Go Set a Watchman book launch (spoiler free)

Go Set a Watchman book launch (spoiler free)

Go Set A Watchman Book Launch

When I was around 15 years old, my mum gave me a book and told me to read it. I didn't get into it and gave up a couple of chapters in. Seeing the book placed on my desk when we walked into our GCSE English class made me sigh. I regret that in a way. For the last 11 years since, I have read that book at least once a year.

When it was announced that the sequel, Go Set A Watchman, had been 'found', I felt split in two. One part excited and one part sceptical. I remember my mum telling me when she first gave me a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird that Harper Lee had said 'everyone is born with a novel inside them, and this was mine' (Turns out that this is actually a BlackAdder quote... go Mumma), with this on my mind I was obviously confused when this new manuscript made an appearance 55 years later.

Despite this, as a massive fan and knowing that this would be the biggest launch since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I automatically booked the day off work so I could just be left alone and read it in a day.

Go Set a Watchman Waterstones

It wasn't until the day of the launch that I decided to go to the midnight release. I had pre-ordered a copy elsewhere but after going to the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows several years before with Charlie, Distracted, I knew how it felt to essentially be a part of history and I wanted to have that feeling again.

Go Set a Watchman Waterstones

Slightly delayed after work, my boyfriend got there first and held a spot for me. For a fair few hours (no lie) we were essentially THE queue for this book. but as it got closer to midnight, more people appeared out of the woodwork and just before midnight the store manager told us there were over 500 people in the store. Yay! It wasn't just me!!

Go Set a Watchman Waterstones

After sitting there reading To Kill a Mockingbird again, seeing the books opened only a few feet from me and desperately wanting a double cheeseburger. The time came, the countdown commenced and I got the first copy in the store, my receipt proudly saying 00:01 in the bottom right hand corner.

In the past 24 hours, my Twitter notifications have gone mental, I've appeared on national news, I had to hang up on a radio station who wanted me to speak to them (they had someone on the line who had read the book and were discussing spoilers. DUDE! I HAVE JUST BOUGHT IT!) and I have finished the book. 

Despite some of the comments I have seen on news articles about those of us who waited for hours to get our hands on something that we have basically been waiting over 50 years for, I do not regret my decision to go and I am so glad I was there. Thank you Gary for saving my spot for me :-)

Epilepsy; An invisible disability

Epilepsy; An invisible disability

Epilepsy brainstorm

I wasn't going to write this post but it's been bothering me so I thought it would be best to get it out of my system.

When I was 24, I was diagnosed with Epilepsy and a lot of aspects of my life got quickly turned around. I don't accept half of them and I am stubborn as hell but changes had to be made, even if I don't do them all the time because I suck.

Recently I have been to two events, one blogging related and one personal, and have experienced two different people and responses in terms of my condition, one treated me as though as I was an inconvenience to her and the other was so amazingly helpful (read more about this lovely person at Secret Cinema here). It got me thinking about taboos and essentially people's understanding of it as a whole.

Image Source: Cagemountain on Deviant Art

Epilepsy isn't easy to understand so I do get some of the confusion. The minimalist poster above created by an artist called Cagedmountain on DeviantArt is a good example but maybe only for a certain type. Epilepsy isn't the same for everyone and a seizure doesn't necessarily have to be Tonic Clonic (AKA Grand Mal) like you see in the movies or, most recently, Eastenders.

I suffer from Tonic Clonic seizures but I also have Absence Seizures. Apparently over 500,000 people in the UK have epilepsy and 1 in 50 people will have at least one seizure in their lives. A lot of these can go misdiagnosed and I think that it's partly down to people not realising they've had a seizure, possibly because they were Absence Seizures.

As someone who has experienced them before, the best way to describe Absence Seizures would be like, having that feeling where your eyes are 'comfortable' and you're staring into space without really noticing. Kind of like going blank. Also, apparently not everyone gets that feeling as though they're falling so maybe that counts.

These seizures may seem like a nicer option but they're really not. Sometimes I can have a horrible headache and even blurred vision for hours after having one. Not fun.

Following my diagnosis I have experienced a lot of different responses, had a lot of questions, received a lot of statements/assumptions and during my research have come across comments about Epilepsy. Some are interesting and understanding but others are downright ridiculous. Here are a couple:

  • What does it feel like?
  • Are you OK (whenever I even just have a cold)
  • How did you get it?
  • You don't look disabled
  • You don't look like you have Epilepsy
  • Is it contagious? (Saw this one online, seriously?)

Thinking about some of these, I thought it would be a good idea to do a shout out on Twitter so I could answer any burning questions people have. Unfortunately not a lot of people recognise the condition and it isn't really talked about so it wouldn't be surprising if people had them. Here are a few I received with answers.

This is a really good question. Unfortunately I can only speak from my own experience and therefore I don't know enough about all the different types but you can go to the Epilepsy Action website for more info. 

Unlike some people I don't tend to have just one seizure, I will have a couple in a row in short bursts. My general rule is, if I have more than five then you need to call an ambulance. If I don't, just wait for me to come to and then I will just need a cup of tea then go home to sleep. 

During a Tonic Clonic seizure all you really need to do is:
  •  (If possible) catch them
  • Don't move them, instead clear the area of hazzards
  • Protect the head, put something underneath it like a coat or a pillow, if these aren't available rest on your lap
  • Do not restrain - you could hurt the person or they could hurt you
  • Do not put anything in their mouth. It's a myth that this will stop the person from biting/swallowing their tongue but in fact it's dangerous for them and you. What if you get bitten? It can be like lockjaw
  • Make a note of how many seizures and how long they last
  • Once the convulsions have finished, move into the recovery position
  • Some people take a while to regain consciousness and will be quite confused. So be reassuring and talk to them normally.
  • If their seizure has lasted for longer than five minutes, it's classed as a medical emergency so call and ambulance

I have looked into this and unfortunately I don't qualify because looking at the information online, you need to have at least 10 Tonic Clonic seizures per month with no changes to medication six months before you apply. Luckily, I don't have that many but a seizure alert dog would be awesome.

I guess a way to describe it would be, you know how dogs can sense storms? It's like that. The dog will be trained with you to learn your specific symptoms and activity. They can then alert you to get into a safe place. Kind of like having a big fluffy aura (sign) that you're going to have one. Being able to get into a safe place by yourself would be wonderful because not only do you know you wouldn't be seriously injured but also people who have many seizures feel like they have a bit more independence. There can even be panic buttons that the dog would press to call an ambulance if the person is alone at home.

Affecting my life personally? Dude, I just want a dog but I'm lucky enough to need a special one. 

Spoons no, but there was one time when I regained consciousness with a pencil in my mouth which isn't exactly safe! What if it broke in my mouth and I choked?

I have a wonderful boyfriend, fantastic friends and family and very supportive colleagues. One friend in particular has been there from the very beginning, attending neuro with me and making sure I eat enough. Gary is essentially a hero and he even researches things regularly to see if there are any updates in the Epilepsy world.

I do struggle to cope sometimes as a fair few things get 'ruined' for me like having a seizure at an Amanda Palmer gig plus that one at Secret Cinema last week. Now I'm kind of used to it though I just go by the process of 'If I don't laugh, I'll cry', therefore my seizures are called 'brain farts' instead. 

Well, during research-ness we found out that if you cover your dominant eye it takes longer for your brain to register it. I'm not sure if this is a scientific fact but from trying it myself I can say that it works, for me anyway. I made an eyepatch last year so I could go on the Smiler at Alton Towers (has strobes at the beginning) and have worn them to a couple of gigs and have come out the other end seizure free. #Win 

As a whole, Epilepsy is no longer a problem for me. There used to be days when all I wanted to do was cry because I refused to believe that my life could change so suddenly and that I would be taking daily medication ('like an old lady', I used to say), go for regular check ups, have scans and sticky things all over my head (a la Total Recall), cut down on drinking, not be allowed to drive etc etc. I was 24 for God's sake. I just want to go to the pub with my friends on a Friday night and only have to worry about the Saturday morning hangover, not waking up in the hospital with a cannula in my arm.

Now after two years of dealing with this invisible disability, I'm finally OK. As OK as you can be and hopefully people will start to understand soon and the stigma will go away.

Secret Cinema: The Empire Strikes Back

Secret Cinema: The Empire Strikes Back

Everyone knows, or should do, that The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars film to date. If you think otherwise... well, your argument is invalid in my eyes.

Secret Cinema is the big thing in immersive experiences as it throws you straight into your favourite films rather than just sitting there and watching it. When The Empire Strikes Back was announced. I had to get tickets because I knew it would be an experience of a lifetime for any geek. There was a bit of an uproar over the price of tickets (75 Galactic Credits) which is not really surprising but luckily for me, as a Freedom Pass holder because of my epilepsy, I only had to pay for one ticket and Gary, as my carer, got to go for free. Got to enjoy the perks really.

As it's SECRET Cinema, I really can't go too much into it because I don't want to be that person who ruins the experience for other fans. I can tell you though that at one point I shed a little tear because I was just mesmerised and completely blown away.

A few things I can tell you:

Get into Character

I know it's not really everyone's cup of tea but it made the experience for me even better. As you can see from the pass above, I was a Galactic Explorer and had a crazy name I couldn't pronounce. Each character had a colour scheme so the actors and other attendees could recognize your 'rank' and get involved with discussions with you. Plus, if you're that one person who isn't dressed up (or at least wearing a scarf) you will stick out like a sore thumb.

I didn't realise this until pretty close to the day so Gary and I made a last minute dash to Primarni to get what we could. My colour scheme was sand and khaki which was relatively easy compared to Gary's Creative Council (AKA, Jedi) so managed to get most of my bits in one place. We were missing key pieces though like our scarves and Gary's cloak but, the clever boy that he is, Gary found out about the pop up shop just off Brick Lane (click link for more spoiler free tips!) where they had everything available and is actually cheaper than you think.

Even entering the shop is a step into the experience as you are greeted by a fellow rebel who fills you in on all the codes and terminology you'll need to remember when you're there and it's so much fun!

In terms of our outfits, we succeeded in the end and I'm pretty proud of how we turned out:

Star wars costume
Primarni Special

Secret Cinema Galactic Explorer
Galactic Explorer Rank Badge

Star Wars costume
Gary part 1!
Star Wars Costume
The Force is strong with this one

Don't we look good?!

Be prepared to queue

On the way in, there will be a big queue which is a given. It does move pretty quickly so try not to be too impatient.

Star Wars Secret Cinema

Take your Rebel passes

It's not like you won't get in if you don't have them but again it's part of the experience and you may even get 'arrested' if you don't! 

Star Wars Secret Cinema

Don't bother with cash

If you've been reading the emails Rebel X have been sending you, you'll notice that they say only contactless payments will be accepted, in other words, cards. Even if you only have a standard chip and pin it'll be fine. It's set in the 'future' after all!

Get in on the action

Seriously, throw yourself right in. Remember what the cast tell you and just do it. Get your money's worth and become a part of the story rather than just watching it.

Have the time of your life

This needs no explanation.

Also, as a side note, if you're epileptic like me, there will be strobe lights even during the film so be careful. I was lucky enough to last until 10 minutes before the end before I landed flat on my face but the first aid staff for incredible. Not only did they make sure I was OK and supplied me with all the water in the world, they also got me to meet the cast and came to check up on me later when I carried on throughout the rest of the evening. Thanks guys.

To Kill a Mockingbird at the Barbican Centre

To Kill a Mockingbird at the Barbican Centre

To Kill a Mockingbird London
Photo source
To Kill a Mockingbird is not only the first books from school I actually enjoyed (Thank you Mrs Reilly!) but it's also one of my favourite books. I read it every year but can only handle it once a year because I will end up an emotional train wreck. It's just a given.

When To Kill a Mockingbird launched at the Regents Park Theatre, I was gutted when we couldn't get tickets. It was so popular though that a new run was in order at the Barbican Centre and not only did we get tickets, we got tickets in the second row! All the win.

I'm not sure what you already know about To Kill a Mockingbird (although everyone should know) but it's simply a story of black and white in South America told through the eyes of a child.

The play itself is spectacular, rather than a conventional retelling in sense, the characters not only act out the story but they read from various publications of the book, keeping it as accurate is possible with very little changes which tend to annoy me in other plays and adaptations. A small cast and minimalist set makes everything seem more intimate and as though you have really been thrown into the story, rather than just watching it.

Harper Lee's classic was immortalised in film in 1962 with Gregory Peck playing the role of Atticus Finch, a role which would finally get him an Oscar. Atticus Finch is the father of Scout, our protagonist, and has been given the case of defending a black man in a trial against the accusations of a white man. It's pretty much doomed to begin with.

In the stage version, Atticus is played by Robert Sean Leonard (This excited Charlie, Distracted as you may know him as Wilson from House) and he was amazing. There is no other word to describe it. He brought the elements of torment and compassion through so well it was as though he was meant to be Atticus, to me anyway.

Scout was the perfect portrayal of childhood innocence especially in regards to race. The whole cast were perfect really. It was a tad confusing when one of the narrators spoke in a heavy northern accent and I was initially dubious, but they managed to flit between themselves as story tellers to actors so fluidly I was taken by surprise and thought that made the whole show even better.

Whether or not you're as big a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird as I am or not, I strongly recommend you see this show while it's here. Even as a piece of literature it's a real eye opener to racial division in a time not so far away. You will cry like a baby, I let myself go far too soon and couldn't stop so you will need to take tissues.