The best thing I can say about Winsford is that it’s got a train station. However the house I’m staying in is lovely and the cat is very friendly.

This shop actually isn’t closed down.

Liverpool: Craig Charles and a massive ship

On Sunday, which was my first full day in Winsford, Cheshire I started looking up things happening in the area. I realised that it’s only 35 mins on the train to Liverpool, so I was having a look at websites for some of the museums there. One mentioned that in a change to their normal opening hours they would be open on Monday due to the naming ceremony of Cunard’s Queen Anne. I wondered what that was all about and when I googled it I was very excited to discover that the event included Craig Charles DJing in some kind of collaboration with an orchestra. I was less excited to discover that Queen Anne was a cruise ship, but I thought it might be interesting to see. As well as being a Red Dwarf nerd I’ve always enjoyed his 6 Music funk and soul show and have been trying to catch one of his live shows for years but never managed to. So I couldn’t believe my luck that I had an opportunity to see him doing an awesome sounding collaboration at a one off event that was free!

So on my first ever visit to Liverpool, my first impression was that everything is massive! I wasn’t prepared for just how big the Liver Building is, some of the neighbouring buildings are pretty big and The Queen Anne is ridiculously huge.

I’ve never really fancied the idea of going on a cruise, mainly because you’d have to spend time with the kind of people who go on cruises. Also if I could afford that kind of expensive travel I’d much rather actually see the world than spend time in a floating hotel.

I met someone at work once (way back when I worked in IT) who was telling me about a 3 week cruise he went on. He said they went because his wife had always wanted to visit a particular small town on the coast of Italy. When I asked him if they got to spend much time there, his reply without a hint of irony was “Oh yes, a good six hours”. What?! If you want go somewhere and you can spare 3 weeks, why not just bloody go and spend 3 weeks there? Don’t spend 3 weeks floating around so you can spend half a day there! Absolutely baffling.

I arrived for the evening part of proceedings which apparently had started in the morning. After getting some food I went to take a photo of the ship, which wasn’t visible from in front of the stage at that point, and it’s so big that it was difficult to get the whole thing in one shot. After that I made my way into the crowd and ended up making what I call festival friends with a group of 3 guys who were stood near me and were singing along to everything.

After seeing a very good singer from Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts we were shown a video on the big screen to demonstrate some of the “fantastic” entertainment you could expect to see on a cruise on Queen Anne. Their example was dancers from the cast of “Let’s Dance” which apparently is (or was) a TV show. The guy stood next to me had also never heard of it and his mate told him he should watch more TV. I think he watches exactly the right amount of TV. After seeing a video of them dancing in various locations around the ship, they burst onto the stage and danced to one of the most repetitive and cheesy songs I’ve ever heard, which I think must have been written for the occasion. If we didn’t already know Cunard wanted us to associate the word “celebration” with this event, we definitely did after that. I’m now absolutely sure I don’t want to go on a cruise!

Next up on the stage was the brass section of the Liverpool Philharmonic. They took us through a series of instrumental versions of Beatles songs which I quite enjoyed. Helped by the fact that I joined in with my new friends singing the words, mostly quite loudly. After one song some of the people stood near us turned and applauded us, which was lovely. It did make me wonder if people in Liverpool get fed up of people going on about the Beatles.

While the last two Beatles songs were being played we could see Craig Charles standing in his DJ booth at the back of the stage. At the end of the last Beatles song they suddenly burst into Are You My Woman by Chi Lites (which most people know as the intro to Crazy In Love by Beyonce) with Craig doing all sorts of funky stuff with it and it sounded amazing. They did several tunes like this, with the brass band playing bits of the tune and the one I probably enjoyed most that’s just asking for help from a brass band was Jungle Boogie.

After a bit they stopped and the show’s compare who was apparently a local radio DJ said some unnecessary and boring nonsense. Then they let Craig cary on with DJing, this time without the band and he carried on right up to providing a sound track to the fireworks that closed the show and it was brilliant! If you like funk and soul and you ever get chance to see Craig Charles live, I highly recommend it.

I had a great time, but by the time I got back to Winsford I was knackered and my feet were hurting and I really wished I’d taken my bike, so I didn’t have to walk the 20 minutes back to the house! The boots that I chose as the single pair of shoes for my travels because they’re waterproof aren’t very comfortable for city walking. I’m definitely digging my trainers out of storage when I go to Bristol next week.

Oxford, Leek, Bristol and Gloucester

I had planned to write at least one post for each of my housesits as I went along, but the truth is, as I was worried might happen, the instability of the situation has had a bad effect on my mental health. I could just write about any interesting things I’ve done and not mention that, but since part of the reason I started this blog was to talk about my mental health, I’m going to continue to do that. I think (hope) I’m over the worst of it now. So instead now I’m feeling up to it I’ve written one long post about my travels so far.


It was quite an adjustment to my new life of not having a long term home, and I was feeling very down the first 5 days in Oxford. The day after that was my birthday which was surprisingly when I started to feel quite a bit better. I’ve often felt quite down for a period when big changes happen, and this definitely qualifies. It’s not just getting used to new surroundings but getting used to the idea that this is my life now, and my surroundings are going to keep changing, and if I feel like I want to give up and go home, I can’t. Most of the people I’ve told what I’m doing have said it sounds like an exciting adventure, but I wish it felt like that. Hopefully that feeling will come.

I tried to make the most of my birthday and had quite a pleasant day. It was warm and sunny and I did the 15 minute cycle into the centre of Oxford, and went for a fried breakfast at The Handlebar which is a cafe that’s part of a bike shop. I was drawn to pay a visit here because we used to have a bike shop and cafe in Bristol called Roll for The Soul that I quite liked but sadly closed down in 2017. After that I went to pick up my train tickets and a luggage trolley for the next leg of my journey before going to check out the Pitt Rivers Museum which is a collection of items that were stolen from various parts of the world by the museum’s namesake. Originally his private collection, which was given to the university in 1884, it has since been significantly added to. The number and range of origins of objects in this relatively small museum is slightly overwhelming.

I treated myself to dinner at the American style Rick’s Diner on Cowley Road. I had a very tasty burger and fries, but when I ordered banana and Nutella pancakes for desert I got a bit more than I bargained for! I had to stop for a break halfway through. While I was contemplating if I should go to the pub or get the bus home and slip into a food coma, my evening was punctuated by a welcome phonecall from my sister, after which I went to the pub and satisfied my urge for a double rum and coke.

While I was in Oxford I also went to the Botanic Gardens, which has a lot of interesting plants especially in the greenhouses. I didn’t get many photos because my camera battery died!

I hadn’t realised until I went there how much of a physical presence the university has in Oxford. It occupies most of the city centre, and seemingly most museums, libraries and other similar things in Oxford are part of the university.

I had planned to go to some standup while I was in Oxford, one of which was an open mic, which is something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while (I applied for one in Bristol several times but never got a slot). I didn’t end up going to any, but I don’t think I was in a good headspace to do open mic anyway. I’m continuing to keep an eye out for open mic nights I might be able to do my first slot at each time I go to a new place.

Oxford to Leek

After rushing to clean the house and pack in the morning I got to Oxford station just in time for my train. It was a two hour direct train from Oxford to Stoke-on-Trent, the first hour of which I didn’t have a seat and sat on some sort of box that was part of the train, in one of the two fantastic bike wardrobes, while by bike occupied the other one.

Since my journey from Stoke-on-Trent to Leek was by bus I left my bike in Stoke-on-Trent train station. Leek is one of the very long list of towns in UK that used to have a train station but was closed in the 1960s. From posting on a few local Facebook groups I’d managed to find out that there were bike racks on one of the station platforms. I reckon racks on a station platform are one of the safest places you can leave a bike, but I’d bought a second D-Lock just in case. It turned out that, like in Bristol the bike racks on the platform are pretty much outside the British Transport Police office, which hopefully makes them safer, if only by deterrent.

Also like in Bristol, in Stoke-on-Trent the bus station is nowhere near the train station. Of course not! Why would it be? It’s not as if bus passengers and train passengers are ever the same person! So I’d bought a luggage trolley to wheel my stuff the 30 minute walk across town. When it came to it my train was slightly late and I was feeling pretty fatigued, so I got a taxi, which only cost £4.

I was surprised to find that the bus to Leek, despite being a 10 mile journey fell within the post-Covid government subsidy scheme meaning the fare was only £2.


When I got to Leek, my host was kind enough to pick me up from the bus station, and also gave me dinner and a glass of wine. The combination of tiredness and wine meant I was mostly asleep from 8pm til the following morning.

The first thing that struck me about Leek was how friendly everyone was! Not long after I arrived I went to the corner shop and was totally thrown by the fact that the guy behind the counter said hello to me as I walked in. In a lot of corner shops in Bristol they don’t speak to you at all, sometimes not even to tell you how much you need to pay!

The second thing that struck me about Leek was how much it rained! I thought I might have just got unlucky but after talking to some locals I get the impression that it was pretty representative of the weather there. Apparently it’s got something to do with all the hills in the area.


Changes office in Leek

For quite a few years I’ve been a regular attendee at peer support groups run by Changes Bristol, and have also volunteered as a facilitator for these groups. I was aware the organisation was an offshoot of an organisation also called Changes based in another part of the country, but I hadn’t remembered that it was based in Stoke on Trent. It turned out that the Stoke based Changes have two meetings a week in Leek, so I decided to go along. Apparently Changes in Bristol was founded by someone who had moved to Bristol from Stoke and benefited from the groups and thought something similar should exist in Bristol. He asked Changes in Stoke for permission use some of their written materials and launched started the first group. Talk about an organisation being user-led! Twenty years on, Changes in Bristol now run around 20 groups a week, a mixture of in-person and online groups. As far as I can work out there isn’t an organisation offering general purpose mental health peer support groups similar to Changes anywhere else in the country, which is a shame because it’s such a useful service, especially because it doesn’t have a waiting list, you just show up. It stands on it’s own merits, but is also at least something when NHS mental health provision falls short or is hard to access. (Oh how short it falls).

Community Gardens

Something else that has really benefited my mental health over the years is volunteering at community gardens. When things were at their worst for me I pretty much did community garden volunteering full time between different projects for about 6 months. Anyway Leek has a beautiful community garden less than 10 minutes walk from where I was staying called John Hall Wellness Garden. The garden is run by Rethink and is open to the public 6 days a week. It’s a walled garden that originally supplied the kitchen of a stately home built in the 1700s, which has since been demolished (Leek Leisure Centre now stands where the house was).


While I was in Leek I met up with a friend who lives in Sheffield, and we settled on Buxton as it’s sort of between the two. I’d not seen him since he and his partner had a baby a few months ago and all 3 of them were able to come. None of us had been to Buxton before and quite enjoyed it, helped by the fact we were treated to beautiful sunshine.

We had lunch outside The Cafe At Green Pavillion. I’d chosen this beforehand as being somewhere fairly central that sounded like it was vegetarian friendly and had decent reviews, and it turned out my bus stopped right next to it. The food was great and I loved the fact that instead of a hand dryer in the toilet they had a stack of small towells. After lunch, we spent most the afternoon in the rather nice Pavillion gardens. The Victorians got a lot wrong, but they were very good at parks. As well as a pavilion that looks like Buxton’s answer to Crystal Palace, this one contains the source of the river Wye and a miniature train.

The other highlight of this day for me was that the scenery on the road from Leek to Buxton is absolutely stunning! I’m so glad I had a sunny day for it. Sadly I don’t have any photos because it’s pretty difficult to get a decent photo from a moving bus!

The surprising thing about the bus from Leek to Buxton is that it only runs 3 times a day. For two towns of around 20k population 12 miles apart to have such a poor excuse for a bus service linking them I think is as good a demonstration as any that something has gone very wrong with the UK public transport system.

Losing my keys

Three days before I was due to leave Leek I walked about 30 mins across town to go to Argos to buy a watch. Somehow, somewhere along the way I dropped the keys for my bike locks. I had a spare key with me for the lock I’d just bought, but not the one I’d had for ages. I thought there might be a spare key somewhere in a box in my storage unit in Bristol, but I also thought I might have thrown it away while I was sorting through my room. Either way it was potentially quite a logistical headache. I repeatedly searched every part of the house, and looked into where I could rent an angle grinder to free my bike from Stoke station. I also joined a Leek facebook group, and posted to ask if anyone had found my keys. After resigning myself to leaving my bike in Stoke and looking for the spare key in Bristol (I was going to Bristol anyway) the night before I was due to leave Leek someone messaged saying they had found my keys! So with not much time to spare in the morning, I went to fetch my keys, and to celebrate getting them back I treated myself to a taxi from Leek to Stoke station, and a bacon sandwich when I got there. I’ve spent a lot of effort over the years trying not to use social media, but sometimes it’s very very useful.

Leek to Bristol to Gloucester

For the last two years I’ve been running a singles group in Bristol which has a monthly social that normally happens on the 3rd Thursday of the month. By chance I had ended up with a one night gap between sits on the Thursday when the social normally would have been, so I booked myself a Travelodge for a night in Bristol. Unusually for a Travelodge there was small bar on-site with meals available, so I thought I would be lazy and have my dinner there. I won’t bore you with the details but the service was dire. I guess I shouldn’t have expected much.

A few of us went on to The Old Duke after the social, and saw a pretty good folk/country band. I ended up drinking more than I normally do because someone (you know who you are) kept buying me drinks. It was quite a late night so I missed breakfast at the hotel (although I probably didn’t miss much) and went to one of my favourite places to eat in Bristol, Number 1 Harbourside. Arriving in Gloucester with a hangover slightly later than planned I think I did a pretty good impression of a functional sociable human while my host showed me round the house and told me all the things I needed to know about looking after the cat and how to work the oven. They were lovely people but I was glad it was only a few hours before they left and I had the house to myself.


The Sunday after I arrived in Gloucester I went to visit some friends in Yate for a barbeque. Unfortunately it rained A LOT, so it was a very British barbeque and a fair amount of time was spent sitting inside a caravan. On the upside it turned out they were planning to go to the Gloucester Tall Ships Festival the following day, so I got to be sociable two days in a row. As well as Tall Ships and canons being fired, we also saw The Island Folk Choir and very inventive use of a caravan by Jellyfish Theatre in a lovely piece of street theatre about dragons.

Gloucester to Winsford

I had quite a surprise when I changed trains at Birmingham New Street. My sister lived in Lichfield for quite a few years so I used to go to New Street station relatively often, and it always felt to me like a train station in the basement of a shopping centre. There was no natural light and it generally felt quite oppressive. So I was amazed to see how much it’s changed since the last time I was there. Now it’s a bit more like a place that can’t decide if it’s a train station or a shopping centre but at least it’s much nicer place to be!

That’s it for now. In case you’re wondering where I’m headed you can find out here: Where’s Robin

Becoming a full-time catsitter

Towards the end of March I found out that I would have to move out of the shared rented house I was living in by 1st May. In response to this I decided to get rid of a load of my stuff, to make whatever move came next easier, and after contemplating different options decided to become a full-time catsitter.

Although catsitting as an accommodation solution logically made a lot of sense, initially I was more scared than excited by the prospect, but over the course of a couple of weeks I went from feeling like I was setting myself up for a mental health crisis to feeling OK about it and even a bit excited. I had to do something and the truth if I’m honest with myself is that I can’t afford to live in Bristol anymore. I was struggling to pay the rent in the place I was living and that was a lot cheaper than most places in Bristol. So although there’s a risk of the instability of having nowhere to call home and being away from my friends being negative for my mental health, I won’t have to pay rent and bills. This should mean I’m less stressed about money as it will be the difference between having not quite enough money and having a bit more than enough money. Also this means that after a while I should be able to build up a buffer, which is something I don’t have at the moment.

After several weeks of gradually getting rid of furniture and many other things I decided I didn’t really need, I still managed to fill a 50 square foot storage unit with what was left, so there’s probably still some work to be done there. When it came to working out what I needed to take with me for day to day living moving from one place to another for an indefinite period, that would be limited to what I (or my bike) could carry, I managed to get it down to two bags totalling 100 litres. After the first leg of my journey getting these actually quite heavy bags and my bike on and off trains, and on a 5 mile cycle across town at my destination, I’ve already decided both that I could stand to ditch some more stuff and that I need to replace the large rucksack that’s not a bike pannier with a bag that is. Also that as soon as I can afford to I’m going to replace my 15 year old still perfectly useful but really quite heavy laptop with something lighter.

The first sit of my full-time catsitting adventure is in Oxford. I was actually born in Oxford, but as we moved to South Wales when I was 3 I have no memory of living here and have not really spent any time here, unless you count a night out for a friend’s birthday many years ago (I didn’t see much beyond the inside of a pub). I’ll be here for 10 days and hope to see some of the sights and check out the local standup scene. Today was my first full day here and I’ve actually not left the house and it’s been lovely. After coming from a houseshare where things had become awkward, to two nights in an airbnb room, to several hours of making conversation with my housesit host along with the stress of moving, I’ve been really glad to have a house to myself. And quite a nice comfortable house at that, with four very chilled cats who are so far hesitantly friendly towards me. It’s been raining quite a bit today so seems like a good day to have not gone anywhere.

In case anyone is interested in the itinerary of my travels I’ve set up a page to answer the question Where’s Robin?.

Phone a friend

For a long time now, as part of my mental health difficulties I’ve struggled to initiate time with friends and generally keep in touch with people. There are a lot of negative thoughts that happen inside my head when I think about calling someone. It’s one of the many ironies of anxiety and depression that it causes you to struggle to maintain relationships, when having regular contact with friends is one of the most beneficial things for your mental health.

For quite a few years I regularly attended Changes Bristol peer support groups. One feature of these groups is that at the end of the meeting you’re encouraged to set a goal. I lost count of how many times my goal was “phone a friend” and I think it was rare that I’d actually managed to do it by the following week. Towards the end of 2022 I had a series of one-to-one (video) CBT sessions through the NHS. It took a few sessions to work out what were were going to focus on, and we settled on trying to get me to phone friends. I said if there was one thing I thought would make a big difference to my mental health recovery that would be it. We talked quite a bit about the negative thoughts that happen in my head when I think about contacting someone or initiating a group activity with friends. It felt helpful to have those conversations but ultimately I don’t think it made any difference to how often I was contacting people.

My latest effort to move forward with this issue followed the advice of someone I know, which was to write a list of all the people I want to be in regular contact with. This is now written on a page in the back of my Legend Planner. In addition to that I’ve changed the 4th item on my daily tracker from “Social” which would get a tick or a zero depending on whether I’d seen any friends that day to “Phone a Friend”. The other 3 items are Walk, Meditate and Journal which are all actions. Whether I have seen friends on a certain day isn’t an action I can do on that day, it’s likely the effect of an action I’ve done on a previous day. It’s the same reason why I removed Sleep (quality rated out of 10) from my daily tracker because it’s a result rather than an action.

Now I’ve made this item on my tracker a specific action I will hopefully phone people more, and see people more as a result. Using my phone to actually ring people is also something I think of more now I’ve switched to a dumbphone. If I’m sitting at my desk with just my journal and my dumbphone there are only 3 things I can do: write, text or call someone.

2nd January

It’s 02:18 so I guess technically that makes it 3rd January.

I went to a NYE party and stayed up til stupid o’clock in the morning, getting home about 8am. I had a lovely time. There were a lot of people there. Most of them I knew, and some of them I hadn’t seen for a long time. I’m still trying to catch up on sleep and get back to a sensible pattern. The reason I’m awake right now, is that I had quite a big lapse this evening and spent about 3 hours until just before midnight swiping dating apps. So my brain was very awake and full of junk. Until a couple of weeks ago I’d managed not to go on them at all since my detox weekend in Tewkesbury in the middle of October.

I seem to have reverted to state I’ve been in before where I’m not in constant lapse but I’m flip flopping between spending half a day or a whole day abstaining to spending several hours lapsing. My intention was to spend most of my week off over Christmas off devices, but it didn’t really work. I think I managed a continuous day and a half in the middle. Maybe it’s time to plan another weekend away. I had a weekend away about a month after my trip to Tewkesbury, but at that point I didn’t need it, so it wasn’t really of any benefit. By the way, if you’re looking for a nice seaside town, don’t go to Dawlish. Because the railway line runs so close to the coast , it doesn’t really have a seafront, just a humungous sea wall that looks like the outside wall of the dystopian megacity in Judge Dredd (1995).

Tomorrow is the second meeting in recent months of the Device Addiction Support group I started to help myself and others with this issue. So in a way it seems sort of well timed that I’ve lapsed today. Last time no-one came, but sitting in a room on my own for a couple of hours without my phone is no bad thing. No-one has signed up to come this time but I’ve had a few people get in touch about it since last time so that’s encouraging. I think with a lot of things like this, you just need to be persistent and do something regularly and after a while it will work. “If You Build It They Will Come”. With my singles group, the first event I did two people came. I was pretty disheartened but kept at it and a year later about 40 people were coming every month. I think a singles group is a much easier sell than a support group about device addiction, so I’m sure growth is going to be much slower but I’m sure if I keep at it it will grow.


I decided when I got up this morning that I was going to stay off devices all day, and until I turned on my laptop just now (10:50pm) I had, but I felt the need to get some stuff out. What I want to get out I’m not sure I just have that feeling, and the twice in the last week that I’ve written a post in the evening I felt calmer with a less jumbled brain before I went to bed.

In some ways I find it easier to get stuff out here than I do in my journal. There are a lot of thoughts I would write in my journal that I wouldn’t write here, but having spent a lot of my life on a computer I can type faster than I can write. I still prefer using a computer for a lot of things than a smartphone. Does that make me some sort of old person or luddite? Maybe but who cares. I am 42 so to a lot of people I probably AM old. I’ve always thought it’s better to try to embrace your age and get older gracefully. People who try to stay cool and try to fit in with people younger than them often embarrass themselves and draw even more attention to their age. I hope I never do that. I gave up trying to be cool when I was about 25 anyway. As an acquaintance said to me this week “You do you”.

I started psychotherapy recently. I’ve never really been sure what the difference is between counselling and psychotherapy and even professional bodies like the BACP don’t seem to be able to clearly define it. What I can say is that compared to the counselling I was having recently, firstly it’s a lot more expensive, and secondly it’s a lot more exploratory of deeper issues, which is what I felt like I needed. So I guess it’s a case of “you get what you pay for”. I’ve been suffering with depression and anxiety since my breakdown nearly 12 years ago and I’d really like to get better. I have a lot of hope

#that my new psychotherapist will help me get there. I’ve also thought for a long time that what I really needed when I had my breakdown and possibly what I still need is to go to some sort of retreat for a while where my basic needs are taken care of and my brain can have a proper rest for a while. I’ve been trying to give myself bits of that through meditation and solo weekends away, and I’ve been trying as much as possible to give my brain a rest during the current festive break. It’s the only time of year that demand for van services slows down enough that I feel like I can afford to say we’re shut, and mostly not think about it for a week. I got up around 1pm two days in a row this week and it didn’t matter. I didn’t go out of the house but the weather was awful anyway.

This has really become quite a stream of consciousness ramble, but I guess it’s what I need to do and you get to experience it, lucky you!

I’ve been sat here for nearly an hour and am quite tired so I think I’ll stop.

Time for the dumbphone

Back in October I spent two nights away in Tewkesbury without my phone. I knew I had a problem, but the very unpleasant withdrawal I experienced over those two nights made me realise how much I’d lapsed. I’d tried various blocking apps on my smartphone but whatever I tried there was always a way round it. So I decided it was time to go back to the Sony Ericsson dumbphone I had until 2019.

Now pretty much the only things I can do on my phone are call and text. Not having WhatsApp and Signal has proved slightly inconvenient when it comes to being included in groups, but I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of it doesn’t really mean anything anyway. What’s meaningful is voice and in person communication. That’s real human connection. So that’s what I’m trying to focus on now. I’ve still got a bit of a way to go when it comes to being as connected to people as I’d like to be, but I think limiting my communication options is a step in the right direction.

I’ve come to the conclusion that compared to in-person communication, things like WhatsApp create the same illusion for me that Facebook did. It makes me feel like I’m connected to people when I’m actually not, and in reality the more I use these things the more I become disconnected from people.

A couple of people have asked me if the dumbphone is a temporary thing, but I can’t see me going back anytime soon. I still have a smartphone I have for work, and I’ve found myself increasingly using that when I don’t need to over the last few weeks which is something I need to keep an eye on and a reminder how bad for me it is having access to this kind of device. As I’m currently on a break from work for the festive period I’ve turned it off, which feels better.

It’s interesting the reactions I get when people see my phone. Some people are in disbelief as to how it’s possible for a human to function with such a device. Other people are in admiration. I got chatting to a lady on the bus the other day that was full of teenagers who had just come out of school. She commented to me on how many of them were glued to their phones, and when I told her I’d given up my smartphone and showed her the phone I’m using she shook my hand. Some people experience both bafflement and admiration. “I wish I could do that” one person said.

All the things

There’s been a lot of change since the last time I wrote here, and especially since the last time I wrote about my general life situation.

At the end of Jan 2023 I moved house. Before that I’d spent the best part of 10 years living in situations that were either temporary, bad for me, or both. Now I live in a nice, spacious house with two lovely housemates that even has reasonable rent (in Bristol in 2023, surely not!) The best thing is, I didn’t even look for the house, it just happened to me! We met at the 40th party of a mutual friend.

From Nov 2022 to March 2023 business was very slow. Slower than it has been at any time since I started in 2014 (including 2020) and my financial situation got progressively worse and more stressful. Then at the beginning of August, my van died and my full time admin assistant left in the same week. At the time I thought this sequence of events was catastrophic, but then I did the maths. I realised that without a van and a full time member of staff, my overheads were now drastically reduced. So if I did the admin myself and supplemented the commission I make from my other drivers with occasional longer distance work that it was worth renting a van for, I could just about make ends meet.

A couple of weeks later, in the middle of August I went on a bike ride that caused me to feel quite unwell. After a longer time than was sensible (definitely not nearly a week) I sought medical advice. Within 5 minutes of speaking to NHS 111 an ambulance was at my house, and because my blood pressure was insanely high they took me into hospital where I stayed for two and a half weeks. After 6 different scans, the conclusion was that I have reduced heart function (38% when 50% is considered healthy). The reason why my heart function is reduced, or why I suddenly felt ill is still unclear, but I’m now on quite a bit of medication and my blood pressure is at a healthy level. The technical term for reduced heart function is unhelpfully “heart failure” which isn’t as alarming as it sounds. Before I learnt this I would have assumed that if someone had heart failure they would be abruptly dead.

I’m still struggling with fatigue more than I was before my hospital visit but it’s a lot better than it was when I first came out of hospital. I have struggled with fatigue due to anxiety since my breakdown in 2012, so now I have a second cause of fatigue it’s hard to know where the line is as to what’s causing it.

I’ve written quite a bit on here about my device addiction. In mid October I went away without my phone for two nights to the same hotel in Tewkesbury I went for the same reason in June last year. This time the withdrawal was more difficult, and I had a pretty unpleasant time as a result, but that just emphasised for me how much I needed to do it. It really helped and I’ve been feeling much better as a result, although I have been slipping a bit the last couple of weeks, so need to watch myself.