Thursday, March 31, 2005

Trying to be lazy

I'm trying to rest up a bit, honest I am, but life just keeps getting in the way. Yesterday the surveyor came to inspect the void under our doorstep, so I had to get up by midday in case he came a bit early, before John got home. Needless to say he was a bit late, but not too much so.

He had a good look, and poked and prodded a bit with a broom handle, and then took photos. He thinks that probably the area under the step wasn't consolidated properly when we had the underpinning done, but since that was 18 years ago now it's too late to go back to the contractor. He suggest we just pack the void with sand and cement mix, but first we have to get United Utilities to come in to check for leaks in our water main in case the movement has caused some seepage from tiny fractures - we're pretty certain the pipe is the original lead pipe, so that may be quite likely.

This afternoon Ray is coming over to replace the rear brakes on the car - at least I think it's the rear brakes. We also need a new rear tyre - it's just non stop!

I did manage some gentle colouring in yesterday, another in The Return of Spring collaborative colouring book. I find that on days when I'm just a bit too shattered to draw for myself it can be relaxing to play with a colouring book.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Teeth and sycamores - two of my unfavourite things

Had a visit to the Dental Hygienist today, who sandblasted my teeth. At least that's what it felt like. I found it difficult to "just open your mouth a bit wider for me, please". I find holding my jaw wide open makes it ache quite fast, and after a certain length of time feels as if it's going to go into spasm. Have to go back in 3 months, oh joy.

Had hoped to do some gardening when I got back, but found myself too shattered to want to attempt the steps into the yard. So I came up to check on email, and felt so cold I had to get into bed. So not much done today, though I suppose getting my teeth scraped is probably a good thing.

John had a call at work this afternoon to say that someone is coming from our insurance company to inspect the void under our doorstep tomorrow at 1pm. So he will come home lunchtime to deal with it. Tonight he's wiped down the last bit of re-pointing he did. It's actually called bagging, as it used to be that you used the bags the sand or cement came in - bit hazy about the detail here, but I think they used to be in double paper bags rather than the polythene they come in now - to wipe off the excess mortar mix. John just used an old towel I think.

He's also done more sweeping up in the yard. Given it's such a small yard it's amazing how long it takes to sweep up! The sycamores across the side road are the main reason why we always have so many dead leaves. I hate the sycamores - they obscure the sun from our yard (some years ago the trees were cut back, and we had sunshine in the yard, mostly gone come evening now), and they also drip crud over my car that is extremely hard to remove. Grrrrrr!

Bear in mind that most of my outside photography in Liverpool is through the car windscreen, crud all over it is a pain. Plus they spin their little helicopter seeds into our tiny yard and hundreds of baby sycamores spring up. We'd have a forest in our backyard if the sycamores had anything to say about it. To me they are the plant equivalent of slugs - die slugs!!! Still not done the nematodes, maybe tomorrow. If we don't get a move on they will be past using. Definitely tomorrow!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Whatever happened to the week?

Gosh, I can't believe it's nearly a week since I posted on here!

Not had a very good week I'm afraid. John decided to forego his trip to the Norfolk Broads as I was feeling so fragile over last weekend. Monday the weather was nice, so foolishly I swept up some stuff in the yard. I've been paying for that most of the week. But the yard is moving along, John disposed of some old and shattering plastic planters and swept up around the (ghastly purple!) wheelie bin. We just need to move some of the pots around a bit and finish sweeping up, then John can water the nematodes that are sitting in the fridge at the moment into the tiny border and the various pots. Die slugs!

I managed to pot on one houseplant - a sort of bamboo-ish plant that came in a beautiful arrangement of growing plants from some friends as a memorial when John's Dad died.

I also finished potting up the 6 Gold Lace Primulas that I had as plugs from Thompson and Morgan. They were beginning to need watering twice a day, so I figured it was time to move them on as I just don't have the energy for that right now. Seeing as the weather was so mild I put them on the new steps to begin hardening off. Needless to say I forgot to bring them in on the first night, so I've left them out ever since. I think they look reasonably healthy.

Some of the dwarf irises that I finally finished planting a couple of weeks ago are just beginning to show. They arrived before Christmas, but with one thing and another I didn't get around to potting them, so was worried they would all be dead. I hope that more than the 3 or 4 that are showing in a couple of pots get around to growing.

Still haven't progressed my Bed drawing for the Everyday Matters Group any further, maybe later today. Just had lead legs so badly all week that I've mostly stayed in bed upstairs, with forays downstairs for food (and coffee!) of course! Am trying out Wiltshire Farm Foods, just need micro-waving, or can cook in conventional oven too. They're OK, but not as nice as proper home cooking! Still, very useful to have in the freezer so that I can have more regular meals than I have done for ages.

John has spent most of the week finishing off the re-pointing on the side of the house, started in about 1997 I think! Plus replaced a broken cast iron air vent to under the floor with the air brick that Herby took out of the bathroom wall to install the extractor fan. He's also been in touch with the Insurance Company about the void that has opened up under our front step. Jeesh, there's always something with houses! The roof has some slipped tiles too, been waiting for attention for nearly 2 years now. Hence damp in the corner of what was Helen's room and is now supposed to be my work room, but it's currently a total junk room.

And yesterday he went over to West Kirby to complete the sale of Dad's car. I'm glad that's done and dusted, and I'm sure my parents are too. We are having lunch with them tomorrow, so I'm trying to rest up a bit today. Plus Sarah is arriving from the Broads early this evening, John plans to cook a roast chicken with stuffing. Mmmmm, onion, garlic, bacon, mushrooms, lemon juice and breadcrumbs, maybe an egg to bind it... My mouth is watering already!

Sunday, March 20, 2005


Yesterday was a wonderful warm and sunny day. John went over to my parents to get the AA to start their car (it's not been driven since November and had flat battery). The AA man got the car started OK, but on testing it found that it wasn't taking up charge. So they drove to a local garage, with the AA man behind them in case they stalled, to find that the garage couldn't sell them a battery as the people who dealt with that weren't there. So the AA man had one in his van, and fitted it and charged the garage for it. Ye gods, what a palaver!

Later someone did a test drive in the car, and is interested in buying it. That will be a weight off my parents' minds.

Meanwhile back in Liverpool I was doing some gentle gardening. The primroses I bought the other week looked as if they were becoming potbound, so I found some old pots and potted them on. Three thrums and a single pin. The male plants are much more floriferous than the single female. But it was the only pin we could find at the nursery, and very happy we were to find it. It would be wonderful if it sets seed.

It took me all afternoon to pot on the four plants, and I also managed to split and pot on one of last year's primulas. Basically I potted one plant and then watched some TV for half an hour or so (re-runs of Startrek Voyager) before tackling the next one. But by the time I finished I was too weary to go back one last time to clear up, so John did that when he got home.

Later on I was really happy to see a repeat of Friday evening's Gardener's World with some fantastic ideas for making living fences out of willow (and some school children made a giant spider out of it too!). I'd love to try this at the caravan - maybe we could do that to disguise the gas cylinders a bit more. Plus would make a great wind-brake where the hawthorn was, might even give the wrens a new nesting place, though we are thinking of getting a wren nesting box too.

At the Chiropracters the last time I went I was leafing through the latest RSPB magazine. There was a really lovely article by a man who had regularly fed a brood of blackbirds, one of which later brought back his own brood. I so wish that the birds would come feed in our yard! I've seen a wren there once, pecking at my primula flowers. And John's seen a blackbird come down in the Autumn to peck throught the leaf litter. But mostly we are a bird free zone.

Was just browsing the RSPB website since I was there, and found an interesting article on the Humming Bird Hawk Moth. I didn't see one last year, but the two previous years I had one visit the garden at the caravan. It seemed to be particularly drawn to the red campion.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


I woke up trying to scream this morning. All that came out was a few muffled moans, until the sound of that woke me fully and I sat up suddenly and yelled AAAAAAAaaaaaaaaggggghhhh. John was shaking me and saying "your dreaming, you're dreaming".

Indeed I was dreaming, but it was more of a nightmare (funny isn't it how there isn't a word "nightmaring" to describe the act of having a nightmare). I was in a kitchen somewhere, and the floor was at quite a steep angle, making it hard to walk. Cold light was coming in through a cracked and cobwebbed window, the walls were grey and dusty with gullies of broken plaster exposing the lathes beneath. Someone was a bit ahead of me, had just gone into the next room, and shouted back "Mind the insects".

Immediately I whirled around to see a huge wasp, about two inches long (!!!) which made a dive for my right forefinger. It jabbed its sting into the middle section of my finger and I swear I felt the pain and screamed. I tried to shake it off, and to shout out for help, but all that would come from my mouth was a strangled gurgle, until I woke to my own shout.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Blood taken today

John took an early extended lunch hour to take me to the York Centre so that I could have blood drawn. The phlebotomist was very cheerful, and took blood completely painlessly. Results should be through in about a week. Walking back to the car afterwards we could hear a blackbird singing his heart out in a tree on the edge of the cemetary. We speculated that he was saying something like "I am the biggest and best blackbird all you males stay away this is my territory and I will duff you up if you come onto my patch".

Driving round Sefton Park we had 2 close encounters with cars whose drivers didn't know what Give Way signs were. Stopped off by the lake for a bit, without thinking I held camera out of the window to try and get a better picture of the lake, and disturbed the flock of pigeons that were feeding on the ground in front of us.

Tried taking photos of our irises by the front door, but got in too close so not very good photos. Been playing with one in Picasa2, and I think it's made a sort of interesting image.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Exciting excursion into my Back Yard!

Woke up this morning to find the sun shining on snow on the tops of the Welsh Hills. Lovely sunny morning, but it's clouded over now and rained a bit. Forcaste is that it will be in the 60s later this week, will be so glad to get outside to do a bit of gardening.

And that's where my good news comes in. John spent a lot of time this weekend making a set of steps so that I can get into the backyard again. I tried them out for the first time this morning, wrapped up warm in my windproof cardigan, taking my camera with me. Next time I'll take the tripod too, as several pictures were very blurred. I don't like using the flash outside unless it's unavoidable as the colour balance seems to be all wrong to me.

But it's great to see how everything is starting to grow. There's several daffodils flowering from last year's inside bulbs, and a blue hyacinth, but I'm afraid that was one of the ones that came out very blurry.

Some of the foxgloves are are doing really well, huge and succulent. But some that I planted further back into a corner seem to have been rather chewed by something. Slugs or snails I guess.

My favourite campanula has put out lots and lots of shoots, now I'm looking forward to it flowering. It's much more compact than the other campanula, which has a tendency to get very leggy and also attract a lot of greenfly. The strawberry plant is beginning to grow, I must put it into fresh compost in a bigger pot. As well as strawberries it has very pretty pink flowers.

All that dust on the leaves is sawdust from the steps. It's a shame John didn't sweep up after himself , but I guess the next shower will at least wash it off the plants.

There are some tiny ivy leaved toadflax flowers out in one corner, and the periwinkle is putting out shoots too. No signs of the hostas yet, it's possible they got completely eaten by the slugs and snails last year. I might try some biological pest control for the slugs this year, but I think it's too early to do it yet. You have to wait for the frosts to be over or the nematodes die.

Some seedlings have survived the winter. I sowed French lavender and agapanthus seed at the caravan last year and brought the seed tray home. Just a few lavender have survived the winter, and it looks as if I might have two agapanthus seeds germinate, but then again it might just be two grass seeds!

The primroses are flowering their socks off! We have both pins and thrums (the ones above are thrums), so I'm hoping that I will get seed later on. There are also some primulas from last year. Their pots were rather dried out, so I gave them a good slosh of water. The violets are just beginning to show some new green shoots, one morning I will look out and the flowers will have almost magically appeared, I love violets, with their little furry bits on the petals.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

A medical consultation on Friday evening

Gave my doc, Lis, a copy of a presentation from MERGE, "Biomedical research in ME/CFS: issues and challenges". She glanced through it, and said she'd read it later when she had more time. She still had 6 people to see, and was on call with one home visit lined up already. Then she leaned over to filing cabinet - "I think there's some research going on here in Liverpool", pulled it open and the paper she pulled out was headed FINE Trial.

I just burst out with "I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole! Alison Wearden and that lot from Manchester, I don't trust them an inch!".

She looked a bit surprised at my vehemence.

"I'm a mere GP."

"Yes, they're using you to get people who haven't been ill long and who don't know anything about ME."

Ah well, maybe I should have gone along with it just to see what I got told, and what I didn't.

Here's why I hate the FINE trial so much:

Randomised controlled trial of nurse-led treatment for patients in primary care with chronic fatigue syndrome (the FINE trial)
Awarded to Alison Wearden with (C Dowrick, P Powell, R Bentall, R Morris, C Chew-Graham, G Richardson, S Peters & G Dunn).

Total award: £1,147,000 (£736K Research costs, £411 K NHS costs)

So they're getting over a MILLION UK £££££££. It beggars belief.

We went on to talk about my
dizzyness. I've not had any blood tests since they got their new computer system up and running, so definitely over 4 years. Lis suggested that anaemia can leave one feeling dizzy, so suggested I get FBC and ESR and then decided to add in everything else - LFTs, thyroid tests and urea & electrolytes. John will have to try and arrange some time off work one morning to take me, as the clinic near us where they draw blood is only open till 12.30.

I mentioned that when I saw my Chiropracter he thought the dizziness might be some sort of vestibular disorder. Lis agreed, saying "there isn't a blood test for that"! She said that there are drugs to help with it, and she would prescribe if I wanted to give them a try. It was nice of her to offer, but I prefer not to take anything. Or not without having a good reason to.

Our local ME group is meeting this Thursday afternoon at the Glaxo Neurological Centre. They are hoping to find out if anyone has any experience of the fatigue clinic at RLUH. Given the embarrassing job ads put out recently for the clinic, and Dr Nye's apology, I think it may be an interesting meeting. I'm hoping to go to it, will have to take a cab as John will be working.

On a happier topic, I've started drawing my bed for the Everyday Matters weekly challenge. Not sure if I'll have the energy to do any more today, but at least I've made a beginning.

You can find the picture above on fotolog as well.

I'd really like to do some more work on this RIGHT NOW, but I was so shattered after doing my last drawing in one 4 hour session that I think I need to
pace myself rather better. So I'm back in bed resting until Helen gets here. Maybe more drawing later.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Drawing my bed

I decided there was no way I could draw my bed direct from life, as there's nowhere to sit down for the angle I am after. So I took a lot of digital photos with the idea of collaging them together. Initially I thought I would do from full size A4 prints, but I'm too mean to use as much good paper as that! So I printed off a set of contact prints and spent some time yesterday afternoon cutting them up and gluing them down! It's kinda worked, but I'm missing some areas.

Since then I have discovered the tripod we have for a telescope is suitable for use with my digital camera. It has a plastic piece that gives a quick release facility. It was just a matter of taking that off the telescope and screwing it to my camera. So now I'm inclined to try the camera's stitch facility with a new set of photos. Maybe. It rather depends on how the time goes.

I am hoping to get to see my GP again this evening about my dizzyness. I saw her back in January, when she suggested I should get my eyes retested. To be honest I wasn't best pleased about this, as they were only tested last June. But made the best of a bad job and coughed up the requisite £22 (or rather John did!). Basically the optician couldn't find any reason for my dizzyness, and said my eyes hadn't changed sufficiently to need new glasses. So now I get to go back to my GP and ask her what next?

The other thing that she seemed disturbed about was that I arrived in a wheelchair. She immediately started making the usual comments - oh you'll get deconditioned. At the time we were more concerned about getting the dizzyness sorted out, so we didn't manage to make it clear that I only use the wheelchair to extend what I can do. This is something that I need to emphasize if I get to see her this evening. Which I won't find out till later as John has to phone the surgery at 2.30 to try and get an appointment.

Good news is that I got my first order from Wiltshire Farm Foods this morning. I completely forgot they were coming today, so had to yell out of the window to say I was on my way down. Found that John hadn't drawn back the curtains downstairs before he left this morning, so all a bit dim downstairs! Might try one of the meals after my bath, quite fance the sound of the Lemon and Ginger Chicken...

Oh, and before I forget, it's Red Nose Day today.

Anyway, I'd better go and get a bath so I have time to recover before I have to get dressed.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

An Anniversary of sorts

Primroses in our back yard

Thirteen years ago today I came home from my work as a cytogenetics technician at the RLUH. I suddenly felt extremely cold, simply could not warm up, shivering hard. I went to bed at 6pm, and fell asleep somewhere around 8.

The next two days I stayed off work, and on the Thursday I managed to get an appointment with my GP who signed me off work for a week. I returned to work on Thurday 19th March, but my back was very sore by the end of my hours (I worked part time only, 9 till 1, five days a week). The next day I managed to swap to a better chair, but was still struggling to keep going.

That weekend we had a wonderful trip to Birmingham to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, only marred by the weird symptoms I was beginning to experience. The journey to Birmingham wasn't much fun, I simply couldn't get comfortable in the car. I felt every jolt and ached all over.

Saturday morning we remembered that we had forgotton to bring my binoculars (you really need them at the NEC!) so we set off to Solihull, where as well as getting more binoculars we enjoyed watching some Morris Dancers. In the afternoon we visited the glasshouses in the botanical gardens, and before I knew it I was weeping over the fact that the wonderful palm house in Sefton Park was going to rack and ruin. We had some soup and rolls in the cafe, and I felt marginally better. We went back to the hotel (the Novotel) where as I took a bath I noticed I had a rash of purple blotches on my legs. I was not feeling terribly well either. But having got the tickets we weren't going to miss the concert, and I'm so glad that we made it - it was great fun, the girls both loved it too. This was the tour to promote Into the Great Wide Open.

Sunday my diary notes that I felt somewhat better. So we rode the monorail to the Airport and back before setting off for home. We stopped briefly at Mow Cop (which features in Alan Garner's book Redshift), but I felt too ill to explore. I waited in the car while John took the girls for a short walk.

Monday I went back to work, and my diary notes that I didn't feel to bad, but was on the practical (as opposed to microscopy). Tuesday morning I had come out in a rash on my back, arms and thighs. I went in to work, but managed to get an appointment to see my GP again at 11.45, so I left early. I have not worked in paid employment since.

My GP was sufficiently concerned that she took blood for viral titres, after explaining that they would have to be repeated... I think it may have been 6 weeks later, but I didn't note it down. Needless to say nothing was found. But then what were they looking for? She signed me off work for a week.

I think that I will leave my story there for now - I don't want to be too much of a downer. Today has started off well, with bacon and eggy bread for breakfast. Postman knocked with a packet - oh goody! Our Postie is a friend, he knows I'm often still in bed when he calls, so waits for me to stick my head out of the window before leaving packets under the door knocker, or bigger stuff on the step. It's The Goodies DVD that John ordered for me last week.

Five minutes later another knock at the door! Parcel Post this time. The nice man who knows to look up to check at my bedroom window before leaving the parcel on the wall by the front door. Fragile it's marked. It's the mugs that I ordered from Photobox. One each for John, Sarah, Helen and David. I'm really pleased with how well they've turned out.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Everyday Matters Challenge 3, Bag

I finally found my favourite bag the other day when I was searching for my oil pastels. So I settled in bed for the afternoon and drew it (using my oil pastels of course!). It's proportions aren't particularly right, but on the whole I'm pleased with the result. I think its personality comes across in some way despite (or maybe even because of) its wonkiness.

Here's a photo of the bag with its portrait, to give you an idea of what it really looks like.

I started doing some colour testing, and also experimented with the wood grain in the handles, but when I came to do the drawing decided to keep it simpler. It's hard to get good resolution using oil pastels, I'd have had to do a much larger drawing to put in that much detail. As it is I took over 4 hours to do this drawing! Perhaps I'll take it into acrylic paint on a large canvas, this was A4.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Muffins for tea!

Lovely sunny afternoon, there's some real heat in the sun. John made some cheese muffins, they looked so good that I just had to take a picture! They tasted even better than they look, and we've got another half dozen left for later. And enough batter to make fresh ones for breakfast tomorrow! Thank you Michael, for the recipe!

Cheese Muffins

John has just gone out into the yard to measure up for building steps so I can get outside again. Looks as if we will have 4 fairly deep and shallow steps. It'll be fantastic to get out and see what my plants are doing!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Everyday Matters favourite mug challenge

EDM favourite mug
Originally uploaded by ukmaggie45.
I got up rather earlier than usual today, so set forth on a hunt for the missing oil pastels. Once I'd fought my way across the floor of my so-called work room, I found them in a set of cardboard drawers. Along with a load of other drawing items. So I loaded everything into a rectangular rush basket and took them to the living room. Drank my coffee while it was still hot and began to draw.

I might even draw my bag later, but I think I'd better try and do some more work on my Disability Living Allowance application first. My DLA finishes on 25 April, and I should really have got further on with filling in the horribly long and complicated form by now.

Every time this form rears its ugly head I get that sinking feeling. Usually I try to maintain a positive attitude to my life and how disabled I have become. But that is impossible with this intrusive and complicated form. And how much you have to repeat youself!

I have ME/CFS, and this form isn't designed for fluctuating conditions like that. Mind you my fluctuation seems to be a downward slide at the moment. I visited my GP some time in January, since it is around 5 years since I saw her. When I told her how dizzy I was feeling she told me to get an eye test (cost £22 and found nothing new). Must get back to her and see if she can suggest something else, preferably before the dreaded form goes off.

But it's very difficult to get an appointment - she only works one day a week at the practise. And John isn't really able to take time off work at the moment and I can't get to the doc's without being driven - I'm not driving myself at the moment as my back is too fragile (I have spondylolisthesis L5/S1 as well as ME). Oh yeah, I'm due a chiropracter appointment for that too.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

My weekend... or not as the case may be!

My weekend entry just got lost in cyberspace - curses!!! Too tired to re-write fully now.

If I can manage it you might see a picture here...

shell planter

If this works, it's a picture of a planter John bought for me in our local Oxfam Shop on Saturday afternoon. We got a parking ticket in the 20 minutes we were parked outside, despite displaying my Blue Badge and the clock they give you. We think the traffic warden is in error, so will be appealing this.

We did a marathon shop (for me anyway!) on Saturday. Garden centre for primroses, and also irises that John has already planted to replace the ornamental cabbages in the pot of various plants by the front door. Then to Oxfam shop, then on into town where we dropped Sarah off fairly close to the station and we retraced our steps back up to reach TJ Hughes.

Mum needed a new hand bag, so I said I'd try and find one for her. Was lucky, got a nice big but light one in black leather. She is very pleased with it. I'm glad I got something right!

We also purchased a a set of 3 pyrex dishes, a new steamer, and some filters for our Britta water filter - water seems very over-chlorinated at the mo, prob because they are working on the mains - roads are up all around us. Oh, and John got some jeans for £4... He hasn't tried them on yet, I hope they fit! If not I guess he can always take them back.