Severe Abnormality in the Processing of Auditory/Visual Signals

A couple of years ago I was officially recognised as dyslexic. The relief was immense. I’d always kinda hoped I might be dyslexic, the alternative was just too awful: I was simply as dumb as my teachers insinuated. I’m not dumb (although, I still find it hard to believe). I can prove my old teachers wrong. I just need to do things differently, find patterns and paths through the maze of education material aimed at non dyslectic learners.file0002146577029

So while, Mr Sunshine ferrets away at his lecturers, marking and meetings I’m cultivation an education. This year I’m study 120 points with the OU at level 3. And I’m doing ok. More than ok actually. Being dyslexic means taking longer than some, occasionally letting the odd grammatical booboo slip through: ‘andy’ instead of ‘and’ springs to mind. However, it also has its benefits, although I’ve forgotten what they are for the moment. That would be the short term memory issue that blights dyslexia.

So, with my new found educational confidence and evidently forgetting the memory issues I also enrolled at volks universiteit here in Breda to officially learn to speak Dutch. Five weeks into the course I was puzzled by my lack of progress, until I remembered that my dyslexic assessor wrote: Tracey suffers from ‘Severe abnormality in the processing of auditory signals’. That explains why apart from the Dutch words that I know so well I have no need to translate (Witte wijn = white wine) all other Dutch conversation sounds like white noise, with odd tapping rhythms.

A few minutes ago this passed beneath my window and I realised that it wasn’t just my auditory signals that have trouble processing information

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Nice looking horses?

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Just like white noise – I trying really hard, but I don’t understand!



Candy Crush is the only Saga

Recently I’ve been blogging about the sagas Mr Sunshine and I face whenever we try for a romantic break. Last Saturday night was the final straw.

We’d booked months ago a trip to Amsterdam to see Russell Brand. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but we like him. Despite Mr Sunshine prophecies of misadventure, I resurrected the mascara, darned the hole in my only dress, and prepared the dog for a long evening alone. I won’t go into great detail, but I will point out my new Dutch Language skills didn’t help me decipher the crackly message repeatedly relayed over the public address system in the train station. When we finally decoded the message it was something along the lines of: ‘All trains travelling in the direction of Amsterdam have been cancelled due to fires in the tunnels running along the tracks.’

I give up. I really do!


Apparently inside the tunnels on the way to Asterdam

That night when I woke with a sugar (wine) rush at 3am I realised I had more things to worry about than disastrous dates with Mr Sunshine. I have become an addict. Waking at 3 am is no fun, it’s a desolate hour for insomniacs, but it’s also the hour Mr Sunshine won’t notice the screen full of primary colours lighting up my iphone.

I’m convinced Candy Crush Saga teaching me endurance and perseverance. It’s also teaching me deception: Facebook is too public – with the iphone I don’t have to ask others for a hand over the bridge, no one comments that level 149 is pushing the limits of acceptable game play for a mature student and I can sneak downstairs at 3am to play in secret.

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3 am and a new level unlocked

Are there any other Candy Crush addicts?  Did you get past level 149? If so could you email the secret?

Ticking off the Bucket List

I’ve had my own, overflowing, bucket list for some time. Last night I made a bit more space.

I didn’t go to the Taj Mahal – it’s on my list.


Ride in a hot air balloon – not on my list


Swim with dolphins – corny but my absolute number one.


Instead last night I went to see the Chippendales’.


Directly above my head is the only man in the theater not on stage. Looks happy to be there doesn’t he?

Why this has been such a long standing ambition? I’ve no idea! Were they good? Err they were funny. Did I find them sexy? I thought they were more shiny than sexy. Was I exploiting them? Not in the least.

Vinnie Jones and his invisible partner

I’m beginning to think there is an expat God out there with a sense of humour. This expat God has a well-used gold sledgehammer that she (the expat God is a she) keeps smashing up our romantic dreams with. I can almost hear her tutting and sighing over our pointless mortal attempts at yet another stab at a romantic holiday. The expat God has a voice just like Whoopi Goldberg and she’s starting to get annoyed. ‘I gave you the best city in the Netherlands; found you the perfect house and you still don’t give up. When will you learn to stay put.’

Oh I’m learning. I’m definitely learning.

Last Friday as I hunched over scraping the last wedges of faecal matter from the bottom of my trainers with a twig, Mr Sunshine suggested an overnight trip to Amsterdam. ‘Come on, it’s only one night, we deserve a treat.’

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First treat

By Saturday lunch time, Alfie was reunited with his favourite doggy sitter and we were resisting the many bars and stumbling into our first  museum, Ons’ Lieve Heer Op Solder (17th century canal house with a church in the attic). I been walking approximately 10 minutes by this time and already regretted that last minute purchase of trainers from Lidl. Mr Sunshine commandeered the camera and I looked for anything I could sit/lean on to ease the pain in my feet.

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Bliss – a seat

Three hours later after eating twice, chatting in a cosy bar and visiting a museum of spectacles (not marvels – reading glasses) we rang the doorbell of the hotel. The best things about the Hotel Washington are its good intentions and the friendly staff who had the grace to look embarrassed. Our room was in a separate building reached by four flights of stairs, information the receptionist rather defensively pointed out was in the booking terms. I didn’t care, just so long as I could take my shoes off. I didn’t care about the state of bedroom either, but Mr Sunshine didn’t look happy. This was not the romantic hotel room of his dreams.

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We’ve stayed in rooms with better facilities

It didn’t matter we were together, on holiday in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

We decided on a steak dinner.

Nothing is guaranteed to improve Mr Sunshine humour like a big juicy steak. As we sat holding hands across the table, congratulating ourselves on a lovely restaurant another romantic couple were seated next to us. The man reminded me a little of Vinnie Jones with an Eastern European accent. His partner; however, was not so easy to describe as he was the only one able see her. That didn’t seem to prevent them from having loud conversations for the entire duration of the meal. Out of all the restaurants in Amsterdam, of course, he choose this one.

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Mr Sunshine sitting next to the invisible diner

To take away the memory of Vinnie Jones and his invisible partner we went to see Gravity. Then retired to an Irish bar that charged 12 Euros a round to discuss the film. Andy’s score: 4 out of 5; mine 1 out of 5. Andy was impressed by the way the lead, Sandra Bullock, hadn’t been sexualised. I wondered if we’d seen the same film: the long slow shots of Sandra Bullock’s perfectly toned legs or constant scenes with her emerging from space suits wearing a skimpy pair of pants and a vest were definitely necessary for the plot.

The next day we set out for the museum quarter. The Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk museum were rightly overflowing with art appreciators, but I’m not sure I was one. I crept away from the Rembrandts’ and the van Goghs’ teeming with groupies, they needed no more admiration. Instead, I fell in love with the story behind the 17th century woollen caps worn by Dutch whalers.

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I love holidays this much

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Rowing boat made from penises. Logically I shouldn’t have liked this.

Too soon the two pieces of flayed throbbing flesh I’d squashed in my new Lidl trainers began to demand a release and the special steak I’d eaten last night began a rather worrying downhill burn. Then just to prove her point the expat God with Whoopi Goldberg voice took away the sun and replaced it with a mini hurricane.

We went home.

How to not grow old


On my mind

Age is on my mind more than it should be these days. Not so much the mechanics of growing old, although, of course I’m aware of them too. Who wouldn’t after waving goodbye to their fiftieth birthday spend a little more time than usual examining wrinkles in the magnifying mirror; notice that ‘long in the tooth’ is not just an expression, or mentally listing the creaks and groans emerging from unwilling joints? All these are small potatoes compared with the alternative – not reaching a fiftieth birthday!

So why is growing old on my mind?

I guess two reasons.

  1. Have I achieved enough?

I guess I’m no different to most when I look back on my life and ask ‘Could I have done better?’ and the funny thing is I really don’t know the answer. I did the best I knew how.

  1. Have I laughed enough?

The answer to that is absolutely NOT. It took a visit from the unchanging Nathan McCree to remind me what I’d been missing.

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Last week Nathan travelled all the way from the Czech Republic to give a guest lecture at NHTV. On his last night with us, he and Mr Sunshine went out into Breda. I guessed from the laughter and rather noisy banging of doors that trumpeted their return they’d had a good time. I promised myself I wouldn’t go to go down and tell them to be quiet. I’m rubbish at promises!

I found two grown men hanging on to the wall giggling uncontrollably. They looked so free I didn’t have the heart to moan. I muttered something about little girls sleeping next door.  They tried to lower their voices, but something funny, so side-splittingly hilarious was burning away every scrap of their control. What was it that was driving these two, almost, respectable, reasonable serious individuals to behave like six years olds? All I could gather was it was something to do with basil.


In the shade of the basil

The next morning, on a napkin, a piece of toilet paper, a notepad and scrawl across two sheets of printer paper I found the phrase ‘In the shade of the basil’. That’s it, that’s all it was. I was stumped for a moment, what was so funny? Then I realised it wasn’t the phrase that was funny. It was the sense of liberty and release that’s comes with spending time with someone you  whose history you share.

It’s times like that I realise how much I miss my family and friends. I want to hear my brother tell the joke about the man who wants half an orange for a head; watch my sister wipe tears of laughter from her face; listen to my niece’s obscure reasoning, or just sit by a log fire and watch two old friends heckle Mr Sunshine. With a bit of luck I can have all these things for Christmas, which is exactly what I need not to grow old.

A phantom pregnancy and carrot soup.


Don’t look now

 I watched a TV show recently that claimed diets made people put on weight. When they backed up the claims with compelling evidence I roared and threw my fist in the air (surreptitiously). It was just what I’d suspected for years. Dieting makes me FAT.

So I thought, sod this for a game of soldiers, I gonna eat what I want, when I want.  It was G.R.E.A.T. I ate biscuits, puddings and lots of bread; I had huge bowls of muesli and honey for breakfast, chunky KitKats for lunch, potatoes and rice for dinner. I didn’t limit snacks between meals. I was taking control of my life.

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That’s not a cushion I’m resting y hands on

Last week, as I rested the empty wine glass on the shelf beneath my boobs I began to have doubts. Perhaps, this growth wasn’t wind or a phantom pregnancy. Perhaps, not dieting makes me fat. Have I have spent so long jumping on and off the scales, reading the calorie count on the back of microwave meals and looking away from the chocolate by the till in petrol stations, that it’s not even dieting, it just a way of life?

I have for some time accepted the fact that my body likes to be a certain weight. It’s not the weight suggested by diet clubs or the BMI index, it’s the weight my body always creeps back up to three months after a diet. It’s as if my body has always known what size it should be it’s just waiting for my personality to catch up and fill it. Well, I’ve tipped way past that certain weight. My clothes don’t fit and as a full time student I’ve no money to buy more.

So I’ve given in.

I’m on a diet – The fast diet.  It looks easy: eat what you want for 5 days a week – I can do that. The other two days fast on 500 hundred calories.  I’m counting on carrot soup to see me through.

fast diet

One Of The Greatest Contributing Factors To Happiness

This morning I clicked on one of those Upworthy links, Then I spent all day thinking about it.  Apparently scientists have ‘proven’ that one of the greatest contributing facts toward happiness is how much gratitude you show.

I’d decided to try it out.

The link suggested writing about someone who influence in your life you were grateful for – then reading it to them. This posed two problems:

1, if I were to do that I’d end up flapping my hands about and being flippant, trivialising my gratitude.

2, I had so many people whose influence I was grateful for it felt mean to single one out.

In no particular order

I am grateful for my sister’s influence in my life – she has proven to me over and over again that with determination and tenacity you can make your dreams come true. She has also shown me how to see beyond the obvious, and to judge not as society dictates, but as your heart commands. And for being there for me every single day when I was struggling young mother.

I am grateful for my brother’s influence in my life – for his honestly and nobility. For standing up for what is right, and backing up his convictions with action. For forcing me to watch athletics and boxing, sharing my excitement on Christmas morning. For being my childhood friend.

I am grateful for my mother’s influence in my life – for being the most amazing enabler. For her, not so quiet, pride in everything her family achieves, for her tears when we fail. For being the perfect role model, an icon whose capability for love and dedication towards her family has never wavered.

I cannot count the ways in which I’m a grateful my children’s influence in my life – I am still grateful for every smile, every time I hear the words ‘I love you too mum.’  I am grateful each time they reach a birthday and for teaching me that love and fear walk side by side.   gems

I am grateful for the influence of friends in my life – I’ve learnt that friendship isn’t about time or distance, but sharing giggles and tears, confidences and dreams, for celebrating moments, and for littering the sometimes ugly road of life with gems.

Finally, I am grateful for Mr Sunshine’s influence in my life – for insisting I can do more, for telling me every day ‘You are good enough.’ For slogging so hard to make this life work, for saying ‘no’ to bullshit, and for propping me up every time I think my dreams are too high to reach.

OK. I could keep going, but I’ve promised Mr Sunshine I’ll keep the blogs under 500 words.

So did it work do I feel happier? Surprisingly yes.

Who are you grateful to?