Book Review “Calling Major Tom”by David M. Barnett

Book Review for Calling Major Tom by David M. Barnett


I was given a copy of this book from Netgalley via The Book Club on Facebook in exchange for a fair & honest review.  All views are my own.calling-major-tom


I challenge you, whether Bowie fan or not, to read this book without constantly having Space Oddity going round your head!  Thomas Major is a lowly scientist working at the British Space Agency when he finds himself in a position to be the first man to visit Mars.  The only thing is that it is a one way mission, but Thomas has his own reasons for wishing to leave his life behind & entering a self imposed solitude.  Back on earth the Ormerod family are struggling to survive – teenager Ellie & younger brother James living with grandmother Gladys whilst their father is in jail. Ellie should be having the time of her life shopping & partying with her friends, but instead her mother has died, she is working 3 jobs, caring for her brother & worrying that social services will split them if they realise that Gladys has dementia.

It was difficult to see how these two very separate story lines could interlink and work, but they dovetail together beautifully from the day that major Tom tries to call his ex-wife from space and Gladys answers the telephone.  Their lives are linked through the most unusual series of events which see Thomas Major helping the Ormerod family overcome financial and social issues…and even come to terms with a few of his own demons.

I loved this book – it made me laugh and cry.  The view from the space ship window is described so vividly that I could see it, and the personalities of the individual main characters brim with life.  The comedy that the writer incorporated into the character of Gladys turns a sensitive situation into a human one.  She made me laugh out loud.  The back story for Thomas Major unfolds and he is surprised to find himself changing as his relationship with the family on Earth develops and makes him re evaluate.  These people were very easy to identify with and I wanted to know what life had in store for them.  Mr Barnett makes the reader care.

A feel good story showing the best in human nature without over sentimentality, and how communities can come together.  An uplifting read that I give 5 stars.

Also on goodreads, Netgalley & Amazon

Reading,Cake & having fun – with #wheelchair & #chronic illness! #TBConfacebook

What a week!  Challenging for various reasons – the tilt table test, a cardiac outpatient appointment where the results weren’t available, an almighty faint where the dog failed to break my fall and I cracked my head on the wood floor, and I think along with dislocating my shoulder I may have cracked my collar bone.  This meant rolling out & covering a 12 inch square cake with icing one handed – tricky!!

But the cake played a pivotal role in my weekend.  Earlier this year, not long after being persuaded onto facebook by the younger Sauls (who now regret it, ha, ha, ha), I stumbled upon “The Book Club on facebook” and sent a request to join the closed group.  I had no real idea what it involved, who might be a member or the expectations on me, but I have always been an avid reader.14222267_10154600381361495_2740355709948892258_n  Living with a head full of opiate shaped holes & Ehlers Danlos brain fog has meant that I have struggled to concentrate enough to enjoy reading for  a couple of years.  This last year has seen me come off of opiates completely and start to read again – joining both a local book group and the facebook group has played a massive part in this.  I have discovered authors & genres that I haven’t tried before, I have found netgalley & started writing book reviews again, and I have completely taken over the kindles at home as I have flooded the account with books from the Book Club & netgalley. I have fallen back in love with words.

Back to the cake then…..the Book Club on facebook has just celebrated its second birthday with a party in London.  A fantastic opportunity to meet on line friends, stalk & meet some of the many authors who belong and generally have a night out in a swanky London night spot.

This was a big deal for me as it was the first real event using my wheels!  I have been to the park and the cinema, but not to a social occasion.

The new wheels!

Many of the people who attended were alone and I commented to Duncan that they were pretty brave to attend a big event (about 250 people) like this not knowing a soul.  His response, as my carer & chauffeur for the night, was that I would have gone alone in the past and mingled & talked to anyone.  The old me….I am still struggling with this!  But we had a fantastic evening – don’t get me wrong it was hard, I had to really dig deep and was absolutely shattered by the end.  But I managed to wear some of my old clothes – so I have shifted a little of the weight gathered over the last few years of immobility – and with a slick of lipstick nearly passed for the old Claire.  We weren’t quite brave enough to attempt the train & tube yet with the wheelchair so drove, but we stayed the night in the student engineer’s flat which is up the road from the party venue, meaning that Duncan was drunk in charge of a wheelchair and hopeless at managing the kerbs around Kings Cross!  Of course we completely cramped our son’s style when his flatmate arrived home and we had to be introduced.  His friend asked at midnight if we had been to our party yet – how old did that make us feel as we were getting into our PJs??

The cake? you ask.  I made the birthday cake for the party – copying the group’s colours and logos, it was my guarantee to myself that I would go to this social if it killed me.  The lovely people that we met, the discussions of books, even the student flat, all proved that I am more than my ailments.  Oh….not forgetting that the party actually looked pretty good to the student son as he asked me to invite him to join the group the next day!  Thank you “The Book Club” admin – you don’t know how much this group has helped me this year x

7 Practical Ways to Manage Your Chronic Pain

This is a great piece on “I Told You I Was Sick” blog by guest writer Molly Garner

Are you living with chronic pain? These 7 practical ways to manage your chronic pain can help you get the comfort you need without synthetic drugs or chemicals.

Source: 7 Practical Ways to Manage Your Chronic Pain

Tilt table, echo, cardiology & probably #POTS..Y!

So yesterday saw me back in our local cardiology department to undergo investigations for my funny turns & faints – the symptoms of a malfunctioning nervous system, common with EDS.  I was inexplicably nervous – particularly when I think about some of the major operations I have had over the years.  Maybe it was the thought of having my symptoms induced or worrying that the tests might be negative and I might have to start convincing everyone that I’m not imagining my symptoms.


Anyway we arrived at lunchtime, me having starved for the obligatory number of hours, and the first test was an echo ultrasound of my heart.  The first thing to establish was whether my scs would interfere with the scan as it did with the 12 lead ECG on my last visit.  I perhaps should have been more concerned about my joints as I managed to pop my shoulder out whilst lying on my side, scaring the young sonographer silly as it literally “popped”.  Not a good start before the tilt table as a sling was hung from the very same shoulder to support some of the machinery!  The ladies performing the test were most concerned about my pain and my ability to stand still for long enough – I was instructed not to be brave.  At this point we didn’t know if I would be able to keep my stimulator on or whether it would interfere with the heart trace.  Happily there was no interference, so at least I would be able to keep my leg pain under control!

The first part of the test is easy – provided lying flat isn’t an issue (I managed) – lying on the table and being monitored for about 10 minutes.  The next stage would normally be to be tilted up to standing – yes I was strapped on – and monitored for a further 20 minutes prior to GTN spray being put under the tongue, ahead of the final monitoring after the blood vessels had dilated.  So great care was taken to elevate me gently to avoid jolting my back….and within seconds my vision was going, my blood pressure dropped, my pulse jumped and I started to heave!  With this heaving apparently my BP dropped too low to measure and the student thought I was about to throw up over her.  The next thing I was aware of was being flat and being told that this was the quickest and most dramatic positive result they had ever had!  The same thing happened when I was slowly sat up 5 minutes later, so the test needed to go no further.

Not looking quite my best today! The ECG is attached to one pad on the chest wall and via a lead to another pad below the left armpit. The monitor can be unclipped to shower.

I was sent home attached to a 7 day ECG monitor which I need to activate every time I have palpitations, sweats or dizzy spells and am due back to see the cardiologist on Thursday presumably to talk POTS (postural orthostotic tachycardia syndrome). This morning I woke with the headache from hell and have been so tired, and I’m also feeling slightly paranoid about when I am pressing the heart trace button on my new piece of equipment -did I really feel something??  For the next few days I will be filling in a data diary and be even more wired than usual – with electronic gadgets that is!

Read fellow zebra Capricious’s account of preparation for autonomic testing here:


Great initiative by Tesco to safeguard disabled parking

How many times have you tried to park in a disabled bay for yourself or a passenger, only to find that none are available and that several of the cars already parked aren’t displaying a blue badge (disabled badge)?  It is so infuriating, but why can’t people appreciate just how difficult those extra few metres can be for someone who has mobility issues, or that the narrower parking spaces make it so difficult to juggle walking aids or wheelchairs?

I have just read this article in the Telegraph about a great initiative to safeguard disabled parking at Tesco stores.

Back Care Awareness -“Caring for Carers”Please share & RT

It’s been Back Care Awareness Week all this week and this year they are highlighting ‘Caring for Carers’. The UK is home to 7 million unpaid carers. These are people who provide care and support to an ailing or disabled family member, friend or neighbour on an ongoing basis. They represent an unpaid and often […]


When Chronic Pain requires drastic action

I want to share a story published this week in the British press and the email that I have sent on behalf of everyone suffering with chronic pain.


Dear Daily Mail,

Thank you for sharing the story of Hannah Moore, the young lady who has chosen to have an amputation to help relieve her chronic regional pain syndrome(CRPS).  I know that the majority of people will be unable to understand why she would choose such a drastic route, but those of us living with constant intractable pain will understand the lengths that one will go to for any relief.
I have lived with chronic pain for many years now and have undergone various major back surgeries in an attempt to give me some relief.  My first operation, aged 21, followed me taking my nursing finals lying on a mattress!  Nursing at a time when we still “lifted” patients, combined with a genetic disorder of the collagen, undoubtedly marked me out for back & joint problems!  Following two failed back fusions in more recent years, last year I had a spinal cord stimulator implanted at St Thomas’ & Guys hospital in London and whilst this gives me some relief when it is switched on, it is not a cure..
The nerve damage in my back is permanent, as is the genetic condition (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome) causing faulty connective tissue to allow recurrent joint dislocations, circulation problems and more.  So….there is no cure, currently, for my pain.  I remember clearly the look of shock on a friend’s face when I said that I would happily swap my poor mobility for a permanent wheelchair IF it meant that I was pain free.  I would imagine that this brave young lady has come up against similar reactions.
Ironically I have recently acquired a wheelchair in order to give myself & family so more freedom, but I still do have constant pain which fluctuates in severity dependant upon the weather, my activity or for no reason at all.
I hope that with more recognition of chronic pain conditions, such as CRPS, that there may be some more understanding for this debilitating invisible illness.
Claire Saul
A recent film has been made detailing life with CRPS “Trial by Fire”
Link for the original story about 19 year old Hannah Moore – don’t be put off by the “sensational” headline

Chronically Fabulous T-Shirts 

I have to reblog Kat’s post for these fantastic chronically ill t shirts made by Victoria!

A Scottish Journey with Chronic pain

I wanted to introduce you all to the lovely lady that is Victoria. I’ve followed Victoria’s blogThe Amazing Adventures of Stick Girlfor some time now, and I love her posts! All Victoria’s posts are about sharing her story of adapting to life with disability. But what first drew my attention to Victoria is her smile. That smile is infectious, and gorgeous – and she never stops smiling!!

As you can see – always smiling!
So when I saw a post that she was making t-shirts to raise awareness of Chronic & Invisible Illness’s – I could not believe what a brilliant idea this was. I’ve said for a long time that I would love to have something to make people more aware and my own chronic illness visible – the perfect match!

Victoria’s reasons for producing these T-shirts is the exact same reason as my own. She found…

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