Tuesday 29 July 2014

Lurking things

We all have our aches and pains; personal little catalogues of inflictions that come and go, or come and stay, and then go - if we are lucky.
Some health problems can be dealt with, some can be ongoing and managed, and some can lurk backstage, waiting to jump out and scare the shit out of you, so to speak.
In my last post, I eluded to this thing that leapt up and bit me, hardly daring to mention it, hoping it would just skulk off again, but it hung around making yesterday truly memorable, and not it a good way.
Driving back from an abandoned couple of days holiday with something stabbing long hot needles into my head was pretty appalling, as was crying in a chemist shop at the pharmacy woman's kind words, (I had to force myself not to hug her, so bad was I feeling).
Trigeminal neuralgia is truly an infliction; I have had a taste, just a little taste of how supremely terrifying and excruciating it is.
Back in 2010, I experienced what the doctor termed A-typical TN, even he wasn't sure and I just worked out my own theories, staring round-eyed at three in the morning at what Google had thrown up when I couldn't sleep with worry.
True TN seems to be triggered by just about anything: a breeze, cleaning your teeth, kissing someone, before you are thrown into an electrical, clenching pain that throbs and zaps over your face, into the hairline, right into your teeth, tongue, eyes and leaves you crying and gasping for it to stop - the worst pain known to man it has been called, and yes, I think that's fair to say.
The worst part of it is the anticipation of a 'strike'. I could liken it to watching a horror film; the music is warning you something is about to happen, but you don't really know when, so you creep about, doing whatever you think will prevent the stabbing pain: constant alert, and it's exhausting.
My version seems to be connected to something in my neck - an ongoing irritation of flaring pain that comes and goes - so far, no one has discovered what the problem is and I can totally live with that pain as it's nothing in comparison.
So what is this post about? Other than me moaning on . . .  Just my findings and ways of coping with the flareups in case anyone out there is going through the 'staring at the internet pages' stage. It may not be of much help, but a few things I read about, now written here, helped me a lot.

Stop drinking coffee: One of the most useful things I ever read was by a Doctor in India; his internet page started with that: Stop drinking coffee - my symptoms were reduced by about 60% immediately. Tea's not great either, so I try to stick to two cups a day.

Don't do a lot of this - sitting at the computer; difficult if that's your job, but for me I know it's one of the biggest culprits. At least get up, stretch, walk up a flight of stairs, look out of a window and change your focal depth onto something real: trees, birds, a car park even.

Use the phone as little as possible, especially mobiles. I know when I had a major attack a few years back it was during a stressful period of house-selling and the phone had become a permanent lodger crunched between my ear and shoulder as I dealt with all the usual household stuff.

Exercise: VITAL. Preferably something outside like gardening where you become lost in an activity very different to the usual routine. Brisk walking and cycling, swimming. This may be impossible if you are suffering from a true TN attack, but at any chance, do it.

Eat magnesium-loaded foods: pumpkin seeds, dark green cabbage, organic liver . . . and/or take supplements. Also, watch you have enough vitamin B12 in your diet - vital!

If you have to be away from family, friends and pets, etc, carry a photo or two of them; in the middle of one of those hideous lonely times of pain, just holding onto a visual reminder of who is dear to you can help.

I've just read an article about acupuncture being extremely useful; perhaps a good one to try, as the drugs offered can be fairly heavy, or so I've heard.

Anyway, time's up and I'm off to attack the garden as I can feel the music starting up; a long way off
but it's there none the less.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Oi! stop that.

In 2010 I had an episode of extreme pain and fear that went on for what seemed like months, maybe it was only weeks, but it felt an awful lot longer.
(Blog post 'evolution' in 2010, if anyone is interested . . .)
Not wishing to recall all that, but I had a reminder of it this morning, as if myself had prodded myself and said 'hey, stop, otherwise  . . . remember this!'
After the afore-mentioned phase, I had worked out pretty much what caused the pain in my face and neck and had avoided, as much as possible, doing the things that set it off. But we get complacent, do we not?
In my case it was: don't over do it on the computer (this will be a short post) don't use the phone much, and absolutely no stuffing it into my neck and talking with head at a stupid angle while cooking/washing up/ feeding the cat, etc. NO coffee - actually I have stuck to that one, but the tea amounts and strength has been creeping up; don't slump while reading or TV watching; alternate sitting activities with walking, gardening etc; and the big one: Don't get stressed.
Easy to say: we all do and about the most pathetic things sometimes. But I do think the cumalative stress thing is damaging; adding on more and more to the list and feeling guilty if not everything is dealt with.
So today, I have done most of the jobs, cast an eye over the list, ignored some things and spent a bit more time just . . . existing; a bit more time looking at trees, clouds and appreciating the day for what it is. It may not last, and I might get another warning in which case I will slow down again and thank myself for reminding myself that it's just not worth getting that stressed; a bit is good - keeps things moving along, but just not - too - much.

Image borrowed from 'Sweetoldvintage blogspot

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Vide Grenier surrealism

Or, car boot / garage sale / bagagliao dell' auto vendita / motor boot koop / Flomarkt / Prodazha zagruzki, depending where you live.
Keening to find some replacement water glasses, as We (menopausal woman and adolescent boy) have smashed most of our stock. All the family, inc dogs, headed off to a village holding a VG about 10km away, with a back-up further village another ten minutes drive.
There were other things on the list: funky lamps, atlases, clothes of interest, DVD of The Shining, a bread-making bowl, a metal day-bed and Mark's personal vinyl fetish (LPs!)
On parking, we noted an absence of other cars, not a good sign. And yes, there were only about ten stalls, mostly selling baby clothes and brightly coloured plastic land-fill.
One stall - there has to be one - had various chewed-looking bits of china with mad price tags like 70€ for a teapot featuring a faded picture of Sacha Distel.
All was not lost however as I did find a delightful hardback book, circa 1910, on DIY autopsy. Actually, it was a serious journal for medical types, but its delicate line drawings and suggestions of what you might do with 'cette petite couteau' - small knife - did remind me of books called Happy Sunday Afternoons with Mrs Beeton, The Housewife's Helper, and the like.
Ezra bought a book on chemistry also dated from ninety years ago or so from the same couple whose stall otherwise consisted of underwear and hexagonal plates.
So, onward to Esperaza, home of famous Sunday Market, an exceptionally ugly bridge and, usually, very good VGs.
Although the sun was shining, the scene reminded me of Brick Lane Market, or rather the end of it when a few desolate folk sit amongst odd shoes and non-purchased heated rollers.
So . . . nothing found or bought except an old Woody Allen  - Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex, and a bag of peaches (new ones).
Mark drove home while I read my autopsy book and felt sick - not from the book, from the fact I can't read in the car.

Saturday 19 July 2014

fragrant hair extensions

Thanks Penny for passing this on.

I have an urge to jump up and down and say 'what is the world coming to, etc, but I can't; it's too oddly charming. Apparently, weaving flowers into one's beard is a new fashion craze rampaging florally across the USA, well, pockets of it. I can't imagine it being too popular in Texas or many other states. Will it catch on in France or the UK . . . Mmm, maybe for a few heat-waved-crazed minutes in Paris or London . . . or perhaps not.

Friday 18 July 2014

The importance of lunch

Having lived in France for quite a time now, I'm always interested to observe the main differences of eating habits here and from our previous lives in the UK.
The Where to Eat importance was highlighted on a 'nature/wine tasting' walk in a village near us recently. The nature was appreciated by all, but the wine-tasting, jam-tasting, snail-tasting, etc, along the way, probably more so; frequent signs giving a footstep countdown to the place where LUNCH was to be provided by caterers under shady trees. As in any French publicity for an event, the menu was printed out in the brochure before any other information - a proper full three courses with wine. In the UK there probably would have been sandwiches available and/or a picnic space.


However . . . this importance to food seems to get lost in other areas where the English excel: the tea shop, for example; places be counted on year-round for a cup of tea, comforting cake or plate of sandwiches.
At any tourist place, or even any non-tourist place; the smallest bus station, a swimming pool, a layby, there will always be tea, coffee and cakes available in some form. Tiny villages marooned in the countryside will have a pub, or even two; here . . . virtually nothing. Most villages have lost their old cafés, and therefore meeting points of gossip, chat and just somewhere to go without having to get in a car.
A good, and frustrating, example of this lack of 'getting together and sharing a nice cup of something' space is Mark's work place; a shining new arts college mega-building with architect-designed everything and landscaped grounds full of olive and cypress trees. Although 1500 students pass through its doors every week, there is NO restaurant or canteen or coffee shop: nothing, not even a lurking pizza van in the parking area with a couple of plastic chairs. Well, there are two vending machines and a couple of high tables with stools, but it's hardly anywhere that you would head for, rubbing your hands and saying 'how about a nice cup of tea and a slice of fruit cake'.
The vast grounds would lend themselves so well to a smart 'salon du thè' or a little bistro 'la Bolero' or 'Le coin de Mozart' anything, just somewhere to sit and enjoy a spot of lunch between lessons or rehearsals. There's also nothing nearby so I suppose everyone gets in their cars and drives off into town for the statutory two hour lunch break . . .  I wonder if they'd go for a fish and chip van in the grounds . . . Mmm.

Love song recipe

This just explains it all: think they should have thrown in a white-sanded beach, a couple of hulking sports cars and some wads 'a cash, but just the most brilliant observation, and great voices.

Saturday 12 July 2014

Day brightener

Thank you to whoever put this on Youtube . . .
My day that seemed to have wandered off, arms folded and grumbling was suddenly a thing of brightness and hilarity.
The setting, the grooving crowd, the small alien dressed in blue and Claudia herself playing the base line in shiny stilettos . . . magnificent.
I'd only looked up the spelling of Klaus Wunderlich, and suddenly found myself in a whole world of shiny plastic organs and teethy folk playing to almost static crowds. If you have 4.29 minutes spare, click on the image of the man clutching a super set of panpipes which will appear at the end of this film: the sunset background, the organ, the pipes, the title of the piece - A Morning in Cornwall by James Last. Not quite the morning I spent in a traffic jam around Exeter . . .

Friday 11 July 2014

Diets don't work

They just don't. There, said it.
I was watching Telematin this morning, while attempting to go through my morning exercise routine and encouraging The Boy to do the same, when a really stupid ad came on for slimming cereal, then another for a species of cream that you smear on your legs to reduce flab, and then yet another for pills that you can take to 'burn off' the fat.
It's all such utter crap. Whatever the latest study has revealed, we are meant to move about a lot and not eat too many buns: that's it!
The slimming industry is a fiendishly lucrative one whether it be pills, meal replacement drinks or Martini flavoured breakfast cereal, and can also be dangerous . . . a friend of ours actually had to go into hospital as she had been imbibing a series of flab-annihilating potions in order to slim manically for a wedding. She was dangerously de-hydrated and almost lost a kidney. She did look a little thinner after a couple of weeks of hefty antibotics and throwing up a lot.
I have vague recollections of going with my mum to 'weight-watchers' in the 1970s. Held in a hall somewhere in Muswell Hill, the faithful would congregate and be in turn weighed and talked to about how many calories they had found or lost during the week. Mum did reach her target weight and was awarded a special brooch commemorating the event. She then sallied forth into the world of buns once more and put it all back on again.
You have to want, really want to do it, actually change the way you eat and exercise. Fad diets - Eating grapes and spinach for a week or gorging on flash-fried veal won't do it; boredom will soon set in and cake-lust with it.
It takes time too. I always find after winter, when I emerge blinking into the daylight, that to shed the desire to stoke up on bread and butter pudding or Mark's wicked cakes is almost impossible, but over a few weeks and a few hazardous checks in the mirror, something clicks and the want to feel/look better takes over - sometimes.
This year has been better; it took a few months but I'm back to what I weighed last summer, and I want to loose the wobbly thigh stuff, so onward and forward; I may fail when the chill sets in again, but I hope not.
So, the moving about stuff . . . cycling, swimming, walking, yoga, housework, taking the stairs, gardening, sex, whatever; it all helps, and more so if you have a routine that you can stick to so that if you collapse into a Death by Chocolate and three brandy & Babychams of an evening, you can burn some of it off again the next day, rather than: 'Shit, oh well, I might as well go for the kebab and chips this lunchtime.'

That's one of the keys points for me: have treats. If you don't allow cake or puddings sometimes, they become huge, quivering unobtainable yearned for-objects that will torment every waking moment of your life until you finally crack and eat a tub of Raspberry-ripple-choc-chip-fat bastards-delight on your own by the light of the open fridge at 3am.
The opposing views on what makes flab is interesting. I went to Slimming world with my cousins recently as I was staying with them. The main theme seems to be eat as much fruit, bread, pasta, etc, as you like but hold a cross up to any sort of fat and back away from it screaming. Other diets say eat as much fat as you want but purge the evils of bread, rice, cake and starch generally. Confusing . . .
Everyone is different and everyone burns stuff off at different speeds. Mark is tall and thin and could eat cake all day and nothing would happen. He can still fit into trousers from 1975. I think he worries it all off. I can just smell cake and the calories leave the oven, absorbing themselves surreptitioulsy into my thigh-flab. I get worried too but somehow it multiplies the fat cells.

Anyway, for anyone who is interested, this is the Hot-house regime.

At least half an hour of exercises first thing: a combination of stretching, yoga type stuff, crunches, lunges, etc; all easy to find on the internet - we had a lovely lady, bed and breakfast guest staying recently who showed us another load of exercises with weights - so useful, and these have been added in.
There is no excuse not to do this. If we have to be out of the door at 7.00am we do the routine at 6.00am. It's so ingrained now that I feel really unhealthy now if I miss a day.

Dog walk - if you have one, or cat/gerbil/on own; preferably up an incline of some sort.

Breakfast: eat whatever you want within reason, a whole lemon meringe pie, maybe not, but have the toast and butter not some vile '**** I can't believe it's not cow-substance, thing. Breakfast, as my Aunty Olive always said, IS important.

A good lunch, but maybe on a smaller plate than you might have usually; eat slowly, and don't stare at the computer/eat while driving with one hand on the wheel at the same time.

Another walk somewhere/bike ride/swimming session, etc.

Small supper, and if possible don't fall into the snack trap (this is my big challenge) crisps, chocolate, cheese, in the evening when watching TV/reading, whatever.
Salad is good for this: make a massive bowl of lettuce, other veg, nuts, fruit etc. It takes time to eat and the desire to nibble is overcome -  plus you sleep well if Beatrix Potter was right about lettuce being soporific.

Cut down on the booze. It's always easy to forget how much sugar is in wine, beer etc, not being as visual as say a cream-laden chocolate eclair, but it certainly is there - 120 calories in a small glass of red.

The main thing is to change everything a bit, not just latch onto a new diet. It feels good to notice a reflection that looks a bit more muscly and a little less 'puckered', and it feels good to have a few less aches from carrying the extra few kilos about. Kilo = bag of sugar . . . quite heavy.

Well, some ideas from the totally non-perfect but a wee bit more toned-up members of the Hot-house.

Time for some toast I think . . .

Monday 7 July 2014

The loneliness of the long-distance pianist

I re-watched Shine the other day; it must be one of my top ten films. Mark doesn't like it much, I think due to the fact that perhaps the story was a little embroidered for entertainment purposes, but who cares . . . such a good story and what a cast! Geoffrey Rush is just amazing as the older Helfgott, and Noah Taylor equally as the younger man. The filming is superb, especially of this scene of the performance of Rachmaninoff Concerto 3; capturing, to my mind anyway, the player's inner world.

Sunday 6 July 2014

post for Mark 2

Not mark two, as in a second attempt at something; I mean a post for my husband, Mark - a second one, not husband, post . . . anyway.
I was just going through our virtual stack of photos for something this morning and saw this picture. It reminded of the first time I ever saw Mark: same old 1950s Italian accordion, but he was dressed in a rather fetching stripy T-shirt. Lighting bolt? Certainly a small rocket of an idea zipping off into the stratosphere of trouble and relationship mess ahead . . .
Fast forward eighteen years and I still love watching him play, whether it be the accordion (now held together with gaffer tape) drums, piano, electric organ or leading a samba/gamelan group.
Last night we played at friends Alvin and Nike's rather super 'fete', and it was a joy to see him nipping effortlessly between the drum kit for a Rolling Stones number, the piano for some jazz standards, and then heaving on the faithful old accordion for a few tangos in the garden, and back upstairs for some more rock' roll.

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Fruit wars, and laws

I have always been under the vague impression that if a fruit tree's branches hang over the owner's wall/fence, then that's pretty fair game for anyone to help themselves.
Yesterday, on one of our free-food forages we discovered that this is possibly not the case - or perhaps just that the woman standing snarling at us, hands on hips, was a miserable old sod.

THE apricot tree

Every year, I observe this particular apricot tree (down our road) in its various stages, and wonder whether this season the couple who own it will bother to collect their fruit.
The year before last we took some of the apricots (hanging outside the garden, bien sur) noting that most of the tree's offerings were scattered on the ground.
Last year the owners had pruned it to a quivering heap of sticks, but this year it had jumped back to life, loaded with fruit.
Too tempting, and again, no sign of any fruit collecting going on, so . . . why not?
We walked the dogs up the ally, observing with admiration the almost industrial garden; crammed with rows and rows of perfect looking tomatoes, beans, lettuce, etc that Mr McGregor would have been rabidly proud of.
The woman was watching me from her back door-step; I could feel her anger radiating over the honeysuckle - just you dare, go on . . .
So we did.
I walked up the bank, shook open my Foyles Bookshop plastic bag, and before you could say Tarte aux abricots, she had machine-gunned a great many words in our direction.
"Ne vous genez pas, surtout," and, c'est propriété privée! C'est pas vrai, c'est pas possible, laissez nous en paix," etc.
"Oh, don't inconvenience yourself, will you? (quite sarcastic for French person) This is private property, it's not true! It's not possible, leave us in peace!"
I then pointed out that her house-coat was quite appalling, and that she had the face of a toad's arse.
Actually, I pointed out that they never seem to use the fruit, and what was the harm in taking a few before they fell to the ground, thus preventing a potential wasp problem, and possibly people slipping - leading to litigation in the high courts.
She was not deterred in her mission to show how much power they had by owning fruit that could be ignored.
"But, Madame", I protested, "look, the ones inside your fence have fallen and have become mushy, have they not."
"I was about to collect them," she retorted; "now be off you vile bastards," (or similar).
Ezra dragged me away at this point as I was enjoying myself so much that I might have gone into the garden and ripped her house-coat up into many tiny NYLON BLOODY PIECES! and sod the consequences.
In order to calm down and regain the well-beingness of free fruit-gathering, we went to raid a lovely yellow plum tree further down the road that is certainly not, in/hanging over/under or above anyone's land.

                                                                       Free plums

This morning I cast a nonchalant eye over her tree and garden - the apricots were still there in a now-mushier pile and the branches bending under the weight of pale orange spheres (sob).
Mark, being quite a bad boy sometimes, is keening to strip the tree bare after dark, and leave a small notice: merci, Madame, vous êtes bien aimable.
I must stop him as we do not want to feature on some reality TV program with air rifle wounds. Instead we will make plum jam; I might even take her a jar and inform her that I remember her apricots being distinctly over-fibrous from the jam batch we made two years ago. Ha.