Thursday, 26 September 2019

Piano Nightmares - Chase Direct Review

Olivia has started her music theory lessons and a piano is needed to help her on her way so she can practice what she learns on a piano. I spent ages looking for the perfect piano for her, one that she can grow into without having to upgrade later on costing money and time, unfortunately it did not go so smoothly.

Three weeks after I purchased the piano we are still piano less. The company we purchase the piano from Chase Direct never used Parcel Force which we expected them to use, as per the advertisement, instead they opted to use a cheaper and more unreliable delivery company.

This caused no end of problems, Parcel Force have the option to collect from a depot if you are not in and was one of the main reasons I went with Chase Direct, instead they chose to use TNT who do not even bother to leave a 'while you were out card' with details of how to re-arrange delivery.

After the deadline passed for delivery I contacted chase direct to find out where our piano was, they informed me that there had been 3 delivery attempts made. No delivery attempts were made, if there had been surely I should have had a card to let me know that, instead Chase Direct gave me the number for TNT and I had to re-arrange delivery myself, while doing that I checked the address that they were delivering to and it turns out it was the correct address delivery attempt were made at, it must have been the driver who couldn't be bothered to leave a card to let us know they had been.

Unfortunately again no item arrived on the re-arranged date, so I had to contact Chase Direct again by this point I had decided that a refund was in order and I would have to start the hunt for a piano all over again.

So we are now still piano less 3 weeks after we started the hunt and purchased the first one.

Very disappointed, Olivia has had to start without her piano and has to use an online virtual piano to practice what she has learnt.

I was pretty disappointed at Chase Direct's attitude, they were more concerned about a negative feedback than they were about the disappointment they had caused Olivia and myself, no care or concern was given just blame that we were not in.

I order absolutely tons of books and other items on ebay day in and day out and I never have any issues receiving items, probably because Royal Mail are pretty good and give people options of collection or re-delivery, hence why I chose to use Chase Direct because they advertised the fact that they would use Parcel Force, sadly they did not and that is their downfall, not using the postal service they claimed they would which was part of my decision to buy from them in the first place.

We are a very busy family and don't have the will to cancel events we have or time to sit around waiting for parcels to arrive.

We will keep hunting to find the piano that will suit her but it certainly will not be purchased from Chase Direct what a disappointing experience.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Life as a Photography Student

Today with trepidation I ventured into the world of becoming a student of photography. I walked onto campus with enthusiasm and a spring in my step. 

To follow my journey as a photography student and document my journey I have started a new blog which you are welcome to join me and track my progress over at Obscurity Of Life Through A Lens, I would love to see you over there where I will share what we get up to, tips and tricks and all my highs and lows as a student.


Saturday, 14 September 2019

Mental Health Awareness

As it is mental health week I thought it would be fitting to write about my own mental health issues that I have endured over the years.

My own mother suffered with metal health issues and was in and out of hospital all her life, as a result my siblings and I were separated at a young and age, I was adopted and my sisters were fostered.

My mother suffered with what was described as schizophrenia, low mental age and manic depression, now known as bi-polar.

My sisters and I have all inherited the depression to varying degrees and although I have never been diagnosed with anything officially, I suffer from time to time with severe depression and some manic tendencies.

I resist the pull of medication with all my might and refuse to take anything that I know will lead to a downwards spiral after watching my mother suffer with side effects that in my opinion are far worse than the illness itself.

My mother used to describe to me the electro therapy that she had as a young adult, she was terrified that they would do that again to her, she often displayed distress and thoughts that "they" were trying to kill her, initially I thought that was down to her illness, but really in theory I could see where she was coming from, as in the end they did kill her. 

When she was moved into the unit closer to where I lived, a doctor told me that the unit she had been in previously had given her enough medication to kill and elephant, and they subsequently reduced the dosage she was on, then finally when she was moved back they put her on the Liverpool care pathway, which is a frightening way to die as they remove all food and water and medication and basically wait for your body to shut down and you die over a period of two weeks. 

In their words her quality of life was not very good because she had bad teeth that needed attention, and she was suffering from pneumonia, which was eventually recorded on her death certificate as the cause of death. 

The conditions for patients of mental health services historically have not been very good so I have resisted any involvement with mental heath services, my earliest experience of mental health services was at the age of 14, after a long history of being sexually and physically abused by my adopted father and attempting to take my own life for the first time.

I experienced counselling, which on my first experience consisted of the counsellor sitting there and encouraging me to think of horrible things I could do back to him to hurt him.  For me that was horrifying enough, I had no ill thoughts towards him and had no desire to cause anyone any harm. I felt detached from the counsellor and just went through the motions enough so that I felt like I was doing what everyone thought I needed to do at the time, and therefore everyone would leave me alone.

I never engaged with talking over and re-living my experiences, I just wanted to shut them away in a box. I never took to counselling very well and never felt I could trust anyone enough to open up in that way that counselling requires.

Trust has been one of those things that I have always struggled with, relationships for me never work because of the trust issues that I have to face, caused by my early years experiences. Adoption on it's own raises issues, after all if your own mother betrays that basic trust a mother and child has, then who can you trust in this world, despite the reasons for the adoption not being my mothers fault that basic rejection as a baby sowed my seeds for the lack of trust I experience as an adult. A mother and child relationship shapes how you see the world and is the basic training for trust that carries through the rest of your life. 

The abuse is the second reason trust is something that will always be an enigma to me, for obvious reasons that I don't even need to go into here. Trust is a skill I have never been given the chance to acquire at the crucial moment trust should be learnt, I have reconciled the fact that trust is something I will never master, but I am happy with that and have come to terms with that a long time ago, it is part of me and who I am.

In my younger years I felt very angry towards the world, a misfit, I felt like I never belonged anywhere. I floated and felt very alone. The fact I was adopted into a white family caused confusion and resentment. No one understood how I felt with having to deal with the everyday racism that is just there, I had no one to talk to about it and no one I could share the experience with, or anyone to help me make sense of it all. I was never encouraged to be the best I could be and felt that I was struggling every day to just live. I never had a good relationship with my adopted mother and her family, I felt like a commodity, I felt like I was there for show only.

I have spent my whole life not enjoying life but at the same time knowing how fortunate I am to have life. Life has felt like something I have to endure. And for all the faults that people can come up with regarding religion, religion has been the one and main thing that has kept me alive.

Just that theory that killing yourself is a sin has been enough to make me try to stay alive and stopped me on occasion from carrying through with my deep desire to opt out of this thing called life, religion and my fear of pain have been my saving grace.

Instead I have punished myself over the years, I have been through a phase of cutting my wrists, even smoking was a self punishment, in my head wishing I could get cancer and die, I have starved myself  to the point that my stomach shrunk so much I couldn't eat very much even if I tried, 1 slice of toast was all that was on the agenda some days for many years. 

In my head I know I value life, otherwise I would have ventured into the world of drugs and really destroyed myself. Like many of you, we all know someone who has ventured down that path, my own kids father is a heroine addict and my best friend died due to being an alcoholic leaving very young children behind and a trail of destruction. So I  know in my head that life is worth living, otherwise I would have given up long ago, but instead I keep fighting every day, some days are good and some days are bad.

I was once known as the bear because I used to spend so much time sleeping, I slept my life away, the pain of knowing I had to face another day lead me to sleeping at every chance I could rather than having to face the world.

Anxiety is something that I never recognized I had but I now know I do, I always recognized my anxiety as stress and still to this day describe it as such although I know that is it anxiety and that anxiety had me admitted into a mental health unit not so long ago for 4 days.

I was tipped right over the edge and experienced what can only be described as a mental break down. The years and years of anxiety going unchecked and not given the attention it deserved caused me to finally loose the plot.

It was a surreal experience and one I have learnt a lot from. I make more of an effort to take care of myself and learn to recognize how I am feeling and address anything by taking care of myself instead of just ignoring me and carrying on. 

In part the decision to start the photography degree came from that mental health unit experience, photography has always been something I have enjoyed, despite not being very good at it, it helps me relax and escape to a different world, the word through a lens is something that you can create for yourself, it is your own vision and interpretation and I need something for myself and photography seems like the perfect fit for me, it is a hobby that I could turn into a career if I get any good at it.

I love the kids with all my heart but since I was 17 I have been a mother and as all mothers know we tend to forget about our own needs and wants in life and focus on what everyone else needs, but my life is almost over and I want to go out knowing that I actually did something for myself be that selfish or not I don't care, at this tender age of 47 I want to do something for me and me alone, life is worthless if you do not have any dreams and it is about time I found some for myself which can make life more enjoyable.

The metal Health Unit experience gave me some tools to start to enjoy life in a more sustainable way, rather than just going through the motions of every day, I am starting to really enjoy every day and what each day can bring.

Since home educating the twins, life has been tailored to how we want life and home education has been a massive part of my survival journey. Opting out of the usual, go to work every day to a job I hate mingling with people I cannot stand, kind of mentality, and finding organic ways to live life I have come more alive than I ever have. 

I worried massively at the beginning about my reclusive ways, having to deal with people and mingling with people would become an issue, how would the kids find friends? how would we meet people we like to be around and who like having us around?. My tendency to be a recluse and my agoraphobia has slowly subsided, we can choose the groups we go to and we have found some lovely friends that do not place any demands on us, they just accept us for flitting in and out, I rarely feel under pressure to perform.

I feel more in control of life than I have ever felt, I am living on my own terms and learning that it is ok to do, even if others do not approve.

My metal health journey is something I am working on every day and even though I know the few attempts at taking my own life in the past failed and I am very thankful for that today, I know that may not be the way I am feeling tomorrow and I will have to battle those demons again to help me stay alive for the rest of my life.
I know I have people I can turn to for support when it comes to it and support is a key part of keeping my mental health in check and one of those avenues is probably a surprise to many but it comes in the form of social services. 

I know that some people fear social services but they have supported me over the past few months where there was no one else to give me that support. The two social workers I worked with, laughed with me, cried with me and most importantly kept my kids out of care. 

When we were discharged from their care a few weeks ago I was kind of sad that I wouldn't have them popping in and out irritating the kids and hearing me moan about the scruffy monkeys messing up my house, ha ha..

But I know that if ever I need them again when no one else is there for me to turn to in a time of crisis they will be there to whack me round the head and give me the push to get better that I need. All I need to do is pick up the phone.

One thing I always thanked my mum for was the fact that she approached social services when she knew she could not cope because of her mental health journey, she asked for help, that probably saved my life and kept her out of prison for murdering her child. 

I will be forever thankful to her for that, even though it turned out not so great being passed to an abusive adoption, it could have been worse. One thing that this mental health journey has tought me is that it is not usually intentional for someone to cause us harm, it is just a by product of someone living through their own mental health issues that produces victims and survivors.

The compex web of human lives, we are all responsible for other people's mental health in one way or another....

First Week Back Of The Academic New year

All sorts has been happening over the past few months and I find again I have not updated the blog for a while I cannot even remember half of what we have been up to but after a difficult few months after I became quite ill with all the stress of life and ended up as an inpatient in a mental health unit for 4 days it feels like I am getting back on track. 

After a long wait I have started physio for my painful back, and I am attempting to take better care of myself. My sleep has become a lot better and I now take time off from work when I feel like I am getting stressed out. 

The whole mental health unit experience is something I will write more about on another post as mental health is something that I have never written about or touched on in this blog but I feel is something that many people experience and sharing my experience may help someone else feel connected, I know many a time I have felt alone with my own mental health issues so it is time to change all that but not on this post, this post will be about our new academic learning year, you can find that blog post here

It has been a busy but lovely start to our new academic year.

We kicked the week off with a trip to Hadrians Wall and a visit to the Angel of the North as we are starting to cover more geography this year.

The kids are working on creating a map of the UK and are mapping out all the places we have been to over the years and will do some write-ups on the geographical nature of each place.

We also completed the level 1 Outdoor discovery award formerly the Young Navigators Award with SMT Outdoors and the twins earned their Bronze Level opening up the world of Orienteering. I was very surprised with Olivia, she took charge and was very confident very much leading the group and putting herself firmly in charge but also worked very well with the others. Lee the group leader was amazing with the kids, catering for the different learning needs but keeping them all on the same level, very relaxed and very enjoyable. We will move on to level 2 in a few months.

I registered on my photography Foundation degree hoping to forge my way to a new career. I have all my new gear ready which I have been collecting over the past few months and am ready and raring to start properly next week. 

I have discovered the importance of using a tripod and have been experimenting with the use of light. My love of David Bailey's photography has been revisited these past few months and I have been experimenting with his style of photography which has been quite frankly a big flop, but hey I have enjoyed myself practising and being inspired by so many great photographers out there.

I have been making links with some great photographers and have joined some great photography groups for tips and tricks. One such photographer has been John Fyn who I spotted and I was greatly inspired by and loved his blog, so I touched base and he has been very gracious in taking time out to answer some questions that I had and has agreed to be an ear for me which I am immensely grateful for, go check out his blog below.

 Olivia has started back with Musical Theatre and Choir and also starts her Musical Theory ABRSM Level 1 with her wonderful choir master who has agreed to tutor Olivia through her Music Theory, so we have purchased a new and quite snazzy electronic piano to assist with that and Oliver has joined the very excellent Vocal Recall boys singing group and next week Olivia should start her long awaited for vocal training with her Musical Theatre Tutor.

Badgers was back on and we are eagerly awaiting news of when they can move up to the St Johns Cadets of which I have been persuaded to become a volunteer parent which will need me to be trained up on first Aid Skills .

Art, creative writing and photography/film are still a weekly event with Pea Smart Tuition but will have to be reduced to fortnightly as the fees have been increased and very much well-deserved too but unfortunately my pocket is not deep enough to stretch to the new fees, so rather than quitting we will have to reduce as we very much value the lessons and the kids very much enjoy each session, they love their tutor Aaron who is an amazing artist and brings the best out in each kid he teaches he certainly deserves triple what he earns now. Go and check them out below and see all the wonderful things he has the kids doing.

 It has been an extremely busy but enjoyable week, in-between all that the kids have been working on the usual software provisions such as Literacy Planet, IXL Maths, Justin Guitar and many others that the kids dip in and out of.

So onwards and upwards with another year of learning...

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Learning without Boundaries

I love home education and the curiosity it fosters in children. Oliver has discovered Ghandi and Mandela on a deeper level and he has made a connection between the two. Watching his excitement and interest in the discovery that both were lawyers and both fought oppression, one with peace and one with militancy, both were non sectarian and both were imprisoned.

The questions Oliver asks are so well thought out and indicative of curiosity to what he has just discovered. The way he has learnt to read literature and text of any form is enquiring rather than rote.

Oliver is not blinded by others opinions or ideas, he looks for the facts and knits the rest together for himself and he goes on to form his own opinions and then questions others opinions.

At 9 years old he is demonstrating a natural love of learning that I doubt he would have achieved in a school setting.

How Oliver made the link between the two characters of Mandela and Ghandi fascinates me but also fills me with joy that he is thinking beyond when he thinks about and discovers any topic. He is making links for himself between things he is learning and things he is newly discovering. 

He is learning about an interconnected world that is complex and hard for even adults to understand and decipher.

I feel like I am growing a little scholar but I hope he heeds my warning that it is about what you do with the information you learn and not how much information you learn. 

Thursday, 2 May 2019

The Soup Of Life - The State Of Education


I am looking on in horror at the state of education in it's present form.  The old Sysan Proverb states the soup of life is salty enough without adding tears to it and I believe our Government is adding plenty of tears to the education system at this time in history.

Parents are removing their children left, right and centre to escape the draconian damaging effects of Government control over an education system that is failing, and letting down, so badly, so many children and families.

Of course Home Education is a freedom that every parent has, but not all parents are equipped to educate their children in a way that children need to thrive in a modern world. How can they when they themselves have been so badly let down by that very same system even before their children get there and inherit a system that has so badly failed so many before them.

We are all swimming against the tide. Education is not just about learning Maths, Science, etc etc, education should encompass how to learn so that this can be applied to every facet in life. This is an essential ingredient to help children get through this thick soup of life. To help the child is to help the adult.

It is not just about subject, it is also about substance and that magic substance ingredient, in my opinion the most important and essential ingredient is missing from our current education system.

In times gone past political education philosophy was about controlling the masses to work in the factories and in the fields, but that has lead to what other experts have termed 'dumbing down the masses'. That long term effect has lead to todays chaos in the classroom and ever more people leaving in droves.

The whole education system needs to be overhauled but I fear that reform is something even the so called experts in education are having difficulty in finding the answer to.

Meanwhile, we wait for someone to come up with an answer to how we stop parents taking their children out of schools to home educate, and Governments desperately trying to stop them, fearing that the children will not get the education that philosophy dictates and they have a right to receive by law, yet ironically that very substance in our education system they are trying to prevent parents leaving, itself is missing that essential ingredient. 

That essential ingredient to education that will assist a child to progress and get on in life is a right enshrined in law for a reason, those events that lead to that law being made and those that devised and developed it, understood the importance of that Law for a harmonious society and advancement of the human race. A law that will assist our children to progress and be successful in life. yet paradoxically knowing how the education system has failed the parents and contributed to the social decline that we see with ever higher suicide rates, bullying and violence and parents feeling like they have lost control. 

On the other hand we have the problem of how do we stop schools giving up and off rolling children by teachers that have had that all essential ingredient absent from their training. This lack of essential ingredient in their training is so very evident and causing chaos across the education system.

There are so many problems with the education system it is hard to see where it all starts, but one problem is leading to another and all the solutions they are coming up with are just causing more chaos.

Our education system is in a mess and unless someone comes up with that missing solution to get it back on track we can only expect things to get worse.

The education system is a mess and the more solutions that are implemented  by so called experts, the more of a mess they are making. Experts failed solutions are causing ever more issues and ever more social woes. The failure of the education system is costly to society in so many ways.

The thick soup of life just gets thicker and thicker when it comes to education, despite all good intentions, in my opinion by the laws of nature the experts have currently got it all wrong.

Policy makers really do need to start listening because if they do not, who knows where this will end with the social decline unfolding before our very eyes.

The deficit in the education system is having serious knock on effects right across all facets of life for millions of people, it is a recipe for disaster, it really is time our Government woke up and stop sleep walking us all into disaster.