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Giving Blood

On Tuesday 30th September, I gave blood for the first time. I’ve always thought about it, but never ticked the box on the form for some reason. Signing up for a new GP this year, I finally decided to bite the bullet and go for it. I chucked myself on the organ donor’s list, too, for good measure.

I forgot about it after that, but a letter dropped through my door a month or so ago with red ink on the envelope, inviting me to book an appointment at the upcoming blood clinic. I was stressed and busy at the time so I skipped over it, and felt bad. I left the letter on my desk as a reminder to sort it out next time they came around.

Two weeks later, a very similar letter arrived. I felt guilty. The NHS is an organisation that I owe a lot to, and they’ve had to send me two letters - envelopes and printing cost money, you guys. I had no choice now - I got online, signed up to the NHS site at the excellent domain Blood.co.uk and booked myself an appointment at last.

When the day arrived I was pretty nervous. I used to be fine with needles, but the more injections I have, the worse they seem. I’ve never quite understood why, but I suppose it’s because I’ve overthought it. You’d think I got better at these things with age, but this one goes the other way for me. One of the reasons for my signing up was to try to get over that, and I do think that it’s helped, a little.

The clinic was in a hall in the centre of Witney. At the front of the hall was a reception area where they took our names and ticked off forms. Behind that, a few rows of seats for waiting, a tea and coffee area, and the seats where the actual donations take place. For a lot of people the sight of those might be dull, or perhaps intimidating, but I thought it was a few flashing lights away from being some kind of science fiction masterpiece. Eight grey plastic chairs faced away from the entrance door, each with a stack of electrical equipment beside it. The seats were designed to tilt backwards to be comfortable as well as encourage blood flow, and the equipment was a blood pump - a mass of plastic tubes, all clear to display the flowing blood inside, with a small shelf underneath holding the blood bag. Every few seconds the shelf would rock to the left and right, settling the bag in a different position. It was roughly the motion that a robot mother would use to rock her newborn robot child. With the machines all started at different times, the pinging noises they made all happened out of turn, with no clear rhythm, and the nurses were constantly moving between the machines to help people out of the seats and settle new people in. The whole scene reminded me of the batteries in The Matrix.

A quick interview about my health and a brief blood test later I was sat in one of those chairs waiting to be hooked up. I wish I could have looked as they found the vein, as I do find this kind of thing fascinating, but I couldn’t do it, and by the time I managed to take a peek I had a tube taped to my arm and my blood was already flowing into the machine. A couple of thoughts hit me all at once: firstly, the fact that we can hook people up to machines is just amazing. This is as simple as that technology gets, of course, when you consider the wonders of heart bypasses and dialysis, but that didn’t stop me from being blown away. Secondly, that needle is massive. I am glad I looked away when the nurse stuck it in. It didn’t hurt any more than a normal injection though, and the only problem I had with the injection site itself was that after 5 minutes of having the needle in me, it got a little itchy and felt like there was something unwelcome on my skin. It was nothing I couldn’t handle, but I was glad when the time was up and my machine chirped a happy little tune.

The nurse removed the needle, stuck on a dressing, and started to tilt my chair up so I could stand. I felt fine. The nurse, however, looked very, very worried, and sat me back down. Apparently I had gone very pale indeed, and they sat me right back so my legs were up above my head, to get the blood to flow back into my important bits. I thought about insisting that I was fine, as I didn’t feel out of sorts at all, but decided to listen to the professionals (Generally a good idea for matters of health) and think blood-circulatey thoughts as I waited for some colour to come back to my cheeks. One of the staff stayed and chatted to me for a while to make sure I was ok, and then led me over the the drinks table where I could sit and recover some more. I didn’t actually faint, but apparently I had an adrenaline crash. I drank a lot of orange squash and ate biscuits for a while, a red card on the table in front of me marking me as a patient to keep an eye on, while I read a book and waited for them to tell me I was ok to leave. They did a wonderful job of looking after me and I’m incredibly grateful that we have such a fantastic health service.

So, hopefully my blood helped someone out who needed some. At the very least, I got to see some exciting biotech futuristic machinery and had another chance to get over my fear of needles. Also, with only 4% of the population donating, I must be one of the most virtuous people in the country. If you would also like to be virtuous, save lives, get some free biscuits and possibly faint in front of strangers, check out blood.co.uk. The site can even show you cool stuff like how much blood the NHS currently has in stock. Nice.

Surviving Wedding Fairs

Someone on Twitter recently asked “Has anyone ever been to a wedding fair? Are they awful?” and I made a few comments, but I felt like the 140 character limit wasn’t enough for the topic. I thought could write a bit about surviving (and enjoying) wedding fairs. Fairs (and trade expos too, for that matter) are big scary places full of people, usually crowded, usually noisy. It’s easy to give up all hope immediately, but chances are, there’s probably stuff in there you want, and you’re going to need to go, so you might as well try to enjoy it. Here are my tips for not going completely mad.

Have a plan. If you walk around a fair aimlessly, you’ll be there all day and you’ll get stuck talking to everyone you come across. That can be helpful if you’re just starting out, but it can be quite overwhelming. At the very least, have a mental hit-list in your head of people you want to see or things you want to find.

Don’t be afraid to say no. There will be times when people you’re really not interested in talking to will hassle you and give you their sales pitch. You can interrupt them and tell them you’re not interested - it’s ok. While they’re wasting your time, you’re wasting theirs too: it’s much easier for both parties if you politely tell them that this isn’t what you’re after and walk away. Also, if you’re interested but you don’t want to commit to signing up on the day or scribbling down an email address, just don’t, it’s fine, they won’t be offended. The people who exhibit at fairs aren’t expecting to sign up everyone there. Just be polite and move on. You have stuff to find, after all.

You don’t need it all. Your wedding does not need a childrens entertainer and a photo booth and expensive favours and fancy table decorations and flowers and a chocolate fountain and an owl. After talking to 10 people selling each of those things, it’s easy to convince yourself that your wedding simply won’t be complete without them, and that’s not true. Talk to them all, think it over, but don’t think that every company there is on your must-have list.

Get cool free stuff. For expos, I’m actually anti grabbing free stuff in general, because it’s usually tacky crap and most of it goes in the bin. However, for wedding fairs, you’re there to try wedding cake, wine, favours, and anything else you can get your hands on to figure out what you like and what you want at your wedding. Fairs are a great opportunity to try a bunch of things and figure out what you’re after. You won’t have many other options to see two similar companies side by side so get stuck in and don’t feel guilty about trying things. This is one of the perks of wedding organisation, have fun with it.

Don’t collect a million leaflets. To be honest, you’ll probably end up doing this whether you like it or not, but do try to avoid picking up anything you’re definitely not interested in. This will make your life a lot easier when you desperately need to remember the name of that flower company you saw at that last place you went to.

Enjoy it. Don’t forget that your wedding is supposed to be fun - even these bits. Use fairs to think about how amazing your wedding is going to be and figure out all the brilliant stuff you can do to make it yours. If you’re not having fun, go somewhere else and do fun things - you can find loads of wedding info on the internet and come to another fair when you know what you’re after, or just skip them entirely and meet people elsewhere. After your hard day at the wedding fair (sometimes they really are hard work), go out and relax, and reward yourselves with a nice cup of tea or something.

What This Blog Is Now

I’ve had a blog on and off since I was 16, and this incarnation of it (shrieking.net) has existed since 2002 in some form or other. Between 2007 and 2008 it was most frequently used, as my public travel diary. In 2013 Posterous closed its doors after being bought by Twitter, leaving me blogless for a while. Now, in 2014, I am writing again.

It’s hard to know what a blog is “supposed” to be these days. A big part of me feels like the blog, as a concept, is dead, and most people writing them these days are basically writing self-published magazines. That’s cool, I don’t mind that at all - in fact, I read many, on and off. I get most of my good recipes from bloggers. The problem is, I have a hard time being that focused. The online diary - the weB LOG, remember - has moved to Tumblr, where it has become a forum for reposting cool stuff you find on the internet. I don’t have a problem with that, but that’s not me either.

I don’t really keep to one topic, and I don’t post particularly short articles, and I don’t often repost (although it is bound to happen) so I am somewhere in the middle of all these things. I guess this makes me a blogger in the traditional old-school internet-homepage sense. Think Geocities, if that makes you feel better. So, this will be a meandering journey through all the things I do. In no particular order, I expect that to include music, film, board games, video games, and food. I’ll try my best to keep the tags up to date, so that if you’re only interested in one of those things, you can skip the others.

Alright? Cool.

Soooooon

Soon! Soon. It has been a long time since I've had anything to write on the internet, but I thought I'd try to get back to it. I'll put the archives up, too. Hooray.