A Fair Hearing in February

Apologies. The title of this post is a terrible joke based on two of my articles published this month. At least I presume they’ve both been published, because I can’t find one of them in any digital versions of magazines that usually publish me, but where they go is up to my Ed, so who knows :).

My health column this month was on tinnitus, because tinnitus awareness week was this month (2nd to 8th February). It’s a common misconception that tinnitus is ‘just’ an occasional ringing in your ears. Not so – it’s a lot more complicated and varied than that, and I wrote about it for three reasons. Firstly, Techie Husband suffered from it quite badly (not so much any more – I’ll explain why in a bit), as does Arty Daughter on and off; secondly, it’s a poorly understood problem that needs a higher public profile; and thirdly, I’d also recently gained a greater knowledge of tinnitus by pitching for (but narrowly missing out on) a contract to write three leaflets for the British Tinnitus Association aimed at children from different age groups.

Tinnitus pdf snip

Even though it’s still not fully understood, tinnitus appears to occur when our brain, used to filtering out superfluous signals (e.g. noise from humming refrigerators), finds itself not getting enough noise. It demands more information from our ears, and this is what triggers tinnitus. This phenomenon in itself can have other root causes, such as certain medications or illnesses. Of course, if your ears already don;t work as well as they should, your brain is aware that it’s not getting enough signals – and this is why people like Techie Husband, who have poor hearing, are more prone to tinnitus (particularly if, like him, they are missing specific frequencies or narrow frequency bands). Techie Husband has now had hearing aids for several months and it’s really made a difference. That’s great news because his tinnitus had been getting steadily worse, growing from a minor and occasional irritation into a major nuisance that made it difficult to relax.

So there’s the hearing reference. As for the ‘fair’… Fairtrade Fortnight is coming up soon. From 23rd Feb to 8th March there will be a host of events and promotions to spread the Fairtrade message, and to draw attention to this year’s specific theme – as I explain in this paragraph (from the short version of my article’.

This year, Fairtrade Fortnight’s nationwide ‘I See’ Campaign aims to ‘reinforce personal and emotional connections with Fairtrade’, making us more aware of how our shopping choices can have positive and profound effects on the lives of others, and helping us understand how Fairtrade benefits producers.
Claire Salundi, Project Manager for Fairtrade Fortnight, hopes the celebrity-fronted campaign will help consumers “understand more about what lies behind their everyday shopping and to make the connection between brewing a cuppa and someone’s son learning to read as a result.”


So I’ll leave you with this thought from my article:

The Power to Change the World Every Day’
By swapping your tea, chocolate or even your skirt for a Fairtrade alternative, you support farmers and producers in developing countries and Fairtrade’s campaign for a fairer, more sustainable food system.

“When you buy Fairtrade tea, I notice,” says Mario Mantagna, a Sri Lankan tea farmer. “Thanks to the premium price I get, we’ve been able to build a school in my village.” Proof enough that we really do – as Fairtrade says – have ‘the power to change the world every day’.

Not-So-New Year Resolutions

Making resolutions for a whole year is not to be undertaken lightly (and some would say, best not undertaken at all). It’s true that resolutions are often too ambitious, too vague and too unrealistic to do much except falter miserably before January is out – and sometimes, shock horror, they’re not even SMART (if you’re not familiar with this acronym, commiserations/congratulations – delete as appropriate. Where have you been?).

I’ll explain SMART to the (happily? unfortunately?) uninitiated in a moment. But you’ll notice I’ve already cleverly avoided the ‘faltering before January is out’ trap by making my resolutions in February. I’ve also limited myself to five – enough to cover more than one ‘life area’, but not so many that I don’t have a hope of remembering the bloomin’ things, let alone sticking to them.

So… SMART. What are SMART goals?



People are taught slightly different versions of what this acronym means, but I’ve usually been told it stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. According to www.projectsmart.co.uk, these are some of the other meanings attributed to the letters:

S – specific, significant, stretching

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational

A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T – time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable

Here are my five Not-So-New Year Resolutions, which I’ve done my best to ensure are Specific, Measurable and Meaningful, Achievable and Action-Oriented, Realistic and Rewarding, and Timely.

  1. To walk for at least an hour and a half a week. Every week.
    I used to do this and more, but it’s fallen by the wayside. I know the reasons why, so I need to do something about it. Some weeks all I do is walk to work, which only takes me up to around an hour a week.
  2. To submit at least one short story every month, whether that be to an anthology, competition or magazine.
  3. To fit in a 15 minute session of yoga or WiFit exercises every week, hiatus hernia allowing.
    Again, I’ve got out of the habit and once I’m out, I find it hard to get back in!
  4. By my birthday in May, to have lost and kept off 4lb, meaning that I can have a blip without returning to the Number of Doom (I make no apologies for using pounds and stones; as far as people’s weights are concerned, I never went metric, okay?).
  5. To have a plan for fun and practical stuff and review it regularly with Techie Husband (and kids where appropriate), so that a) as a family and a couple we go out more this year, and b) we carry on making progress towards the garage conversion and D.I.Y projects. Keeping on top of the small steps will hopefully help us (metaphorically) build the staircase! So far we’ve chosen a shed, I’ve ordered it, and Techie Husband has constructed it with help from all of us (not the best pics, as they were taken on my phone).

shed 1shed 2
I also advertised the hundreds of plastic sacks taking over the garage to FB friends, free to any takers, and got rid of quite a few. Next we need a snow and rain free day to start moving items out of the garage and into the shed! You can barely move in the garage at the moment, let alone convert it.

It was tempting to put in an extra writing resolution or two, but I’m sticking to one for now. I really would like to get back into fiction, so it’s best to focus on that. Any other strides I make with my writing will be a bonus.

Oh no! I just thought of a number 6 that’s really important.

6. Set aside half an hour a week to write a blog post and keep my website up to date.
At the moment, details of my published articles are months behind and I’ve now got some PDFs to use on the site too.

I’ll revisit my resolutions on here now and then to see keep myself accountable.

So did you make any New Year Resolutions? Or did you decide not to this year? If you made them, have you stuck to them? Perhaps you make monthly or quarterly resolutions instead. I’m interested to know what works – or doesn’t – for you, so let me know. 🙂