A few (health related) updates: all good-news stories

There are some health-related things I’ve written about or touched on over the past few years that it feels like time to update.  Things I thought could/would never improve that to my surprise (and delight) have improved beyond anything I could have hoped for.

Lymphoedema

Back in 2016, from nowhere I developed a severe swelling in my right leg, beginning with my foot and lower leg but eventually extending to the whole of my leg.  I had a series of infections (cellulitis), which thankfully were successfully treated each time.  However, it took a long time and some dead-end medical routes before I was eventually correctly diagnosed with lymphoedema.

I was fortunate enough to secure an NHS referral to a centre of excellence (St George’s in London), where a specialist scan indicated that I have primary lymphoedema affecting my lower half.  Fortunately only my right leg and foot are symptomatic.  My shoe size has increased from size 38 to size 41.

The good news is that since July 2018 I have been treated at a local specialist (NHS) clinic.  This involves regularly having my affected leg measured and then getting a made-to-measure full length pressure stocking, which I wear all day every day.

The even better news is that wearing the stocking together with being able to resume being  quite active has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the condition of my leg.  Not a single tissue infection since the treatment began.  The swelling has reduced from 68% bigger than it should be to just 10% bigger (mainly walking every day – I aim for a minimum of 10,000 steps a day but often walk further than this, bumping up my daily average – my Fitbit is a key tool helping me to track and achieve this).

Now I’m cautiously optimistic that it could reduce even more and be back to normal (but even if that happens, I will still need to wear the pressure stocking every day, in order to maintain the improvement).  And this month, for the first time since this all started, I’ve been able to resume wearing the Swedish wooden clogs I’ve always worn for gardening.  I’m disproportionately delighted.

Sleeping and insomnia

Insomnia seemed to be my body’s default position for many years.  I think it began when life became particularly stressful (stresses in extended family; multiple parental illnesses; work-related stress….) and increased to being pretty much intolerable with the menopause.  I was relying on medication to help me achieve any level of sleep at all.

But.  After years of sleep-walking through life, last March things began to gradually improve.  In all honesty I don’t know why.  The improvement coincided with me buying a new Fitbit that tracks my sleep as well as movement.  There is no possible way this could physically affect my sleep, and yet it seems to have had a perceptible effect – I assume some kind of psychological (placebo?) effect.  Whatever, I’m just glad it has improved.

I have gradually increased my sleep target  to 5 and a half hours per night, to 6 hours a night and now to 7 hours a night.  Most nights I hit the target.  Life is so much better (and easier) as a result.  The occasional bad night is easy to cope with.  I still take a very small dose of medication to help me, but plan to reduce and eventually give it up altogether later this year.

Sight

Although the operation I had 3 years ago to lift my eyelids was a success, sadly the effect didn’t last as well as we all hoped, and late in 2018 my optician advised that he expected to need to refer me back for repeat surgery as I was again losing peripheral vision.  Which indeed he did when I had my regular eye test last autumn.

Fortunately this time the local NHS funding panel accepted me for surgery, and I expect to have the operation some time in the next couple of months.  In the meantime, because prolonged use of the particular type of contact lens (that I’ve worn since I was 18) seems to exacerbate and possibly cause the lid drooping, I’ve taken the plunge and decided to have lens replacement surgery to correct my (very) short-sightedness.  The first eye has been done, and the second will be done later this week.  Whilst I will still need to wear glasses for reading and close work, I’m ridiculously excited at the prospect of getting up in the morning and being able to see properly.  Also, being able to go swimming and be able to see.

I’ve had to pay for the lens replacements, because the NHS only does this for cataracts, which I don’t have and now never will have.  I’m thankful to be in a position to be able to afford to make this choice, and I’m astonished at how quick and painless the operation has been (so far…).

I’m looking for an overseas sight (or lymphoedema) charity to donate to, in recognition of my own privilege.

 

 

Posted in Reflections on life (and death), Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

January round up

That was an odd month.  Beset by a (minor but persistent) bug that got Malcolm several times and me just once (thankfully), we did far less than planned and intended.

A visit to London to see good friends was postponed not once but twice.  Now it won’t happen till the end of this month, and then in a cut-down version.

A visit to oldest son and daughter-out-law happened but coincided with M having a different, less debilitating, bug (which unfortunately despite best efforts was passed on to d-o-l).  Nonetheless we enjoyed ourselves separately and together exploring new-to-us places and visiting favourite haunts in London.

My main goal for the month was: enough prevarication, and I’m feeling reasonably pleased with what I achieved:

  • I finished off several longstanding craft projects (knitting mostly)
  • I dealt with some admin that I had left undone for too long, and said some ‘thank you’s that should have been said long before
  • I was able, oh so gratefully, to hand on a voluntary role that had become a worry to me as I felt increasingly at the edge of my competence with it – this to someone far better qualified for it than I.  My sense of relief is profound.
  • I took time to plan some things for the rest of the year that should enable me to end the year in a better place (in a range of areas of life) than I began it
  • I took some positive actions which have helped me to feel less anxious about the wider political and ecological challenges.  They are small actions in themselves, but I try to bear in mind the ripple effect – how a small action we take ourselves can influence others to do similar, and also in turn stimulate us to do something more.
  • I launched my Not-Running-The-Bath-Half Marathon appeal, and have already raised almost £100.  With 11 months to go, I’m hoping that I might be able to go above and beyond my £250 goal.  And as I’ve not been able to find how to say thank you via the Local Giving site, many thanks to those who have made donations – I am very, very grateful to you.  And also to Karen for sending me some of her yarn stash – should help keep me busy! (if you have a Waitrose shop near you, have a look at this week’s Waitrose newspaper – they have an article about City Farms and Bath City Farm features in it).

This year, instead of a diary, I’ve set up a project book for myself.  I’m using it to list everything I need to do (across several categories), and am trying to do at least one thing every day.  Which should add up over a period of time (as indeed it did during January).  

And now, here we are in February.  No longer a member of the EU, for the next 11 months still in transition, and with no positive sense of what will come next.  

During February I have two (minor) eye surgeries scheduled*, so I have held back from making too many plans to give myself space and time to take things gently if that feels necessary.  My main goal for February is to do as much as I can in the garden and the allotment, to build good foundations for this year’s growing.  February is when the hard gardening work really starts.  

I guess I could call that another month of ‘enough prevarication‘ – some of the jobs I want to do should really have been done a long time ago.  But it’s now 10th February, and I have made a good start.  Some seeds sown, more to come.  Seed potatoes have arrived.  Onions and garlic are already growing well.  Autumn-sown broad beans already planted out and doing well.  Rhubarb will soon be ready to pick and eat.

*one has already happened – a lens replacement, complete success and absolutely amazing (to me at least).  The next due shortly.

Posted in 2020 enough, Allotment, Climate change, Growing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

How did it go? – lose weight

I’m so glad you asked.  Not at all well, as it happens.

This was definitely my failure in 2019.  Though I ended the year weighing less than I began it, that was purely and simply because part-way through I realised that our scales are over-stating weight.

This was pointed out by two visitors who both said that they appeared to weigh substantially more at our house than at home.  I tested it with some known weights, and sure enough it over-states by about 4.4%.  So I’ve been diligently adjusting the figure when I weigh myself, and lo and behold, my actual weight is much closer to what I’m aiming for than I thought.  However, that still left me with at least 7 kilos to lose.

Apparently my wish to lose it just wasn’t strong enough to outweigh my wish to enjoy eating all sorts of treats.  Intake > output = weight gain.  Fortunately the final tally wasn’t quite that bad – it was more like: intake = output = no change.

However.  2020 has arrrived on a much more positive note.  Being ill last month (a minor bug, that nonetheless put me off my food for a whole week) kick-started some weight loss, and I have managed to keep it going.  I have now lost 2k, and am enjoying eating more healthily and more mindfully – and slightly less.

The main thing that has changed, for the good, is that I have stopped drinking the large quantity of very milky coffee that had become my morning comfort blanket.  I’m still having the coffee, but drinking it black, and savouring the taste all the more for doing so.

This has had the added advantage that I have cut my dairy consumption almost in half, making a significant contribution to another of my (failed) 2019 goals – reduce the amount of dairy produce I consume.  I don’t plan to cut it altogether – there is a strong family history of osteoporosis, and dairy consumption is a useful way to help counter the risk.

A tool I have found particularly useful in the past few weeks and will continue to use is my FitBit.  Until recently I was only been using this to track my activity levels (and very useful it has been).  Over the past few weeks I have also been using it to record what I eat/drink.  The combination of the two is proving a powerful support in getting that input:output balance right.  I can either eat less or do more; the other way around just doesn’t work (obviously).  I have become much more aware of days when I am too sedentary, and days when I have eaten more than I should.  Achieving a better balance is undoubtedly in my own hands.

Something else that has made a difference was coming across the blog of a woman slightly older than me who, for various health-related reasons, needed to lose a substantial amount of weight.  Reading her long struggle to achieve this, and seeing her before and after photos, was truly inspirational – if she can manage to lose 5 stone (and still going), I can surely manage to lose considerably less.  After years of losing that struggle, she joined a slimming club and found that helped.  That’s not something I would ever want to do (for all sorts of reasons), but I have ‘buddied up’ with a close friend who also needs to lose some weight for health-related reasons, and we support and encourage each other.

So, all around, this one seems to be win-win (for now – I’m not pretending I’m going to find losing the remaining 5 k easy, but I am at least optimistic that I can do it).

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Not running the Bath Half Marathon (and raising money for Bath City Farm)

To anyone who knows me this will not be news.  I haven’t run for over a year now, and all my good intentions have so far come to naught.  It’s many years since I last ran a half marathon, and the last time I did the Bath Half only taught me that the really brave and honest thing to have done would have been to drop out part way through (not struggle on to the end as I did).

2020 is going to be a BIG year for Bath City Farm – we will be 25 years old.  We have also just heard that we have been awarded a considerable amount of money towards building the cafe we’ve dreamed of for all of those 25 years.  We have 25* half marathon runners each committed to raising £250 (see what we did there?).

I really wanted to be one of those 25 people, but I’m realistic enough to know that it wouldn’t have worked.

Then I got to thinking.  Why only runners?  why not have 25 people signed up to raising £250 in ways that work for them?  I could do that.

So.  I am hereby committed to raising at least £250 by Not Running the Bath Half.  More would be even better.  I’ve got a plan, and I’m hoping you might feel able to help.

I’ve been thinking about what I CAN do, and whether there are ways of making those things bring in money.  Things I have done before are:

  • knitting and crocheting items for sale for the Farm.  I can definitely do more of that!  and in the past that has raised about £150 per year.  I’ve made a start – I knitted two baby jackets for friends of oldest son and his partner, and they made a donation in return.  I’m busy knitting some more and some other items, and I will also happily take commissions for these, for cotton dishcloths, and for crocheted blankets in return for appropriate donations to the fund
  • host a tea party / coffee morning at home.  I’m thinking maybe a tea party in the garden or on my allotment, next summer
  • I can swim – maybe I’ll do a sponsored swim?  (though to be honest the thought of eating cake is more appealing that the thought of asking people to pay me to swim – which probably explains some other things)

I’m also inviting people who enjoy reading this blog to consider making a small donation to my appeal (only those who can afford it of course – I’m well aware that many can’t).  The optimist in me thinks (hopes!) that there may be a few people out there who enjoy the blog enough to pop the price of a cup of coffee in the pot.  If you’re tempted, there’s now a button on the right-hand side of this page that will take you through to my LocalGiving page (and if you are a UK tax payer and tick the box, that will automatically increase your donation by an extra 20%.  Which would be cool).

All donations (less a very small admin fee charged by Localgiving) go immediately to Bath City Farm’s account.

I’ve already made a good start – so far I have raised £80 towards my target.

Summer view from the farm terrace

2019 new cafe garden (growing produce for use in our cafe kiosk next door)

The other part of my plan is to try to find 24 other people willing to take on the challenge.  I figure that if we can recruit more than 25 people to run a half marathon for us, it should be possible to recruit a few to not run a half marathon.  There are so many able and talented people around (basically, everyone).

Whatever the rest of the world chucks at us, 2020 is going to be an exciting and a busy year around here.

Here’s one I made earlier

Some of the cotton dishcloths I’m selling

A cot blanket

And here’s another one (before sewing up and finishing). She looked very sweet in this….

*I hear the number of runners has now risen to over 30!

Posted in Community, Craft, Do what you can with what you have, Seeing differently, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How did it go? – reduce single use stuff

First things first

Over the past few years I have made a number of changes in how I do things that have reduced my use of single-use stuff (whether it’s plastic, paper or whatever).  What I’ve found with each of them is that they quickly become the new normal and I never think about doing them.  The time I notice is when for whatever reason I don’t have an alternative with me and have to make a choice between single use and doing without.  Doing without is usually my choice (though not always.  None of us is perfect…).

For example, it is many years since I ever bought a drink in a plastic bottle.  Yes I use plastic bottles, but these are far from single use.  We’ve had them for many many years, and just reuse them.  No reason not to – they exist, they’re here already, they do the job well, and are sturdy enough to last us many more years.  Likewise, our thermos flasks and reuse cups.  Likewise my carry-around pouch with cutlery, a cloth napkin, and a mini ice cream scoop.

What did I change in 2019?

The main thing that changed during 2019 was my awareness of packaging and the changes I could make to reduce the amount that finds its way into our home.  Also watching the BBC programme on recycling brought home what an illusion we have been sold.  Which made me work harder to find a solution to my biggest contribution to single use plastic: the milk bottle.

What I did – milk

I drink a lot of milk.  Almost certainly more than is good for the planet.  I’m working on it (ie finding ways to use less of it).  In the meantime, I was buying organic British milk from our local supermarket (Coop).   But after watching the TV programme and seeing the evidence, I felt I could no longer continue with this.  So I made a switch that many of my neighbours have made, to having (organic, British) milk delivered to our doorstep in glass bottles.  It cost much more, but I was willing (and able) to pay the increased price if that was going to be better for the planet.

Until Malcolm brought my attention to radio coverage of complaints by diary farmers that the payment they received for their milk from this company was below the cost to them of production.  Once I’d heard that, I stopped my deliveries and reverted to the supermarket.  Taking me back to where I started.

Fortunately for me, I very quickly found what I think is a much better solution.  I remembered that an organic farm just outside Bath sells their milk direct.  I went to have a look.  They have a machine that they fill each morning with fresh pasteurised (whole) milk.  You take your own bottle and fill it with either 1 or 2 litres.  It costs much less than the delivered milk (but more than the supermarket milk), and I know that every penny goes to the farmer.  I can watch the cows being milked, I see them grazing the nearby fields.

The downside is that I drive just under 8 miles (round trip) each time I stock up on milk.  However, the milk I buy has travelled no miles at all before I buy it.  I reuse the same bottles every time and I see no reason why they shouldn’t last indefinitely (compared to the approximately 20 times the glass delivery bottles are reused).  So I’ve been experimenting to see how much milk I can buy in one visit that will keep fine in the fridge at home (ie how long it will keep), and at the same time I’m continuing to find ways to reduce my consumption of milk.  Maybe later in the year I’ll experiment with cycling out there (it means crossing Bath and riding out up quite a hill and finally along a fairly narrow and quite busy road, so I’m a little nervous and I think rightly so. However, in the longer term I’m contemplating replacing two bikes with an electric bike and that may make the whole thing easier and safer).

So, all in all, this feels to me like an acceptable compromise.  The reduction in contents of our recycling bin is substantial.  I now only put it out for emptying once a fortnight, instead of weekly.

Reusable glass bottles; second-hand carrying basket

What I did – not milk

Milk aside, most of the actual changes I made have been relatively small ones, but I’m working on the premise that the small things add up when we all do them.

So.  The first thing I did was to sort through, identify and use up stuff I already have.  The sorting unearthed an array of small part-used containers of shampoo, shower gel, and various skin creams.  I have been gradually using these and disposing of the containers (or where possible, repurposing them – some have been kept for travel use, some given away).

A new (to me) habit in 2019 was carrying around a box full of bags to take shopping with me.  This works extremely well, and I rarely bring any unwanted packaging into our home.  Pleasingly, occasionally other customers have noticed and commented positively, so I hope that maybe I will have spurred others to do likewise.  There are however some food items in plastic that I haven’t yet moved to an alternative (eg pasta).  I will explore other options during 2020.

I tried and failed to find a shampoo bar that I liked.  But here at  the start of 2020 I am inspired by my older friend (well into her 80s) who has recommended to me a bar shampoo (and an alternative deodorant) –  she is making great efforts to change her consumption to cut out waste and single use items.  Don’t let anyone tell you that older people don’t care about the climate emergency: many do care, and are willing to do something about it.

What next?

I’m sufficiently pleased with my progress to continue with all the changes I’ve already made, and to carry on searching for alternatives (and in many cases just stop using products).  Definitely not reached the ‘enough’ point with this one.

 

Posted in 2019 goals, 2020 enough, Climate change, Do what you can with what you have, Farming, Local food, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

How did it go? – reduce water use

With the end of 2019 come and gone, now is a good time to look back and see how I did with the goals I set myself a year ago.

I set out my 2019 goals here.  I’m going to review the goals one by one, in separate posts.

First off water use – how much (less?) did we use, what worked, what didn’t, and what next.

Our water is metered, and there are only two of us in our household.  The meter is read twice a year, February and September.  These readings feed into the bills we receive.  The bills helpfully include information about how much water we have used during the billing period, how that compares with the same billing period last year, and how it compares with national average water use (per person).

First things first

We are fortunate to own our own home, including a garden.   This means that we have control of our appliances and systems, and we have been able to install a water butt (now in fact two garden water butts; soon to be three).  Many many people are far less fortunate than us and have considerably less control over their usage.  Which seems to me all the more reason that those of us who do have that control, use it well.

In order to reduce what I use, I have to first assess what I’m using for what purposes.

A major use (waste?) of water is for toilet flushing.  While I’m not (yet?) suggesting that this should be completely avoided, it’s common knowledge that we can substantially reduce the amount of water flushed away.We have two toilets in the house, both dual flush.  I’m embarrassed to say until today I didn’t actually know how much water each of these flushes uses.  I had to look it up – its 6 litres and 3 litres.  So, clearly there are easy savings to be made by:

  • never use a full flush if it isn’t needed (ie if its only to flush away wee) – 3 litres saved every single time we use a half flush
  • not flushing every time we use the toilet – 3 litres every single time we don’t flush – my simple calculation is that if a household can avoid 6 half flushes a day, that works out to over 6,ooo litres of water saved in just a year.  The old adage: if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down works well
  • using rain water to flush when flushing is needed – this is potentially another big saver, particularly when a full flush is saved, and one I have experimented with this year

We have a bath (with shower over), and three wash basins.  Plus the kitchen sink.  We have a washing machine, and a dishwasher.

Despite having a mains tap in the garden, I never ever use it for garden watering – so far a combination of water butts and reusing water from hand washing clothes and dishes has been enough (that and an acceptance that at time some plants may not thrive).  In any event, this isn’t an issue during the winter months (though in some recent years I’ve been concerned to find that the water butts have been at a very low level unusually early in the year – adding more water butts will help deal with this).

What I did

I began the year by trying to save every last drop of water that could be reused.  Aware that each time I want hot water at the kitchen sink a lot of cold and cool water comes through first, I have for a long time collected the first lot of water in a bowl to use for watering the garden.  But I only use water in the garden during the hotter dryer weather (and frankly dry weather hasn’t been much in evidence recently).  So for much of the year, this water was being wasted.  I bought a pail with a lid (secondhand), which I keep under the wash basin downstairs.

I also began the year by collecting water used for hand-washing (post toilet use) in the downstairs cloakroom.  I bought a small basin (again, secondhand) to use for this, and poured the water into the pail after use.  This proved to be a complete faff, and probably not worth the effort, as I realised in April when thesnailofhappiness pointed it out and said that she uses rain water for this.

At which point the penny dropped, and I realised that I have lots and lots of rainwater in the garden butts that never gets used.  So around halfway through the year I began filling the pail once or twice a day from the butts (no shortage of rain for most of this year), using the water for flushing downstairs.

I was heartened to find that when the September bill came in, the volume of water used was appreciably reduced.  This time just 20 cubic metres (down from 23 the same period last year; down from 21 cubic metres the previous period).

So, summing up this year’s efforts, I have substantially reduced the amount of mains water flushed away in the toilets.  We already did all the obvious easy things, like only washing clothes when they really need it, always running the washing machine and dishwasher with full loads, not letting the taps run more than needed.  But the additional measures this year have resulted in reducing our mains water use still further.

I was pleased to be able to donate the financial saving to a charity that provides clean water  supplies for those who lack it.  For others, this could be a useful saving to reinvest in saving more water themselves in the future.

What next?

This one is definitely a keeper.  Plus I like a good bit of data, and I enjoy plotting our water use as the bills arrive twice a year.  Next one due in February, so that will be my next update.

I am certain that the minimal effort required is really worthwhile, so I will be continuing with it next year.  I will also be looking to see if there are other easy savings to be made.  My Christmas present wish list was a water butt (or two), and we’ll be looking out for and installing something suitable over the next few months (two because I want an additional one for the garden, plus one to fit on the greenhouse on the allotment).

Work is also ongoing to apply the learning from this exercise to my work with Bath City Farm, and we continue looking at ways to reduce our reliance on (and expenditure on) mains water there as well.

 

 

 

 

Posted in 2019 goals, Climate change, Do what you can with what you have, Frugal, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

2020: enough (what?)

So here we are in 2020, and I have more than enough ideas about what I want to do this year, all of them positive (ie focussing on taking on things rather than giving things up).

I’ll write a review of how my 2019 went soon, but in the meantime, I’ll just say that I was sufficiently happy with all of them to want to carry on with them into this year.  They have essentially become the new normal for me (with the exception of weight loss, more of which in due course).

But for now my focus is on looking to the future, to how my word ‘enough‘ will translate into action (or maybe inaction?) this year.  I’m considering deciding on a theme for each month.  I’m definitely doing this in January: this month my focus is:

  • Enough prevarication: getting on and finishing/doing those things I have already decided or said I will do, or have started but not finished.  This will include some actions for others (including Bath City Farm), some for myself, and some for others.  I have made a list of what I need to do, in several categories, and I will do at least one thing (and sometimes more) every single day – of which there are now 25 left, including today.  I’m glad to say that I have already ticked off 5 things, but there are more than enough things left to do.

In addition, here are some other ‘enough‘ opportunities I have identified.  There will be more.

  • Enough books: in this I take inspiration from several other bloggers, who have prioritised reading the books they already have.  During last year Malcolm and I both did a first big sort of our books, and gave away many that no longer have meaning or appeal for us (or else books that do have meaning, but would be of more use being liberated into the world to be read by others, rather than languishing unread on our shelves).  I can see another sort through of books coming, along with much re-reading of what I already have.  I will continue to borrow books from friends and from the library, and sometimes charity shops.  I will avoid buying new books (though there may be exceptions for exceptional books).
  • Enough clothes: I already have enough clothes to see me through the rest of my life (apart from underwear, which does need replacing regularly).  Last year I had an honest look at what I had, and I gave away many things that I had grown out of, either physically or emotionally.  I am still left with more than plenty.  In addition, the more I read about the depredation caused by the clothes/fashion industry, the less I want to be any part of it.  So, while I’m not saying I will never buy anything new, this year my priority is to make the most (and best) of what I already have (repairing; pairing and wearing differently), if possible to buy second-hand if I want/need something else, and only as a last resort buy anything new – always thoughtfully and carefully, paying close attention to the ethical values and practice of the seller/maker.

And for now, that’s enough to be going on with.  I have things to do, and tasks to tick off my lists.

More preserved lemons – made yesterday (took less than 10 minutes to make; will last me the year)

 

Posted in 2020 enough, Do what you can with what you have, Reflections on life (and death), Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments