by Jeanne Hambleton  ©

NFA Leader Against Pain-Advocate


A bit of New Year nonsense. I have been a trifle indisposed recently due to a bad fall and fractures to my pelvic and public bones (if you know what I mean).  My friend Olive, from my school days, was concerned, as she had not heard from me. She suggested I am usually ‘stuck’ to my computer and she wondered why I had not written.  She had no idea I was busy with my web log.


I guess I should come ‘out of the closet’ and admit in principle the ‘sticky bit’ is true. My computer – well my Apple Mac-tilda – and I are almost inseparable but not quite joined at the hip.  She hates that name Mac-tilda.  She says it is too old fashioned.


Although we are close, well almost partners, we do not share the same bed. I draw a line at mixing business with pleasure or even sleeping together. She is always uploading or downloading something.  She does not have airbags so it would be highly dangerous, to say the least, to fall asleep in front of her – almost a disaster.


But my Mac-tilda can be a bitch at times – a proper diva, crashing around and losing things. To keep her sweet I call her Missy Flossie. I am sure she has all the symptoms of fibromyalgia  – headaches, always wide awake, crashes, so slow first thing in the morning, ponders and suffers from fibro fog…she certainly cannot remember how to spell.  I also think she has an addiction. I will whisper it quietly as she is a bit touchy about it. She loves ink – any colour but especially black. It is a bit worrying really. I think she drinks it when I am asleep.  I could only find a PC Doc and he was not much help. He suggested buying bigger packs of ink. All I can say is it is not me using all the ink. Someone not too far away must be responsible or the little plastic boxes are getting smaller every time.


Due to the ink situation with my ink-drinking-machine and I do not want a confrontation with Missy Flossie, I am doing what a lot of emails tell me to do – not printing emails on paper and ‘saving trees’ – but they don’t say how Missy Flossie’s addition to ink and saving trees helps anyone. 



Anyway I have been carried along with the e-generation and believe paper belongs in the bathroom for what I might call ‘essentials’.


You have to admit (fibromite or not) the loo, bathroom, little girl’s room, water closet, convenience, toilet or bog, is a good place to think and sort of get in touch with the things you should have done and haven’t.  A pencil and pad can be useful at times like this.


Maybe the best time is when everyone else has left the house if you can wait that long. There is nothing worse than when everyone else wants a piece of the bathroom too.  I could not ever again live in a house without two toilets. It never fails to amaze me why the planning authorities even consider applications for developments with one toilet. 


My problem I think stems back to my childhood  – the abuse of using a cold outside toilet. I lived in a council house where there was no bathroom. The bath was in the scullery (kitchen to you folk) under a large wooden cover which was always full of kitchens bits and pieces and the toilet was in the cold, outside.  For hot water to bath they boiled a copper or to wash they boiled a kettle. Hot bath water was so precious we all used one bath load. The cleanest body went in first – me – then my Mum – and finally my Dad.  Friday night was bath night and nothing got in the way of that.


On reflection I wonder if the main reason I got married was to live in a house with its own bathroom with fresh bath water all to myself. I would fill it with smelly bath salts so no-one else would want to use it – certainly not my manly husband – “what smell like a chemist shop – no thanks – I will wait for the boiler to get hot again”.


My bath time was sheer bliss.  My daughter took after me and would have spent her life in the bathroom. We christened her Lady Bathtub.  It was fatal if she was up first in the mornings with one bathroom. It almost came to a divorce – happy days.



I had an Uncle George who used to have a pile of magazines next to the toilet – to read – they were not girly magazines but books like Picture Post. I know, I checked. Yes they did have toilet paper in those days. However during and even after WW II my dear late father would tear up newspapers into suitable size pieces of paper, pierce a hole in the corner with a skewer (like they used to stick in meat), thread string through the pieces of paper – probably 140 sheets – and hang it in the outside toilet.  I knew we would get to the bottom of this subject…

I wonder what slogan today’s soft toilet paper makers would have put on that. Maybe ‘help the war effort’ or ‘waste not want not’. I can also remember some scratchy sanitized paper.


I wonder if this new saving paper lark applies to toilet paper – I hope not. Would hate to give up my ‘pamper your posterior double de luxe cushion 4 sheet luxury tissue in delicate peach colour’ and return to newspaper again even though I have spent my life writing for them. I wonder if that is why I became a journalist – maybe I have got to the bottom of that childhood longing after all.


At least these days if you have a bit of ME time in a nice indoor bathroom, you know you will not have a bottom covered in newsprint or scratchy smelly paper. But unlike days gone-by when no one wanted to use the cold outside toilet unless they really had to, today with warmer luxury bathrooms you might have endless people banging on the door shouting, “Have you finished? I am already late for work.”


As if that is my fault. He cannot even blame Missy Flossie for that either.  She might be slow in the mornings but she just needs a little encouragement and coercion to get going. She never uses the bathroom so he cannot blame her because he is late although she knows all about blogging, blogs and weblogging. She has become something of an expert in fact.



I cannot make my mind up about where blogging came from! Someone must have thought up that word while sitting on the ‘bog’ pontificating or even pondering. I have just looked up the word ‘bog’ in my on-line dictionary and it says “a piece of soft, wet, spongy ground”. Someone has left the bathroom in a mess again!!!!  Wait till I catch them.


I think that perhaps this is where ‘blog’ rolls originated.  I guess someone just sat on the toilet and thought about it and said, “Oh L – let’s go for it – blog?”


Well I could not help myself, could I? Wikipedia on the Internet tells me a blog (a portmanteau of web log) is a website where entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order.  My World Book Dictionary says the word ‘portmanteau’ is a word made by combining parts of two words, a blend. 


Missy Flossie is always telling me I have MALE – man crazy this one – but all she wants really is to see is what people are writing about.  I said she could not spell. She means MAIL.


Can you believe these men-mad women are sending me emails and trying to sell Missy Flossie and me Viagra? Our relationship really does not need that kind of help thank you very much – please stop writing.  We have found out where the ‘bounce’ button is but it does not help. Missy Flossie keeps bouncing these nasty emails back to sender back but they return again as a ‘no reply address’. Why do they do send these emails if you cannot get the stuff they are selling? What is the point trying to sell something with no sensible return address?

All Viagra sellers please note  – we do not need your tablets.


Missy Flossie is my link to many friends and the outside world.  We send emails to one another much more frequently than we ever did while writing letters to be posted. Just think of the cost and energy involved in sending snail mail. Now we have all this nonsense of what size is it – not what weight  – and you get a 1st class LARGE stamp for how much, who knows? There is no sign of a price on the stamp. Is that not against the Trades Description Act? Will we soon be asking for a red stamp, or a blue stamp all without any value printed on it?



Also just as the typewriter aided my thinking so does the computer. As a young reporter in a man’s world writing stories and looking for by-lines (your name on a story), I could be found in the news room with a long American filtered cigarette burning away and a double size cup of tea going cold, seeking inspiration from my Underwood or Royal elite typewriter. Today the computer provides that same ‘spark’.  


Except that these days the computer allows me to write what comes into my head. I can then move it around and makes sense after my creative urge is over– well that is what I hope. I am also supposed to be able to spell check but the problem is my software can only spell American words…. now you know why I cannot spell these days.


Before the computer age and this innovation, if your story was hand written there could be long lines drawn against paragraphs with arrows pointing, up or down, to where those words belonged – a nightmare.  If we were writing up a story during a court hearing we would write on short pieces of paper. These pages would be un-numbered, so we could switch the story around if something vital was disclosed at the end of the case, or if we wanted to re-write the first paragraph to include the verdict. This happened if we had a deadline to meet and had to telephone the news story to a copy-taker – someone who typed news stories all day for a living.  This enabled newspapers to carry late news and why they have editions. The further away you live from where the newspaper is printed, the earlier the edition you are likely to get. When on holiday in Spain you will get your daily paper but printed in Malaga – all the news is sent electronically to presses rolling in southern Spain.


Often the latest recruit to join the news agency that sent stories to all the national newspapers was asked to pretend to use a telephone box outside the courthouse. There were no mobile telephones in those days.  The recruit would then vacate the telephone box for the senior reporter to phone his story while the opposition waited for a vacant telephone or a box which was not  ‘OUT OF ORDER”. All part of the training we were told. You will get your own new recruit one day the editor said.


But the Internet changed all that and I imagine today reporters input their stories using a silent keyboard in situ and press a button for it to be sent wirelessly and without to much effort directly to the news editor’s computer.


One thing I have never suffered from is writer’s block. This is when you sit before a machine to write something and the mind goes a total blank. My head is always swimming with words and I am spoilt for choice when it comes to writing something down.  If you happen to need one or two thousand words about anything or nothing in particular, and you can pay, you know where to come.  Fortunately fibromyalgia has not had any effect on my vocabulary – except when I get fibro fog and cannot spell.



As you grow more mature and especially if you are a fibromite, you do not seem to mix with as many people as you did when you were younger. The number of friends you have begins to diminish, as folks seems to be chasing the dollar and working longer hours to pay higher mortgage rates and ever increasing bills.


When you are at school you probably had 35 friends – the whole class – but as you grow up you drift apart and this might get down to two or three really good friends.


But we all realise everyone has their own life to live – chores to do – the school run, PTA meeting, the washing, cleaning, ironing, help with the homework – and somehow the day is almost gone without time to talk to your loved one – or him indoors.


This was my situation pre-fibromyalgia – my life was lived at 100 miles per hour – certainly I was breaking the speed limits with my lifestyle – and on reflection not doing my health a lot of good either.


But since fibromyalgia all that has changed. My ‘best’ friends from schooldays – Olive and Gwen – lives miles from me – not just round the corner – but we keep in touch – by computer, thanks to Missy Flossie.  Since I went to school the world have become a “smaller place” and your friends no longer live next door but on some island somewhere in the middle of some ocean, or in France, Spain or the States. Sending a letter by post to the States take forever.  Ringing a friend abroad if you want a good long chat, is costly, without Skype and you need a computer for that.


Eventually you fall into the trap of communicating only at Christmas – scribbling a few words on your festive card beside the sparkling Santa Claus or rampant reindeer, “Hope you and yours are well,” you scribble promising a letter will follow in the New Year, but it does not. You might moved house or had an operation or something else newsworthy – but what with postage strikes, the cost of postage and now all this rubbish about the envelopes being a certain size or it will cost you double – who wants to use snail mail. So you let it lapse.


You cannot even be sure the letter you struggled to put together will not land up in some poor person’s front garden – accidentally of course.   I have received mail weeks after it was posted. It had laid on someone’s front door mat while they toured the world for three months on some large luxury liner. Thank goodness it was not a credit card bill or I would have been paying so many late payment charges and interest I might have been in the poor house by now – if there such a thing as a poor house. On reflection none of this could have happened if snail mail was more efficient or everyone sent emails.


While we are on the subject of keeping in touch with friends, I belong to a wonderful Yahoo group and receive delightful stationery and tags. On my birthday I received so many e cards from the group with lovely messages. The same happened when the gang found out about my stupid accident. These came from around the world. I also had a good number of Christmas e-cards too. Without the computer I would not have known someone in Mexico loves me.


 So suddenly I have acquired a few more friends who I am able to write to and learn more about where they live and their life style. I also belong to a Fibromyalgia Support Group for Surrey & Sussex and gained some good fibromite friends from there. So my computer has also opened up a whole new world of friends – some who have commented on earlier articles I have written.


From personal experience when I was first diagnosed, like so many others, I knew nothing about the FM syndrome and I was thirsty for more knowledge about the progress of the invisible disability. Researching fibromyalgia on the Internet has been like a Pandora’s box – every site I opened was filled with things I did not know before. My parting thoughts about life before the computer are –


  • Memory was something you lost with age
  • An application was for employment
  • A programme was a TV show
  • A cursor used profanity
  • A keyboard was found on a piano
  • A web was where a spider lived
  • A virus was flu
  • A CD was a bank account
  • A hard drive was a long drive on the road
  • A mouse pad was where a mouse lived
  • If you had a 3 1/2 floppy you hoped nobody knew (is that relevant?)


AND – Maxine, who appears in so many funny cartoons, says computers are the perfect things for women who do not feel that men provide them with enough frustration!


ALSO – Have you ever noticed the older we get the more we are like computers?

We start out with lots of MEMORY and DRIVE and then we become outdated and eventually have to get our parts replaced….


AND LASTLY – I am hoping to get one of these new computers that have airbags for when him indoors falls asleep in front of the machine.

 On the Internet a whole new and different world opens up eveery day, just waiting to be discovered. I even found two identical namesakes on the Internet – one in the Uk and the other in the States, 

Missy Flossie sends her love  – I said she is man-mad. Talk soon. Happy New Year. Jeanne 



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