Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Should We All Be Barbie Girls?

'Barbie without makeup' on the right is the classic face of a barbie, on the left she has no make up and looks dull, bland and is a lot less desirable. Lazy night on the internet and I stumble across these statistics- actually they hit me like a bus. Though as a child I was more a 'BABY-born' girl I had a small, very select, crew of Barbies. I never saw them as being the image of normality as such (their feet were far too pointy) but I did think Barbie was very pretty. Barbie may look like an airhead girly girl but she has serious skills in business: making big money since 1959.

But should she still be bought for young, easily influenced, girls? She's just a harmless doll isn't she? Read the stats below and see how you feel: 

  • If Barbie was an actual woman, she would be 5’9” tall, have a 39” bust, an 18” waist, 33” hips and a size 3 shoe.
  • Barbie calls this a “full figure” and likes her weight at 110 lbs.
  • At 5’9” tall and weighing 110 lbs, Barbie would have a BMI of 16.24 and fit the weight criteria for anorexia. She likely would not menstruate.
  • If Barbie was a real woman, she’d have to walk on all fours due to her proportions.
  • Slumber Party Barbie was introduced in 1965 and came with a bathroom scale permanently set at 110 lbs with a book entitled “How to Lose Weight” with directions inside stating simply “Don’t eat.”
Eating disorders damage lives. This is something I fear the media will never understand or portray. An eating disorder isolates you- scaring away all your friends and frightening your family. It wraps you up and makes you lose track of the rest of the world. All you care about is what your next meal is, and how many little numbers go alongside it. Yet this is what we are promoting as the image of beauty. Barbie isn't beauty- she is horrifically deformed. 

Still just a harmless dolly? 

Barbie has a sinister side. Maybe she should put on a few pounds so she can begin to represent what a real woman is like- instead of giving little girls unrealistic images of beauty.

A woman holding a barbie, outlined on her skin is the shape of how the barbie is proportioned, she looks frightening.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The B Word and The Bumpy Road

A large parcel clearly from RNIB with the Articles for The Blind postage stamp.
When my Dad proudly announced on the phone to me at lunch that my RNIB parcel had arrived; I knew I had done it. I have hereby made the decision to become a braille reader, and let my useless eyes get on with whatever the are there for (something I am yet to gather). I am now stepping in the field which was once filled with grenades- the 'B word'- Braille. Braille has always been an imaginary safety net for me- imaginary as in, although asking, I was never offered it through the Education Authority but it was a nice, warm, fuzzy way of envisioning that I will always be able to read.

A few years ago I learnt grade one braille on my own through the internet. I loved using the nifty skill, but I could never in a million years depend upon it. So I carried on using my eyes, which read a few lines of text and then do the equivalent of a snail curling into it's shell. When my eyes say it's game over, it really is game over. Everyday it is painful to read, it's like I'm cursed with the ability to see text, making learning braille supposedly unjustifiable. Until now. 

I have taken matters into my own hands so to speak. Reading is supposed to be painless- yet when I do it isn't, suggesting the fact: 'can I actually read print?'. The words move and twist and disappear, what I can see at the start of the day is not there by the end. Frankly- I've had enough of it. My decision was made with the help of the Audioboo community and my parents ordered me 'Fingertips' grade two braille course from RNIB and it arrived in a huge box. I will work on it at home everyday and it will be undoubtedly hard, but I will get there. 

And, as if the situation isn't bizarre and sudden enough, I want to be plausible in grade two braille by september when I go to college so I can revise and study until my mind is tired, and not my eyes. I plan to apply for a Braillenote apex (a braille computer) in my section 139a (a transfer document with all my requirements and needs in). I think this will get me off to a really good start at college and I am so excited! 

Fingertips braille course unpackaged, a pile of yellow braille books, a green box of CD's and a large print bookMeanwhile at school it's all a struggle. All my revision guides are in size 24 print, which due to my nystagmus increase I can no longer read, so I have to try and find electronic copies of EVERYTHING so that the speech software on my mac can read them to me. Sure, I could get bigger print, but the next size they could offer me is 32 which is around the size they would suggest braille anyway (supposedly) and it would make one revision guide huge and spine breakingly heavy. 

I'm standing up for myself now- this is what I want. I have a right to be able to read like everyone else!

I will label any posts about my braille learning journey under the tag "A Bumpy Road"- because I'm sure it will definitely be!  

Monday, 14 January 2013

WOW... (and other exclamations)

At some point in the last few days Small Print Larger hit the big 10,000 hits- and since has hit 400 more. All I can say is "Gee Whizz" and thank you. Seriously, thank you. I started using Google Analytics last year and all these 10,000 views have been in the last 12 months. It's unbelievable, insane, and the most flattering thing ever.

Starting in 2010- with random articles, limited style and patchy content- I feel SPL has got bigger and better over time. The emails I get, the comments, and every single number on that chart make me aim for a better article next time. I could post on here all day, if I didn't have more pressing GCSE based issues *cough cough*, but the point remains that I am proud to call myself a blogger- and I think I am getting better at it. Occasionally people find me through this little space on the internet, leading me to write in magazines and websites and meeting new friends as I go. It's like some kind of electronic daydream.

So hats off to you guys for sticking with me, and thank you for joining me on this mad journey :)


Friday, 11 January 2013

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

OK, so we have all heard of this classic, everyone knows it and every teen is being nagged by parents/teachers to get their head out of Twilight and read something more like this. But now hear comes the surprise…. READ IT! No, I haven’t turned into a boring adult my dear bloggers – this book is actually really really good. I also believed it has changed many a persons’ attitude towards other races.
It is narrated by a young girl called Scout as she tells the story of her life and how it changes due to racial controversy. She has a brother called Jem and she feels deeply sad as he grows up and he ‘doesn’t wanna see her no more!’ and wants to be a scowly teenager. She also has a father called Atticus, he for me is one of the finest characters in English literature, he is a loner but is respected greatly by both the black and the white communities of their town, Maycomb. The charatcer of Atticus is such a great work, he is mysterious but conveys a good heart and great caring with very little description of this. He really comes alive in your imagination. Atticus is a lawyer and is very good at his job, he is incredibly well educated and taught Scout to read as soon as she could hold a book. The story tells the tale of when Atticus takes on a rape case. Tom Robbinson,a good black man, is thought to have raped a white women who the whole town didn’t like. Until now that is.
I read this in the lovely oriental gardens on holiday in Monte-carlo and I have re-read it since, I love this book so much. It also makes you feel great to know you’ve finally read it when you turn the final page! I would recommend it to just about anyone and give it a Five star rating!
* * * * *
Book Cover

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

All For One? I'm for it.

Tonight I will be going to my third choir rehearsal with the 'All for One' Choir. I've got to say when I first went to a rehearsal I was sceptical, firstly because my Mum was a committed member, and secondly because she thought it was cool. This instantly projects the opposite in my mind, just about every honest teenager would agree that if your Mum thinks something is cool it will almost certainly not be. But after going to one of their shows at City Hall, which was packed with people, they sounded really good, so I decided to go along.

On my 'taster' session, I was amazed at how well everyone got along. At the show there had been many a mention of being 'One big family' but I didn't really expect it to be so literal and true. Everyone talked to everyone, and lots of people said "Hello" and chatted to me. Also the way Laila was accepted was truly heartwarming, people took it on board when I asked them not to stroke her and they respected how good she was being with the loud music and just lying down while I sung, jived and gestured along to the music. I have to admit I was surprised when I found myself signing up to become a real member at the end of the session- I had really thought I would hate it! I was handed an anorak and a t-shirt and I was in the choir.

All for One was having an event the following saturday at Hull KC Stadium, where they would be performing to the crowds pre-match and at half time. Having been exposed to the practice CD in my Mum's car for the last year, on constant repeat, I knew most of the words and the Tenor part. Yes, I'm an alto, but the adaption wouldn't be that hard to make... right? I was amazed that they trusted me to come and perform with them after only one real rehearsal, but I listened to the Alto CD to undo all the Tenor-ness of "Mary's Boy Child", practiced the moves, and I felt sort of ready.

That morning, my Mum, Laila, and I drove to the stadium- and I had won the battle of "Tenner or Alto Practice CD" so we were also rather comically singing at the top of our voices as we went. There were sound checks, greetings and chats with other members, and then we started singing at the doors while people arrived. I was really starting to get into the swing of things by the time we made it to the pitch. After a slight debate, Laila was able to become possibly the first dog ever to put paws on Hull City Pitch, and we were Sunshine, Moonlight, Boogying like pros. Everyone in the choir were so helpful in supporting me around the seating stands, it was quite overwhelming actually! We settled down for the game and by half time Hull were winning, and we were ready for another sing. It occurred to me that what the choir promotes is true, singing really does make you feel better. Despite all the pain from my head and eyes- I felt good. We sang in front of 17,000 people, I mean who gets to do that?!

It's crazy, out of my comfort zone, but I'm loving it. Thanks All for One.

The crowd in the standsThe choir, all dressed in red, stand on the pitch

Hull City Mascot gave us the thumbs up.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Flaunt your Audio Description - A Tale of Two Cinemas

Long time followers of my blog, tweets or campaigning actions will remember all the way in November 2011 when I recorded this piece with BBC Newsround about Audio Description availability for visually impaired people. In this report I spoke to a very nervous looking representative of my local 'Spinnyworld' cinema. So lets call the cinema's involved Spinnyworld and Odeom...

Last year in October my Mum and I wanted to go to the cinema together, but of course this opens a can of worms of the accessibility variety. At first Mum checked my local Odeom cinema's website, where it labelled no films as being AD. My Mum, being a campaigner for VI access by blood, emailed Odeom Guest Services asking if this indicated all films or no films were audio described. We got this reply: 

"Thank you for your email.
Unfortunately, currently have no films showing with Audio description.  We list any subtitled films or audio described we are showing on our website. The films appearing as either Subtitled or Audio Described have an accessibility button appearing by them. If you click on the accessibility button it will show the performances available in the particular format.Also, if you are on the cinema home page, there is a filter at the top whereby you click on the necessary format you require.
Should you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to email us again or call ### 

In the footnotes of the email it detailed that if we were to call for more help, it would cost us 10p per minute! This badly worded instructional email of 'How to use a website' we felt was patronising and it did not answer our query at all. We then asked for this to be taken as a formal complaint in respect of their scheduling and accessibility.

Next we tried Spinnyworld, where my Mum asked the same question at the cinema branch itself. We got an amazing response of "Oh yes, all our screens are digital now, every film with an AD soundtrack will have it played every showing." How amazing! All the complaints, mentions and even bringing Newsround in, had payed off! But we didn't want to see any films right then, so we left it a few weeks. We checked the branch website when I wanted to see one of the latest films with friends, and NO AD SHOWINGS. How could this be? We emailed to find out... 

"Thank you for contacting 'Spinnyworld' I'm sorry it has taken longer than normal for me to respond to you, we have received a considerable volume of customer correspondence recently. Although not every film at 'Spinnyworld' **** is Audio Described it is very simple to use our website to find which films offer this service...

What followed was a string of instructions on how to use their very basic website. No wonder they received lots of correspondences, whilst their answers were so inadequate. Though, to give Spinnyworld credit, the email did actually make sense. 

Mum responded saying:
"Thank you for your response. I understand that thank you. I am fully sighted myself and find your website helpful and easy to use. What I don't understand is why staff got us all excited and happy at the prospect of more choice for VI people and a more typical cinema experience and range of viewing ahead when clearly what they said is not true? Thank you."

And then silence fell in cyberspace and we received no response. We began to wonder if our emails had actually been received by people, or by cyborgs employed by cinema companies to reply to all queries in the most patronising and annoying way possible. That is, until yesterday, when our quest for accessibility (after three months) came to a close. 

My Mum had to look quite hard for my local branches number, as we were not going to miss 'Quartet' like we had so many other films due to lack of AD. She got hold of the number and got through to a real human. At first the same old spiel was recited: "Well if you check the website it shows that, no: there are no audio described performances..." My Mum queried the claim that everything was now digitised and that, if there is an AD soundtrack in the production, why shouldn't it be played? The manager was called and all became clear! 

We were in fact initially told the truth, all the branch's screens are now capable of AD, and if there is a soundtrack available with AD then I can just pick up the headphones and enjoy the film. I believe this is a success!

But it does prompt the question- if you have it, why not show it? And if you don't, why not? Why make customers enquire for three months? We heard no more from Odeom, but in my eyes Spinnyworld has turned it around. In this case it seems that the website is wrong, but I really hope they correct it soon before anyone else misses opportunities due to bad information communication. 

Audio Description Logo

Friday, 4 January 2013

Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.


Frightening is the only way to describe this book, it is a spine chilling horror story of the worst sort: the real one. Frighteningly poetic, seamless, somehow beautiful and to say it's deep is the understatement of the millennium. The characters are entrancing and you as the reader quickly become engrossed in the almost rhythmic words of the book. The narrative is immersive, but not suffocating, and you quickly find yourself seeing through Lia's eyes. 

No matter your knowledge, opinion or experience of eating disorders I think the main thing this book offers is a true 'eye-opener' to the mind of an anorexic. The awareness this book has raised is amazing, and it has (in my opinion) glided over the risky waters of 'pro-ana'. There is never any illusion that anorexia is great, or a life choice, or any of the popular misconceptions. It is plain and clear that Cassie and Lia are stricken by a flesh burning disease, not a radical diet. 

But the book makes you forget all the medical side. The engrossing narrative takes you deeper into living with the disease, where all the symptoms and feelings are just part of life. This avoidance of clearly stated medical morals against eating disorders is possibly why the book tends to be misunderstood as being pro anorexia. It isn't though, because never is a single benefit of life with an eating disorder portrayed (maybe because there aren't any). The book instead looks deeper at the psychological affects of eating disorders. Winter girls isn't as depressing as it sounds though, with other key elements like friendship and family making it more up-beat. I think the world has a lot to learn from this book and it deserves a possibly controversial five stars.  

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2013: Reflections and Resolutions

This being my first post in this blogs FOURTH year is very very exciting. Last year I had 44 well received posts and after discovering google analytics in January, have had 9,404 page views! Heaven's knows how many I've had throughout the years without knowing, but I am so proud of what I've achieved on here. When people mention that they have read something of mine on Small Print Larger it gives me such a great feeling.

2012 has been a mixed year made up of many emotions, with very distinct highs and lows. The major high of my year has been getting my beautiful guide dog Laila, who has changed my life completely. Being able to walk down the street at night without misjudging roads, falling, or being afraid is something I thought I would never experience again- but have done thanks to her. I also became a young leader at brownies and guides, but am yet to make my promise, and also qualified as an online cybermentor for bullied and distressed children and young people. My year wasn't all bunches of roses though: losing a vast amount of sight to Nystagmus (a never ending war), having a two month long headache and missing a month of school have been set backs. But it doesn't matter now. I'm slowly learning that when you are born you are not a sealed 'Life' package, things change, and that really doesn't matter because everyone and everything else does too. For example getting ill and dropping GCSE's, this was a major crisis for me, but I will make sure I get enough qualifications to make my next step and that is what's really important. As many people have said to me recently "It's your health that's important".

In 2013 I'm hoping to have a better time, finishing school and moving onto college and all the adventures that come along with that. I also hope to continue using this blog to it's full potential and making use of the huge (unexpected) audience which has landed on my lap. Whether you are viewing from the UK, Latvia, America, Sweeden, Malaysia, India or Germany thank you so much (and aren't google analytics great?!)

So the big 2-0-1-3, I'm not usually one for resolutions but this time I went overboard:
1. Write a diary.
I received the diary for christmas and I am really looking forward to using it and hope that I can complete a diary for the first time rather than a time-spread journal.
2. Keep 'Tea Time Reads' going.
I've had some fabulous feedback about TTR, so I will keep going for as long as I possibly can.
3. The Fact to Fiction Challenge.
I have set up a challenge for myself, every week in 2013 I will write a piece of creative writing based on item from the weeks news. I will post each piece on this blog: and do a round up once a month on Small Print Larger with links to all of the pieces.
4. Eat healthy. My Dad was particularly concerned this was code for 'lose weight' but no, I assure you, that games over. Just a healthy diet could do me some good.
5. Drink more water.
I am always always thirsty and always dehydrated so I think a little effort to drink more water could help me out in the long run.
6. Make a big push for dreambook.
You can find out about The Dreambook Movement in the tabs, but it is a project I have set up and due to various things it has slowed down somewhat- I need to get back on track!
7. Improve my posture.
I am developing a hunched back and I need to stop now, and anyway it is not a sophisticated look!
8. Try hard to get through my remaining GCSEs.
So I can move on with my life at last.
9. Learn to play the mandolin I got for Christmas.

May you all have an excellent year and, once again, thank you so much for another fantastic year.