Monday, 23 April 2012

Dissertation Chapter One Draft

I am suppose to be writing a draft of chapter one for my dissertation. The deadline is the 1st May. Unlike subsequent chapter drafts that will be discussed with my mentor, this one is a chapter that has to be submitted and marked as part of my proposal final grade. I can alter it afterwards based on the feedback from the marking and re-submit it when I submit my completed dissertation in October. However the grade from the draft still counts towards my final overall grade for the whole Masters degree. This means I still have to do a good job and attempt to get the best mark I can. The problem is I am still doing my primary research and theoretical reading, which is making writing the chapter a little bit difficult. The fact that I have only one week left before it must be submitted, is also adding to the stress levels and anxiety!

As you know my dissertation is focussed on the Bexhill War Memorial. Chapter One looks at the creation of the war memorial and how the various stages relate to the national picture as well as war commemoration and memorial theories. It is primarily a historical chapter with memory and commemoration theory thrown in. Well, that's the plan anyway!In order to talk about the creation of the memorial I have been looking at the Bexhill Observer for 1919 and 1920 (the memorial was unveiled in December 1920). This has provided me with some fantastic primary evidence, but also takes a lot of time.

In March 1919 the Bexhilll Mayor called a public meeting to discuss what form the town's memorial of the First World War would take. Many varying ideas were put forward and a War Memorial Committee was appointed. In later months sub-committees were formed to look at various aspects of the war memorial including location, raising funds, organisation and rather importantly what form the memorial should take. Initially there were many suggestions for a memorial. One overwhelming feeling was Bexhill did not want some stone monument with names inscribed on it. The town already had enough memorials such as the Coronation Clock Tower, and the Maharajah's Fountain that were not being maintained and ended up looking shabby. They didn't want any more (even if this one would be significantly different as it would be the first time in history that the ordinary soldier would be commemorated in a civic memorial and have his name inscribed).

Instead Bexhill was more in favour of a utilitarian memorial. Something that would be of use to the town and more importantly the living while also remembering the dead. Suggestions included, a recreation hall for the returned soldiers, a Guildhall with a museum, art gallery and reading room, a recreation and sports ground (Cricket seemed to be the favourite), a cottage hospital, a Bexhill Ward at the new East Sussex Hospital in Hastings, new cottages built to house the widows and children of the men who had fallen in the War and an Education fund for the children of the fallen soldiers to support them in education, scholarships and apprenticeships (if the funds allowed it, children of the soldiers who had returned would also benefit but only if there was a surplus of funds). Despite these utilitarian suggestions they also felt obliged to erect some sort of memorial, most likely a stone cross in Town Hall Square, with the names of all the men who had gone to War inscribed on the interior walls of the Council Chambers.

Interestingly the town ended up with a traditional obelisk with the names of the fallen inscribed on it at the bottom of Sea Road on the Sea Front facing out to see and the Western Front where so many Bexhill men were slain. They also established the Bexhill Children's Memorial Fund which eventually merged with the Bexhill Trust which still exists today. Many of the funding aims of the Bexhill Trust still centre around providing education financial support for children and teenagers who live in the Bexhill area.

Reading the various debates and discussions around the creation of the War Memorial are fascinating and at times humorous. It is also worrying that in almost 100 years the Bexhill Observer has not changed that much and neither have the people! When discussing the need to improve the area at the bottom of Sea Road where the memorial will go because it is in a terrible state the Bexhill Observer points out the obvious pitfalls:
"We know how leisurely these matters proceed in Bexhill, and anyone with a knowledge of the haphazard development of the Bexhill Front will be aware of the folly of counting upon anything being done within a definite period of time!" (19th April 1919). For current Bexhilians who have had to endure the many arguments over the recent redevelopment (and delays!) of West Parade or the current issues with the Colonnade will no doubt find this to still be true and rather amusing!

Anyway better get back to the Bexhill Observer from 1919!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Craft Fair, Knitting and Chapter One!

As I have been mainly talking about food stuff on my recent blogs I thought I should catch you up on what else I have been doing.

On Saturday I went to the monthly Craft Fair at St. Barnabas Church where I shared a table with my friend, giving Crafty Claires another outing. We joined her mum and nan again who were selling their preserves, jams and knitted items. It was a lot better than last month as a few cards were sold, as well as a felt bag (yet again!) and a scarf! As usual the jams and preserves sold well and the knitted stuff also went down well. It was a very enjoyable day and a nice break from doing uni work.

The best bit about the day was that my friend gave me my first proper knitting lesson! Now I never expected I would be a knitter. My Mum is an exceptional knitter (even my Dad says so, so it must be true! LOL!). She tried to teach me when I was a child but it never went well. She would get frustrated with having to correct mistakes and didn't really have the patience to teach a child. As a result it would end up as a big knot, I would lose interest and it would end up in the bin! As a result I avoided the hobby like the plague! As she also did embroidery, lace etc these were also hobbies I admired but never once asked to have a go at!  However my friend always seems to be knitting or sewing and when I have been round her house I always found myself watching her knit. It looked very satisfying and therapeutic. Her mum and nan also are excellent knitters and sell their stuff at craft fairs. So it was a bit scary to ask her to teach me to knit, knowing what my previous experience was like! However I should not have worried! She is a very good teacher and has a lot of patience! So from about 11am until 4pm when the Craft Fair closed I learnt how to do knitting. In that time I produced two small blue squares of knit and pearl stitches creating a simple pattern. I was so proud!! Then in the evening I did another two squares this time in a nice yellow wool! My rather ambitious aim is to knit loads of little squares in a few different colours and then sew them altogether to make a blanket. I will let you know how the progress goes! If I finish it I will put a photo on my blog as well as Crafty Claires blog. In my next knitting lesson I am going to be taught how to cast on and off so that I can then knit when I am on my own! (So far my friend has been doing this bit!).

After the Craft Fair I had planned to be good and go home to carry on with my uni work. However my friend invited me to hers for dinner and a girlie night. I decided that I might as well have the whole day off from studying! It was a nice unexpected evening. We had a nice dinner and then watched the latest episodes of Alcatraz and Once Upon a Time. We also had a good chat and both did some more knitting!

Since then it has been back to the dissertation grindstone. My first chapter draft is due in at the end of the month. Unlike other chapters this draft will be marked and go towards my final grade. As far as I know I can amend it afterwards and resubmit it as part of the completed dissertation in October. My other drafts will only be discussed with my tutor and then only count towards my final grade when I hand in the completed study. However it is still stressful and as each day passes I get a little but more stressed! I want to do well so I am putting myself under pressure to do a good job. The problem is the chapter that is due to be submitted is the biggest chapter in the study and the one I wanted to have the most time to do! Oh well! I also only have to submit a word count of 3000 words yet this chapter is planned to be 4000 - 5000 words. I am a bit confused as to what to do, but I am hoping my tutor will give me some guidance.

Anyway I had better get back to the books!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Trying New Foods

When it comes to having Food Neophobia one of the biggest problems is the lack of treatment available. As its only just beginning to be understood, the treatments for it are also still very hit and miss. What works for one person may not work for another. The most common treatment is being sent for counselling or therapy, most commonly to treat the phobia part of the condition. I have been sent to various specialists and so far have never found one that actually works and that dealt with the main problem. Yes, I have gained a better understanding of why I have this condition and how it works. Yes, I have looked at past experiences that have directly affected the food I eat and how I use food to deal with stressful situations. However not one of them has helped me control the panic attacks and get past all the different stages to actually try new food and ideally develop my diet. 

The most recent treatment I had to go through was one that looked at the phobia aspect. The problem with most phobias is that they are irrational but in most cases can actually be avoided in daily life. If you are scared of flying, don't go abroad on a plane, if you have a fear of water don't go swimming or near the beach. If you are scared of heights don't climb ladders and if you have a fear of small spaces don't take the lift. If you have a fear of trying new foods the answer of simply not trying new foods isn't really a workable solution. However the treatment for phobias isn't really useful when trying new foods. Meditation before every meal, and visualising yourself trying the new food. For a start you can't meditate for 30 mins sessions before every meal to relax yourself when you have to go to work, university or generally have a life. Can you imagine at work when it comes to your lunch break saying to your boss they you are going to lie down for 30 mins and listen to a relaxation tape before you have your lunch! It just wasn't possible at that time in my life. As for visualising, I can visualise myself roller-blading along the prom, but that doesn't mean I can magically do it! (I tried to learn to roller skate as a child and my balance was dreadful!) I also had to keep a diary of food I tried and write about all my memories of food; good and the bad. This did nothing to help my phobia and only dragged up personal memories of abuse and other nasty experiences that I prefer to leave in the past. By the end of the 10 months of sessions I had only started to eat one new food (Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup) and had loads of old issues from the past buzzing around my head to deal with. I still had the panic attacks, still struggled to try new foods and had no tools to help control the disorder. 

The only advice that I have ever read or been given that carried any merit was from a fellow Food Neophobic on a online forum. She had managed to overcome her condition after years of living with it. What treatment did she have? Nothing. Like many others she found nothing worked. So how did she do it? Well somehow she managed to do it herself with determination and not giving up on it until she had beaten it. She stopped making excuses and confronted her condition. It was extremely hard but she managed to do it. She found that once she had knocked down a few key food walls, other foods became easier to try and it got easier and easier. Her advice was to keep fighting it and to celebrate every success even the small successes of having the food on the same plate or getting it into her mouth. She said she found the celebration of these successes (especially the praise from others) very rewarding and it was this that drove her on. 

I am not sure if this will work for me. As I have said what works for one person doesn't always work for someone else. However it is the best advice I have had so far so its worth a try. Thankfully I have a good friend who has offered to help with this, especially with preparing new foods and blind tasting sessions. (We are trying different techniques to overcome the trigger for the panic attacks, until we knock down my significant food walls). She also reduces another pressure I have which is the concern of wasting food. I am always worried that if I buy something to try and don't like it, its a waste of money and food. Luckily my friend is what I call a "food person" and loves cooking so I know the food won't go to waste. I also have the support of another friend (the mother of the friend who is helping me!) as well as a very close friend who is a long way away but who has always been very supportive about me improving my eating. 

So I am not going to make any promises or set any grand targets. I am simply going to say that my fight back against Food Neophobia has begun and ding ding Round One!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Food Neophobia Part 2

Hopefully you will have read my last post on Food Neophobia Part 1. My big reveal! In this post I wanted to talk more about what it is like living with this eating disorder. I have already told you how difficult trying new food is, but there is far more to this condition that I have to cope with on a daily basis.

Its not until you have problems with food that you understand how big a part food plays in your life and social activities. Food is everywhere. Going out for a celebratory meal with friends and family or even on a date? Yeah sure as long as its at McDonalds, Burger King or the Harvester! Fancy going for a Chinese? Erm no thank you I am busy, (much better than "I don't like that!"). Lets go out for coffee. Fine as long as I can have normal tea with normal milk. Why don't you come round for dinner, I am cooking! Depends on what your planning to cook and how you are going to cook it? Actually I think I am busy that night!! I am having a dinner party and your invited! Great, let me get back to you on that one! The summer is here, lets have a barbecue. Possibly depending on what you are going to cook and cook with it. In short food features in most social activities. For most people food is an enjoyable, social experience. For me it is a nightmare, filled with problems and the need to think of suitable excuses. Its pressurised situations that have a huge risk of being embarrassing! Add to this some fierce food allergies to tomatoes, cucumbers and certain oils such as Nut Oil, Corn Oil and certain brands of Olive Oil and eating out is a living nightmare for me!

Even if I find somewhere that does serve food I eat, I always have to order off menu which some restaurants find awkward. They all have a habit of putting salad with things as dressing, or serving junk food with a portion of peas or a roast dinner with three different vegetables, or steak with a sauce on etc. Its embarrassing having to send food back asking them to remove the offending items. Another side of Food Neophobia is not being able to cope with new food or different food being prepared or placed on your plate next to food you do eat. In recent years I have got a bit better with this, but less than three years ago if I had ordered a burger and chips and it happened to come with peas, if I didn't send it back or if a friend didn't put them on their plate I wouldn't be able to eat any of the burger or chips that had been next to and TOUCHING the offending peas.I probably would have struggled to eat anything at all. However as I said I am much better with this now with dry foods although I still prefer to have the offending items off my plate. But if the offending food is wet, such as the dreaded tomato or something with sauce or juice then the original problems kick in. So while my friends and family are enjoying lavish meals I am stuck with a plain cheese sandwich, bread roll or plain burger and chips, ideally with no added extras or garnish!

I could create a very long list of all the foods I don't eat but it would be easier to tell you what I do eat even though the list would come with a lot of details on specifics! You see another problem with being a Food Neophobic is your not just restricted by food types. The brand or make of food is also vitally important. Just because you eat white bread, doesn't mean you will eat any white bread - I personally will eat Hovis or fresh crusty white bread. Cereal has to be the Kellogs version and not the cheaper supermarket brand; milk chocolate must be Cadburys or it will not be eaten; burgers must be Birds Eye, Diet Coke must be Diet Coke and not cheaper diet cola and definitely not Diet Pepsi! The list does go on and is different for every Food Neophobic. However with certain foods I have got better in recent years. For example I will now eat crisps by various brands whereas in the past it was only Walkers, and I will now eat baked beans by a few other brands whereas it use to be Heinz only. As I hope you are beginning to understand this disorder is very limiting and creates many problems on a daily basis.

Aside from the social implications there are also the health problems. Most Food Neophobics are either underweight and malnourished or overweight and malnourished. I fall into the latter category. We don't eat a varied and balanced diet, and healthy eating (lots of vegetables and fruit!) is not a reality for Food Neophobics. These are usually the foods we have the most problems with. Most Food Neophobics eat junk food and if they are lucky the odd vegetable or fruit (I am lucky as I do eat bananas, apples and carrots). Its not that we don't understand about healthy eating or realise what we are eating is wrong for us its just we physically cannot get past the panic attacks to try and eat different foods. We get endless lectures from people about how we should try to eat more healthy and what we should be eating to improve our diets, like thanks but we do know that, we are not morons and you are not helping!! I would love to be able to go on a diet! To have a wide range of foods to choose from would be amazing! To look forward to your dinner or get excited by food would be fantastic! A healthy balanced diet would offer such a wide variety of foods compared to what I eat now that if I could wave a magic wand and be cured I would do it!!

I know I am unhealthy and I know I need to lose weight. I know that a lot of the health issues I have are linked to my eating disorder. But its not something you can overcome in a few months. Its a long process if you can overcome it in the first place. So when judgemental people see a fat person eating junk food and assume their fat because they eat too much and live on junk food its upsetting and insulting. Yes there are people out there that are overweight because of those reasons. They have a choice and do nothing about it. I wish I could say to them please don't judge me by their standards. I do not have a choice. I do not over-eat and apart from the odd girlie night snacks I do not snack between meals. I eat three meals a day that's all. The only problem is the meal is not very healthy. Sadly certain people do not consider this and see only an overweight person and choose to make nasty comments and giggle between their friends. Its not nice being judged by your weight and not who you are. Yet another aspect of living with this disorder to overcome! As I said earlier, it affects every aspect of your life!!

I will write more about this disorder soon. Its difficult to talk about it so openly where anyone can read it after so many years of keeping quiet. When I am ready for the next bit I will write another post. In the meantime I will try to tell you about the current attempts to overcome this disorder that a close friend is helping with.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Food Neophobia Part 1

This blog was suppose to me about me and my life. I have shared some of my opinions, my love of books and craft and history, my uni work and my life with my friends. But one thing I have kept purposefully secret. I have kept it secret because its embarrassing and difficult to understand if you don't have it or are close to someone who has it. However I have decided to talk about in the hope of spreading awareness and understanding. The secret is I have an eating disorder. However unlike the famous three of Anorexia, Bulimia and Over Eating, my eating disorder is not so well known and definitely not met with understanding and sympathy when revealed in the same way the famous three are. I have something called Food Neophobia. In simple terms this means I have a fear of trying and eating new foods. Usually this disorder gets brushed off as "fussy eating" or the "picky eating" syndrome. A lot of people even laugh it off, denying it is a real thing! Well as someone who has suffered with this for nearly 30 years, I can honestly tell you its a very real thing!!

Usually this disorder sets in between the ages of 2 and 5 when a child is going through crucial development stages including their relationship with food. Something happens that interrupts this process and the natural development is halted or even stopped. This is particularly noticeable when you find yourself as an adult saying you won't eat something because it has bits in, or has a sauce on it or it or has green vegetables with it! Psychologically speaking the child suffers a traumatic or stressful experience where they react by exerting control over the only thing they can, which is what they eat. Alternatively they associate a negative experience with a particular type of food. Luckily Food Neophobia is becoming more and more understood so children with this disorder are being identified at a younger age and receiving the help they need to correct this disorder and not carry it into adult life. The problem is this change is only just happening now. When I was a child and for hundreds of other Food Neophobics this condition was not understood when they were children and they are now walking around as adults still with it. To add to this, Food Neophobia is only just being recognised as a condition found in children. To get this diagnosis as an adult takes forever. It also means there isn't really any treatment for adults with this disorder.

For me I was about 3 years old when my eating problems started. They continued on until I was about 7 years old. By then the damage was done and my range of foods has not really changed or developed since then. With no understanding of this condition I was labelled a fussy eater and that was that. I was finally diagnosed as a Food Neophobic when I was 24, only 6 years ago. The reality of this disorder affects every aspect of my life. It is not simply being a bit fussy or particular about what you eat. When people find out it is usually by me saying I don't like something for the 100th time and question why I can't just try something or how do I know I don't like something if I haven't tried it. If only they could understand!

Being a Food Neophobic means that trying new food is almost impossible. Even the thought of trying something new can trigger a serious panic attack. For me there are various stages of trying a new food. To actually put something in my mouth, chew it and swallow it is an amazing achievement. That's without any discussion of flavour or whether I like it! The panic usually sets in as soon as trying something raises its head. You start to breath quickly, your heart beats faster, you get very hot and sweaty, you start to feel sick and start to shake. This is before you have even put something on the plate. In order to try the food all these elements have to be overcome. You lift the food to your mouth, but you cannot get your brain to open your mouth. Its clamped shut. You may consciously be thinking you want to try the food but sub-consciously your brain is having done of it. It reacts by releasing large amounts of adrenaline into your blood stream, it's natural reaction to fear, the fight or flight response. However despite your fear your not going to run away as its only a piece of fruit or a spoonful on pasta for God's sake! This means the adrenaline doesn't get used. The adrenaline makes your heart beat faster, your breathing quicker and as its not being used up, makes you feel queasy too. If by some miracle you get the food in your mouth now you have to close your mouth and chew. At this point the panic attack really gets going and your throat starts to tighten and the saliva that you desperately need to help chew seems to disappear. Then the retching starts. Sometimes you can hold it back but most of the time this leads to vomiting and  game over. If you do fight it and manage to chew, cope with the new textures and flavours and then swallow, one of two things happen. One, the piece of food comes back up at lightening speed or two, full panic attack, trouble breathing, retching, crying, shaking etc. Only after this can you think about such frivolous things such as did you like it!

As I hope you can see being Food Neophobic is far more than being a bit fussy! In my next post I will look at my Food Neophobia in more detail, how it affects my life and what it is like living with it. I am also currently trying to overcome the various elements and try new foods with the help of my friend. I will use my blog to share my attempts, celebrate my successes and record my tries. As I have mentioned in previous posts I am turning 30 this year. I would really like to mark my 30th year by making significant progress on the eating front. Lets see how I do!

Saturday, 7 April 2012


I am about to sound like the biggest buzz-kill in the world, but I don't like Easter. When I was a child Easter meant going away on holiday in the caravan to some seaside or country destination. It also meant spending longer with my Dad. All good things when I was child. When I was working Easter meant a long weekend and two short weeks which was also good (although working in the Museum industry I was lucky if I didn't have to work when it was a Bank Holiday!). However now I am unemployed Easter is just boring.

The Easter Bank Holidays are meaningless when you do not work. They are boring when you don't have any money to go and do anything - although that would require finding something interesting to do that isn't hunting for Easter Eggs or something to do with gardening or DIY. The weather is hit and miss - sometimes sunny and warm, and sometimes cold and overcast or worse....raining! I am not a lover of Easter Eggs, even as a child I would rather have a bar of Dairy Milk or a packet of Malteasers than a Chocolate Egg. I don't mind Hot Cross Buns but they are not must have food. As for the Easter roast, I do not like Lamb, and Turkey is very much a Christmas food in our household. We might have roast chicken or beef but generally we prefer to eat a roast during the week. Also although I would consider myself a spiritual person, I am not a religious person so Easter doesn't hold any special significance for me because of religious reasons.

Living by the sea is also bad at Easter as it is just packed with tourists and the roads packed with cars which makes going anywhere take three times as long. Don't get me wrong, I think its great for the town to be busy and take money, but as a local its not the best time to enjoy leaving by the sea! The TV at Easter is also rubbish. Films that were on during the last three Bank Holidays are repeated yet again, and the only specials are re-tellings of the Easter story.

I sound like a real misery, but I assure you I am not. I love other holidays. I love Christmas: the decorations, buying presents and wrapping them up, sending cards, Christmas Lights, seeing certain family members and generally the spirit and atmosphere. I love both the May Bank Holidays and the Summer Bank Holiday in August. In fact I like all the others except for Easter! I don't know why, but I just find it disappointing.

This year I am using the long weekend at Easter to try to catch up on my dissertation work as I have my first chapter draft due in at the end of April and a huge pile of books to read! Today my Dad has some friends visiting and tomorrow he will be off out. I will remain at home, alone, doing uni work. Wow! What an amazing Easter for me! Maybe next year I will have something more exciting to do at Easter or I may even be working so I can enjoy the thrill of a long weekend and two short weeks! But for now its back to the books......!

If you like Easter, I would like to wish you a very Happy Easter! For those of you that don't, keep smiling it will be over soon!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Brighton & Hove Greyhound Stadium

Yesterday evening a group of us went to Brighton & Hove Greyhound Stadium to belatedly celebrate our friend's ( 35th Birthday. As it was a Saturday it was incredibly busy and we had to queue to go in. After looking around trying to find the best spot we settle at a couple of tables on the ground floor situated between the bar and the Tote!

There were 12 races throughout the evening and we all had a flutter on some of the races with varying success! It was not a very expensive evening and we all kept within our own limits on the betting front.  The Birthday Girl did very well winning on the first race and a few others, although it was her Mum and her friend Rosie who seemed to have the best luck of the evening! Sadly two people didn't win at all including our Dog Racing virgin Cheryl! I won on the second to last race with a dog called Greenacre Josh and I won a stunning £3.63! Woop woop!

However the winning really wasn't the aim of the evening and although it was nice to win and added to the excitement, it was spending the evening together and having fun which was the main thing. We had a lot of fun and spent a great deal of time shrieking with laughter. It was especially fun when we went outside to watch the dog racing and joined in the cheering on of the dogs. The Birthday Girl was very funny as she kept getting her words muddled, calling the dogs "horses" instead!! Every time she called them horses we would burst into laughter. There was also a hilarious moment when the electronic Hare broke down and in order to fix it they started sending it round the track without letting the dogs out. This caused a lot of hilarity and not just from us but the rest of the crowd as well. I think it was the little comments between us that made it even more funny and at one point I was laughing so much I had tears streaming down my face. We all complained that our sides and jaws were hurting so much from all the laughter which is a very good thing!

We had a brilliant evening and we all agreed we would have to do it again at some point. The wining was a bonus but not an essential part of the night and we all had a chance to relax and enjoy ourselves. On a personal level I have not had a great week and was very ready to see the back of this disappointing week. However this evening and the trip to Lewes on Thursday made up for the bad stuff and I am ending the week on a high! It was a great night and I hope the Birthday Girl enjoyed herself! She certainly looked like she was having a good time!!