Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The mysteries of summer dressing

It's too hot. I can't sleep, I've got the wrong type of skin for hot and worst of all I don't know what to wear. I lurch from looking like a 1970s hippy to a sort of RE teacher on a tour of the Holy Land look. On the way I've explored 'Tender is the Night' nautical looks (palazzo pants and stripey tops - well as palazzo as you get in Primark) and ladylike pruning roses looks.

The clothes in autumn and winter are so much better. I love woolly tights, I love proper shoes, I love coats and hats, I love boots and lace up shoes. In the autumn I feel like Gudrun and Ursula in 'Women in Love', in the summer I feel like The Famous Five.

I'm working the hippy RE teacher vibe tomorrow. A sort of combination of all my summer clothes. As long as I'm not hot, I've ceased caring.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Two go cycling to Stanbridge

Our town has publicly and unequivocally been pronounced close to death by Mary Portas and I feel slightly embarrassed even to admit I live here. Sense tells me that people don't become interesting by dint of living somewhere interesting and experience shows me this as I've met a number of inwardly dull people who live in outwardly funky places. Equally you are not immediately rendered not worth bothering with simply because you live somewhere that's a bit on the boring side. However a slight feeling of shame hovers over me.

So feeling a little depressed about my home town, I was glad to remember what it has in its favour: amazing countryside which the casual observer, passing perhaps sneerily through the dying High Street, may never experience. We took one of the National Cycle Routes and followed it through woods, past fields brooks and rivers until we reached Stanbridge. We sat for a few moments on the green before making our way back, passing again the ancient hamlet of Sewell, the tumulus of the Maiden Bower in front of us.

The ride also reminded me of one of the reasons why our poor, beleaguered town has fallen on such sad times, despite once being the home of the king's hunting lodge and a great and very beautiful Priory. The cycle track follows the route of the railway or rather the ex-railway, axed by Beeching in the 1960s. In one fell swoop he sounded the death knell of the town, one of the biggest towns in Britain without a railway as it happens.

The route of the railway makes a beautiful ride but it is a little sad that a train will probably never take this route again, not least because it's now a nature reserve.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A bit of maldod

Anyone who has seen La Traviata has an insight into life in our house today. Flora is ill and it's like the scene at the end. I'm half expecting her to ask me to come and stand by her bed so she can dictate her last letter.

Not that she's saying much. I'm big on communicating even when ill; everyone knows what I am thinking, how I got to the thought and what I'm thinking about what you are thinking. Even in the midst of a bad asthma attack, I'm trying to communicate in one way or another. I confidently predict my last words will be more a torrent of verbosity than a faintly whispered 'It was good'.

Not so Flora, who in her poorly state has turned into a silent, moody shadow of her former self, expecting me to intuit the location and severity of her illness from a series of tragic low moans, heavy sighs and baleful glances.

Short of putting an end to it all, a rather tempting option, there was only one thing for it - a bit of maldod. Maldod is a Welsh word used by my grandmother to describe what you give a sick person or a person who is feeling down or a bit sorry for themselves. It is a mildly perjorative term tbut true maldod is freely and happily given to the maldoden (she or he requiring the maldod) . I've looked this word up on the web and strictly it means 'indulgence, spoiling' which is how we use it.

Flora has received considerable maldod from me today. I've used one of my grandmother's failsafe maldod tools - the bottle of lemonade. Anyone who knows anything is aware that the nurse with the mostest should always have at her disposal the following: Germolene, Rennies, a bottle of lemonade (preferably flat), some plasters, a cup of strong tea and a plate of slightly burned toast.

With these cures at hand you can tackle any disease. Holidaying in a malarial district? Fear not, a dab of Germolene will do the job. Got botulism? Have a Rennie and some flat lemonade? The plague? Some burned toast and a hot cuppa will see you right. Stab wound? Put a plaster on it but not until you've used some Germolene.

Add to this a bit of maldod and everything will be fine - it 's worked for me. When I had measles I drank large quantities of flat lemonade and was made to wear a hat in the sun, a blue raffia one I recall, while I was saved from a terrible reaction to accidentally overdosing on some asthma drugs by eating my Nan's special burned toast. Yes maldod has made me the woman I am now so it's the least I can do to pass it on.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Order, order!

The phrase 'Speaker of the House of Commons' conjures up someone aged and venerable so I was a little surprised to find that the new speaker, John Bercow, is only two years older than me! This presents me with two scenarios: either I have reached an age where I could be be considered aged and venerable or, and this is the one I prefer, the House of Commons is looking for a more dynamic, contemporary outlook. Option two sounds good to me. I'm hoping that he will introduce a whole new discourse to the Commons, calming braying MPs with a quick 'Shut it!', none of this 'Order, order' stuff and introducing an MP with a snappy 'wassup girlfriend' (that would be for Anne Widdecombe). Personally though I miss the sonorous Welsh tones of the late Lord Tonypandy. Nobody said 'Order, order!' with quite the same poetry.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


My heart is racing, I can't sleep and there are butterflies the size of badgers doing somersaults in the pit of my stomach. It's midnight and I'm knackered but can't sleep. I'm speeding with no where to go, overwhelmed by an itchy anxiety for no good reason. My heart is galloping like a loosed horse, as though someone has jumped up behind me and shouted 'boo! This is why I've never really been a drugs user. Who wants to pay to feel like this when you can get it on prescription and it feels crap anyway?

It's a high alright but not a nice one: a wired, fingers on a blackboard sensation where you are overtaken by a directionless, exhausting energy that you can't use - after all you can't sit down for five minutes or focus on anything. Welcome to the world of the serial Ventolin user.

An unscientific enquiry by yours truly suggests it's been a tough week for asthmatics. For my own part, I've managed to get through the last few days on a cocktail of inhalers that may have helped me breathe but have left me like a cat on hot bricks. I've tried walking myself into exhaustion, forcing myself to relax and dosing myself on chocolate to bring up my blood sugar in an attempt to counteract the shakes. All to no avail.

The extent of my prescription induced tension was amply illustrated earlier today as I spent some time in a park with some happily relaxed and rather laid back people while I secretly (or not so secretly in some cases) tried to sit on the termites in my pants. Still, at least I could breathe.

The comforting news is I'm not alone. I'm part of a group on Facebook called 'Thanks to Ventolin I'm as high as a kite'. Finding that group was a revelation; it turns out that I'm not the only one with shaky hands and rollercoaster insides after a few too many doses. As I've long suspected, my reaction is pretty common. The group reports side effects such as feeling 'loaded', having 'crazy lucid dreams' and of course the infamous shakes.

Despite this all we Ventolin users love our little blue friend. Knowing my inhaler is in my bag , ready for anything, is always a great comfort and an essential part of my wellbeing and daily routine. I join my fellow Ventolistas in raising a trembling glass to the people who invented the drug. Without them my life would be very different, in fact I might not be alive! Yes, most of the time Ventolin and I are great friends and I join my Facebook group friends in saying I heart Ventolin!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Remembering W

It's been a strange day today; at one moment hot and close, at the next big splashy drops of rain were hitting my windscreen as I drove along and thunder rumbled but never quite made it.

It's been a strange day for another reason; tomorrow would have been the thirteenth birthday of my son William who was stillborn at term.
The weather isn't exactly the same but it is similar. At times today I was almost there again, the day before - thirteen years to the day - pegging out Patrick's old baby clothes which I had tenderly washed ready for the new arrival. The sun was blazing and I revelled in bringing them in from the line, scented with fresh air and hope, as the nesting instinct took me over.

I can almost see me, a young mother with no idea of what was about to hit her, apprehensive about the coming labour, excited and full of love.
My world fell apart the next day and even now, over a decade later, I feel the loss deeply, a hurt that will be with me to my dying day. There are scars on my heart but I've learned over the years to live with them. Nobody could live with that terrible agonising grief that comes over you in the first year but fortunately nature is kind and allows you to put that grief in a little box, subdues it and lets you live again although you never forget.

The exception is anniversaries like tomorrow when I let it out for a few moments, look at it and put it back for a while.
And so tomorrow I will go to the cemetery with my mother, clean the headstone with a cloth, cut the grass around it with some scissors, shed a few tears and talk about that awful day for all of us before heading home with a sigh and a backward glance. I probably won't return for another year because the truth is he isn't there really, he never was but he is always with me and always will be, just as my other two darlings are.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Help me pumps!

I spent Friday night in the company of my lovely friend Neil (he sometimes reads my blog which is why I've used the adjective 'lovely' to describe him. But he is lovely anyway) visiting Tate Britain which had a late exhibition on. God knows what I was thinking but I decided to wear to London my gorgeous black patent platform high heeled lace up brogues, which I usually wear to get in and out of cars or taxis.

Just savour that description a moment - 'high heels', 'patent' 'platform' 'lace ups' - any fellow shoe lover will understand how I feel as I type those words. They look great too, sort of sexy but like they mean business and also a tiny bit edgy with their platform sole and a little bit camp with their patent shininess. I could go on forever going on about how much I love my shoes but there is one thing that I cannot love about them - they bloody hurt!

I think I imagined I would just jump on a train, then a Tube and then stroll elegantly around the Tate in what Amy Winehouse would describe as my 'f*** me pumps' except they wouldn't be as gross as that if they could speak; my shoes would say it in French.

It transpired that I walked in said shoes more than anticipated and, worse still, when we got to the gallery, we spent ages walking around looking for the exhibits following possibly the world's most obscure map. By the time we left I was in agony but trying to look as if I wasn't although a couple of times I had to hang on to poor Neil for support as I trolled along in my tarts trotters and even considered asking him to do my laces up when they came undone to save me the discomfort of getting down to floor level. We found somewhere to eat after a stroll that I bore stoically (yes I did Neil!) and I gladly kicked them off, or rather unlaced them, under the table and breathed a sigh of relief, hoping a small glass of wine would anaesthetise my feet a little and allow me to put them on again for the homeward leg of my journey.

The problem is I actually have silly feet - wide with high insteps and little stumpy toes. Its genetic as my sister and mum have exactly the same feet. Indeed, we have all bought the same sandals to accommodate our unhappy feet. My Wolkie sandals (I was first to get them I should like to record) are my concession to comfort. Their funky green colour appeals to me and mitigate the slightly less funky Velcro fastenings. The main thing is wearing them is like walking on air, unlike my gorgeous high heeled shoes which are like walking on pins with someone stepping on your toes every few seconds.

After seeing me in them and noting how gladsome and full of vigour I was, my mother, sister and cousin (we all have the same little fat Welsh feet) bought the same ones and we are all agree that they are shoes of wonder. We are not alone in this as our sandals sell out at an alarming rate and you have to get in there early to secure a pair for the summer.

Flora took a photo of my mother, my sister and me wearing our Wolkies together which I have atached to this post. If you could see our faces you would see visions of seraphic bliss. I wish I could have said the same for Friday night!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Further confessions of a Diet Coke addict

I have an admission to make; earlier in the blog I said I had given up Diet Coke and even added a photo of me pouring my last one down the sink. A month ago, feeling somewhat tired and harassed, I was sitting outside a cafe when I was suddenly and inexplicably seized by a desire for a Diet Coke. A friend, who knows of my tendency to become addicted to the silver monsters, gently suggested I shouldn't but nevertheless I drank it down in devil-may-care defiance of all good advice.

That was the start and since then my Diet Coke consumption has been steadily increasing. I hadn't stooped to buying multi-packs but I was making far too frequent visits to Bargain Booze and the Co-op.

So at the weekend I decided enough was enough: I would give up again after a month falling off the wagon. Horror stories of cirrhosis of the liver and other nasties had been related to me and I knew the day of reckoning had come. Yesterday was day one of my detox - not too bad and I managed to assuage my desire for a Diet Coke with some bottles of carbonated water. Today though has been awful. My head is banging away and I feel totally wiped out. Yet I know that if I can get through the next few days the worst will be over.

But how to stop myself going back to the Diet Cokes? I think the root of my problem lies not only in an addiction to caffeine but also to my tendency to body dysmorphia. Basically I always feel fat. It doesn't matter how thin I am, and I have been rather too thin at times, inside I feel like a great brick outhouse of a girl. And so, I watch what I eat and jump on and off the scales with alarming regularity checking my weight. If I put on weight I feel miserable and a failure, if I lose some triumphant and set up for the day. Like many women I have a weight that makes me feel like I'm in control and the ideal is to be a little under this so there's some room for manoeuvre. Writing about it like this makes me realise how screwy it is but I also know it's pretty common and in most other respects I'm a well-balanced, sensible kind of person.

Diet Coke is a major weapon in the weight obsessives armour. It's almost calorie free, gives you something to do when you feel hungry and something to fiddle with, 'fills you up' and makes you feel like you are controlling the situation. I've read about models who live on Diet Coke in an effort to maintain their underweight silhouettes.

Of course all this confession to the ether is fuelled by feeling a little bit down owing to withdrawal from my upper of choice. In a few days I will feel more positive, the headache will be gone and I will see the wood for the trees. For now though, it's crap!