – but that is nothing compared to her feelings about cyclists. Cyclists make her so demented that she tries to hurl her tiny body into the front wheel of the bike, presumably so that she can stop them mid-spin, throwing the rider over the handlebars to land in front of her in a crumpled, bloody mess that she can then climb up on top of and use as a launchpad off which to propel herself at the next passing cyclists. It is terrifying walking with her, because you have to anticipate the appearance of a cyclist from around the corner of the winding tow-path we live right beside, and reel her in on her extender lead before she gets a chance to put her Bike Revenge Plan into action. Stunted on the end of the lead, all she can then do is rise up like a meercat, rearing up on her back legs, held back by the lead, and stare with rage at the cyclist as they go past. I swear, at least two cyclists have almost ended up in the canal, so distracted have they been by this tiny form sending out waves of wrath.

I won't pretend that I don't still get twinges of jealousy when He Who Only... is too busy telling CJ about the everything he is doing while cooking dinner in the kitchen – she will not allow anyone in the kitchen without her, in case they accidentally leave the door of the cupboard that houses her food open and she can, like her wildest dreams allow her to imagine – crawl right inside that bag and eat her way back out. I can't say that I'm starting to enjoy being rudely woken every morning and forced to hurl on whatever clothes are on the ground on the alternate mornings it's my turn to do the “early shift” and take her outside. But I do love to throw things and have her bring them back, and I realise already that we wouldn't be without her now, neither of us, even if it means a lot of things have to change.

Of course, the plane didn't crash

04 April 2008
In fact, I found it a lot easier travelling on my own than when I'm travelling with anyone else. I actually find it incredibly stressful travelling with He Who Only..., and last night I worked out why: I'm an idiot. A crazy, irrational, possibly borderline-actual-insane idiot. Last night on the plane, I walked around, I lay down (the flight was pretty empty and I had all three seats to myself), I looked out the window (London at night is AMAZING during take off. I never knew that. Why has no one ever told me that?). I read my book. I listened to my iPod. I went to the toilet. I didn't cry. I kind of (but not really) almost (but actually really not) enjoyed (but I didn't) the flight.

It was a pretty positive experience for all of us. So now I'm left in a quandary. If we're ever going anywhere ever again, do I need to book us both onto separate flights from now, just so that I don't drive myself, He Who Only... and everyone else in the known universe insane with the crying and the rocking and the impending doom? Or was this just a fluke, a once-off, something that may not be repeated on the flight back? The test will be the flight back on Sunday afternoon. After that there are some tough decisions to be made, like making He Who Only... travel ahead of me, like some kind of advance party.

Actually, that'd be pretty cool. Cos then wherever I go, there would always be someone there at the airport, waiting for me. I'd be like the Queen, or Madonna, or the Pope or someone. I'd make him hold up a sign and everything. Cool.

[In the interests of full disclosure, I took a full 4mg of valium before the flight last night, which is exactly 2 more mgs of valium than I usually take. That might have had a lot to do with it.]