Search engine optimisation – a hopeless case

One of my blogging idols The Bloggess does a yearly roundup of the search terms that bring people to her blog. The fact that “I hate it when I’m eating and a t-rex steals my chair” directed 14 people towards her site is either a testament to the weird, weird people who inhabit the internet, or to Jenny’s writing. Or maybe both.

When I discovered that wordpress will actually log search terms that directed people towards my site I decided to have a look, hoping to find ways to optimise how to tag my posts. Unfortunately, I’m still really not sure how some of you got here.

The results.


‘anglesey abbey tea’ (9)

So far, so normal. I did blog on this after all.

‘amanda brunton blog chickens’ (6)

Well, I do talk a lot about the chickens. So far so good. The girls say ‘hi’ by the way.

‘slut dropping and surprise rape’ (3)

So far, so… wait WHAT? As opposed to that *other* kind of rape?

‘r2d2 drinks tray’ (2)

I have looked these up and I want one. So do at least two other people out there apparently.

‘wood chipper cider’ (2)

There are at least two other country bumpkins out there with both the classiness and ingenuity to make booze from a wood chipper. I salute you.

‘understanding asperger’s syndrome’ (1)

it’s in the title. *shrugs*

But through the list of recipe requests, and bizarre Star Wars related search terms came this gem. And I was afraid.

‘zombie virus recipe’ (1)

I have no words for this. And am still none the wiser how to optimise my blog, but on reflection, that may be for the best.



Hello 2013

561252_10151128991805934_1799017796_nI’m not a big one for New Year’s resolutions and all, which is probably why it’s taken me an inordinately long time to write the obligatory New Year post. 2012 was a year of very mixed blessings, so I wasn’t really sure how to round it up. If my life were a book, I think chapter 2011 would be entitled ‘Winning’ – I got married (twice… long story), I graduated with a first. I stayed in touch with most of my friends from university, and most of us got jobs (eventually). It would not be fair to call chapter 2012 ‘Disaster’ but it might be reasonably be referred to as ‘Running out of steam’.

There is a lot to be thankful for – I got my first full-time permanent job, and after four years of living apart, I finally get to live with my husband, who just graduated. My ever patient in-laws have not thrown me out. Brunton number one not only found full time work back at the bank, but has been promoted. Right at the end of the year, I also passed my probation in my new job. Our debts (not huge, but there) from university have been paid off, and we have some savings. Oh, and we have chickens.

It has also been a very tiring, stressful year with a lot of sadness. Coming up for nine months ago now, my friend Burgess killed himself after a long, drawn out battle with depression. Not only was this the first time I had experienced bereavement by suicide, but it was two weeks into my first job. The following ten days were a blur of tearful phone calls to mine and Burgess’ nearest and dearest and retelling the sad news. At the end of the week, my parents and I went to visit my nan, who was recently discharged from hospital. She was a little cross and off colour, although pleased to see us – she had asbestosis and emphysema, and was not a well lady. The following morning, she died peacefully in hospital.

Having never attended a funeral before, I found myself going to two in a week. Without Brunton number one, I would undoubtedly have lost the plot, but in the middle of this grief, he was finishing his finals at university. Cue a long, tedious battle to get his dyslexia assessed and have these circumstances taken into account in the marking of his finals. We have both never felt so tired.

Following Burgess’ death, I took part in a ridiculously long bike ride for the charity Mind and auctioned off my choice of fancy dress. The more money I raised, the fancier it got. I ended up spending several hours out in the pouring rain, dressed as Princess Leia, with a (surprisingly robust) papier mache R2D2 strapped to the back of my tiny bicycle, and I raised over £800 for my trouble. It was a huge highlight to the year out of the worst of circumstances.

Towards the autumn fatigue set in, and so did its friends – panic attacks and stress. Add to this the difficulties I have had in adapting to these changes to my life and home environment, and I find myself doing something I had never expected to volunteer myself for – getting assessed for Asperger’s.

This has perhaps required one of the greatest mental adjustments although I am hoping that the payoff will be increased support and help with aspects of day-to-day life and socialisation that I seem to find harder than other people.

So this year is going to have challenges but I’m calling this year out as ‘Recovery’. The Bloggess, a blogger with a serious fear of the number that comes after 12, is calling this year the library. The library is a nice place to be, where you can quietly prep for next year. This year is going to be spent getting back to normal, and being ready to take on whatever comes next.

As for resolutions – I detest the idea of making a new year different to the last with a short-term goal, intended to force yourself into something you dislike. You want to diet? Then diet. Nobody keeps to that sort of resolution, because it’s something they never wanted to do, and as the year wears on the incentive that the New Year gave is less and less. Instead, I choose to make investments, that is, do things that make me a better or more interesting person. I don’t do it every year but when I do, it’s an enriching enough thing that I stick to it. The aim is, at the end of each year, to feel as though I have done something to be a better person, not just to be richer, thinner or whatever. The year before last I wanted to learn how to make bread for myself – those of my friends who regularly get a fresh-baked loaf can testify to that investment!

Last year I belatedly told myself I had to keep up a blog, and get out and do or learn enough exciting things to fill it. As my readership appears to have expanded, it looks like at least some of you agree.

This year’s investment – keep up the blog, and make new things. I’ve got posts planned for new recipes, at least one film review-come-essay and one or two adventures. I’m also re-learning calligraphy because it is never a bad thing to learn new and interesting skills. Above all, I resolve to take care of myself, enjoy my time in ‘the library’, and get well. Get back to feeling like the old Amanda who was nutty in a good way, and not in a miserable, panicky, fruit-loop kind of way. There is only so much fatigue and sadness that can be thrown your way before you have to stand up to it and say ‘I am better than this’ and move on.

So here’s to 2013 – Recovery.

Asperger’s part 3

So I had planned to blog this out in real time – but we’ve actually skipped a few stages requiring a bit of recap. Nonetheless, this seems to be a long and repetitive process, so I’ll summarise.

I went and saw my GP, who is a lovely lady. She listens, she cares, and she doesn’t have any truck with bullshit. The consultation didn’t really go as I expected. This is probably partly due to how I described by problems, partly due to her initial strong impression that the problem might be social anxiety, partly due to the fact that my expectations for how it would go were way off kilter.

Let me explain that a little. My husband (who has dyslexia which took ages to diagnose) came along to the appointment, and was really impressed. The GP listened, set up an action plan, and arranged a follow up appointment. In my head, it would be a case of me stating my case, getting asked some detailed questions about Asperger’s, and then being passed straight on for a referral. What actually happened was that my GP understandably said that only having known me for 10 minutes, she couldn’t really make that sort of assessment, and asked me what the main reasons I had for asking for help were.

Now I have lots of difficulties dealing with people, but the worst of them is a tendency towards panic attacks/anxiety attacks. So when she asked me what precisely it was that brought me in asking for help, I quite honestly answered, ‘the panic attacks’. This has obviously triggered a whole line of investigation into social anxiety that I wasn’t really expecting, and very little questioning on the AS front. The trouble is that the problems that I think may all add up to something on the Asperger’s spectrum (even if not full-blown AS) are not so definable, obvious, and tangible as the freak outs are. They are all things that other people experience to a lesser extent, and not in themselves outrageously weird – together though, I think they build up to a bigger picture.

They are things like an utter mental blank at the idea of small talk. They are a serious dislike of unasked-for physical proximity to other people – crowds, or just someone sitting too close, or well meaning but huggy churchy-type people. There is the difficulty at seeing other people’s point of view, a very literal sense of humour which often gives the impression that I have no sense of humour at all, and some fairly OCD obsessions with touching things, or having things in the ‘right order’. There is the difficulty with having to have my whole day planned out, and also with changing those plans. There is also my apparent inability to spot other people’s emotional distress unless they are actually sobbing their eyes out, in which case I am probably the most uncomforting person out there (you have a problem? How do we fix it?!). This also translates into frequently offending people and not realising it, or talking someone’s ear off with no idea that they are bored stupid by my monologue. Ask me about something I’m interested in and expect to be there for days.

Where the GP consultations have focused on solutions for the immediate problems of panic attacks, and a suspected root cause of social anxiety, we haven’t discussed the above problems much. Nonetheless, she has given me a referral to the ‘Gateway’ service – which is actually a remarkably efficient system. The GP refers cases such as panic/anxiety/depression/developmental concerns (such as AS) to the gateway worker, who assesses the needs of the patient, and how quickly they need to be seen. An appropriate referral is then passed to the relevant services, and the patient hears from them directly. I have to say, I’m very impressed so far. The gateway assessment people are under the impression that while I remain concerned that AS is an issue, it should be fully investigated – so I am now waiting for a letter to hear about when my appointment will be. I’m not really sure what the assessment itself will involve, but I’ll obviously write it all up.

Next steps

I’ve been told there is a wait for up to a year for AS assessments, so this could take a long time. The gateway worker is hopeful that it could be as little as 3 months, but either way, there is a bit of a wait involved. In the meantime, I think the idea is that they will be my point of contact for further care. So we wait and see!

*UPDATE* The above section actually needs a bit of clarification in light of recent events. When my GP discussed referral with me, I had two options. The first was Cognitive Behavioural Therary (CBT) for social anxiety. The second was a route towards an assessment for Asperger’s. Wanting it at least ruled out/confirmed, I of course plumped for the Asperger’s assessment.

As soon as I said this, I was told that my GP had spoken to the Gateway services person, who had told her the wait was to be at least a year. She asked me if I was sure that I wanted this option. To my mind the waiting time makes no difference. If I were to come into a doctor with a migraine to be told, ‘you can wait a day for migraine medication, or have a lobotomy right now’ I’d probably wait for the treatment that seemed more appropriate. I was non-plussed, but went with it. I was then told I’d be contacted by the Gateway service in the next two weeks to arrange an appointment with them, prior to the actual Asperger’s referral.

Three weeks later, I called the Gateway service. They were efficient, friendly and helpful. They had only just got the letter from my GP. Not only that, but I didn’t need to see them at all. They are just the centralised service that passes around referrals. Furthermore, when I asked the guy there about the wait for an Asperger’s appointment, he casually replied ‘Oh, no more than 2-3 months’. I was obviously suprised and told him my GP had predicted about a year – he told me that there has never been a waiting list that long, and he would never say that.

A few weeks later still, and I called the Asperger’s assessment people I am being referred to in order to get some more information on the process of referral, and what I would need to do. They got the referral from the gateway service very promptly, and were reviewing my case. All well and good. When I asked about the waiting list, I was told it was, and only ever had been 2-3 months. They gave me lots of helpful information, and I came away happy.

The weak link here appears to be at the GP level. I work in sales and I know the theory of the ‘unattractive option’. It is a technique used as a bargaining chip either to ascertain that the customer (or patient in this case) really wants what they are asking for, even if you make it sound unattractive. You either talk them round to what you want, or make sure that their mind is going to be unchangable. I have been ‘unattractive optioned’. The process to get a referral was made to sound unduly long and complicated, with many appointments with various different agencies – where actually it looks like although I’ll have a bit of a wait, it’s remarkably simple.

My opinion of my GP and the consultations I have had are somewhat modified by this experience, but it is at least a familiar one. In getting my nephew diagnosed, his parents found that it involved 4 or 5 different non-specialists telling them that the kid definitely didn’t have AS, until they finally got to see some specialists whose reaction could probably be summarised as ‘well duh, yes this child does have Asperger’s’. If I had to cite one of the biggest hurdles of this process so far, it’s been in getting taken seriously enough to get the referral through, and being reliably informed about the process. Hopefully, the worst of this is now behind me. Now to sit tight and wait for the letter from the Asperger’s unit!