Thursday, 31 May 2007

Mind Control Experiment

I went to bed around 11, read for a while, then told myself firmly, "I am going to sleep now." I could feel my mind, that moments before had been involved in stirring scenes in ancient Rome (Steven Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa book series, brilliant) begin to still and my body begin to relax.

But hey, I'd forgotten something.

"Not yet!" I said desperately, flailing back to the surface of awakeness and removing glasses and repositioning glass of water and eye mask (it gets awfully bright around 5am) and groping for ear plugs (the blackbird sings extremely loudly and there is a hole in the double-glazing. A bullet hole. That's another story, and another reason why my bedroom isn't very relaxing).

A plump-up of the pillows, then an even firmer, "I am going to sleep now." I woke up at 6am, went to the bathroom, came back and slept till 8.30-ish. Yes, it worked. Tonight I am going to order myself to wake up at 8am. I'll let you know if it works. My mother swore that it did.

One advantage of being self-employed is that you don't have to be on a certain train at a certain time. I don't miss those ghastly journeys with my nose too close to the sweaty armpit of a man's suit that smelt as if an onion-eating rat had died in it, and following a farty bottom up the escalator. I don't miss the crush and the rush, the heart-pounding moments when the London tube stopped in a dark tunnel for what seemed like a week, and the race down the street to get there in time, before the boss decided to do her rounds.

But I do miss the social life. Now, I waste too many hours gabbing on the phone and checking emails (though I did that at work, anyway) and watching wildlife in the garden. Friends ring from a busy office only to hear me say, "I'm looking at a green woodpecker pecking holes in an anthill." I miss the gossip and sharing a bottle of wine in a bar after work, and the talk of who is shagging who. And the thrill of wondering if the new assistant manager might possibly fancy me even if he's a good fifteen years younger... Ah, those heady days.

I have a large, red and disfiguring spot on the end of my nose. Don't tell me it's the wine. I'll tell it to go away and see if it obeys. Though I have a funny feeling that spots are animated by gremlins out to ruin your day - or, worse, your date. And I have blobbed on some Tea Tree cream, so if it goes, mind control might not be the only reason. But hey, who cares so long as it buggers off before Santa auditions me for a job as Rudolph's stand-in?

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Mind Control

My mother was a firm believer in the powers of the mind. The human brain fascinated her and she read all she could about it. She was particularly interested in the large area of the brain that no-one has yet fathomed a function for. Her theory was that it is the source of our so-called paranormal powers – telepathy, instinct, clairvoyance, déjà vu, things our ancestors would have used in days before modern forms of communication, powers that people like the Australian Aborigines used to thread their paths through the desert and that sometimes let us know when someone close is ill, or in danger.

When my sister and I were young, our mother played a telepathy game with us. She would be the ‘sender’ and say, “I’m thinking of an animal” and project an image of that animal into our heads. With practise, we got good at it and took it in turns to be a ‘sender’ or a ‘receiver’.

Mum was blessed with excellent health. She was only ill once in her life, when she got appendicitis and, because she had never suffered an ordinary stomach ache, didn’t know the difference. By the time the doctor was called, it had turned into peritonitis. Two hours later, they said, and she would have been dead. But, true to form, three weeks after having her appendix out at the age of 56, she was swimming in the freezing Welsh sea.

Whenever she felt the start of a cold coming on, she would use her mental powers to beat it, by concentrating on the sore throat or tickly nose and telling herself firmly, “I have not got a cold.” It always worked. She could also use her powers to stop interference on the television screen. She even claimed to be able to close doors without leaving her chair.

At the age of 87, she went to bed one night and never woke up again. I wish I had inherited her health (I got my father’s instead) and I hope for a swift, peaceful end like hers, though not for many years yet, please! But in the meantime I have decided to see if I, too, can use mind over matter to combat my ailments. Last night in bed, lying awake at, I don’t know, around two, I’d guess, I concentrated on each pain in turn and told myself I hadn’t got it. Blow me if every ache didn’t cease immediately. Then I told myself to go to sleep – and awoke at 7am. I shall continue to report my progress and in the meantime, thanks, Mum!

Monday, 28 May 2007

Food: God v. the Devil

Having suffered indigestion all night caused by an excess of beautiful, juicy leg of lamb, roasties, cauliflower, carrot, broccoli and peas, having this joke arrive in my email in-box seemed synchronistically appropriate, so I thought I would share it...

In the beginning God covered the earth with broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, with green, yellow and red vegetables of all kinds so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives.
Then using God's bountiful gifts, Satan created Dairy Ice Cream and Magnums. And Satan said "You want hot fudge with that? and Man said "Yes!" And Woman said "I'll have one too with chocolate chips". And lo they gained 10 pounds.

And God created the healthy yoghurt that woman might keep the figure that man found so fair.

And Satan brought forth white flour from the wheat and sugar from the cane and combined them. And Woman went from size 12 to size 14.

So God said "Try my fresh green salad". And Satan presented Blue Cheese dressing and garlic croutons on the side. And Man and Woman unfastened their belts following the repast.

God then said "I have sent you healthy vegetables and olive oil in which to cook them". And Satan brought forth deep fried coconut king prawns, butter-dipped lobster chunks and chicken fried steak, so big it needed its own platter, and Man's cholesterol went through the roof.

Then God brought forth the potato, naturally low in fat and brimming with potassium and good nutrition.

Then Satan peeled off the healthy skin and sliced the starchy centre into chips and deep fried them in animal fats adding copious quantities of salt. And Man put on more pounds. God then brought forth running shoes so that his Children might lose those extra pounds.

And Satan came forth with a cable TV with remote control so Man would not have to toil changing the channels. And Man and Woman laughed and cried before the flickering light and started wearing stretch jogging suits.

Then God gave lean beef so that Man might consume fewer calories and still satisfy his appetite.

And Satan created McDonalds and the 99p double cheeseburger. Then Satan said "You want fries with that?" and Man replied "Yes, And super size 'em". And Satan said "It is good." And Man and Woman went into cardiac arrest.

God sighed ......... and created quadruple by-pass surgery.
And then ............ Satan chuckled and created the National Health Service.


After an exhaustive review of the research literature, here's the final word on nutrition and health.:

1. Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
2. Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
3. Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
4. Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
5. Germans drink beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.

CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Jagged Little Pills

… to quote Alanis Morisette. That’s what you get when you cut big pills in half. I don’t know about you but I have never been able to swallow large tablets unless they are the smooth capsule type. My mother was the same, so is my sister. Perhaps it’s a nervous thing. Faced with the hard immensity of the thing, our throats close up so that something the size of a small beach pebble suddenly makes you feel as if you’ve swallowed Gibraltar. But cutting them in two isn’t the answer owing to those sharp, jagged corners that lacerate tender tissue on the way down and feel just like pieces of glass.

So I bought one of those pill crushers. Faced with a heap of powder, the next question was how to get that down the old cherry lane. I tried water but a mouthful of grit made the throat rebel again. Remembering that my mother used to crush a bitter aspirin tablet in strawberry jam for us when we were kids (the acrid taste of the aspirin always cut throught the sweetness and made me gag), I tried binding the powder in honey but again, the result tasted vile and wouldn’t go down.

Someone suggested that taking a mouthful of milk helps a pill go down. I tried it and, glory be, it worked, but the trouble is, I can’t stand milk. Never have. As a newborn, I refused breast milk. My harrassed mother had to express it and drip it into my mouth from a teaspoon, probably mixed with strawberry jam. At school, the reward for doing well in class was an extra third pint bottle of milk. The milk crates were always stacked next to the radiator, which meant that the milk would have gone totally off by the afternoon when the ‘prizes’ were doled out. No wonder my reports always read, ‘could do better’.

There are two remedies that I use a lot, Glucosamine and L-Lysine, the first for my arthritic fingers and the second as an immune system boost (when taken with a Vit C) to ward off colds and cold sores (thank you, Dr John Briffa, for recommending this brilliant combination). I have spent lots of money only to open the bottles at home and find they contain hard tablets, impossible for me to swallow. So I decided to search on-line. Several Internet minutes later, I had located L-Lysine in capsule form and, amazingly, Glucosamine in powder form which you mix with water and drink once a day with a meal. (It’s called Joint Physio, for anyone who’s interested, and it available on line from Healthspan.) The resulting drink tastes like a cystitis remedy, kind of lemony but not too ghastly. Only four days after starting to take it and my finger joints are already bending more easily.

Of course I could always move to France and buy everything in suppository form, but I wonder what my piles would have to say about that? “Merde! Zut alors! Avez-vous un pea-shooter?”

Wednesday, 23 May 2007


Dodgy pizza, churning stomach, filthy headache, slept for one hour, woke, took two paracetamols and, half an hour later, a Zantac, and lay waiting for deliverance. Some time in the early hours – which should be the late hours as it felt very late indeed to me – I heard it. The Yowl of Doom.

Now, Flad is a very quiet cat. He appeared in the garden as a half-grown stray, furry appendages already removed. Or maybe they never descended, for his voice hasn’t progressed beyond a squeak, which is why his nickname is the same as the sound emitted by his favourite live dish, the mouse. Eek. In terms of IQ, Flad’s would be in the minus category, unlike his predecessor, the fine, the unique Bastard Cat (BC for short), that Einstein of the species Felidae. BC could observe, ponder and work things out, but Flad acts on pure instinct. Make a sudden move, and Flad runs. Go near catfood cupboard and Flad appears even if, seconds before, he had been halfway across the farm field at the back of the house. Methinks he can morph and move faster than light. He could be an alien. He certainly didn’t learn cat habits for a long time. He didn’t purr till he was five which, in human terms, is the equivalent of not walking and talking until you are about 20. The yowl, a loud, rich, ‘Look at me, aren’t I clever?’ sound, only comes when he catches something. In this case, in the middle of the night.

Got up, fumbled for specs, put them on and advanced cautiously into kitchen. Would it be a rat? Flad (see previous post of recumbent fat feline) is an excellent ratter. He’s an ardent mouser who is capable of starting on the head and sucking the entire rodent straight down until the tail-tip slithers through his fangs like the last strand of spaghetti. Currently he is in disgrace, having deprived a Great Tit family of 50% of its food delivery.

This time it was a fieldmouse. (Not the rodent in the pic. That was a baby rat and he won't eat rats, just gloats over their corpses.) No, this trophy was a glorious little golden creature, sadly twisted in rigor mortis, with a tiny speck of blood on its nose. I proceeded to praise and pat the mouse murderer though my eyes were moist. I fled back to bed before he could demonstrate how to eat it, though the first crunch met my ears as I closed the living room door.

But back to bowels. The Very Irritable Bowel hasn’t bothered me since the day I was setting off for the Lake District two weeks ago. This morning it is back, the cramps, the squits, accompanied by an ozone-like odour which appears to have come from the pit of hell. Or Brighton. I have eaten three tablespoons of live yogurt, my favourite M&S Greek-style one. If that won’t neutralise the stench of rotting seaweed, nothing will. I await with bated breath my body’s next attempt to clobber me. What will it be this time? Will the Awful Ulcer put in an appearance? After all, I nearly had the Mighty Migraine last night. Yet I survived Sunday’s barbecue intact, which surprising considering the intake of peanuts, crisps, cold, greasy sausages, hard-boiled egg, burger, birthday cake (no, it wasn’t my celebration but a friend’s six-year-old’s), chocolate and several glasses of White Zinfandel. Maybe I’m having a delayed reaction to such a toxin-fest.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

At the Gym

Having an hour to spare between a visit to the chiropractor (excellent progress, see you in six weeks, hooray), and an appointment for a massage from Goddess Daphne (she of the healing fingers), I decided to spend it at the gym. I had paid up for three months' membership and hadn't been since May 2. That means I have wasted £30 and put on 30 pounds, an equation that makes more sense to me than the figures my accountant has just sent me.

Now, in between gym visits I had bought a sports bra. It was sealed in a plastic pack so I hadn't been able to try it on in the shop. It looked a very fine gym bra. Not only did it promise to hold my bouncy bits firm on the cross-trainer, it was also reversible and could be worn white with a black logo, or vice versa. Having broken a nail wrestling it out of the packet, I nervously tried to whisk off the bra I was wearing and replace it with my splendid new purchase before anyone came in. You see, my gym isn't the type that is full of splendid young goddesses flaunting their perfect birthday suits. It caters more for old wrecks like me and the staff are wonderful; sensitive, understanding and helpful even when I jam the exercise bike with my towel and drop a weight on the instructor's toe. But even so, I didn't want anyone to come in and be treated to an eyeful of my flabby bits. If nothing else, it might cause nausea and put them off their 'tone up your pelvic floor' class.

Thrusting my right arm into a hole in the tight lycra, I tried to tug it over my head. There was a TWANG as of a bow releasing an arrow and my glasses hurtled across the room. £450-quid's-worth. I closed my eyes, opened them again and found myself too blind to see where they had landed. Luckily, I had brought my varifocals. Groping for them in my back-pack, I put them on and saw, with blessed relief, that they had landed on the bench and were quite all right. I tried to don the bra without specs this time and couldn't get my head through. I'd pulled it into a figure of eight and it was terminally twisted. Third time lucky and I got the thing on. It held my boobs firmly. So firmly that you couldn't see I had any, thus totally wrecking my chances of pulling the nice, suntanned (villa in Spain?) 60-ish guy to whom I had chatted as he was toning his pecs on my last visit.

After six minutes on the treadmill I decided to check my heartbeats per minute. 66. Surely that couldn't be right? I'd just run for three minutes with the treadmill at No. 7 speed. At 66, surely I was, if not clinically dead, then well on the way. On I pounded for another two minutes and tried again. 149. That was more like it. But wait. 66 to 149 in two minutes might be slow off the blocks in terms of cars, but it sounded pretty like a heart attack waiting to happen to me.

I dismounted and got on the low exercise bike, the one where your knees pummel your tum flab with every revolution. For some reason, I wasn't enjoying it. I got on the high bike instead. It was set for a giraffe, not a normal person, and the saddle refused to lower itself even when I balanced all my weight on it like a trainee swimmer practising in-air breast-stroke. Twenty goes on the triceps press (the upper arms look like blancmange with smallpox) and it was time for my massage.

Daphne is a small, neat Malaysian woman in her early fifties with fingers so strong that she could balance the earth and spin it. When those finger tips press on your stiff shoulders, the pain-pleasure border is blissfully crossed. Daphne plays the flute and is writing a book. "Shall I call it 'Diagnosing Depression' or 'Treating Depression'?" she asked me. "What's wrong with - ouch! - 'Diagnosing and Treating - ouch - Depression'?" I suggested as she cracked my crystalline deposits and untangled my tense trigger points. I staggered out in such a healing haze that I mistook which floor I was on and walked into the midst of a men's body-toning session. Hard thighs in shorts were too much to take in. Gulping and apologising, I climbed two floors to the changing room where I ripped off the offending lycra bondage garment and went home bra-less and shameless.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

White Nights

‘Nuits blanches’ is what the French call sleepless nights. White nights when the eyelids and mind won’t close and the blackness of total oblivion refuses to descend. Here is a pic of my cat. He can sleep anywhere, in any position, paws up, dangling off the edge of table or chair, on top of a half-inch-wide fence (he weighs 18lbs and the billows of flubber hang down on either side). He can fall asleep in the middle of washing himself, tongue out, head drooping, one back leg poking up in the air. Oh, to be so talented at sleeping.

For me, sleep is all about noise. Annoying noise. The 3am moron with thumping bass rapping from his car stereo; the rain thundering on the Velux window above your head; the tap-tap of a twig or loose TV or telephone flex against the gutter; the rustling of a plastic bag somewhere in the bedroom (your rational brain knows you took something out of it and disturbed its folds earlier, but right now, could it be the sinister work of a burglar loosening the window latch, or the stealthy creeping of a monstrous spider?); the sounds of your own interior workings, whooshings, gurglings, monstrously amplified by your over-alert senses; the deafening blackbird at 5am, your signal that you may as well give up and get up.

I used to smile smugly when friends complained about insomnia. “Never happened to me,” I’d say. Talk about tempting fate. From the moment the doc refused to renew my HRT prescription two years ago, Morpheus stopped visiting. No amount of herbal sleep aids, scented candles, relaxation cd’s or cups of warm milk (yuk) could persuade him to take me in his dark-winged arms and waft me off to the realms of dreamland. After a few months, I swapped the softly-softly approach for the cudgel. Temazepam (worked well but the doc would only give me 20 and that was 18 months ago); antihistamines (Phenegan worked brilliantly but the chemist warned of a strange side-effect. It thinned the skin on your arms, making you much more prone to sunburn, so I threw out the rest of my packet). Night Nurse and Benilyn Original were the big cannons in my armoury.

Then I went to Spain and discovered – oh happy day! – that you could buy sleeping tablets over the counter. I now take half a Limovan about three times a week (no, the GP doesn’t know so please don’t think this is good advice) and the rest of the time I resort to the second best solution, a glass or two of red wine, the heavier and fruitier the better or, like last night, I lie there counting not sheep, but how many jobs I have to finish by the end of the month, and wondering how the hell I’m going to fit them in. When I’m not doing that, I’m writing book chapters or song lyrics and melodies in my head. This is why I call my brand of insomnia ‘busy brain syndrome’. Once it starts chunnering and churning, I know I’m in for a very long, wakeful night.

There is hope, though. Last night I tried imagining I was a balloon floating over familiar territory. The park. My sister’s house in Cumbria. A blue balloon floating gently on a soft breeze. Then I woke up. This morning. I think I may be onto something….

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

The Stye is a Pig

Two days after my return from Cumbria, I felt a sensation as if a needle had pricked my eyelid and knew, with immense annoyance, that the Wandering Stye had picked the lower lid on my left eye to put in his latest appearance.

You may be wondering why, as I am female, I refer to my ailments in the masculine gender. I can only apologise to all gentle, sensitive, tender-hearted, kind males and explain that, in general, all the things that have been the biggest pains in my life have been male. I mean, what female would poke me in the eye and arrange a big swelling for first thing in the morning? (Er.... OK. I shan't continue in this slightly double-entendre-ish vein.) But I think you're starting to get the picture.

My styes are caused by staring too long at the computer screen. This dries out the eyes, the lids get pink and irritated and bingo! A stye. I found a tube of Brolene, bunged some on, then noticed
the warning words, 'discard 4 weeks after opening'. It must have lurked in my cupboard for at least 4 months. So off I popped to the local chemist's where, after a twenty-minute conversation about how life was much better in ye olde days when there were no televisions, computers, iPods or mobile phones and we all lived cheek by jowl with assorted relatives in a house lit by one electric light which, when turned on, provided us with the entertainment of seeing a thousand cockroaches skitter away to their homes beneath the floorboards, I was sold a new tube of eye ointment.

My ears ringing with memories of the 'party pieces' all children used to have to learn and trot out at every family party (mine, in case you're wondering, was Lord Ullin's Daughter, complete with hair-tearing, chest-beating and melodramatic sobs as 'the waters wild washed o'er his child and he was left lamenting'), I trotted home, opened the tube and found the garrulous sales assistant had mistakenly given me drops for conjunctivitis instead of oitment for styes.

Then I remembered a remedy I'd once resorted to on a wet day in Turkey after spending all day in an internet cafe sending off my novel to my agent (it was rejected :-<). Tea Tree Cream. Now, that tube had lived in my medicine cupboard (yes, it's the size of the average fridge-freezer, how did you guess) for at least a year and probably contains sundry other ingredients by now such as grains of sand, cat hairs and the odd leg from a squashed mosquito. Whatever the resulting potion, I don't think even eye of newt and tit of bat could improve it. One blob before going to bed (where I did seventeen rounds with the Busy Brain Syndrome until resorting to the last ditch method - see next posting) and my stye has come to a head and the pain is much relieved.

Now that I know that the Wandering Stye can be clobbered by Tea Trea ointment, I can stop buying tiny tubes that have to be thrown out after four weeks, where they end up in some land fill site being eaten by red-eyed rats the size of badgers, whose fur is glossy from all the discarded hair products and whose faces are wrinkle-free from all that snuffling about in oozing tubes of Anusol.

Monday, 14 May 2007

The Finger's Return

It hasn't bothered me for some time but suddenly, tonight, I suffered The Return of the Dodgy Finger. There I was, propped up against the bar in the Feelin' Okay Corral, relaxed and, well,
feelin' okay, when all at once I felt a horrible ache and a throb as the Finger announced that it was back from rounding up cattle or prospecting for gold, or poking my ear out, or whatever it had been doing, and was challenging me to a duel. Put up, or shut up, said the Finger, as I groaned.

It was, and is, grossly swollen from too much piano playing, guitar strumming, typing and mousing. It is an abused finger. It has not been treated well and now it has osteoarthritis and is not a dainty digit. In fact, it is downright deplorable. There was only one thing to do if I was to do any more typing today - or even sleep - and that was to catch it unawares and plunge it into the large tub of Arnica gel that I keep for the purpose. Squidge, gentle massage and the pain is greatly reduced. I can now get on with propping up the Feelin' Okay bar once more and finger be damned! It can go and plague someone else and poke someone else's ear (though not their nose).

Pesky Machines

Switched on my laptop this morning, got my emails, played my regular word game and then my guy says, "I've got this new bit of software. I'm going to clear all the temporary files and junk off your machine." Fine. Degunked, I went back to my game. It wouldn't load. Tried my g-mail account. That wouldn't work either. "Looks like your machine has died. You'll have to buy a new one," says the knowledgeable one.

"But it worked all right till you cleaned it up," I bleated. So he reset all the settings back a couple of days and it still wouldn't work.

Then my memory sticks, which worked fine in the laptop, died in my big machine. I could feel tension grip my throat. My heart began pounding and my hands went cold and shaky. I want to kill. Machines and the man. £500 poorer (soon to be), thirty notches on my blood pressure and a smug smile emanating from the study downstairs. It's my fault, according to him. I put out a vibe that is death to machines. (Partly true, but I was in a fine mood before all this started.)

How to cure computer-generated blood pressure problems? Take some very deep breaths, throw laptop out of window and go for a long walk. Even in the rain. And camomile tea, drunk slowly, not too hot, sweetened with a blob of honey. I can feel the tides of tension subsiding already.

P.S. Later that day, the man reloaded the latest version of Firefox. The machine now works again, but with one strange glitch. If I type an email too quickly, the whole thing vanishes off the screen. Then an icon comes up telling me that my last task finished unexpectedly and asking if I would like to continue where I left off. Maybe someone up there is telling me to think before committing myself to paper. (I have in the past been notorious for my 'scorchers' - letters dashed off in the heat of the moment and delivered to the person I am furious with, rather than left till next morning and re-read once I've cooled down. More camomile tea!

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Never travel with me

Had to make a very early start last Tuesday in order to get into London to catch a train to the Lake District, where I was due to have a lovely time at a spa with my sister, who I hadn't seen for 18 months. So... lots to look forward to, nothing to fear.


No sleep, stomach pains, five trips to loo, feeling sick, cold, weak, shaky, exhausted, almost unable to pick up bag, I nearly didn't even set out. But I was glad I had dragged myself to Euston station because I found myself seated in the First Class dining section, thanks to a cheap ticket booked a week earlier, and plied with free food and drink all the way. Under the influence of a large free vodka and tomato juice, I found myself in Victoria's in Penrith buying patchwork hippy trousers (see left) and a tie-dyed kaftan and thinking it was 1967 again. (If only... )

On Wednesday evening, I made an unwise choice and scoffed three small spoonfuls of ratatouille with my chicken. Woe was me. Next morning at 5.23am the Food Foes put in a most inconvenient appearance, sending me rushing to the loo what seemed like a hundred times but was probably only six or seven. What had looked like tomato in the dim light of evening in a dark country inn must have been my old enemy, red pepper, primed for battle. By 11-ish, the stomach was calmer but the rear end felt as if it had done ten rounds with a Brillo pad.

Now I am back, I find myself wondering about these travel nerves. It was like a form of stage fright. I felt I was destined to face a huge audience and give a speech on a subject I knew nothing about, rather than simply get up early to catch a train, without even leaving the country.

Scores of skipping lambs, misty mountains and soft rain did a lot to calm my nerves. Poet A.J. Tessimond wrote in his poem, To London the Train Gallops, 'Perhaps I am the place and not the places me.' I used to think that was the case - that I carried a burden of nervous anticipation inside me wherever I went. But perhaps my external setting has more influence than I realised. Maybe I ought to be skipping happily across the fells with the lambs, wearing my hippy trousers and hugging trees. (Yes. I did. I followed my sister's lead and hugged the huge old oak that she makes arboreal love to every time she passes it. It will be hairy socks and open-toed sandals for me soon, at this rate.)

I found a Yogi Teas Stomach-Ease tea helped a lot with my post-ratatouille sufferings. Full of ginger and other stomach-settling goodies. Within an hour of drinking it I was back to normal, if patchwork trousers can be considered normal under any circumstances.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Early Morning Reconnaissance

The instant I wake each day, I detach my mind and let it soar like an RAF reconnaissance plane over my body, its radar scanning for trouble spots. I lie there, a quiet landscape, a citadel of flesh and blood, while my radar picks out an inflammatory heat source there, a sneaky bacterial hi-jacker there, an invading army of streptococchi creeping down the tunnel of my nostril, or an alien fungus settling into a nice new home between my toes.

This morning, all was quiet. Stiff Shoulders reminded me that they were there, then shrugged and got on with the business of being shoulders. Then *cough, throat-clear, sniff*; oh no, Military Intelligence had failed to identify a minor player in this daily drama, Claggy Catarrh.

I grew up in South Liverpool. Whenever a stinky wind blew from the Stanlow Oil Refinery, the entire house shook to a cacophony of coughs and throat clearing, from Dad to Sandy the cat. Whether that was the start I do not know, but ever since, from time to time, Claggy Catarrh has bugged me. 18 months ago I caught possibly the worst cold of my life. Perhaps it was optimistic of me to wear a swimsuit in the sea in North Cornwall in October when all around were wearing wetsuits, even the seagulls. All I know is that, after half an hour of attempting to swim three strokes between breakers, I turned blue and started to shiver. Chill became cold, cold was defeated a fortnight later but ever since, Claggy Catarrh has been a pest, especially at night.

At present I am trying Bioforce's Plantago drops. It may be my hopeful imagination, but the slurry appears to have dried up to a mere sheen at the back of my throat. I shall keep you posted.

(Disclaimer. I have no links with any companies. All remedies discussed in this blog are ones that I have tried myself, or ones that other sufferers have recommended.)

A tour around my body

Over the years (no, I'm not going to mention how many), I have been beset by an amazing variety of ailments, which keep me on, and sometimes off, my toes. I think of myself as the original happy hypochondriac, except that not all my woes are imagined. Perhaps I am possessed by a Bad Health Imp who flits invisibly round me, pinching each bit in turn and making sure it gives me a moment of pure hell.
During the course of this Blog you will meet and get to know the following notorious characters:
* The Stiff Shoulders and their good friend, Nasty Neck
* The Dodgy Ankle
* The Awful Ulcer (excruciating) and its good mate, The Acid Attack
* The Mighty Migraine (not just a bad headache...)
* The Very Irritable Bowel (poke it with a peanut and it flares up and stings like an angry hornet)
* The Pestilential Piles (no, anything but the PP's!)
* The Wandering Stye (can appear anywhere round the rim of either eye)
* The Food Foes (peppers, onions, garlic in any form, especially puree, citrus fruits, rhubarb, chillis and prawns when carelessly mixed with red wine)
* The Sneaky Cystitis (works undercover with The Acid Attack and The Food Foes)
* The Travel Sickness (gives bucket shop air tickets a whole new meaning)
* The Insomnia. I call my version Busy Brain Syndrome.
* The Random Failures (these included the occasion two months back when my jaw, suddenly and inexplicably, slammed shut, to admit only thin slices of bread, soup and ginger biscuits for an entire two weeks)

and finally, perhaps the worst of all,

* The Awkward Arthritis (allows coins, cups and kettles to slip from fumbling fingers)

Just in case you're wondering how one person can possibly bear having such a wide variety of ailments, let me tell you that it's just possible to stumble through the average day with a grin still pasted on one's suffering face, SO LONG AS THEY DON'T ALL ATTACK AT ONCE!

As my blog unfolds, I shall mention the remedies I have found by trial and error and hope you will be good enough to share yours. Happy Hypochondriac Healers Unite!