On 1st December it will be nine years since Jenny suddenly became ill. Last year, she put everything she had into this important blog post about her illness.
This year, however, Jenny has decided to do something completely different. When you’re as ill as she is and just desperately trying to survive the day and not to die, it’s important to find pleasure wherever you can. So Jenny is sharing her Favourite Things – those things which brighten the darkness a little. She hopes that they bring you joy too.
Your Mission: to create your own list of your favourite things and put it up on your blog or as a Note on Facebook on 1st December to bring Jenny a smile on what will be a hard day for her.
[NB Jenny is only able to jab out one or two sentences per day with her thumb on the screen of her iPhone, so she has been compiling this blog post since August!]
Anyway, over to Jenny…
Obviously there are some days/weeks when I’m not able to watch television at all. When I *am* able to watch a programme though, it’s the highlight of my day.
My all-time favourite television programmes:
• Chuck – this swiftly became my favourite ever TV show. It was around episode 7 when I transitioned from thinking ‘this show is good’ to THIS IS THE BEST THING I’VE EVER SEEN. I recommend it to everyone. It’s brilliant. Such a great concept for a TV show. If you’ve never watched Chuck, you’re missing out on a lot of happiness.
Side Effect Warning: You’ll find yourself using the word ‘awesome’ unironically for the first time in your life (due to the influence of a certain character).
• Doctor Who – Love love love it. Who wouldn’t?! My favourite pairing was the 10th Doctor with Donna Noble so season four is my favourite. It’s unlikely that any future companion will ever beat Donna. My favourite episodes are ‘Turn Left’ and ‘Journey’s End’. My favourite moment was the 11th Doctor reading The Beano! Fantastic, allons-y, geronimo.
• Gilmore Girls – Love this so much. Pure joy to watch. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen each episode. Lorelai and Rory are such awesome characters. Copperboom.
• Stargate SG-1 – This was my all-time favourite TV show for about a decade until Chuck displaced it from the number one spot. It will always have a very special place in my heart though. My favourite episodes are probably ‘Window of Opportunity’ and ‘Holiday’, although the whole of seasons 1-8 are fantastic. I love the humour. Jack O’Neill is just the best.
• University Challenge – This programme is special to me because Dad and I used to always watch it together without fail before I became too ill. We had our own little traditions and games (e.g guessing what colour Paxman’s tie was going to be). Even though we can’t watch it together anymore, it makes me feel great to answer so many questions correctly across a broad range of subjects. I haven’t lost my touch!
• Sherlock – funny, exciting and clever. Wonderful characterisations of Holmes and Watson by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.
• Battlestar Galactica – insanely addictive. So say we all.
• The West Wing – excellent television. I thought it was going to be boring but I ended up really loving it. Intelligent, warm, thought-provoking, funny. A show with a lot of heart. CJ is my favourite character.
• Stargate Atlantis – another hit from the Stargate team. Like SG-1 before it: great stories, characters and humour.
• F.R.I.E.N.D.S – This is another show where I have seen each episode countless times. It’s the funniest show out there. So many great moments and quotes that a whole generation of us have in our shared memory. Chandler is the best.
• Merlin – This show brought me a lot of joy. Seasons 1-3 were fantastic; seasons 4+5 weren’t quite as good (although they made the style more cinematic and slick, I felt they lost a bit of the show’s heart and went for style over substance; I also inwardly groan and roll my eyes when a show starts to get “darker/edgier/grittier” – it always makes it worse imo) but they were still very enjoyable to watch. The ending just could’ve been so much better. And don’t get me started on how they handled the Lancelot storyline!
• Home and Away – What would I do without Home and Away?! A lot of days, it’s the only thing that keeps me going. I’d never seen a single episode of any soap opera before I was 21. I’m so glad I stumbled onto Home and Away in 2007. I’ve watched it ever since.
• The Big Bang Theory – This grew on me. Funny and clever. Bazinga.
• Miranda – Always leaves me grinning stupidly from ear to ear. Warm, fuzzy, funny. Also, Gary is lovely.
• Lark Rise to Candleford – This was such an underrated show. I loved it though. Better than Downton Abbey.
• Heroes – Such a cool, exciting, addictive show. Loved it.
• Star Trek: Voyager – This was my favourite show during my early teens. I didn’t watch much TV back then; in fact, I think Voyager was the only programme that I watched. For me, Voyager is by far and away the best of all the Star Trek TV series. Tom Paris was my favourite.
• Elementary – although this isn’t as dynamic or vibrant as the BBC’s Sherlock, it’s still a very enjoyable, engaging, procedural solving-a-crime show. It takes a while to warm to Holmes and Watson but once you do, you’ll love them. Nuanced and complex portrayals of the characters with a nice dollop of humour.
• Would I Lie To You? – Always makes me smile.
• Masterchef Australia – Given that I’m not interested in cooking, it’s as surprising to me as it is to anyone else how much I love this show. Its format is wildly different to (and way better than) the UK version of Masterchef. Very fun to watch. You really get to know the characters of the contestants. Also, I love Aussie accents.
There have been some teen and kids’ TV that I’ve enjoyed in recent years: Dawson’s Creek, The O.C., Everwood, Two of a Kind, iCarly, Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place and The Sarah Jane Adventures.
Then there are the classic programmes like Fawlty Towers, To The Manor Born, the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, the Vicar of Dibley. They were great.
My favourite documentaries:
I love Simon Reeve’s series (especially Indian Ocean, Cuba, Equator, Tropic of Capricorn, Tropic of Cancer, Australia). He does it even better than Michael Palin! Speaking of whom, I loved Palin’s Around the World in 80 Days, Pole to Pole, Full Circle and Sahara – all brilliant. I also loved the late great Steve Irwin and his wildlife documentaries; I was a big fan.
Any documentary involving the team of George McGavin, Justine Evans, Steve Backshall and Gordon Buchanan is usually really special (Expedition Borneo, Lost Land of the Jaguar, Lost Land of the Volcano, Lost Land of the Tiger).
Stephen Fry’s Last Chance to See and Stephen Fry in America were wonderful, as was Gareth Malone’s The Choir.
I’m endlessly fascinated by and will watch any and every documentary about snakes, jellyfish, tornadoes, tsunamis or ancient languages.
My favourite childhood television programmes:
Thunderbirds, Bertha, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, The Shoe People, Ivor the Engine, Charlie Chalk, Fireman Sam, Stopit and Tidyup, Postman Pat, Thomas the Tank Engine, the Poddington Peas, Captain Scarlet, Around The World With Willy Fog, Stingray, Sharky and George, the BBC’s Narnia adaptions, The Animals of Farthing Wood, Blue Peter, The Queen’s Nose, The Demon Headmaster, Fudge, The Adventures of Tintin (1991-92), Funnybones, Get Your Own Back, Finders Keepers, Hey Arnold, Blinky Bill, Recess, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Two of a Kind, Ginger, the Moomins, Alvin and the Chipmunks TV series, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Ducktales, Talespin, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, Madeline, How 2, The Rugrats, James Bond Jr., Paddington Bear, The Wombles, Pingu, Tom and Jerry, Playdays, Maid Marian and her Merry Men, Record Breakers, Arthur, The Family Ness, Challenge Anneka, Five Children and It (TV series), The Gummi Bears, Pinky and the Brain, Wacky Races, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Newsround.
I haven’t been able to read books since I became ill but it’s fun to remember my favourites and make lists to recommend to other people.
My top 10 series of fantasy books (my favourite book genre) from when I was 11-18years old:
• Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
• The Black Magician trilogy (The Magicians’ Guild, The Novice, The High Lord) by Trudi Canavan
• Age of the Five trilogy (Priestess of the White, Last of the Wilds, Voice of the Gods) by Trudi Canavan
• books of Pellinor (The Gift, The Riddle, The Crow, The Singing) by Alison Croggon
• Wind on Fire trilogy (The Wind Singer, Slaves of the Mastery, Firesong) by William Nicholson
• Old Kingdom trilogy (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen) by Garth Nix
• Song of the Lioness quartet (especially ‘Alanna: the first adventure’) by Tamora Pierce
• His Dark Materials trilogy (Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass) by Phillip Pullman
• The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper
• Tales of the Otori trilogy (Across the Nightingale Floor etc) by Lian Hearn
Honourable mentions: Power of Three by Diana Wynne Jones, The Ropemaker by Peter Dickinson, Arthur trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, Song Quest by Katherine Roberts, The Healer’s Keep by Victoria Hanley
(Yes, I did read The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Redwall etc. but none of these make my top 10. I just didn’t enjoy reading them as much as the ones in the list above.)
My favourite 10 books (non-fantasy) before I became ill:
• To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
• Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
• Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
• Curtain by Agatha Christie
• Children of the dust by Louise Lawrence
• Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
• Fall-out by Gudrun Pausewang
• Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
• Brother in the Land by Robert Swindells
• The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
Honourable mentions: Taken On Trust by Terry Waite, Wild Swans by Jung Chang, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz, Running out of time by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Holes by Louis Sachar
My favourite childhood books:
• Enid Blyton – Malory Towers, St. Clare’s, The Naughtiest Girl in the School, The Secret Seven
• Jacqueline Wilson – The Story of Tracy Beaker, Double Act, The Lottie Project
• Hilary McKay – The Exiles, The Exiles at Home
• Roald Dahl – Matilda, George’s Marvellous Medicine, The Twits, The BFG, James and the Giant Peach
• Gillian Cross – The Demon Headmaster, The Prime Minister’s Brain, The Revenge of the Demon Headmaster, New World
• Susan Coolidge – What Katy Did, What Katy Did Next, What Katy Did At School
• Hiding Out by Elizabeth Laird
• Usborne series of solve-it-yourself Puzzle Adventures
• The Hippo Book of Hilarious Poetry compiled by Terry Deary (1989 cover)
• Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
• The Magician’s House quartet by William Corlett
• The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea
• A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
• Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
• Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah
• The Diary of Anne Frank
• Horrible Histories series by Terry Deary
• The Intergalactic Kitchen by Frank Rodgers
• Asterix books by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo
• Oswain Tales series by John Houghton (Hagbane’s Doom etc.)
My top 5 favourite fictional characters from books:
• Darrell Rivers (from Malory Towers)
• Alanna of Trebond (from the Song of the Lioness quartet)
• Hermione Granger (from Harry Potter)
• Jo March (from Little Women)
• “Scout” Finch (from To Kill A Mockingbird)
My favourite author: Adrian Plass
He definitely deserves a paragraph all to himself! His books are the only ones ever that have actually made me laugh out loud (The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 37¾, The Horizontal Epistles of Andromeda Veal, The Theatrical Tapes of Leonard Thynn, The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Christian Speaker Aged 45¾, The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass On Tour); I love them so much. His non-fiction and poetry are excellent too. ‘Broken Windows, Broken Lives’ is another favourite of mine.
Top 5 books that have helped me most on my journey with God:
1. So you don’t want to go to church anymore by Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman (fiction)
2. The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass series (see above)
3. Journey into God’s heart by Jennifer Rees Larcombe
4. The Joni Story by Joni Eareckson Tada
=5. I Dared to Call Him Father: The Miraculous Story of a Muslim Woman’s Encounter with God by Bilquis Sheikh
=5. God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew
My top 10 favourite poems:
1. I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou
2. Invictus by W.E. Henley
3. Wrestling Jacob by Charles Wesley
4. The Way Through the Woods by Rudyard Kipling
5. A Better Resurrection by Christina Rossetti
6. De Profundis by Christina Rossetti
7. When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes by William Shakespeare
8. All That is Gold Does Not Glitter by J.R.R. Tolkien
9. First They Came by Pastor Niemöller
10. Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas
Honourable mentions: Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
The Jumblies by Edward Lear
My favourite early childhood books:
• Diane Elson – The Green Tiger, Humphrey the Friendly Camel, Henry the Lion Goes Exploring, The Junglies Go To The Seaside
• Judith Kerr – Mog The Forgetful Cat, Mog and the Baby, Mog and Me, The Tiger Who Came To Tea
• Janet and Allan Ahlberg – Burglar Bill, Cops and Robbers, The Jolly Postman, Peepo!
• Susanna Gretz – Teddybears’ Moving Day, Teddybears Go Shopping, Teddybears and the Cold Cure
• Shirley Hughes – Alfie Gets In First, An Evening at Alfie’s, Dogger
• Mick Inkpen and Nick Butterworth – The Precious Pearl, The Two Sons, The House on the Rock, The Mouse’s Tale: Jesus and the Storm
• Goodnight Stories by Enid Blyton (1972) (I especially enjoyed Peter’s Pencil Box, Polly’s Ps and Qs, He Didn’t Say Thank You)
• Dorothy Edwards – My Naughty Little Sister, My Naughty Little Sister and Father Christmas, My Naughty Little Sister Was Good
• The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey
• Gerry the Giraffe (Ladybird books) by June Woodman
• Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
• What do people do all day? by Richard Scarry
• The very hungry caterpillar by Eric Carle
• What-a-mess books by Frank Muir
• Mr Men books by Roger Hargreaves
• Miffy books by Dick Bruna
• Just So stories by Rudyard Kipling
• Old Mr Gotobed by Shiela McCullagh (Puddle Lane series)
• Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
• Spot the Dog books (Where’s Spot?, Spot’s First Easter etc.) by Eric Hill
• Where Are They? series (Find Freddie, Hunt for Hector, Look for Lisa, Search for Sam) by Tony Tallarico
Before I became ill, I was very sporty indeed. Watching sport will never come close to the pleasure of playing sport. However, these are the sports that I love to watch:
• Athletics – I’m a long-time athletics fan. The Diamond League is a joy to watch and of course there’s also the excitement of World Championships, European Championships and the Olympics. I especially enjoy watching the sprint races, high jump and pole vault. It’s always sad when the athletics season ends.
• Swimming – I find this thrilling to watch. The World Championships and Olympics are the highlights for me.
After enjoying Clare Balding and Ian Thorpe presenting the World Champs, I was happy to see that the BBC brought them both back for the 2012 Olympics so that everyone got to see how wonderful they were.
• Football – I’m too ill to keep up with league football (though Dad gives me occasional updates on how Brentford are doing) but I really enjoy the World Cup and Euros.
• Gymnastics – Astonishing, amazing, breathtaking. In men’s gymnastics, my favourite events are high bar, floor and parallel bars. In women’s gymnastics my favourite events are beam, floor and asymmetric bars.
My Top 5 Favourite Films In Each Category:
3. Robin Hood
Honourable mentions: The Lion King, Finding Nemo, Aladdin, Hercules
1. Leap Year
2. Miss Congeniality
3. 13 Going On 30
4. The Wedding Planner
5. You’ve Got Mail
Honourable mentions: Maid in Manhattan, Chocolat, Bend It Like Beckham, She’s the Man, Two Weeks Notice, Music and Lyrics, How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Fool’s Gold, Step Up, Love Actually, Failure to Launch, Letters to Juliet, Valentine’s Day
1. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
2. Star Wars (especially episodes VI, IV and III)
3. Independence Day
4. The Matrix
5. Minority Report
Honourable mentions: Star Trek XI, Stargate, Contact, Flight of the Navigator, The Island, Men in Black, Deep Impact
1. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
2. Harry Potter
3. The Hunger Games
4. X-men (2000)
=5. Fantastic4 & Fantastic4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
=5. City of Ember
=5. The Truman Show
Honourable mentions: Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Avengers Assemble, Superman (1978), Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, The Chronicles of Narnia, Spider-Man (2002), Batman Begins
1. The Parent Trap (1998)
2. Cheaper by the dozen (2003)
3. Fly Away Home
4. Whale Rider
5. Hannah Montana: The Movie
Honourable mentions: My Girl, George of the Jungle, Freaky Friday (2003), Catch that Kid, Hook, Cool Runnings, The Preacher’s Wife, Dunston Checks In, The Princess Diaries, Cheaper by the dozen 2, Bridge to Terabithia, What A Girl Wants, Swiss Family Robinson
1. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
2. The Sound of Music
4. High School Musical 3
Honourable mentions: West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar, Hairspray, Phantom of the Opera, Nativity!, Once More With Feeling, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, My Fair Lady, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), Calamity Jane, Mamma Mia!, High School Musical 1 & 2, Camp Rock 1 & 2
2. Catch Me If You Can
3. Mercury Rising
4. The Sum of All Fears
5. Enemy of the State
Honourable mentions: Chain Reaction, The Mask of Zorro, Flightplan, Abduction, Limitless, Sahara, High Crimes, Paycheck, The Bourne Identity, National Treasure, Sneakers
1. Bruce Almighty
2. Sister Act
3. Galaxy Quest
4. Wild Child
5. 17 Again
Honourable mentions: The Terminal, Bandits, Airplane!, The Pink Panther films (Peter Sellers), Guess Who, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Meet the Parents, Liar Liar
1. Anne of Green Gables (1985)
2. Amazing Grace (2006)
3. Chariots of Fire
5. Good Will Hunting
Honourable mentions: The Help, Freedom Writers, Good Night And Good Luck, Pearl Harbour, Finding Forrester
Out of all the above films, these are my 5 overall all-time favourite films:
1. Amazing Grace
2. Lord of the Rings
3. Chariots of Fire
4. Anne of Green Gables
5. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
These are my favourite things that don’t fit into any of the other categories:
• Photos and home videos from before I became ill. These make me ecstatically happy. I’m too ill to look through photo albums, so I enjoy it when people (old school friends/family) put photos on facebook of our schooldays or photos from when we were growing up (hint hint).
We only have home videos from one week of Easter holiday in 1994 when Dad borrowed a video camera (they were too expensive to buy back then) but I treasure the small amount of film that was captured during that time. If anyone else has any videos of us/me, I’ll love you forever if you send me a copy.
Here’s a short clip of one of my favourite home videos (you may have to turn the volume up a lot to hear it properly): Click here for home video clip
• Twitter. I joined Twitter in January 2009 (as @Stroopwaffle) and it’s a lifeline for me. Through my iPhone, Twitter allows me access to the world and to other people. And what wonderful people I’ve met there! Twitter is my happy place, my escape, somewhere to just tweet about fun things and not my health.
I am sometimes absent from Twitter for days/weeks due to being so ill but other times I am able to wiggle my thumb on the screen of my iPhone to jab out 1-3 tweets in a day. I know it must be hard for people to keep communicating with someone who isn’t able to reply. I really appreciate anyone who does though. It means everything to me. Ditto with facebook.
Some amazing things have happened through Twitter:
– I got to name some twin baby lemurs at Beale Park because they liked the names that I came up with best:
– During a twinterview (twitter interview) with Waterstones, Michael Palin liked my question so much that I won a signed copy of his new book and audiobook.
– Lynne McGranger (Irene from Home and Away) learnt about my illness and got some of the cast of Home And Away to sign these for me:
• My imagination. I’ve lived hundreds of different lives in hundreds of worlds. I’ve met all sorts of people and have had all sorts of adventures. The possibilities are limitless. I can be anyone and do anything.
I think the imagination is the sole thing that has kept me sane throughout this torture I’m living through.
I also like to imagine all the things I’d do if I suddenly became completely better from this disease. I fantasise that the first thing I’d do would be to surprise family/friends by arriving unexpectedly on their doorstep and shouting “Surprise! I’m better now! I’m not ill anymore!”. Hugging and happiness would ensue. You have no idea how much I long for this to happen. I’d love to see the looks on people’s faces.
• Memories. It can be good to root through your brain to find your memories and re-live your favourites.
I can walk around my favourite places (a particular beach or school or house etc.) in my mind; I haven’t seen them in a long time so all I have is my memory of them. I’d love to revisit them in real life one day.
Another thing I’m looking forward to doing if I get better is sorting through the stacks of boxes with all my “memories” in them. The contents of the boxes (that basically contain my whole life!) will prompt me to remember things that I have forgotten. The restoration of old memories will be a precious thing to me.
Quick-fire Question Section: ‘What’s your favourite…?’
Separated by a common language – observations on British and American English by an American linguist in the UK
We Mixed Our Drinks – Hannah Mudge’s blog. Her interests include feminism, Christianity, left wing politics, activism.
Dreams at Stake – A Journey of Hope through Severe M.E.
Mind The Gap – a Brit’s guide to surviving America
LizClutterbuck.com – Liz’s eclectic blog
No Poster Girl – life with severe M.E.
Pop Classics – Reviews of the use of Classics in popular culture
Favourite apps? Twitter, Facebook
Favourite colour? Blue
Favourite games (before you became ill)? Dingbats, Taboo, Cluedo, Pictionary, Careers, Travel Go, Articulate, card games (Knock Out Whist, Old Maid, Tongues, Spoons, Sevens, Cheat, Fish), charades, consequences
Least favourite games? Risk, Monopoly, Chess
Favourite video game?
As a teen: Lego Racers, Final Fantasy VII, Crash Bandicoot, Theme Park, Theme Hospital, The Sims.
As a child: Mickey Mouse and the Castle of Illusion (on the Sega Master System), Sonic the Hedgehog, Rayman (on the Playstation), Super Mario Land/Bros (on the Gameboy)
Favourite actor? Ioan Gruffudd, Zachary Levi, Santiago Cabrera, Matthew McConaughey, Ryan McPartlin, Will Smith, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Dean Anderson, Colin Morgan, Matt Smith, David Tennant, Ian McKellen, Morgan Freeman, Channing Tatum, Ben Affleck, Tom Ellis.
Favourite actress? Sandra Bullock, Lauren Graham, Meg Ryan, Allison Janney, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Garner, Kate Hudson, Amy Adams, Alexis Bledel, Amanda Seyfried
Favourite flowers? I’m not really a fan of flowers but if pushed, the following ones are alright, I suppose: water lilies, almond blossom, magnolia, snowdrops, bluebells, daffodils. Just nothing pink.
Favourite pizza? Ham and pineapple
Favourite boy’s name? Ben, Sam, James
Favourite girl’s name? April, Jo, Charlie
Superpower that you would like to have? The ability to heal (both myself and others) of any illness or injury. And to fly.
Favourite shop? I never really liked shopping. I went to the library instead.
Favourite accents? Australian, Irish
Favourite weather? Rainbow weather (raining but with the sun peeking through)