Five (good) things on Friday (July 20)

This has been a good week for me, after a run of many with a more mixed feel about them.

  1. I received my made-to-measure pressure leg garment, far more quickly than I was led to expect.  After only 4 days wearing it, my leg is considerably better.  I even have something resembling an ankle.  It’s certainly not a thing of beauty, not by any stretch of the imagination, but to me it’s a godsend. (A side issue: it comes from Germany.  Will I still be able to get these quickly, or even at all, through the NHS after Brexit?  I fear that things will be far more convoluted).
  2. I have accepted that this year, for a whole range of reasons, my allotment and garden are not and will not be as beautiful or as productive as they could / should be.  Accepting this has enabled me to let go of the feeling that I should have done more, I should be doing more, I have ‘failed’.  Let it go.
  3. My 100 day challenge is going well.  Today is Day 20, and so far I haven’t missed a day. My cycling and swimming have already become stronger.  Going away from home later in the summer will be an extra challenge, I’ll have to think carefully about what I will do, but that may just be an opportunity to add more walking into the mix and see how I cope with that with the new stocking – I hope it will be fine, and if not, there are always swimming pools.
  4. People close to me have received good news about their health problems.  Things that initially sounded very scary have turned out to be not scary at all, and we are thankful for that.
  5. With all that cycling and swimming, my hair has been a fright.  Cycle helmets and chlorine are not friends to long curls.  So I took the plunge and had a short hair cut.  To my surprise, I’m rather pleased with it.  I think.
  6. Our delicious, delightful granddaughter, always a source of joy.  Now she’s smiling and even rolling over.  And later this summer we shall have a week away with her, her parents, and her aunt and uncle.  Can’t wait! (oh and the lovely Baby Surprise Jacket fits her already, and she looks even more adorable than ever in it.  And you know I’m not one tiny bit biased).

Oops, that’s 6 again.  Look on it as a bonus.

So, all in all, a good week around these parts.  What about you?

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Going Dutch in Delft

I have a backlog of semi-drafted posts from earlier this year.  I’m planning to work my way through them.  This is the first – from April this year. 

It took 35 years or so for us to get to the Netherlands together.  Many years ago I went to Amsterdam with a friend and I’ve been saying ever since how much I’d enjoy visiting there again with Malcolm.  One day.  And finally that day arrived.

Well, almost.  I couldn’t find suitable (affordable) accommodation in Amsterdam, so I looked instead at Delft.  I’m so glad I did, because otherwise we probably wouldn’t have gone to Delft, and we would have missed a gem of a place.

Delft is where Vermeer was born, lived, worked, died, and was buried.

Sunday morning – strolling to the flea market

We stayed in a small house in the central old town, perfectly placed for us to explore the town on foot.  We spent many happy hours walking along canals, exploring small residential streets, visiting churches, markets, cafes, and just sitting watching people cycling and walking the city.

Such a walkable, cycleable city, with hardly any motor vehicles in the city centre, and those there were moved slowly and carefully.After a couple of days we realised what was missing: the noise and the fumes of traffic.  It was quiet, peaceful, with a sense that people mattered.

We were deeply envious of their transport system, which can truly be described as a system – not just independent bits and pieces that feel haphazard, but a fully integrated system of walking, cycling, public transport, and finally cars – the reverse of everything we experience at home.  And what was fascinating was the impact of the transport system on everything else – our (wholly unscientific) observation was that people looked on the whole so much healthier than at home (especially noticeable in children and young people – markedly reduced numbers of overweight and obese children and young people); the air we were breathing was cleaner; the city a genuinely pleasant place to be – and so many people were out and about enjoying it, even on weekday evenings.  It was clear to us that these were mainly local people – families, adults, young people, students.  And it was all so convivial.

We travelled out for the day to The Hague, to Amsterdam, and to Rotterdam.   We saw wonderful art, beautiful bulb fields, and interesting urban regeneration.  All these trips were easily done on public transport, and information about how to do it and where to go was easy to find.   We bought and enjoyed food from local shops and the wonderful twice-weekly markets.  We relaxed in local cafes and bars.

It all illustrated for me the fact that a real transport system has so many positive impacts way beyond just getting you from A to B.

Delft is somewhere we will definitely return.  I just wish that the council in my home city, Bath, would be willing to learn some of the lessons – much of the income in both Delft and Bath derives from tourism, but the approach couldn’t be further apart.



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100 day challenge: so what is it?

It’s actually very, very simple, and takes a commitment of just one hour of my time each day.

This is what I have set myself to do:

Exercise – at least 50-60 minutes of reasonably strenuous exercise every day.  A lot of days Malcolm and I are going out for a 10 mile cycle ride early in the morning (before it starts to get toooo hot out there).  Some days I go for a swim – I’m aiming for at least 40x25m lengths (so that’s a kilometre). I’d like to build the swimming up to a mile, which would be a stretch for me but very satisfying.  I learnt to swim properly relatively late in life (early 40s), and still class myself as an improver.  There will be occasional days when I walk more than usual and that will be my exercise.

Weights – I’m lifting my arm weights every single day, and intend gradually building up both number of reps and the weights I’m lifting.

Diet – (and by that I simply mean ‘what I’m eating and drinking’ – I definitely do not mean I’m following some kind of prescriptive weight loss or other diet).  I’m just eating generally healthy food (by which I mean lots of fresh vegetables, some fresh fruit, not much sugary stuff, lots of unprocessed grains, very little caffeine or alcohol, lots of water).  I’m also drinking a small amount of home made (and therefore unsweetened) milk kefir every day- the amount that fits in an espresso coffee cup.  This has definitely grown on me – at first I didn’t like it at all, finding it much too sour.  Now I actually love it, and look forward to it.

Lymph leg care – I’m spending part of each day with my leg elevated, and doing some self-massage to try to help get the lymphatic system moving.  Astonishingly (to me, at least), when this works I can hear and feel all sorts of gurgling noises in my lower chest.  I need more tuition in this, and plan to watch some online instruction videos this week.  I’m having a MLD massage each week, and each time I learn something new.  Once my pressure stocking arrives, I’ll be wearing it every day.  In addition, I’m trying to be mindful all the time of how my leg (particularly my ankle, foot and toes, which are very badly affected at the moment) is, so I learn what helps and what makes things worse and so can make any adjustments I need to make.

Other stuff – I’m trying to find positive ways to carry on ‘being me’ and not morphing into being ‘a patient’.  For me this means looking for good-looking shoes and clothes that fit with my style and lifestyle – I’m not ready for the track suit bottoms and velcro slipper look yet (nor ever will be, I hope!). I had a really encouraging experience yesterday at the small anti-Trump demo I joined in Bath.  A woman about my age (I guess), slim and attractive, wearing really nice clothes, had on a full hand and arm pressure garment, and seemed to be very comfortable about it.  I wanted but didn’t quite pluck up courage to ask her about it, but just seeing her was a real inspiration for me.

So – that’s it.  That’s all there is to it.  Very simple, not over-demanding, and I’ve managed to follow it all so far.  It’s Day 11.

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My 100 day challenge: the background

I’m a doer, not a ‘have done-er’, if that makes sense.  When confronted with a problem or a difficulty, I look for something I can do to resolve it.

This 100 day challenge is my personal, individual response to the medical issues I’m dealing with at the moment.  It may have absolutely no benefit (though I can’t imagine it will do any harm), but it assuages my need to exercise some control over the circumstances I find myself in.


Until recently my exercise has come mainly in the form of walking.  Since I began using a fitbit early in 2017 I’ve mainly achieved my goal of walking at least 12,000 steps each day.  I simply walk most places in my everyday life.  I’ve become familiar with the number of steps walked in my most regular walks – to town and back; a round trip to the local shops; a walk up to the Farm and back.  On days when we ‘go out for a walk’ I regularly clock up more like 20,000-25,000.

This, I now think, is more than is good for my leg (and particularly my ankle, foot and toes, which tend to swell and become red and uncomfortable with such long distances).  So I’m experimenting to find out what I can easily manage, and when to stop.

To compensate for walking less, I’ve at long last got back on my bike and resumed cycling. I’ve also started swimming again.  And (of course! why did I doubt it?) I’m loving both.


I’ve been trying to lose weight since this time last year and had been (slowly, slowly) succeeding.  I’m not a large person, and am generally fairly slim (at 5’1″, I wear size 10 clothing), but nonetheless I felt that excess weight was gradually accumulating and I wanted to nip it in the bud.  It was going well, but this year instead of coming off, the weight has been piling on.  Not loads, but I now weigh several kilos more than I did when I began losing weight, and I’m not happy with that. (Though I should add that my clothes feel more or less the same as they always have, apart from tightness around the affected areas, so the chances are that much of that extra weight is down to fluid build up with the lymphoedema).

Nonetheless, I want to lose the extra 5K I’ve been carrying around too long (er, since I was pregnant with youngest son.  He’ll be 30 in April).

Bone strength

A couple of weeks ago I tripped on a pavement and fell (literally) flat on my face and my wrist.  I was lucky that I came out of it with nothing more serious than a colourful black eye that gradually developed as the week wore on and a sore arm.

It struck me that my bone density must be far better than I feared, because others I know have had multiple bone fractures after just such falls.  This is something I’m keen to preserve, so I have resolved to resume weight training, something I used to do regularly but had let lapse over the past few years.

I have arm weights at home, and have started using them again daily.  I won’t use the leg weights until I have advice about whether or not this is ok – I don’t want to blunder into making things worse than they already are.

Lymphoedema leg care

Achieving improvements / preventing deterioration in my bad leg will require:

  • consistently wearing my pressure garment once I receive it (should be soon, I hope)
  • lymphatic drainage massage to help reduce the swelling.  I am having regular specialist (MLD) massages, which are wonderful, and which are also teaching me how I can help myself (and Malcolm can help me). (Sadly not available to me locally on the NHS, though seems effective; it is available locally on the NHS but only for post-cancer lymphoedema)
  • scrupulously careful skin care – daily washing, careful drying, daily moisturising
  • careful attention to any cuts, bites or abrasions on my affected leg, and avoidance of any chance of infection.  I have a course of just-in-case antibiotics to take away with me (just in case…) – twice now I have developed cellulitis while away on holiday

I need to change my hitherto rather cavalier attitude to gardening and working on my allotment.  It will be long trousers all the time, with high socks as well, to protect my leg from scratches, bites and stings.  I need to be particularly careful when working with the piles of muck I use – infection in a scratch could become serious.

I’ve also found that I need to change the way I garden (lots of crouching, which makes my foot and ankle swell).  Luckily a friend, who herself has knee problems and is a physio, has shown me a gardening stool she uses that looks like it will be just the job – I will be able to garden low down with my leg outstretched.  I am now much more consistent in wearing gardening gloves (I rarely have done in the past).  I will also need to experiment with how long I can work on the allotment – I’m guessing shorter more frequent bursts will be the order of the day.

General health

All of the above should improve my general health.

I’m still struggling with very poor sleep – sometimes it’s just about ok, sometimes not.  I suspect that will just be an ongoing issue, and it’s something I have already made sensible adjustments to accomodate.

After a seriously nasty bout of flu this winter that knocked me out for the best part of a month, and after reading about the importance of the gut microbiome, I’m interested in the part fermented foods can play in improving health generally.  I’ve successfully (and sometimes spectacularly unsuccessfully!) made fermented cabbage (sauerkraut), which at its best is delicious.  I plan to do more of that.

More recently, oldest son and daughter-out-law gave me some milk kefir grains they’ve had from her mother.  I’ve been making and drinking it for over a month now, and the tart, fresh taste has really grown on me (or do I mean, grown in me??).  More of that in some other post.

100 day challenge

I know I’m great at starting things enthusiastically and then gradually tailing off.  This has to be different – I need to stick with it.  So I’m taking the advice I would give a friend in the same situation, and treating all this as I would a doctor’s prescription.  I’ve committed to myself that I will follow my challenge for 100 days, so that much of it becomes an embedded habit of life.  Oh, and I seem to have committed to you too.

Next time I’ll tell you what the challenge is, and how its going.  Today is Day 10.  Which means 10% of the challenge already done.  So far, so good.


Posted in 100 day challenge, Do what you can with what you have, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Health matters

Something I’ve been reflecting on quite a lot of late, for reasons partly related to me and partly related to others.  The latter not mine to share; the former is.

A couple of years ago, while walking the London Capital Ring, for no apparent reason one of my lower legs became very swollen and itchy.  I carried on with the walk, just cutting it down slightly each day hoping not to exacerbate things.  On my return home I went to our GP who prescribed some antibiotics in case there was an infection causing it, and sent me off speedily for tests to check whether I had a DVT – I didn’t, and it was very reassuring to have this confirmed so swiftly.

Fast forward just over two years, and the leg swelling has got considerably worse and has now been diagnosed as a life-long condition.  It affects the whole of my right leg, including the foot and up into the buttock, plus my abdomen and groin on the same side.  With the diagnosis of lymphoedema and tests having ruled out any problems with my vascular system, my heart and my kidneys, the seat of it seems almost certainly to be a failing in my lymphatic system.

When I reviewed my GP medical notes, what first appeared as a minor groin swelling back in 2011 now seems likely to have been at the root of all the subsequent problems.  My current hypothesis (based on no medical training or background whatsoever) is to wonder whether the abdominal hysterectomy I had several years before that could have caused damage to the lymph nodes in that area.

So I have gradually found myself in an unfamiliar world, where GPs and practice nurses are unfamiliar with the condition and thus propose inappropriate treatments; or aren’t familiar with referral routes (which for this condition are fiendishly diverse and complicated, depending largely on whether or not your lymphoedema is related to cancer treatment (quite extensive NHS services) or not (very patchy and inconsistent services – what people mean when they talk about the NHS ‘postcode lottery’).

Now, a year after I should have been referred to a specialist community clinic (for non-cancer related lymphoedema patients), I finally got the referral I needed and had my appointment last week.

I was (and am) so pleased to have been referred there.  But I’m also very upset that this didn’t happen at least a year ago.  Because in the meantime my condition has deteriorated considerably, and I’ve now been told that leg will never get back to normal (though there is hope that it may reduce from the 60% increase in size I currently have).

Of course I know very well that all our lives can change in an instant – a heart attack, a crash, a fall, an illness.  All manner of things can befall us.  If we’re fortunate, we have the chance to carry on.  To adjust and make accommodations.  And I am fortunate, and that is what I’m doing right now.

I am fortunate because, for all its faults, I have access to the NHS.  I am fortunate because I am supported by loving and lovely family and friends.  I am fortunate because, if I need to buy a treatment not available from the NHS, I can probably choose to do so .  I am fortunate because my condition does not prevent me from doing many things (I hope), it just means I need to do things differently (or perhaps in some cases, different things).  I am fortunate because I’ve discovered some really useful resources out there (especially the Lymphoedema Support Network, a UK charity of course run by volunteers).

It’s nowhere near the end of the world.

So, here I am, in this heatwave, figuring out what I can and what I can’t manage.  What I can and can’t wear (bye bye all my shoes and beloved boots).  How far I can walk, and how far is too far.  How long I can garden and how long is too long.  Waiting for the now-ordered made-to-measure full length pressure stocking I will need to wear all the time.

And that leads on to – what adjustments must I make to keep myself as well as I can, while carrying on doing the things I love to do?

That’s a challenge, and one I readily accept.  Of course, in that I have no choice: it is what it is.   There will be some losses along the way, but I’m optimistic that, all in all, lots of small adjustments will enable me to continue to live my active and very happy life.

I’ve set myself a 100 day challenge to make some of those changes become habits.  I’ll tell you how it goes.

Posted in 100 day challenge, Cycling, Do what you can with what you have, Family, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Travels, Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Do what you can with what you have: water

In this long hot dry spell, it feels like a good time to write about how we use water, and how we can use less of it.  Especially those of us who have gardens and plants in pots, and tender plants we want to nurture.

For me this is mostly about squeezing the best use I can out of whatever water I use.   Here are the simple things I already do.  I’m sure there are more things you can suggest – please do share!

  1. Try not to waste water.  This means  when we do use it, trying to use it as efficiently as possible.  We have a long pipe run between the hot water tank and the kitchen sink.  Using a bowl in the sink is key: I capture the cold and lukewarm water that comes before the hot water in a bowl in the sink, and transfer it to the watering can I keep ready outside the kitchen door.  
  2. Reduce use.  Better still, let’s not use water.  When we’ve needed to replace appliances, we’ve been careful to include use of water in our decision making (eg dishwasher; washing machine; toilets).  No doubt when we finally need to replace our existing appliances we’ll find that current ones are even more efficient.   We try to find a balance between keeping the toilets clean, and refraining from flushing them.  I’m experimenting (sometimes) with weeing in a bucket and using the contents on my compost heap* – a tried and tested method, which simply returns a source of fertility to the soil – a great permaculture approach that transforms waste (a ‘problem’) into an asset (a ‘solution’).  I can and should do more of this, it just takes a bit more organisation on my part. 
  3. Whenever possible, use water twice.  I have a number of plants in post in the garden.  In dry spells all the water I use to hand-wash dishes and clothes is poured into a watering can, allowed to cool, then used on the pots.  This helps conserve the rain water in the butts.  I use mild products, and I’ve never found that plants suffer at all from this.   On the contrary, it means I can water them more frequently (or more copiously) than might otherwise be the case (another example of transforming waste into an asset).
  4. Capture the rain –  last year I installed another large water butt in the garden to replace a smaller one.  I now have two large water butts in the garden.  I could probably do with another one, as we seem to be having more of these long dry spells – maybe a task for later this year. I also installed another water butt in the allotment and added the smaller one from the garden, making a total of three. One is in the hens’ pen, and that is where all their water comes from.  I also use that to water the summer plants that go in a fenced-off corner of their pen.  This means I can water plants when I need to, but I very rarely need to use tap water.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time.
  5. Mulch – the allotment beds where I’ve spread lots of muck over the years hold the moisture so much better than the beds in the garden, where I haven’t mulched at all.  So – clearly this autumn and winter’s job will be copious mulching in the garden.  I bought in another trailer-load of farm muck last month, which should have rotted down nicely by then, and I also have several bags full of leaf mould made from leaves swept up in the garden two years ago (another example of ‘waste’ being transformed into a useful asset).

If like ours your water is metered, there’s the added bonus that the less you use, the less you pay.  It also means that you can check on the volume of water you’ve used, to provide a reality check – I may think I’ve used less, but have I really?

What else can I do?  I’m sure there are many things, and I’m hoping you’ll inspire me to do more by sharing your experience.

In the meantime, I’m challenging myself to

  • flush the toilet less often
  • capture more water from the bathroom for toilet flushing (a small bowl in the basin; a bucket for alternative flushing, maybe with rainwater in the wet season?

I’ll tell you how I get on.  And in the meantime, I’m trying to keep my cool by drinking chilled minted tap water straight from the fridge.


* this may sound a bit ‘hard core’ to you, but truly it’s not a bit disgusting.  And a lot less hard core than the bloggers I read who substitute washable cloths for toilet paper (lets just say I’m thinking about it); and those who despite living in the city have set up their own version of composting toilet.  It’s a journey….

Posted in Climate change, Do what you can with what you have, Frugal, Inspirations, Seeing differently | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Five good things on Friday – on Friday!

  1. I (finally!) got round to upgrading my blog to a paid-for package instead of the free one.  Which means I have more storage space, and can resume uploading photos.  As ever, the thing I’d built up in my mind as a Big Hurdle turned out to be the work of minutes.  Literally, minutes. (Hmm.  Will I ever learn??).   So here, entirely a propos of nothing other than that I wasn’t able to share them before, are some random recent photos.

    Nomadic Gardens, Spitalfields, London

    Mews garden near Hyde Park, London

    Mews garden near Hyde Park, London

  2. A family cycle ride.  We managed to meet up with our nephew and his family visiting from Sydney for a cycle ride.  He’s a bike mechanic out there, and loves to cycle.  His wife does part of her daily commute by bicycle.  Their two year old is used to riding in a bike seat.  Malcolm’s brother came too.  The icing on the cake was that youngest son and daughter-in-law and baby drove over to meet up with us at the lunch stop – the pub we’ve been visiting as a family for many years now (and where they hosted youngest son’s wedding lunch – they were pleased to meet the baby!).  A leisurely lunch stop, good food and drink, and a great welcome – everything we could ask for in a pub.
  3. Photographic exhibition.  We were fortunate to get tickets to the opening evening of a fascinating exhibitions of photos by and from the collection of Magnum photographer David Hurn.  Back in the 1950s he had the brilliant idea of welcoming photographers as they joined Magnum by inviting them to do a swap with him – they could choose two of his prints, and he would choose two of theirs.  Over the years he has amassed a large collection of prints by many of the world’s best photographers.  He recently donated his entire archive to the National Museum of Wales.  This exhibition is a small sample of those.  It is very interestingly curated, by juxtaposing Hurn’s photographs with those of others who swapped for them.  Catch it if you can (at the Martin Parr Foundation, Bristol till 15 September, free of charge).  
  4. Summer produce.  Strawberries, oh how I love you!  And mine really are the tops for taste.  For a whole raft of reasons I haven’t got much planted on the allotment this year, so I wasn’t expecting much produce.  But two of my allotment neighbours are away on holiday, and they’ve both asked me to pick and use anything that is ripe.  I’ve been happy to oblige – in return, I have broad beans, peas, courgettes, and mangetout peas.  I also picked a large punnet of their strawberries which I gave to other neighbours.
  5. Finding hope for treatment for a chronic health problem which has gradually got worse over the past two years.  The problem began back in April 2016 when we walked the Capital Ring (I wrote about it here), and unfortunately far from getting better, it’s gradually got quite a lot worse since then to the extent that it is limiting my levels of activity.  I have lymphoedema in my right leg.  So far I have struggled to get good advice about how best to manage it and stop it getting worse.  But this week I had my first massage treatment that should help alleviate the symptoms, and I received an early date for an appointment at a specialist (NHS) clinic.  Things are looking up….
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