Colourful and confusing coding

This is the first time I am attempting to work with qualitative data and I must say it is quite an experience. My supervisor is a queen and I have enjoyed meeting her and listening to her advice. Qualitative analysis is one of the things I think which you can never really learn about from lectures. Since every person’s data is different, extracting meaningful findings (finding never results!) is a personal experience. Looking through other people’s thorough work is helpful and I’ve used Bruan and Clarke as the Bible as well as looking at my supervisor’s previous work.

I have chosen Thematic analysis as a means of looking at my data and I love it. It seems to me to be a game a puzzle. These youtube videos have helped loads but mostly are these highlighters and fluorescent stars. Nothing like colour to highlight to beauty of people’s lived experiences. Can’t waiting to start piecing things together!coding


It is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

Warning: Strong opinions abround

I think it is absolutely ridicoulous that in the first week of November we were switching on Christmas lights. When I first arrived here in September I was appalled that Card Factory has already refurbished its shop into full Christmas gear. It gives the impression that after Summer, the only useful thing to look forward to in our yearly lives is Christmas. Please note this comes from someone who LOVES to plan in advance, but on my own, in my head.

Rant over – Oh look pretty lights! 

I am not immune to the damn lights either.

One has to admire the Brits. Coming from me, this means nothing as my friends will know because I have a strong desire to be British (Boo! I hear the Maltese patroits shouting. Well Boo You!). According to a recent survey on BuzzFeed, I am 92% british. Jubilations! Anyways, I digress. Yesterday I decided to go into town. I had (obviously) prepared a list, not least of those was returning library books due to expire. This was the only thing that pushed me into the milky fog past the front door. It was freezing, so I thought the city centre would be relatively glum.

I was wrong. It was a-buzzing. The streets were full of people and the loveliness of it all immediately warmed me up. The buskers were lined up in Queen Street using all sorts of tricks and antics to attract people. I was amazed that the music didn’t clash but actually melded into each other as you walked along the road. A particularly lovely band made of relatively older men were adorable and so good with their trumpet and saxophone (the saxophone is the most sexy intrument ever, no matter who plays it). Aren’t the Brits amazing? Braving the cold for pre-Christmas cheer?

With Santa’s Grotto bang in the middle of the street (6 Pounds entry no less, poor parents!) and that milky fog, if i squinted my ways in just a certain way, it almost looked like snow (You will now realise I have never seen snow, so I obviously have a lot to learn). So yes, I succumbed to the good Christmas feeling that had so evaded me. Then I reached into my bag and realised I had left my purse at home. Alas! The list could not be completed! At least I took something out of the walk – a renewed faith in people and Christmas.

This year. Instead of spending money on Christmas cards to all my international friends and others, and bunting for my room in Rhymney street, I have decided instead to donate money to a cause I have become very close to because of my Masters dissertation. Unique offers support and information for families diagnosed with rare chromosome disorders. Although individually rare, with the onset of array and sequencing technologies, it is now easier to identify small changes in our genetic material which can explain some difficulties these children have. Such a diagnosis can be isolating and scary because the prognosis is not completely known. Please click on their website (in the hyperlink above) for more information and some beautiful family stories! Consider doing the same with a charity you feel close to. Christmas cards will be thrown away or stored, but the money can go places!


There is always a show in Cardiff!

Yesterday was a truly memorable evening. I went to watch the West end hit Let it Be , going through the hit songs of the Beatles. I was surprised to be one of the youngest there, but equally amazed at the energy at the New Theatre. From the outside, based on a street full of snazzy hotels and clubs, the new theatre would seem like a closed down movie theatre were it not alive every night with audiences streaming in and out.

Let It Be (Touring) artist photo

I have been there 3 times to watch beautiful pieces, all very different from each other. Fiddler on the Roof was in a class of its own with the perfect accents and the total manipulation of the stage and the instruments. The second time I went to New Theatre was to watch Cinderella the ballet. To make things better, they are now releasing a Disney re-make. Can not wait! The ballet was lovely, with the princes impressing me almost more than the ladies did! Let it Be has to be one of the most shows on the West-End though, with music everyone loves, and nostalgia everyone needs.

New Theatre is not the only place to watch shows in Cardiff. Anyone watching Britain’s Got Talent this year will notice that the auditions in Cardiff where held in the Millennium Centre, which is beyond doubt one of the most beautiful artistic things decorating the Bay. I went to see the Nutracker on Ice here and was left enthralled by the magic of it all.

The prices for students are really good, both at the Bay and at the New Theatre. The stalls in the upper circle are the cheapest but because the circle is so steeped, you can see very clearly down below. In fact for Cinderella I must say I could admire the footwork. At the Millennium centre as well as at the Hayes Library, some music shows are shown free of charge. Click on the links to see their events!


The Rosie Project

I have not have much time to read lately, however this book has really grabbed my attention. It has helped me go back to my usual bed-time reading which I am being to re-discover is the perfect way to go to bed.

This book is charming in its simplicity and although perhaps predictable, you wouldn’t want it to end any other way. The process, rather than the ending is what is capturing. I fell in love with the main character immediately. He reminds me of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory, although I like Gene so much more. You just root for him to win at everything!

Although the main aim is to be light reading, it nudges the reading to how easily we judge people who don’t quite think the way we do. Having a boyfriend with a creative mind who sees things in patterns , I’ve come to admire that humans have different brain processes and this is a good thing.

The lobster recipe he uses on Tuesday has also prompted me to try to make lobster for the first time!

A good 5 stars from me!

The number 22

The number 22 has followed me throughout my life. When I was merely 10, there was a raffle at the school, and my first choice was the number 1, not being very imaginative or creative. It was taken and so was the second choice, the number two. So rather than continuing down the sequential route, I opted to double my number to double 2. I won the raffle.

Important events and things in my life have been constantly associated to this number, coincidence or not. The first time I re-chose the number for the lottery I won 15 Maltese Pounds which was a lot to me in those pre- stipend, pre-working days. Another silly example of how the number has popped up throughout the years is in the T-shirt number of Diamante – the Italian player who scored in the semi-final in the last Euro cup!

I am now going out with a very special man, who designed a campaign for student rep elections which was held on the 22nd November 2011. After the election was over, and the votes were counted, we had our first date. We are still together, 3 years 3 months on. We celebrated our 22 months with 22 small gifts to each other.

Now 22 has entered my life again, in another life changing way. The condition that has immediately struck me since beginning this MSc. has been the 22q11 deletion syndrome, also known as VCFS. The fact that the deletion is found on chromosome 22 is only part of my attraction to the condition. Being variable in clinical presentation it is often ages before a diagnosis is made, causing anxiety and frustration in parents. This is what I want to focus my research in the next year and a half on.  I believe being interested is what will keep me motivated and going on, even when the name 22q11 gives me headaches! No doubt, the 22 charm will help too!

I can’t wait to let you know about my research proposal and to highlight the amazing University I am in, but I will wait until I get feedback first!

The picture is from

Use of the R-word

I am aware that this happened in 2012, but only came across it now. It is never too late to share spirit like this!

After Ann Coulter referred to President Obama as a retard in a tweet Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens penned her this open letter:

Dear Ann Coulter,

Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow. So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?

I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow. I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you. In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have.

Then I wondered if you meant to describe him as someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarkey sound bite to the next.

Finally, I wondered if you meant to degrade him as someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift.

Because, Ms. Coulter, that is who we are – and much, much more.

After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.

I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.

Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.

No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.

Come join us someday at Special Olympics. See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.

A friend you haven’t made yet, John Franklin Stephens Global Messenger Special Olympics Virginia