Monday, 29 October 2007

Tea tree massage for stomach ulcers

I had high hopes of a haemorrhoid-free future when I started taking Goldenseal but, as usual, I found it worked for everybody but me. The label said take one to three per day. For the first
four days I took one. Then I thought, maybe I wasn't taking enough, so I upped the dose to two. That's when I found myself going to the loo more often. Much more often. Maybe five or six times a day. The result was to make the pile problem worse, or course, so now I have stopped taking them altogether. Anyone want a three-quarters full bottle?

For the last few months, I have been having a full body massage every fortnight from Daphne, the Malaysian lady with the magic fingers. Two months ago she had the idea of massaging my stomach with tea tree oil. With closed eyes, she pinpointed exactly where the ulcer is as she can 'see' where physical problems are. Then she began to massage very gently in the direction in which the stomach leads to the intestines, and the intestines wind back from right to left.

Since she has started it, I have had very little trouble with the ulcer. In fact, in two whole months, I have only reached for the ranitidine once. This is a vast improvement on the way I have been for the last few years. Even the irritable bowel hasn't grumbled quite so much - though it did this morning after a couple of glasses of rather acidic wine last night that have also given me a headache. I'm now about to go on the wagon for a week and take lots of probiotic yoghurt. Er... maybe not. I do hate yoghurt. It's like slimy sour milk, unless it's flavoured with strawberry or something, in which case it usually tastes even worse and has bits in it too. The thick Greek yoghurt with lots of calories is OK, though, and M&S do a version which has the 'friendly bacteria' in, too. I think that's the answer. Though a nice trip to Greece itself would be even better.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007


I first got piles in 1968 when I was pregnant. They never went. That makes almost 40 continuous years of pain and swelling in the nether regions. A minimum of 6,935 tortuous visits to the loo - probably a lot more when you include over 30 trips to Turkey and the consequences of foreign food and water, not to mention the evil mornings-after following unwise amounts of Turkish brandy and Coke.

Over the years I have applied everything from packs of frozen peas (no, I didn't eat them afterwards) and Germaloids, to Tea Tree suppositories and Proctosedyl. Forget Anusol: I was too embarrassed to ask for it. It's like admitting you were born with Uranus in the ascendant. The ancients also suffered from them and historical cures included mushrooms and chocolate oil, the latter calling all manner of revolting jokes to mind.

In a Sunday paper recently, I read a snippet in a health column recommending the herb Goldenseal. The column, just a small paragraph, probably covering the same area as one of my worse piles, reported that someone had had a massive pile disappear after having taken Goldenseal tablets for just two weeks. (Does this mean that owners of crumbling stately homes can now leave a pill in the porch instead of having to call on Blaster Bates?)

The article sparked a rush on Goldenseal resulting in a nationwide shortage (just how many haemorrhoidal homo sapiens are there?), but my speedy rush to the laptop and my nifty fingers ensured that one bottle was mine. I have now been taking it for ten days and all I can report is a touch of the trots and a derriere that feels even more tender to the Andrex Velvet touch than usual. I am still hoping for a miracle but I'm not holding my breath, or my sphincter. n

Saturday, 20 October 2007

It's Not OHS!

I was so unhappy last night. I ignored the cat, telling him he was a horrible pigeon slayer. He knew something was up. He sat there eyeballing me appealing with his golden orbs, and eventually I let him jump on my lap, but I wouldn't stroke him. I kept telling him was a bad cat. He tried to rub noses but I told him I didn't want him breathing Open Heart Surgery's last dying breath on me.

Yesterday evening I threw out more crumbs but the only pigeons to appear were two spruce newcomers with no distinguishing features other than their impeccable plumage and lack of injuries. This morning I threw out more, hoping against hope that OHS might swoop down from a tree and land with a thump on the lawn. (He's a very overweight pigeon.) There was a near miss when a pigeon with a splodge on its chest appeared, but it wasn't him. My heart was in my boots. Well, that time of morning it was my slippers.

Then, around 11am, I turned to see a familiar and much lamented sight. There was OHS, large as life, waddling down the lawn towards the nearest chunk of very expensive seeded bread. Oh, the relief.

"You spent all evening chastising that poor, innocent cat," my partner said.

"He wasn't innocent. He did eat somebody," I reminded him. (The local butcher had happened to drop by while the carnage was going on. Even he, though used to split and bloody carcases, muttered "Yuk," and averted his eyes from the revolting sight.)

I shall now go and sweep up the fluffy grey feathers, and will never know which of the flock went down the cat's throat yesterday. And the wretched feline still had the cheek to beg for his dinner!

Friday, 19 October 2007

Pigeon down

As I sat down to my lunchtime salad, a trail of fluffy grey feathers caught my eye through the patio doors. There, up the side of the house, was Flad, halfway through devouring a pigeon. I fear Open Heart Surgery has not survived his latest operation. If the sad, bloody corpse with its limp neck and closed eyes does turn out to be that of OHS, I shall bury the remains with full honours and post a picture of his grave. But I shall spare all tender-hearted readers a photo from the murder scene. It really is to bloody and brutal to behold and that cat will not be welcome on my lap tonight.

An Outbreak of Owls

"Wit, wit-wit." It's not a blackbird's alarm call. Too loud for that and not quite the right tone. Too much 'body' to the voice. It sounds more like, "kwik-kwik." Then the sound is followed by a weak, experimental sounding 'whoo'. Aha! That sounds more like an owl. And hey, there's another one, on a different oak tree, answering it. But wait - it's only three in the afternoon. How can it be owls? I run for the binoculars and climb up a ladder. I spot an upheaval on a branch. It looks like a large bird flexing and flapping its wings, preparatory to taking its first flight. I'm thrilled. I feel privileged to watch what may be the debutante flight of an adolescent owl. Then my hopes, together with my interest, are dashed. The flaps I have seen turn out to be nothing more than two randy wood pigeons having it away. Damn! Owls, where art thou?

In the last few days I have found out that they are probably tawny owls, which leave the nest any time from August to November, to establish their own territories. The RSPB have put them under Red Alert because their numbers are declining so rapidly, so I really hope that two Hillingdon owls are off to found new dynasties in the area.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

First autumn mist

Yesterday autumn came to the South-East, inevitably causing a massive pile-up on the M25 but creating nothing but hazy tranquillity in the garden. Twigs hung with tiny jewels. Leaves drifted down and glued themselves to the patio. I started thinking of Bonfire Night. Especially as last night I saw a hedgehog slurping up a slug on the lawn. (Only 63 million nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand to go!) As a child, I was told to poke a bonfire before setting it alight in case any hibernating hedgehogs should get baked in their spines. Last week, two newspapers I read carried recipes for baked hedgehog. Not funny! Well, not if you're a hedgehog with a bellyful of slimy slugs to last you through the winter. But, on the other hand...


At last, at last! A (rather blurry) portrait of the famous Open Heart Surgery in which his 'operation scar', courtesy of Flad, can plainly be seen. He is getting rather fat, owing to my attempts to make it up to him by chucking out at least four slices of bread a day. This morning it was apple and cherry crumble, on which he seems rather too keen. Fortunately, Flad is tucked up on the armchair so the risk of further surgery is quite remote. I think. I haven't been downstairs lately...

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Postal Strike

I earn a very modest income from freelance writing. All my payments come in the form of cheques that (normally) plop through the letterbox at irregular intervals and set me leaping and whooping all the way to the bank, where, if I'm lucky, they clear just in time to pay the direct debits.

I was just due for a couple, amounting to around £600, when the strike began. I was also expecting: an important book from Amazon which will form the basis of a meeting with a publisher and a possible commission; a pair of winter boots ordered online; an 'insomnia cure' in the form of a machine that pumps soothing noises into your stressed lughole and (I hope) cancels out the sound of Mr Boom-Box driving past at 3 am with his car windows open and stereo pumping 10,000 decibels into the owl-flapping, bat-sniping night.

Then there was the First Aid DVD. I ordered that just before the last postal strike and it has never come - and I've forgotten who I ordered it from. There was the £40-worth of anti-ageing skin products (don't laugh); I aged ten years while waiting for them and eventually the firm had to send out another batch and put in a claim against Royal Mail. As did an Irish firm from which I ordered.... no, can't say. Too personal. The embarrassment of phoning to say the goods hadn't arrived was second only to the way the humorous Irishman at the other end of the line gently joshed me as he spoke about the product.

And now it's all happening again and I, along with many other of the self-employed who are flapping gently about at the bottom of the income pool like so many floundering fish, are all washed up for real. I can't take it any more. I am about to shoot myself in the brain with an iced vodka bullet. This could really be my last post.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Mid Spid's fate

The day has come. Having failed to feed Mid Spid last night, despite several attempts including chasing a daddy longlegs with a sieve, as I didn't have a butterfly net, only to chase it straight into another spider's web, I decided the time had arrived to relocate a garden spider... in the garden.

A wine glass and a freebie cd from one of the Sunday papers was all the spider-capturing equipment I needed. I shook him into a bush alongside the path, in the hope that he will spin a catch-all net from bush to privet hedge.

On my return, something drew my eye to an area beneath the worktop where the washing powder, kitchen towel and other such items lurk. There, watching me with great interest, was son or daughter of Big Spid.

Enough of spiders. I must have scared off enough arachnophobic friends and am probably down to one reader - myself. So my next entry will concern the subject this blog was started for - the annoying little ills that beset the human body. Even I don't want to read about those!

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Open Heart Surgery

As the postal strikes seem never-ending, The Boyfriend suggested training our friendly local pigeons to carry our mail. I say 'friendly'; I mean plain damned stupid. One day last summer, I was working upstairs when I heard a commotion, bumps and bangs coming from downstairs. When I went to investigate, I saw:
* feathers everywhere
* blood everywhere
* a blood-stained black and white cat (Flad)
* a blood-dripping wood pigeon

I shooed Flad into the kitchen and closed the door, then I rang The Boyfriend, who was in the middle of helping his friend fit a kitchen. With panic in my voice, I informed him, "Help, you've got to come home straight away. There's blood everywhere and there's a half-eaten pigeon sitting on the sofa watching TV."

It was true. With its breast gashed and stripped of feathers, the poor bird was watching Richard and Judy. I don't know which gave it more pain, its injuries or Richard's smug, shiny grin.

Flad wasn't injured. By the time Alan came back, the cat had gone "yum yum" and licked off all the pigeon blood that stained his white front. Alan bundled the pigeon in a towel and carried it gently to the bottom of the garden and let it go. It fluttered feebly off and we shook our heads sadly, never expecting to see it again.

Miraculously, it survived, though with a jagged white scar down its chest feathers, and we christened it Open Heart Surgery. This year it has found a mate - another injured bird, this one having something wrong with its shoulder, which sticks up in an odd hump where the wing joins on. It also walks with a limp. I've named it Quasimodo. Another victim of Flad the Impaler, methinks.

This started as a blog about all my ailments but it seems to have turned into a wildlife blog. There is just so much of it round here, from mutant slugs of a luminous yellow shade, to what appear to be a pair of adolescent Long-Eared Owls, that yell loudly from the oak trees in the field beyond the garden. Yesterday, a pair of green woodpeckers joined Open Heart Surgery and Quasimodo on the lawn.

As for Bald Fox, he is now a fine furry fellow and rarely appears in the daytime. The homoeopathy worked a treat. I still give him the occasional suppertime jam sandwich, for old times' sake. And Mid Spid? He's still in the living room. I haven't had the heart to chuck him out. Especially as it might rain tomorrow.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Mid Spid's restaurant

Mid Spid is a garden spider with stripy legs. He (or she?) should, by rights, have a web stretching across the garden path from bush to hedge, in which to catch all manner of juicy dinners on wings. Instead, he's got me.

The living room's window is rarely opened. It's an internal room which leads on to the kitchen extension. Nothing ever flies in so poor Mid Spid is waiting in vain. Which is where I come in. Last night, I was out with a torch trying to find any sort of insect. They were in very short supply, apart from a mighty wasp, the sight of which made me slam the patio door shut with trembling hands as it crawled its furry way up the glass, regarding me with antagonistic antennae. The only thing I managed to catch, a small moth, escaped from my cupped hands.

Today was Mid Spid's third day without food. I could see him sagging weakly in his web like a fainting soul on a hammock in a striped swimsuit. (How long can a spider go without food? Anybody know?) So this afternoon I went out determined to find the poor arachnid something tasty. Bingo! A moth AND a daddy longlegs. The guilt wasn't as bad as last time. I felt they were being captured for a good cause. I did slightly squash the moth, though. I hope it didn't spoil the flavour.

But tomorrow, I'm afraid Mid Spid is going to be caught in a plastic cup and transferred to the great outdoors. The colder and wetter it gets, the less likely I am to be able to find him the spidery equivalent of steak and chips and and I think his chance of survival will be greater if he can spin an outdoor web and net his own grub.

Upwardly Mobile

The recovering stroke patient, searching for things to do to improve the fine movement in his right hand, decided to gather up all his old cds and dvds and making them intpo a mobile to hang from the apple tree. The other side flashes red, this is the silver and purple side. Poor Flad the cat, who used the space between the apple trees as a potty spot, is now terrified by the flashes when the sun catches the mobile, and has been forced to seek a new loo place elsewhere. Maybe it even gives him a migraine. He hasn't looked in a good mood lately. Curled up, opens a baleful yellow eye when I approach, as if to say, 'Unless you're going to give me an extra dinner, b*****r off!'