Nostalgia + Chocolate + Twitter = The best blog post in the world

I treated myself to a packet of Minstrels earlier and, whilst eating them, an advertising slogan popped into my head:
They melt in your mouth but not in your hand
Was that the original Minstrels advertising slogan waaaaaaaay back in the 1980's?  I couldn't remember so I turned to Twitter to ask the geeks my very knowledgable band of merry followers:

As Long As He Needs Me

I felt his finger trace my spine from top to bottom.  If I'd have been able, I would have let out a sigh of pleasure.  I know he only loved me for my inner knowledge and the stories I could tell but, when he wrapped his strong hands around me and gently picked me up, I knew that we would both be satisfied within a few minutes.

Ultimate Big Brother

So the final series of Big Brother has finished and the winner was, unsurprisingly, Josie.  For me, she deserved it the most (despite staying in bed far too much) because she was the most genuine of the housemates this year.  One refreshing aspect this year was that none of the housemates were your stereotypical wannabe's that have dominated the last six series' (and the tabloids) so I genuinely warmed to most of them and didn't really "hate" the others as passionately as I normally do.  It's been interesting viewing.

The Gallery : A Picture I Am Proud Of

I am not really going to say much about these two photos this week - see the description below each picture.  As you know, I'm not a serious photographer by any means so when I snap something that photographer friends comment on (these have been posted on Facebook previously) then I feel a little bit chuffed.

The Mum Confessional : Part 1

I threw out your pictures made of pasta and glitter because they cluttered up the house.

The One Where I Am Roasted!

Roasting can mean one of four things:

  • a sexual act between at least three participants. normally involving more than one Premiership footballer, a 'glamour model' with a Sunday newspaper journalist on speed dial and someone with a video camera and a shaky hand;
  • to be cooked with dry heat, usually in an oven;
  • subjected to ridicule, laughter or negative criticism;
  • an event where comedic insults, praise and heart-warming tributes are directed towards someone, implying that they are able to take the joking in good humour.

Tough as nails?

Does chip-resistant nail varnish really exist?

I'm 36 hours into a new application of nail varnish.  Black is my colour of choice this time.  I have carefully applied two coats, used a top coat for added protection and shine and left each coat to dry properly.  It was glass-smooth and looked great.  This pot of nail varnish promises up to five days of perfect nails and is supposedly chip-resistant.

Cancer - Your Story : Here To Tell The Tale

Editors note: This is Divnah's story - the tenth in a series that I have called "Cancer - Your Story". I know I keep promoting the power of Twitter but here is another example of extended networks. I didn't know Divnah until she contacted me at the beginning of June after seeing one of the 'Cancer - Your Story' links tweeted out by a mutual Twitter contact. She emailed me and offered to share her story. If you are interested in sharing your story please click on the link and contact me.

Related Links:
Cancer Research UK -
All "Cancer - Your Story" posts
Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt - Pink Sherbert Photography

* * *

When you are open your eyes in a hospital bed and are surrounded by your family and friends and they are all crying you know something is wrong. You know it is cancer. 

I was 30 when it started. I was feeling run down and exhausted, just not myself. Eventually I went to the General Practitioner (GP) complaining that I just wasn't well. Low iron she said, and stress. But that wasn’t the case. Three months later my stomach had swollen and I looked five months pregnant. An ultrasound revealed not a baby but a tumour the size of a football (literally!) on one of my ovaries. Oh sure the technicians don’t tell you that but they act strange and give you an envelope full of scans with a sticker that says, “Only to be opened by referring doctor” — as if! I ripped it open the minute I got back to my car and burst into tears.

My GP immediately referred me to gynecological oncologist who scheduled surgery for four days later. Later I laughed because I asked her if I could delay this a month as I had a Swiss ski trip planned! She responded, “We can’t wait a week”. The surgeon said that since I was so young the tumour might not be proper cancer but that it was a strong possibility. There is no screening test for ovarian cancer and it can’t be diagnosed until surgery. I had to wait. 

Those four days were the very worst of my whole life. There is something terrifying about knowing that you have a tumour, one that could kill you, growing inside you and there is nothing you can do but wait, and worry. I imagine it to be the opposite of the joy and wonder pregnant women feel. Until then I’d always been healthy so even the concept of surgery was scary. I wrote a will, made a list of all my bank accounts and passwords, and wrote farewell letters to family and close friends all convinced I might die on the table.

My surgeon (a darling!) said if it went well the whole thing would take about 1.5 hours so when I woke up in recovery and saw that more than 6 hours had passed I knew the news wasn’t good. Back in my hospital room I saw my family and friends in tears and I knew it was definitely bad. 

The surgeon came to talk to me the next day and I'll never forget his words: "It WAS cancer but I got it all. You'll have to have chemo but we're talking about a cure." Somehow in that single sentence he managed to put cancer in the past and give me hope for the future. Suddenly even though I had cancer it wasn’t as scary as I’d anticipated. All I heard was the word “cure”. 

My treatment involved two surgeries and 6 months of chemo plus a good year or so of recovery. Treatment wasn’t as difficult as predicted (I didn’t even throw up!) and I figure if I can cope with cancer I can cope with anything. Plus I got to watch all 7 seasons of the West Wing in one hit! And The West Wing is such a good show that it is almost worth getting cancer for, almost. In fact, other than the pain & fatigue associated with chemo I had a pretty nice 6 months just relaxing with family and friends, wearing funky pink wigs and using cancer as my excuse for pretty much everything I didn't want to do, like washing up! For me humour was a big part of coping. I laughed a lot at my crazy chemo brain and even coined a new term "tumour humour". 

It’s been two years now and I am still in remission and still having 12 week check ups. Cancer has definitely left its mark. I take better care of myself now and I am reminded of the value of life. It has also left a negative mark: I am no longer able to have biological children. This was, and remains, painful to accept. My greatest fear was always that I would not be able to have healthy children and this being reality is something to which I am only slowly adjusting. It is still hard to see pregnant people and mothers and babies but it is getting easier and I do have the option of donor eggs or adoption. 

Ovarian cancer has quiet symptoms, weight loss or gain, stomach upsets etc so most women aren’t diagnosed until quite late. As a result 8/10 of women diagnosed are dead inside five years. I am thankful to be one of the lucky ones but I can’t help wishing they’d found it that little bit earlier and preserved my fertility. My message for readers is this: know the symptoms (more in this blog post - "This One Time I Had Cancer") and if you don’t feel well make ensure the doctors check you properly for all possibilities not just the most likely. In most cases it won’t be cancer but it is better to be sure. And finally, appreciate your children. 

Author’s note: Thank you to Nickie for raising cancer awareness and allowing me to share my story. My story is nothing compared to what she must have gone through seeing her daughter diagnosed and I am thankful her daughter is grown and well now. Together we show cancer is not always a death sentence.

With upcoming Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month (September), it's important women are aware of reproductive health issues. This includes information on everything from screening, testing and gene mutations, to information on dangerous products and even lawsuits involving talcum powder.

Dear Mr Brown. Ref: The Lost Symbol

I have just finished reading your book (yes, I know I'm a bit late with this one.  I'm not a slow reader, I've just been busy.  Plus it costs less now.) and, like with The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, I got swept away with the mystical secrecy and the code breaking elements.

However, I would like to know what IS it with all the italics?  There were so many in places that they were making my eyes dance.  It didn't help AT ALL!  Also, I think you may have got caught up in the glamour of the movie world.  Yes, it's fantastic that you've had two of your books made into films but this read as though Ron Howard was looking over your shoulder, pointing to a place on your laptop screen saying, "Camera shot to outside of building" or "Cut to scene inside the US Capitol building" or "set: light shining on pyramid, reflecting onto Robert Langdon's face".
Ooh, ironic moment - me using italics to make a point...

Anyway, I did enjoyed the book in the main and I have two ideas for your next one:

  • The discovery of the secret recipe for Coca Cola
  • The discovery of the secret recipe for the batter on Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Or both...

And finally, I managed to finish Deception Point whilst on holiday earlier this year.  I made myself read it all after a couple of years of trying.  Not one of your finer works.  That is all.  Thank you.

The Gallery : A Memory

I was looking through some old photos the other day and found this photograph.  At first glance it just looks like a baby asleep in a pushchair but look closer.  There is an intravenous pump in the foreground, a charity cheque pinned to a notice board in the background and a reclining chair to the right.  It is a hospital ward and the child in the pushchair is towards the end of the hair loss process through chemotherapy, but she sleeps peacefully.

This picture is of my daugher, Rachel and was taken by the nursing staff on Borchardt Ward at Pendlebury Children's Hospital.  It was given to me to reassure me that whilst I went home for a rare break, she was well looked after and she didn't constantly cry.

The second photograph is the first proper picture we have of Rachel after her hair grew back and she'd had her first real haircut since the regrowth.  It grew back blonder, thicker and curlier than previously.  This picture was taken by the nursery school staff about two years after she finished her chemotherapy.

Both of these photos hold different memories.  The first photo reminds me of a time we thought we'd never get through; heartbreaking, endless - a black tunnel with no light at the end of it.  The second photo reminds me how wondrous modern medicine is and how lucky we were to be given the chance to continue 'normal' family life.  I'm sure Rachel thought, at times, that I was over-protective but each time we argued about a risk she was taking (usually teenage curiosity) or I told her that I needed to know where she was and gave her a curfew time, it was only because I'd almost lost her once and I didn't want to lose her again.

Full story: There are only so many perfect heads in the world...

* * *

This blog post was submitted for the weekly Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.  This week's theme was 'A Memory'.  This digital art Gallery is all linked at Sticky Fingers and you can see all of this weeks entries >>> here <<<

Related Links:

I only wanted two new books to read

I am a fairly savvy online shopper and I know that buying online doesn't always go to plan, however I was the very appreciative recipient of a gift voucher to spend on Amazon UK.  My eyes lit up, I rubbed my hands together, flexed my fingers and clicked on the quick-link in my browser favourites bar, navigating to my ever-growing "wish list" to select a couple of items.

Because my Open University reading list can be quite heavy, I opted for two recommended reads - Look Back In Hunger by Jo Brand and The Tent, The Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy.  Then I spotted some shoes (bargain of the YEAR - reduced from £122 to £27), opted for "free super saver delivery", paid with the voucher and felt rather pleased with my new purchases.  I was a tad nervous as I had never used a gift voucher on Amazon previously but the "Thanks For Your Order" email dropped into my email box and I started to allow myself to get excited.

That was on the 26th of July.

On the 29th of July the shoes were delivered.  I tried them on, tottered around the house for a bit, pointing my feet this way and that, admiring the gorgeousness of the new shoes, bragged about them on Facebook and I am now looking for a special enough occasion to wear them.

The books hadn't arrived.

On the 7th August, I realised that the books still hadn't materialised so I sent off an email to Amazon asking them if there was a delay with the order.  I received a fairly standard email back explaining that they had been dispatched from their warehouse on the 27th of July and delivery was expected by the 2nd of August.  Because of their maximum time allowances I had to contact them again on the 16th of August if the books still hadn't arrived.

The books didn't arrive.

The following is a transcript of the emails that have passed between myself and Amazon Customer Services since the 16th of August.  It is worth pointing out that I am not allowed to email them direct but I have to fill a form in each time I need to reply to them.  They email me back with a transcript of my email at the bottom of the email.

08/16/10 10:38:50 BST
NAME: Nicola OHara
COMMENTS: To whom it may concern.
After previous contact with yourselves and being asked to wait until today I have to inform you that the items from [order number and description of books] still have not been delivered.
Please could you advise your next course of action?
N OHara

16 August 2010 11:16
Dear Customer
Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.
First, please allow me to apologies for the inconvenience this matter has caused
I have checked your order, and I can see that your order was dispatched in 2 separate shipments :
Shipment # :1
[the books]
Shipment # :2
[the boots]


08/16/10 14:44:42 BST
NAME: Nicola OHara
COMMENTS: To confirm - the order that is undelivered is shipment #1.
Thank you

16 August 2010 21:17
Dear Customer

It does appear that something may have gone awry with the delivery of your order - the package should have reached you by now.

Normally, in this situation, I would create a replacement order for the lost item right away, to be dispatched to you as soon as possible at no additional charge.

Unfortunately, at the moment, "Pepe Jeans Women's Donna Bootie Brown DO-110B 6 UK" is unavailable from our suppliers and we are unable to send a replacement. Although the item might be available on our website from third party sellers, we are unable to source items from them. However, we will be happy to issue a full refund for this order.

I have requested a refund to your payment card for this purchase in the amount of 27.20 GBP. Refunds usually go through within 2 to 3 business days and you will see this amount credited on your next statement.


Oh... hang on a minute... can you spot the glaring error? I have missing books, not missing boots!

08/16/10 21:23:53 BST
NAME: Nicola O'Hara
COMMENTS: To whom it may concern.
I have tried to provide the correct and appropriate information for a refund or replacement of the undelivered parcel but you have still managed to get it wrong.  I CONFIRMED that the part of the order that was missing was SHIPMENT 1 - THE BOOKS (Please read my previous email in full) and NOT the shoes.

Now you have refunded an incorrect amount to my credit card (even though I did not pay by credit card) and I still have no books.

Can you suggest the next course of action please as I have been waiting longer than the recommended period of time now.
Nicola O'Hara


17 August 2010 03:59
Dear Customer
I have reviewed our previous correspondence with you and would like to offer my sincere apologies for the misunderstanding.

We do understand from your message that you have not yet received the books from shipment #1 of your [order number]

I can see that you have edited the delivery address given for this order and entered the same address again in your account address book. Once you edit a delivery address of an order, it will get deactivated and new address will be added.

Please understand that we are not having an option to create replacement for a deactivated address.

In this case, to rectify the situation, we would like to have your permission to charge your credit card in the amount of 17.85 GBP (27.20 - 9.35) for the remaining cost of the refund.


08/17/10 08:45:13 BST
NAME: Nicola OHara

COMMENTS: You DO NOT have permission to charge my credit card with anything.  The goods were purchased on a gift voucher and not my credit card.  I have not given you permission to "refund" any amount to my credit card regardless of what your normal procedure may be.  The whole point of me using a gift voucher is because it was a prize in a competition.  I would not have been purchasing from Amazon at this time in the year as I have banned myself from spending any more money on my credit card, although, as that is a personal matter and no concern of Amazon's, I am quite embarrassed to have to raise that with you.  On the whole, your presumptions and the buying experience has NOT been a positive experience and has taken up far more of my time than I envisaged.

I HAVE NOT edited any delivery address.  I have DELETED a gift address that was used in May but this was actually after the gift had (miraculously) been delivered.  That has never been a primary delivery address.

You may now suggest another course of action that meets with my agreement.  If you had read the emails correctly in the first place and the delivery had arrived then we wouldn't be in this situation.
Nicola O'Hara


17 August 2010 09:57
Dear Customer

I have checked your order and can confirm that our colleague 'Balaji G.' have incorrectly issued refund for the item "Pepe Jeans Women's Donna Bootie Brown DO-110B 6 UK" instead of books of amount 27.20 GBP to your gift certificate balance.

Your current gift certificate balance in your account is 30.65 GBP.

As we have already processed the refund for this order we are unable to send the replacement order.

As your refund has already been processed, we would like to have your permission to charge your account 17.85 GBP from your gift certificate balance as we  have incorrectly issued refund of amount 30.65 GBP instead of 9.35 GBP.

Please be assured that you will only be charged for this order from your gift certificate balance used for this order and you will not be charged from your credit card.


YAY! Result... Oh how quick I am to celebrate...


08/17/10 10:31:40 BST
NAME: Nicola OHara
COMMENTS: You have my permission to amend the gift certificate amount/credit amount on my Amazon account accordingly.
Please also confirm that this will appear on my Amazon account the next time I order something.
Thank you
Nicola O'Hara


17 August 2010 19:25
Dear Customer

Thank you for writing to us at

We are sorry for the inconvenience caused in this regards.

On checking your account, I can confirm that we have processed the refund of 27.20 GBP in the form of gift certificate to your account.

I've checked your account and see that your current gift certificate balance is 30.65 GBP.


AARRGGHH!!! We're right back where we started again!!

Dearest Amazon, this is SO not over yet.  I am NOT going to get excited about extra money in my gift voucher account that probably isn't mine!  It's not difficult, really, is it?  You refund me £9.35 and I re-order the books.

* * *
Oh, oh, oh... just before I clicked "PUBLISH POST" another email pinged in my inbox...

* * *
17 August 2010 21:49
Dear Customer

Thank you for writing to us at

From your email I can understand that you have been issued a refund on your gift certificate in the amount of 27.20 GBP, however I can see that this should have been refunded in the amount of 9.35 GBP on your gift certificate.

Please accept my sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused.

I have now forwarded this information on to our billing department to resolve this issue as I can see that this has caused you a lot of inconvenience and disappointment.

This will be applied to the gift certificate you used for your original purchase. This should go through within 2 to 3 business days

* * *
I wonder if they are going to invoice me for the whole of the customer service team to have therapy now that they have washed their hands of me????

* * *

I have written this for the Writing Workshop that is run by Josie at Sleep Is For The Weak.  This week was Workshop #34 and I have taken my cue from prompt # - write about something you struggled to let go of.  I have a real problem with sloppy customer service, especially in large, international companies who are turning over masses of profits thanks to people like you and me.  This may seem like a pathetic amount of money to get aggravated about but, to me, it's the principle of the matter.  My few pence are just as important as a multi-million pound deal.
You can find all the other Workshop posts >>> here <<<
(to be linked on Thursday)

Guest Post : Basic First Aid and St John Ambulance

Editors note:  This post has been written by Andy, who was one of my holiday guest bloggers earlier this year.  Andy is 14 years old and an active member of the St John Ambulance organisation.  He addresses a very important subject matter here and has asked me to reach out within my network to bring your attention to this situation and hopefully help you to understand how important knowing basic first aid is.

Logo credit: St John Ambulance 

Devil Child

Should we be scared of what is to come?
(watch right until the end of the video...)

Megan is a victim of Amie's mischievousness 



I took these last night, wondering if the clouds would clear so that I could watch the Perseid Meteor Shower.  We had just had a mild thunderstorm and there was a definite break in the clouds.

I'm no great photographer by any means and these were just taken using the camera on my phone because the point-and-shoot digital camera never has any batteries in it!

Time Magazine Front Cover

I saw a link on Twitter last night that just said "shocking picture on the front of Time" and was accompanied by a link.  You may have already seen it as it has been shared on Twitter (direct from the article) over 1600 times and has almost 18,000 "likes" on Facebook.  Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see and read.

Have I Missed Out?

There are a number of articles around at the moment that have made me consider I may have been living my life rather frugally and not enjoying it to the max.  After all, you're a long time dead and you only get one chance at this life so you might as well enjoy it.

Dating In The Dark : The Andrew Stone episode

I have been waiting for this all week and was unsure whether to post this here or on the Starman Fan Club.  It may appear in both places.  Anyway - play nice - we are all entitled to our own opinions.

Enjoy The Unexpected

Today two lovely things have happened and I would like to share them with you because they have certainly brightened up my day.

Instant Gratification

Steady!  Not that!  I'm on about the yoof of today, of course.  I am now officially "old" because I have clicked PUBLISH on a blog post that contains comparisons of my life and the next generation.  Oh dear.

Review: ila DUSK Personal Alarm

The ila Dusk is an innovative personal safety alarm produced by British technology entrepreneurs, Simon McGivern and James Phillips of ila Security Ltd who identified the need for stylish personal products for women.  The ila Dusk was launched in 2009 and has since been endorsed as "the most effective alarm on the market" and has been endorsed by Jacqui Hames (detective and presenter on BBC Crimewatch).

A British Crime survey revealed that 25% of women admit to travelling through dark streets alone at night without informing anyone of their whereabouts whilst 75% admit to feeling unsafe when someone is walking behind them.  The ila Dusk gives women confidence by giving them control of the situation and making themselves as safe as possible.

The personal alarm works by emitting an ear-piercing female shriek when activated that will shock and disorientate any attacker.  This combats a situation where adrenalin can cause loss of voice - the ila Dusk screams for you.  This personal alarm will fit perfectly onto your keyring (its size is 3.5cm x 7cm) and comes in a variety of patterns.

The ila Dusk retails at £19.50 and is available from 


Cancer - Your Story : The Youngest Child

Editors note:  This is Kat's story and is the eighth in the "Cancer - Your Story" series.  Kat is a Military Mom from the USA, currently living in the UK.  I think this story is very fitting for this time of year when a lot of families are jetting off to sunnier climes, searching for that confidence building tan.  It is also something that is covered extensively in the media.

If you are interested in sharing your story please click on the link and contact me.

Related Links:

Kat's Blog - 3 Bedroom Bungalow to Let in Crazytown (check out her "Dear So and So" series)
Kat on Twitter - @3bedroom

Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt - Pink Sherbert Photography

Release Date

The release date is getting close I thought to myself.  For six years I had shut myself away to work on my latest project; something that would change the way in which the world perceives human nature, free speech, emotion and public outcry.  I was finally going to be in control and not one single person in the whole world would know that that were taking part in this experiment.

Fist Pumping

Disclaimer #1:  This blog post is completely safe for work... if it passes the filters...

Occasionally, the communication barrier between two very intelligent people who both speak the same language can provide much hilarity.  Every so often, I let the Twitterverse know about how my working day is progressing and yesterday was no different.  The day was ticking away slowly, my computer was being an arse and I was counting down the minutes until I could leave the office.

The Gallery : Playtime

When I saw this week's prompt I had almost made the decision not to participate for a number of reasons.  Firstly, my children are older now; they don't 'play' in the traditional sense and I'm bored of trying to capture the perfect trampoline picture on a very temperamental camera.  Secondly, the flat-bed scanner at home is kaput so scanning in old pictures was a no-go area.  Finally, I have only seen my grandchildren once this week so quick snap-shots of them had also proved to be elusive.  So where do I go from here?

Knock Knock

Matthew 7:7
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; 
knock and the door will be opened to you

I think this passage is taken a little too literally at our house.  Leading on from the fact that when the telephone rings and is almost never for me, let us now talk about answering the door.  I am convinced that the population of Blackburn, aged 16 or under, have installed a version of a two-way mirror into the side wall of our house.

It's For You-Hoo

The house phone is ringing and it will probably go on ringing until I answer it.  No-one in the house ever seems to answer the phone; they all appear not to hear it.
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