I am SO stupid! I thought the instructions said take 3 pills 3 times a day. I did this for three days then looked at the number of pills in the tiny bottle and thought, 'These will never last a month'. I checked the accompanying letter and realised I'd got it wrong. It should have been 1 pill thrice a day. Doh! No wonder I felt so sleepy and weepy. Tuesday evening, I took just one pill and yesterday, following a wonderful relaxing massage, I was suddenly hit by my first migraine in three years and had to take to my bed with hot water bottle and bucket, which, fortunately, I didn't need on this occasion. But I wonder if there is any connection between changing the homeopathy dose and getting the out-of-the-blue migraine?
Today the latest remedy in my ulcer-calming campaign arrived: a bottle of very high quality Aloe Vera juice (see photo: £7.99 from www.victoriahealth.com). I have just taken my first daily 25ml dose and will report on its success, or lack of.
Just thirty-six hours into my homeopathic treatment and I can report that strange things are happening. I feel soft and soppy and angry and upset and tearful. All sorts of hurtful memories are hurtling out of their boxes where I stuffed them years ago.
It started with me trying to work in a cold room once again. Suddenly, sheer frustration at not being allowed to control the heating but having to wait until Mr Grumpy felt like putting it on spilled over into angry tears, followed by a sense of real injustice, then a great longing to have my own home again where I can put on the heating when I feel like it, such as in the morning. Whenever I have had my own house, I have always set the heating to come on at 7 am. Here, it is set to come on at 5.30 pm and not a minute before.
I woke at 5 this morning, my arms cold, my body just a little too chilly to allow me to get back to sleep. At 7.30 I gave up the struggle and got up. Mr G, wrapped in many layers of fleeces, was sipping tea at the kitchen table. It was grey and foggy outside. By noon, it was about 57F in my study but I was cold. My hands were icy. I started to feel more and more miserable. I needed it at least 8 or 9 degrees warmer to be able to sit and critique a manuscript in comfort. I rubbed my hands together, jumped up and down, drank a mug of tea, all to no avail. And then I had my weepy attack. But this is so unlike me that I am sure the homeopathy has started to loosen up my feelings, because with it came a rush of the sort of creative sensitivity that used to drive me to write poetry. If phosphorus can get me writing again, it will have been well worth the £60 consultation fee.
My homeopathic remedy arrived by post this morning. I consulted the homeopath on Wednesday and was amazed by the detail into which she went while taking the history of my life traumas and ailments. It went back beyond my birth (forceps delivery, head injured, not seeing my mum for the first 24, or maybe it was 48, hours - maybe that accounts for the difficult relationship I always had with her, as that instant bonding didn't take place - and having arms strapped to my sides and my face slapped over and over because, having been bottle-fed, I refused to breastfeed). It went back before my birth, to when my mother was six or seven months pregnant with me and was on a Liverpool tram when a landmine exploded close by. The tremendous noise and the sheer terror must have got through to me because, all my life, I have been terrified of loud bangs, and cower indoors on bonfire night. I can't even pull a Christmas Cracker!
So I now have to take Phosphorus 30 three times daily - and have been told I must give up coffee for the next month while I am taking the remedy. GIVE UP COFFEE! My mid-morning coffee is something I look forward to even as I am drinking my breakfast tea. How will I get through the next four weeks?
I have also been told to avoid anything peppermint flavoured. My travel companion is always a tube of Trebor Mints. What can I replace it with? And my toothpaste has to go. I have to track down a non-peppermint one. Life sure ain't going to be easy...
While posting an entry on my wildlife blog the other day (www.hillingdonwilflife.blogspot.com), I found myself looking back over the past and thinking of all the times animals and birds have played a significant roles in my memories.
I can't ever think of the night I lost my virginity (!) without remembering the rat that ran out of the bushes afterwards and attacked my feet! After that, whenever I was in a bad relationship, sooner or later I would see a rat, and it became a sign that the man himself would sooner or later turn out to be one.
I cannot think of a dear friend, now passed on, without thinking of her parrot, that I looked after for a week. Until then, it had spoken in her husband's deep voice. Afterwards, it copied me singing and playing the guitar and had turned into a soprano, much to my friend's husband's disgust.
I think of Calderstones Park in Liverpool and am taken back to my earliest memory of all, of myself in a pram gazing up at the marvellous sight of my mother with a blue tit perched on her hand, pecking crumbs.
My first holiday in Majorca when I was 24: being given a hoist up onto a horse that pulled a trap to convey tourists along the bay. My friends wandered off and I was stuck on the animal's saddle-less back and couldn't get off.
The red-hot summer of 1955: Percy the racing pigeon. We were on holiday in Anglesey and the lost bird turned up at the door of our rented cottage and wandered in. It shared our lives for a fortnight then, on the last day, it tragically got itself run over. My mother jotted down the number on the ring on its leg and when we got home, she got in touch with a racing pigeon society and traced poor Percy's owner. (Percy had been given a decent burial in the back garden.) That same holiday: borrowing a very bolshy strawberry roan pony that trod on Dad's foot. He was wearing plimsolls and sported a vivid horse-shoe-shaped bruise for weeks. Tethering same pony to the door of the outside loo, not knowing Mum was enthroned. The pony bolted, taking the door with it!
Lying on my back in a field on a perfect day and watching the slow wing-flaps of a heron flying majestically overhead.
Counting buzzards on a long drive up to the Lake District.
On my wedding day, in a thunderstorm, being unable to drive off to the reception because a small ginger cat was taking shelter from the rain behind the wheel of the car. Two years later, sobbing brokenheartedly on finding out that my husband was having an affair and having Petal, our small grey cat, soothe me by licking the tears from my face as I lay on the bed.
Standing by the crater of Nea Kameni in Santorini on a boiling hot day, with a small grey lizard licking sweat from the palm of my hand. I don't remember much else about that holiday, but I do remember that.
A visit to Bournemouth: the park with the koi carp pond and a bridge over it, enabling me to study at close quarters the largest and most vividly orange fish I have ever seen.
A wade in the sea on the island of Symi, with tiny, jewel-coloured fish darting around my ankles.
Sitting in a beachside restaurant in Santorini, watching three porpoises leap clear out of the water and chase each other out of sight.
London Zoo, years ago, on a day out with the then love of my life, and pressing my nose against the thick glass while a huge tigress pressed her large black nose against the other side, as if nuzzling me.
The black cat I adopted for a fortnight in Gran Canaria. I called her Shadow. How I wished I could have taken her home. I cried when, suitcase packed, I fed her for the last time.
So many highspots, low spots, happy or bittersweet times, all marked by fur or feather, fin or wing. Nature has given me so very much.
Day after day of relentless grey skies and cold rain and then, this morning, a miracle. This is the sky at 7.15 am, showing - yes - blue! And soft, subtle skeins of pink. Now the sun is out and my spirits are soaring.
The past three weeks haven't been good. First the cold, then the stomach bug, then the ulcer reminding me of its presence and last night, twinges of cystitis. Unable to get to sleep, and following three visits to the loo in two hours, I got up at one-ish and took half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda dissolved in warm water. Tastes vile but it does the trick. I have also put myself back on Omeprazole as I have some left over. I hope that taking 150 mg of Omeprazole every day for a week will calm my stomach and leave me fit enough to attend my daughter's birthday medieval rave-up in her little Devon village. Think pointy felt hats, strange boots, drinking horns and mock jousts performed on office chairs rather than horses, and drunken, tuneless performances of dirty ditties such as Chastity Belt.
For all ye who know not the lyrics, they are along the lines of, 'Alas, sir Knight Errant, I am not a maiden/I'm married to Sir Oswald, the cunning old c...Celt./He's gone to the wars for a twelvemonth or longer/And he's taken the key to my chastity belt.' Of course, the lady's new paramour just happens to know a locksmith. Even when you've heard it dozens of times, you still can't resist sniggering at the plodding puns and stumbling double-entrendres, especially after a few tankards of mead.
If you are a wordsmith, then test your vocabulary and do some good at the same time. If you go to www.freerice.com, you'll see what I'm talking about. The more word definitions you get right, the more grains of rice you'll donate to those who need it. I got up to 2000 grains before I realised that I'd strained my brain to fill one bowlful. Mind you, I'm not so anal that I'd actually sit and count every grain in a bowl. This is pure guesswork. Perhaps 2000 grains is two bowlfuls. Or, tragic thought, maybe it's only a cupful. Still, if you're starving, you'd be heartily glad of that.
Talking of food, I'm off mine. I've been off it for days. My ulcer is playing up again and, rather than go to the doc's and be given more drugs, I have booked to see a homeopath on Wednesday. More anon.
As far as remedies are concerned, I can never understand why things work for a while, then seem to stop working. I mean, my stomach had six-pain free weeks. I was looking forward to a future in which I could plan things and actually go and enjoy them and now I'm back to postponing and cancelling things again. Why?
Mind you, I have had some bitter blows workwise, which have added to my stress (a company I've done over £1000 of work for who can't pay, and the loss of a regular, reliable magazine column - my horoscope for Fiesta), plus some disappointments and disruptions with Mr Grumpy. He'd run out of firewood for his wood burning stove. Night after night he'd sit in front of it, with freezing hands and feet and no warm, comforting glow. So generous muggins here goes onto the internet and orders half a ton of logs at a cost of over £100. Two days before they were due to arrive, Mr Grumpy gets a parcel. He'd bought a ski suit on eBay. That night he sat proudly and warmly in front of his empty stove while I sat there feeling foiled.
The wood arrived. No word of thanks from Mr G. Almost simultaneously, so did Mr G's nephew who told me off soundly and said if I'd mentioned it to him, he could have organised a free heap of logs. Then Mr G told me he had some coming from a friend. So I could have saved my money. Instead, I feel crushed and that my generous gesture was not just rejected, but I was made to feel as if I'd done something wrong. I feel like a silly woman in a man's world, and that I should have left things like ordering logs to the men. Yet Mr G wasn't doing it himself and as he's had two strokes, I wanted to do something nice for him, that would benefit him. I can't do a bloody thing right!
Neither can Open Heart Surgery, the scarred pigeon (see previous posts). From being Bossman Pigeon in the garden, he has been demoted by a brash newcomer with a bronze chest and a particularly long, curved beak. Now every time OHS appears, Ruddy Chest drives him away. My mother reckoned I was born uttering the words, "It's not fair." I'll say it again, loud and clear: NOT FLAMIN' WELL FAIR!!!"
Six blissful stomach ache-free weeks on the probiotics and now this. A niggly pain on Saturday, a worse one on Sunday that kept me awake most of last night, and now several ghastly runs to the loo and cramps. Either it's a virus - and there are plenty doing the rounds; I'm still coughing and spluttering from the remnants of my cold - or else my stomach has decided it doesn't like probiotics any more.
I have been digging around in the Internet and opinion is divided as to whether one should carry on taking them, or stop once you start feeling OK. Anybody know? Anyway, nothing has passed my lips today apart from two cups of tea. Yes, I know I shouldn't have had milk and sugar... Funny thing is, when I'm in Turkey, I drink black tea, but it's in teensy glasses, not whacking great mugs. A mugful of black tea is horribly bitter.
I had to cancel a visit to my chiropractor this morning. I'm sure he wasn't too pleased at having his schedule upset but the alternative doesn't bear thinking about. I mean, face down on a treatment table in a hospital-type gown that opens down the back. Not! Well not. Not in a squillion squittery years.
Today Flad the sharp-fanged feral cat charged past the door with a dying song thrush clamped between his teeth. It was too late to save it. Having killed it, he laid it on the path and abandoned it, looking most pleased with himself. I have ignored him ever since, apart from shouts of "Bad cat", and attempts to project images into his brain about killing lots of mice, but leaving birds alone. I have been told by my friend Anna, an animal communicator, that although animals don't understand words, they can pick up images if we 'send' them clearly enough. So it's running things good, flying things bad.
Song thrushes are desperately in decline in Britain, so that is one reason why I am so angry and sad. But the other reason is that my mother loved the song thrush. It was her favourite bird. When she died and my sister was on the phone to a humanist vicar, arranging a funeral for our mother who believed in Von Daniken's angels were intelligent aliens theory, I glanced out of the window and cried, "Quick! There's an enormous thrush on the fence!" It was the first time my sister and I had been together in our old family house where Mum had died, since her unexpected death a week earlier. Sis was still yakking away on the phone. "Quick, you'll miss it," I repeated urgently. The huge speckle-chested bird was still perched quietly on the fence, and seemed to be gazing a me.
It was a whole ten minutes before Sis finally finished the call. She was cross with me for interrupting. "It's still there," I said, drawing her to the window. Indeed it was. For a full minute, maybe more, the big bird gazed calmly at us, and we, awed, gazed back at it. "It's not a thrush," my ornithologically minded sister said, "it's some kind of hawk." Then, as if satisfied that some kind of communication had been made, the bird soared off, with slow, majestic wing flaps and vanished into the steely grey January sky.
A hawk on a garden fence in Liverpool? A hawk that stayed that long and stared at us? We both agreed that it had to be a communication from our mother. In ancient Egypt, the hawk was a messenger from the gods of the afterlife, so would it really be surprising if my mother took the form of a 'big thrush' to make a final visit to us? We both felt instinctively that Mum had chosen this moment when her two children were together to say her last goodbye to us.
Another friend whose father had recently passed over (also in Liverpool) visited some woods in which he had often walked with his father as a child. Just as my mother had a favourite bird, her 'token animal', so my friend's father loved deer. The roe deer was his token animal. As my friend stood there thinking about his father, a roe stag glided into the clearing where he stood and gazed intently at him. Just as my sister and I knew that the hawk was our mother, so my friend knew instinctively, no doubts whatever, that the deer was his father come to make his final farewell to his only son.
I sobbed like a baby as I dug a hole in the wet earth at the bottom of the garden and buried the thrush today. I stroked its soft speckled feathers and tenderly laid it in the whole, then built a cairn of stones on top so that the foxes wouldn't dig it up. I was as inconsolable as if I had been burying my mother all over again. But Mum loved cats, too, so where does that leave me? A sentimental mess, I suppose, caught between claw and feather and between this world and the next.
Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. Why don't I use my own advice? Way back last year (30th May to be precise), I mentioned the fact that my mother always believed in mind over matter and when she felt she was falling prey to some virus, she would tell herself firmly that she was not getting a cold/flu or whatever.
So I started going down with a cold last week and what did I do? Forgot my mum's advice and stuck with pills and potions - and got the wretched bug. Yesterday, I suddenly recalled Mum's wise words and said out loud, in my best Barbara Wodehouse dog training tones, "I have NOT got a cold. I have NOT got a cough." Today, both have almost gone. Coincidence? Maybe. But I think not. I think somewhere up there Mum was having a chuckle and that she sent down a little maternal healing ray to help me out.
Here is a photo of my mum and me taken in the mid Eighties when she was around 75. She illuminated everywhere she went and everyone she met. She was a natural healer. I hope I have inherited some of her golden light.
News notes Still getting the wasps. One appeared on the lampshade again. Another was already up and about and sitting on the windowsill when I came up to start work yesterday morning. I opened the window and gave it a prod with a CD to help it on its way out. I have emailed the Daily Mail's You magazine on the subject of the Sound Screen. I think more people should be told about how white noise can help insomniacs.
I recently unearthed a heap of diaries from my schooldays. The Girl Diary, Lett's Schoolgirl Diary, Pony Club Diary - gosh, they brought back memories. And nearly every one started January with, 'I've got a cold'.
Decades on, nothing has changed. 2008 has opened with a real snorter, a tissue-soaking, throat-wrecking, lung-straining head and chest cold of the worst sort, with a banging sinus-y headache and earache thrown in.
As soon as Mr G started with his cold, which wasn't surprising considering the number of cold and cough ridden visitors we had during the festive season, which should be renamed the virus season, I started taking echinacea every day and even took a few doses of L-lysine and Vit C for good measure. All to no avail. Finding those diaries from when I was 10, 11, 14 makes me think that a New Year cold is ingrained in my metabolism. Perhaps it's clearing out all the toxins from the previous year so my system can begin afresh. Something good has to come out of it to make all this sore-nosed suffering worthwhile.
On the plus side, the wretched Insomnia Bird has shut up. Must be because the temperature has dropped. Maybe it has a frozen beak. I just Hope nobody gives it any tweetment.
The first night of January was blissfully quiet. Then last night the wretched blackbird started again. It isn't the most tuneful of blackbirds. Melodious? Forget it. This one was trained in the squeaky chalk on blackboard school of singing. Maybe it is descended from the punk blackbirds of 1976. Turdus merula, the Latin name for a blackbird, would make a good punk band name. It certainly sounds like shit. Especially at 3 am.
I have found its nest, tucked away under the plastic roof that covers next door's side passageway and garage. Very cosy and waterproof. Mr Grumpy reckons that when foxes set off the security light, it thinks it's morning, wakes up and starts squawking. I remember last year when I was plagued by the 5 am thrush. February isn't far away. Back to the earplugs. Damn!
I mentioned last time that I had another sleep secret up my sleeve, or rather, on my bedside table. It is Sleep Well drops, flower essences from www.lightheartessences.com and also available from www.victoriahealth.com Just 6 drops do the trick if your sleeplessness is caused by your mind being, quote 'over-excited or over-active', which mine often is. As I get little time to myself, the moment I close the bedroom door all kinds of ideas for novels and short stories come flooding in.
Sometimes my brain is writing a whole chapter for me on a mental computer screen while I'm trying to get to sleep. Characters are speaking and won't shut up. Once, I composed an entire musical symphony and then dropped off and forgot the lot. If only a device could be invented that transferred ones' thoughts direct to the computer without the need for typing it all in, and did it at the speed of thought, rather than the painfully slow process that transforms the blinks and finger twitches if the disabled into words, or the voice activated software that takes an age to adapt to one's way of speaking.
That, and a 'beam me up, Scotty' form of instant travel, would be the two things that would completely transform my life (apart from a fairy godmother waving a wand and making me 40 years younger and more beautiful). I had a dream once in which my body was broken down to its component atoms and streamed through space and reassembled on another planet. I'm not asking for that much. I'd just like to be reassembled on Olu Deniz beach in Turkey and have a delicious cocktail thrust into one hand and a .... no, keep it clean!
In the early hours of New Year's Day (about 2.25 am I think, though I was a bit vague and blurry by then), I switched on my white noise machine, composed myself for slumber, then became aware that the machine had developed a strange squeak, rather like small, badly oiled hinges.
'Damn it!' I thought angrily. At £75 plus postage, you don't expect a machine you've only had for a month to develop a fault, especially as the company I bought it from told me that, of all the ones they had ever sold, they'd only had about four back and those were ones that had been damaged in accidents and had come back for repair.
I clambered out of bed, snaring toes in duvet and stepping in the sticky patch where the Benilyn bottle had stood, switched off the machine and scrambled back into bed. The squeaky creaking continued. Was somebody cycling home very slowly and drunkenly on an ancient, rusty bicycle? I got up again and staggered to the window. The road, for once, was silent and empty yet the sound continued. Then I realised it was coming from one of next door's trees on the other side of the fence very close to my bedroom window. It was a bloody bird, joyously heralding in the New Year, probably having swigged from the lager can that had been carelessly tossed into the bushes in our front garden. I'd noticed it when I came home earlier.
My next thought was, 'what a good omen for 2008, a bird singing like that.' Deciding it was just for that one night, I switched my machine back on and fell asleep.
But of course it wasn't just for one night, was it? The wretched thing was at it again last night too. It's probably got it into its head that to be in with a chance of finding the perfect avian romance for 2008, it had better start broadcasting now. I think it must be a blackbird - that is, if the Beatles song about, 'Blackbird singing in the dead of night' bears any relation to normal blackbird behaviour. You certainly don't get nightingales in January. But if it carries on, I shall learn to use a lasso pretty damn fast.
SOUND CONDITIONERS: having suffered great difficulty in getting off to sleep since coming off HRT two years ago, and having spent the last eighteen months in a bedroom with a bullet hole through the double glazing (scroll through early posts for the story) and a relentless stream of vehicles cutting through to the A40, I first experimented with earplugs. They were quite successful at blotting out the traffic noise, but didn't help me get off to sleep, or stay asleep, and also gave me regular outbreaks of earache and eczema in the ears. One trip to the ENT dept at the hospital resulted in the specialist removing a flake of skin the size of a large potato crisp, that had peeled off the inside of my ear and was covering my eardrum like an aural condom. No wonder the world was muffled!
In desperation, I trawled the Web for advice (as one does) and found a company called Electronic Healing - www.electronichealing.co.uk - where I read the reviews of their Sound Conditioners and chose the Sound Screen Sleep Mate Dual Speed Conditioner (£75). It has changed my life. Although it doesn't blot out every sound (like the bloody blackbird) - the company say that they are legally obliged to set them below a certain volume level so that in an emergency the sleeper could still hear a fire alarm, or someone banging at the door - what it does is calm your mind and lull you off to sleep, as well as hushing a certain amount of ambient sound. So the traffic roar becomes a swooshing which, in my brain, turns into the sound of waves rolling in to the shore, so I am hypnotised into slumber. It's brilliant. I am sleeping so much better but, if my mind is still restless, I have another little trick up my sleeve that I shall write about next time.