Moonshine Morning

Snapshot 3 (20-03-2015 12-03)

Or: the day the Sun and Moon became as one.

No, I don’t mean that literally, obviously. But the solar eclipse visible in Northern Europe and the Arctic circle last Friday really did resemble a moon – a shining crescent in midmorning. Completely surreal.

I admit I screwed up with this post – it lay abandoned in my drafts folder while my Friday night plans crumbled about my ears (private stuff) and I only just found it again. So.

I’ve heard eclipses described as someone turning down a dimmer switch on the world. I suppose it is, but very very slowly – you wouldn’t notice it happening until it happened. It essentially became twilight at 9:30 in the morning. And ye gods, it was FREEZING; because the moon is blocking the sun, it reduces its light AND heat. I was so glad I packed that extra pair of gloves for the schelp over to Western Park.

Unfortunately I only got pictures of the first half because my camera battery obligingly died. But the ones I did get were certainly worth it.

Snapshot 1 (20-03-2015 11-48) Snapshot 2 (20-03-2015 11-55) Snapshot 3 (20-03-2015 12-03)

Eclipse 2015 131

A friend of mine described the maximum stage of the eclipse (seen above) as, ‘Seeing the Cheshire Cat grinning down from the sky.’ I think I see where he’s coming from:

Credit for this image goes to

All my picture needs is some creepy eyes.

I don’t remember the 1998 eclipse very well – I think either I couldn’t work out the pinhole camera or mum dragged me inside because I insisted on looking at the sun with my naked eyes (I was five, do excuse me). Either way, it didn’t make much of an impression. This one, however, certainly did, and I feel privileged to have witnessed it firsthand.


Destroy The Stigma Around Mental Illness

Stigma: a strong feeling of disapproval that most people in a society have about something, especially when this is unfair

To Stigmatise: to treat someone or something unfairly by disapproving of him, her, or it

Definitions according to Cambridge Dictionaries Online (source link)

 Picture source

Speaking as an almost-ex-depressive (as in, I’m three years out of therapy but the bad days never quite go away), stigmata and stereotypes around mental illness do exist, and I’m willing to bet they are one of the most popular reasons people will not seek help for the condition they have. It was certainly one of mine.

Speaking as a psychology grad, if it hits you, it hits you very idiosyncratically which, as with most mental illnesses, makes it hard to pinpoint. I’m not going to go into massive amounts of detail about what depression is; suffice it to say, it can hit anybody and whether or not you get it generally comes down an unlucky hand of cards – I ascribe to the idea that it’s a combination of family history and the way one reacts to the world.

By this time, many of you will have heard of the crash of Germanwings flight 4U9525 in the French Alps on March 24th, tragically killing everyone aboard. It’s since come out in investigations that the co-pilot sent the plane into its fatal descent deliberately. The latest report from the crash investigation states that the co-pilot had been suffering from depression for some years, and had ‘hid this from his employers.’

And with the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses, I almost don’t blame him.

There are careers that require you to be mental illness free for upwards of two years – mostly in high risk occupations such as careers in the Army and the police force. This is not the result of stigma – this is in the interests of personal safety. Anyone seen the bathroom scene of Full Metal Jacket? In careers where they teach you to fire guns for a living, they don’t want the insurance nightmare. Which to be perfectly fair, is understandable (if annoying to be on the other end of – been there, done that, but that’s a story best left out).

Inferring in part from the report, flying is another one of those careers where they like you to undergo some kind of psychological evaluation before letting you fly a plane. Again, understandable if they’re going to let you control a massive metal tube flying 38,0000 feet in the air with hundreds of people on board, supervised or otherwise. But these tests are far from standardised, and because of this, there are calls now for more rigorous, standardised testing.

Which is utter bollocks.

Talk to anyone who’s done a psychology base degree – hell, even a psychology A-Level (or equivalent). They will tell you that there is no such thing as a reliable standardised test, because there is no such thing as a standard mind. As a point of interest, among the first standardised IQ tests were a set of tests created to “scientifically” prove that some people were of substandard intelligence – as in, specifically designed to make them look stupid (see here and here). In the same way, accidents occur, or crimes are perpetuated, in which a mentally ill person is involved. And suddenly everyone with a diagnosis, or the same symptoms becomes dangerous, or incapable, and generally substandard.

A fantastic post by a writer for the Guardian throws it into sharp perspective. I, personally, haven’t noticed any outright condemnation of people with depression in the media – but we wouldn’t, because wouldn’t that cause a public outcry. What we see instead is a very subtle chain of association. The German newspaper Bild calling it ‘his madness.’ The BBC releasing editorials examining screening process for pilots, asking how pilots with mental illnesses slip the system. Talking about his lifestyle and hobbies as though the condition he had was some dark and twisted secret.

As a species, we are hardwired to put people in boxes – it’s a survival thing. It’s when we begin to put people in the wrong boxes, or assign them boxes they don’t fit in, that problems begin to occur. This stigma around mental health issues makes asking for help something of a minefield, and it shouldn’t be. We should spend less time worrying about screening procedures and more time worrying about supporting these vulnerable people through the bad times and out into the better.

I’ll finish on a word from the mental health charity Mind:

“Clearly assessment of all pilots’ physical and mental health is entirely appropriate – but assumptions about risk shouldn’t be made across the board for people with depression, or any other illness. There will be pilots with experience of depression who have flown safely for decades, and assessments should be made on a case by case basis.

Today’s headlines risk adding to the stigma surrounding mental health problems, which millions of people experience each year, and we would encourage the media to report this issue responsibly.”

Dyspraxia and Irish Dancing

Dia duit agus failte!

Question – what happens when you throw a girl with dyspraxia into an Irish Dancing group?

Answer – surprisingly, good things.

Today is St Patrick’s Day, and although I have no pretentions whatsoever to an Irish ancestry (you’re looking in the wrong direction unfortunately, we’re from somewhere in Europe), I love my Irish Dance and the girls (and lads) I dance with, so I’d like to pay homage to it. Apologies to any Irish people reading this if I screw up.

Firstly, a touch of irony – St Patrick was not, in fact, Irish. He was born in Roman Britain and was taken to Ireland as a slave aged around 16. After escaping and returning to Britain, he later went back to Ireland to bring Christianity to its people. The legend goes that he explained the Holy Trinity using the three leaves of the shamrock – hence the three-leaved clover that is the best known symbol of the Irish. The story also goes that it was St Patrick who removed all the snakes from the island. Whether this is true or not (and cynical me says probably not), it’s an interesting feature of the Emerald Isle that, minus those in zoos or kept as pets, it boasts no snakes.

Image result for st patrick

I’m not even sorry. (Picture source can be found here)

The Irish have celebrated the 17th of March as St Patrick’s Day for over 1,000 years as feast day, even though it didn’t become a public holiday until 1904. Not to mention that the first parades weren’t even held in Ireland, but in New York City in the 1700s. Irish soldiers serving in the British army at the time were allowed to march through the city to mark the day. To be fair to the Yanks, over 34 million of them can claim Irish ancestry as a result of the mass emigration of the Irish people during the Great Famine (approx. 1845-1852) across the Atlantic to the States. They may not have received the warmest welcome at the time owing to their Catholic religion and alien culture (until then most Irish immigrants were middle class and Protestant, far more palatable for the Protestant Americans) but now the St Patrick’s Day parades in Boston and New York are among the largest in the world.

Irish Dance (arguably my favourite form of dance, even before I started it) was one of the many things the immigrants took with them across the pond. The dancing-minded amoung you might be interested to learn that tap dancing takes a lot of its inspiration from Irish Step dancing. The video below is a fantastic act from the Riverdance show (10th Anniversary) with the marvellous Colin Dunne dancing the lead.

(Video courtesy of Youtube, I do not own it)

I started Irish Dancing about two years ago, when the newly-formed Univeristy society set up stall at the Activities Fair right next to the well-established Ceilidh Soc, of which I was a committee member that year. I thought to myself ‘well, I highly doubt I’d be any good with all that fast footwork and complicated routines, but whatever, I’ll have a go.’ So I had a go – and turned out to be surprisingly okay. Not brilliant, but okay. But there was something about it which made me want to be good at it, which is not something I get a lot. Mostly I’m in it for the experience (unless it’s horses, and I swear I need horses to survive psychologically), and then Irish Dance comes along and for every time I screw up, I want to do it again, and next time do it better. And if I don’t screw up, then I immediately want to do it again anyway because nailing it feel fabulous.

And nailing it, for someone like me, can often be a tad tricky, especially with fast footwork.

For those who don’t know, a bit about dyspraxia – it’s a mental condition which affects co-ordination and spacial awareness. It can manifest in terms of trouble with ‘gross motor co-ordination’ (for example balance and rhythm), fine motor control (for example dressing and handwriting, though personally I find typing more difficult), hand-eye co-ordination and issues with speech and language. I have problems organising thoughts into sentences, especially when speaking. Some of the mental side of the condition can resemble traits of autism, like a tendency to take things literally and a poor understanding of non-verbal cues. (Source: The Dyspraxia Foundation website)

As with many mental conditions, there is a spectrum to dyspraxia, and I’m on the mild end. There also is a lot of overlap between dyspraxia and other developmental conditions. It’s one of the reasons accurate diagnosis is so flippin’ difficult, so don’t shout at the professionals, okay? They’re doing their best.

So you’d think that I’d have issues with dancing. And I do – throw me into a salsa class or a Latin and Ballroom class and I’d have less chance than a snowball in hell of getting my feet to go in the right direction. But maybe that’s why folk dance just clicked with me, because it’s more about what I’m doing with my lower half and I don’t have to worry about losing control of my upper half because I’m not really doing anything with it. Sometimes if I have to use both halves of my body at the same time one or other can start to drift. I can’t walk in a straight line on the really bad days, so whatever deity happens to be listening at the time help me if I ever wind up drunk driving (which I won’t. Seriously, kids, it’s ain’t worth it – but I digress). I suppose that’s what makes the whole thing so rewarding.

So there – If they tell you that because you’re a certain way you can’t be good at something, it’s not always true. It doesn’t mean you can’t push at it and get good at it.


I will say it helps if you enjoy it though. I could be as good at maths, except I’m not exactly maths’ Number One Fan, so I’ll never be brilliant.

St Patrick’s Day is always busy for the Irish Dancers of Sheffield Uni. We had a performance this morning at a centre for vulnerable people, which we did last year as well and always goes down a storm. I took my ‘heavy shoes’ out for their first real spin (they’re leather shoes with blocks attached to the toes and heels to make noises – think tap but louder). We’ve got another performance tonight and then we’re off on a bar-crawl (read: piss-up). I’m not a big beer/stout/ale person, more of a cider gal meself, but I might even try Guinness this year. Always up for something new.

So I will leave you with: Slán! And for reading, go raibh maith agat!

Irish translations:

  • Dia duit agus fáilte – Hello and welcome
  • Slán – Goodbye
  • Go raibh maith agat – Thank you

St Patrick’s Day source list:

Shamrock picture –

Irish translations:

  • Dia duit agus failte – Hello and welcome
  • Slán – Goodbye
  • Go raibh maith agat – Thank you

A Short Thought

Have you ever had a good bad day?

I don’t know if you’d call them just frustrating days or whether it’s simply a product of the individual’s perspective, but I know everyone gets days where everything just goes Wrong but it maybe doesn’t matter as much as a flat out Bad Day.

I had one of those yesterday (excuse the slightly diary-like paragraph to follow). I had two job interviews and I was going to go in on my bicycle because exercise. So I was up in good time, and showered and prettied up and when it was time to go I went out to the shed to be greeted with a front tyre as flat as a pancake. To which (as you’d expect) I say words to the effect of “Fantastic.”

I got out in the end, but I borrowed my (incredibly awesome) housemate’s bicycle, which is a racing bike. Personal prejudice ahoy – I don’t like racers. They feel flimsy and unbalanced and I have never felt particularly safe riding them. I’m used to mountain bikes or hybrids – more ‘muscle’ to them, I suppose you could say.

So I wobbled off into town, and I found this interview place, went through the interview – great stuff, all fine. Then I made a beeline for the library; for the computers and (more importantly) the printers because I need something for my second appointment at two. The library, however, was shut. To which I said words to the effect of “Nice one.”

I kicked around the Sheffield Winter Gardens awhile, tried again when the library opened at one, but there were no printers available until two, which was kinda useless to me, so I indulged my bookworm tendencies until it was time to go to appointment number two – whereupon I discovered that not only did I not have the printout I needed, but the personal documents I had to bring were in my other bag and thus back at my house. “Clever.”

You see what I mean? I wouldn’t call it an outright bad day because I achieved everything I wanted to and nobody was outright nasty, or obstructive, or generally annoying to me, the weather was foul but this is the north of England so that’s hardly uncommon…it’s just the things that niggle. Like life is poking you with a stick. But I’ve never found them particularly wearing.

I enjoy them because I see them as something of a challenge. Life is giving you lemons, but to make lemonade one needs sugar, so you have to go out and buy the sugar before you can make the lemonade. Not to quote a cliche, but sometimes it is simply a case of keeping calm and carrying on; if we all gave up or got annoyed at the world on the irritating or frustrating days then nothing would ever get done. There’s a certain sense of satisfaction in beating a day like today, in poking life back.

I remember a time, especially at the height of my depression, when days like this were insurmountable, when I would moan about every poke. These days I’m more likely to laugh. What else can you do?

Are you sitting comfortably?

I hope so – I’m not. I hate racing bikes, but I think that’s a story for tomorrow.

Anyway. Erm, Introductions. Fellow bloggers of the interweb – firstly, hello, and welcome. My name is Hannah, I’m very very British, and I’d style myself as a polymath if my knowledge base wasn’t more of a rickety shelf of trivia than a well-stocked library. I’m first and foremost a horse-rider, but when I’m not doing that I’m a knitter, a writer, a bit of a gym rat, a follower of some really insane logic pathways, a consumate bookworm and a bit of a nerd.

Here you can expect to find…well, I don’t know right now. There’s a lot of things up here in my head: books, photographs, headcanons, thoughts and feelings on current events. I’m not sure I’ll ever be done sorting through it but I hope to unearth some gems along the way. Possibly some dragons too, but I’m making no promises. Erebor this isn’t.

Saying this, I have a few ground rules:

  1. Be respectful. I accept constructive criticism, but a simple ‘you suck’ is neither constructive nor criticism – you’re just being a douchebag (term used gender neutrally).
  2. On a related note, this is a tolerant blog. Queer-bashing, transphobia, sexism, racism, ablesim, and any other form of discrimination I can’t rattle off from the top of my head is not welcome here. Period. If you catch me doing one of those things – I assure you, it’s not deliberate, and please tell me; I’m still trying to learn the ropes.
  3. Have fun!

I am working this out as I go, so do bear with me while I find my feet. And lastly, don’t be afraid to say hello!

And I repeat: Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.