Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Treading Carefully


After much deliberation and bearing in mind the exercise conundrum that exists around fibromyalgia and CFS/ME, when the price was reduced, I decided after all to invest in a treadmill.

That's the good news. The bad news is that was in November and the blasted thing is still in it's box, because, until I finish decluttering and rearranging the furniture, I can't place it where I want it.

The pace of getting anything done is slow, but that's something I have to live with, because the consequences of overstepping my limits are too dear.

The treadmill I bought is manual, because I was sure I'd never be able to keep up with the pace of a motorized one and I'll probably still need to set this at the least resistance. There's a hand sensor that measures pulse, so I shall be able to monitor myself to go slowly and gently enough - using the principles of Pacing by Numbers: using your heart rate to stay inside the energy envelope.

It will also measure distance, calories burned, pulse and speed, though my aim is to start with just 2 minute walks, gradually building to 20 minutes per day.

Fortunately, it doesn't matter if that's 10 x 2 minute walks, 4 x 5 minute walks or 20 minutes all in one go. Little and often is probably best for me.

Since I also have an overactive bladder, I plan to (potty) train myself to hop on for a 2 minute session each time I return from the bathroom.

This will mirror what I used to do in Tenerife with my dog - whose bladder was apparently on the same wavelength as mine. It got to the point where I was automatically reaching for the dog lead each time I exited the loo, while she automatically sat and waited at the door, every time I went.

We'd repeat this up to a dozen times a day, even if we only went for a 2 minute walk up the lane just to do what was required and, in combination with the better climate, cleaner air, fresher food, etc., this lifestyle kept my fibromyalgia symptoms just manageable on a day to day basis.

Of course I can't do that now in the UK, firstly, because I had to have my dog put down to come this country (something I am still not at all happy about), secondly, because the British weather is either too cold or wet for me to go out for most of the year. It's also not as safe. And it's definitely undesirable to go out more than is strictly necessary for medical appointments, living in a cul-de-sac where certain neighbours have harassed and verbally attacked me.

Based on all of that, the treadmill seemed like the only solution.

This Calories Burned Calculator tells me that:

  • Walking, 2 mph, slow pace, level on a firm surface for 20 minutes will burn a whole 69 kCal.
  • On the other hand, it says that if I lie quietly, watching television for 1.5 hours a day, I'll burn 125 kCal.

Oh the temptation to choose the latter! Smile

RDA Recommended Daily Allowances

The recommended daily allowances for a "normal" female of 53 are as follows:

  • Calories - 2,200 - 2,500 kcals
  • Protein - 53 g
  • Fat - 55 - 78 g
  • Saturated Fat - 24 - 27 g
  • Cholesterol - < 300 mg
  • Salt - 6 g
  • Sodium - 1,500 - 2,300 mg
    • Iron - 9 mg
    • Calcium - 1,300 mg
    • Fibre - 31 - 34 g
    • Vitamin A - 600 - 700 µg
    • Vitamin C - 35 - 40 mg
    • Folate - 200 µg

    However, using this calculator, I'm advised that "To maintain your current weight, your recommended daily calorie requirements are 1,756 kcals."

    The RDA for carbohydrates has been established at 130 grams per day (to see the reasoning, go here). Approximately 55% of the energy (Calories) in your diet should be from carbs. Of course, carbohydrates from fresh vegetables and fruits are the best source, along with carbs from whole grains and beans. [Source]

    Here are the recommended dietary allowances (RDA), according to the US Food and Nutrition Board (FNB), for nutrients for a female, age = 53 years.

    Click on a nutrient to give a description of sources, benefits and the problems that deficiency may cause. (Note: nutrients with a star indicate Adequate Intake or AI because no RDA can be established)

    vitamin A = 700 (µg)
    vitamin C = 75 (mg)
    vitamin D = 10* (µg)
    vitamin E = 15 (mg)
    vitamin K = 90* (µg)
    thiamin = 1.1 (mg)
    riboflavin = 1.1 (mg)
    niacin = 14 (mg)
    vitamin B6 = 1.5 (mg)
    foliate = 400 (µg)
    vitamin B12 = 2.4h (µg)
    pantothenic = 5* (mg)
    biotin = 30* (µg)
    choline = 425* (mg)
    calcium = 1,200* (mg)
    chromium = 20* (µg)
    copper = 900 (µg)
    fluoride = 3* (mg)
    iodine = 150 (µg)
    iron = 8 (mg)
    magnesium = 320 (mg)
    manganese = 1.8* (mg)
    molybdenum = 45 (µg)
    phosphorus = 700 (mg)
    selenium = 55 (µg)
    zinc = 8 (mg)
    potassium = 4.7* (g)
    sodium = 1.3* (g)
    chloride = 2.0* (g)

    What's your RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for food and nutrients?

    Gone Nuts

    No, that's not an opinion on the state of my mental health (although some would disagree), but a remark on a necessary change in my diet. 

    Yes, it's out with the peanuts - all 599 excess calories per day and a whole heap of fat.

    Today I ate the last of them. Tomorrow they get replaced by wholegrain bread (which I'll make), to save at least two-thirds of those calories and all of the fat, whilst maintaining a reasonable level of the fibre they provided.

    Over the weekend I did look up the nutritional properties of the foods I was eating (breakfast and lunch don't change much, for dinner I put in that day's - the ingredients of a vegetarian Cottage Pie - as a typical example) and discovered that I was just exceeding 2,000 calories per day.

    That may be the average recommended level for western women, but at my age, my weight and with my sedentary (mostly bedridden) lifestyle, I apparently only need 1,756 calories to maintain my current (obese) weight.

    And I don't want to maintain my current weight, thank you.

    Not for aesthetic reasons - although that does bother me - but to remove some of the pressure and hopefully pain, especially from my hips and knees.

    To lose weight, I'll need to consume less and move more, obviously.

    The latter isn't going to be at all easy, but the diet tweaks weren't too painful (at least, not on the spreadsheet), so from tomorrow, I'll be following a regime, which, give or take and allowing for rounding and the odd treat, should average out at 1,500 calories per day. Will it help? Only time will tell.

    To Be Sick You Have To Look Sick

    Unfortunately, not all illnesses are as obvious as broken arms and legs.By Rosemary Lee

    I don't understand why I have to look sick to be sick. I've tried really hard to keep the pain that I feel on a daily basis from appearing in my eyes or my smile. I still like to pretend that I don't have a care in the world. When I put on makeup I look fine. Is that a problem?

    Maybe I should go to the doctor looking like something the cat just dragged in the house. Maybe I shouldn't suck it up and whine and cry instead of putting on my big girl panties. Maybe I should just crawl in the door and act the way I feel instead of the way I want to feel. Just because I sound fine or I look fine doesn't mean that I'm not in pain or exhausted from a lack of refreshing sleep. The problem is that what I have is variable. Symptoms change from hour to hour or sometimes minute to minute and then to top it all off they vary in intensity.

    I get it. A lot of doctors don't want to deal with this because they can't cure it. They can't throw a couple of prescriptions at you and then say, "call me in the morning." You look fine! Get some exercise and you'll feel better. I hate to tell them that IT'S NOT WORKING!

    Fibromyalgia is sneaky. You can feel fairly good one day and crash the next. I've spent the better part of this year in pain. I have had a couple of days where the pain levels diminished along with the humidity and now the humidity seems to be rising again. I would just like a week where I don't feel like I've taken up residence in a physicians office or they're not on my speed dial.

    Today? Today I am SO tired. I can't seem to keep my eyes open. I've forced myself to get out of bed but when I sit down I want to put my head on the end table and just go to sleep. My muscles ache and I just can seem to get it together. My body hurts so much that I wish I could knock myself out and just sleep it off. The muscle spasms are starting early today and I want to put the covers over my head.

    This is why my best friends are now my heating pad and spa tub. Heat seems to help the pain in my back and the swirling water helps the muscle spasms.

    Geez, that sounds so pathetic, even to me.

    Rosemary Lee has been a Las Vegas real estate broker and new home sales agent for the last 23 years. Recently diagnosed with Fibromyalgia she has worked on support and help with humor for those suffering with this neuroendrocrine immune disorder along with her views on life from her blog.

    Sunday, 28 March 2010

    Are You An Optimist or Pessimist?

    Well, I was quite surprised by this result, but I did answer honestly, because I see no value in conning myself by cheating at quizzes, the main purpose of which is to, hopefully, discover something about oneself and reflect.

    You Are a Realist

    "You don't see the glass as half empty or half full. You see what's exactly in the glass. You never try to make a bad situation seem better than it is ... But you also never sabotage any good things you have going on. You are brutally honest in your assessments of situations - and this always seems to help you cope."

    Nevertheless, despite aiming to be a realist, I expected to come out on the pessimistic side, because it's bloody difficult to be anything else.

    Are You An Optimist or Pessimist?

    Saturday, 27 March 2010

    Every Morsel Measured

    "Let thy Food be thy Medicine and thy Medicine be thy Food." -- Hippocrates

    In an effort to avoid those things which seem to cause me additional fibromyalgia and IBS symptoms (like meat, dairy, chemicals and sugar), to keep my cholesterol under regulation, keep my sluggish bowels on the move and at least not add too much to my seemingly ever increasing weight, I've developed my own diet. By process of elimination, mostly.

    With no snacks and small portions too, it feels pretty much like starvation rations.

    And, I will add here that whilst I have had to eliminate great swathes of foodstuffs from my diet, I'm also keenly aware that restrictive diets can be harmful if they lack certain essential nutrients. Thus, I've tried to be careful to maintain balance by always considering what needs to replace anything that is now removed. So far I've done this pretty much by intuition.

    What I mean to do now is to weigh, measure and analyse with more precision and to list the carbohydrate, fat, fibre, protein, calorie and other content of individual ingredients to get a better picture of how this stacks up against the various RDAs of each.

    Therefore, I'm sure that this menu will undergo plenty more changes as I discover deficiencies, excesses (mostly calorific, I guess), yet more foods that I become intolerant to or others that help in some way, but for the moment, below listed is my typical daily intake:

    • Small bowl of porridge oats made with (filtered) water and sweetened/flavoured with a handful of raisins. Replaced with berries. 
    • Black coffee (double espresso)
    • Salad of mixed leaves, sliced avocado (too much fat), a sprinkling of walnut pieces (more fat) and linseeds (sparingly) and dressed with olive oil (a teaspoon) and sea salt.
    • Fruit salad consisting of 1 banana, 1 kiwi fruit and at least one or two other fruits, such as mangos, peaches, or any variety of berriesor melon.  
    • 85 grams of salted peanuts Wholegrain bread to provide the roughage.
    • A vegetarian / vegan home-cooked meal, predominantly based on rice, rice/corn/vegetable pasta with vegetables, beans, chickpeas, lentils, soya mince or chicken substitutes. Occasional fish / shellfish. Cheese sometimes as a condiment, but otherwise no dairy.
    Other than the morning coffee treat, I drink only filtered water, lemon water or caffeine-free Roobios or herbal teas (which together constitute my daily target of 8 glasses / 2 litres). I don't snack. I don't eat processed foods. I check all labels for stray chemicals and sugar. No wheat and gluten.

    Thursday, 25 March 2010

    Delayed diagnosis

    image"X-rays fail to spot up to nearly a third of fractures in the bones of the hip and pelvis, research suggests," reports this article at the BBC.

    In the study of patients complaining of pain after an injury to the hip or pelvis, 13 with normal X-ray findings were found to have a collective total of 23 fractures seen on MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

    Another 15 patients with abnormal X-rays had 12 additional pelvic fractures seen on MRI that otherwise would not have been identified.

    To be fair, in another in 11 patients, MRI showed no fracture after X-rays had suggested there might be one, so this is hardly a cut and dried issue. However, I can't help wondering if I should now ask my GP what she thinks about me having an MRI scan, after the x-ray I had done last year had discovered nothing wrong with my hip that still hurts after a fall in 2001.

    It's mildly possible that an MRI scan could be of further use related to fibromyalgia (although, about all it would do is show that my pain exists) and with the me/cfs, there is a chance that MRI would show up some abnormalities, i.e. show some quantifiable result.

    Of more use in the "getting value for money department", it could also be used to inspect my gynaecological bits, since the hysteroscopy was aborted. And presumably if there's anything untoward in the bowel (given my history of irritable bowel syndrome with chronic constipation), well, at least that too is in the same scan area ... there's back pain to investigate ...

    The hip pain, as I say, originates from a fall in 2001, I've had fibro since at least 1995, probably had ME since I was 12 (1969), irritable bowel syndrome was diagnosed in 1980 and I've suffered with unidentified low back pain since my teens in the early 70's. If anything were identified now, I definitely think it would qualify as a delayed diagnosis, don't you?

    NB: I did have a brain scan of some type in Tenerife, but I think it was negative. Dont tell anyone

    Image: by Muffet

    Tuesday, 23 March 2010

    Miaouli Square - Ermoupolis

    On our way to Sifnos in 1985 (not that we knew that was where we were headed), we'd arrived in Athens, went to the docks in Piraeus and bought a ticket for the first available boat, irrespective of where it was going. We knew nothing about any of the Greek islands, so it was fairly unimportant where it was going - just as long as it wasn't any very well-known name amongst the package-holiday crowd: the first stop was Syros, we discover, is famous for it's Loukoumi, (which I tested and approved!)

    After getting off the ferry and being accosted by the then usual crowd of kids touting rooms, we accepted help from one who took us to a house right on the main Miaouli Square in Ermoupolis, exactly opposite the grand and imposing town hall. At that time it cost the equivalent of around £3.00 per night, even in that central location. (Mind you, the rooms were basic backpacker standard and the bathrooms communal.) And, it seems, more recently, prices there are still very reasonable, mostly because "You will meet very few foreigners on Syros. Most of the people coming here are Greek."
    Off the main tourist radar is my kind of destination!

    The house we stayed in is the one on the left in this image (from where I took this shot looking over the square), which, as you can see, was also just a block or two back from the delightful harbour front, where we dined on fresh crab, also for next to nothing. Breakfast we took opposite in the square and it was never any busier than is shown in the video above.

    It looks like Ermoupolis has remained much as it was in my fading, sepia photos from that visit 25 years ago and seeing these images again, plus all the new stuff on the internet brings back some good memories, though I'm sure the reality is not always equal to the nostalgia.

    My impression of Ermoupolis was a slightly Venetian flavoured (complete with decaying grandeur) junior Paris Sur Mer, only Greek, of course. With Greek island weather.
    The best information about Syros, as with most other destinations in Greece, is from Matt Barrett, who says:
    "One of the most interesting and lively places to visit is the agora (marketplace), especially in the morning. There are fruits and vegetable shops, fresh fish, and bakeries with fresh baked bread, cookies and cakes. Check out the Prekas Traditional Shop which sells local products like capers, sun-dried tomatoes, cheeses, dried figs, marinated artichokes, loukoumia, nougat, local honey, olives, pasta, oil, local spirits, wine, herbs and candies. Its the closest thing to a natural foods shop and in many ways better. Its on Venizelou Street just down from Miaoulis Square."
    What more could one want for daily life? I can see exactly why he says that, "I think if I was going to live year-round on any island I would choose Syros."

    See more of the island ...

    Monday, 22 March 2010

    World Water Day

    image  Today, March 22nd, is World Water Day 2010: Clean Water for a Healthy World / Día Mundial del Agua 2010: Agua Limpia para un Mundo Sano

    Here's a sobering thought for the day:

    "The consequences related to the consumption of non-drinking water cause more deaths throughout the world that any type of violence, including war."

    Via territoriosred

    The world water crisis in pictures (alarming)

    Completely Bananas

    Yet another reason my symptoms have increased greatly since leaving the Canary Islands, famous for their amazing bananas, especially when I've lived on a working banana plantation (not to be recommended because of the chemical sprays and the flies) and been able to buy or have been given huge bunches straight from the plantation ...

    Bananas in the UK, imported from wherever, just aren't the same product. They're comparatively bland and tasteless and, naturally, had to come a long way, so are most often past their best once you get them, or very soon go brown and manky after getting them home.

    I miss Canarian bananas! I also miss the fact that they were so cheap (or free) that I didn't need to ration them and always had ample for snacks, deserts or healthy doggy treats.

    Although I have to say that it really wasn't a good idea to battle to eat all of the bananas to not waste any of them in that mega-bunch above. With only the dog to help me, after a few days, we were both pretty solidly clogged up with excess banana induced constipation.

    Ironically, bananas can be helpful to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sufferers with either constipation or diarrhoea. Unfortunately, I suffer the former, so I guess it's an advantage that most of the bananas I eat in the UK are on the brown side of ripe. However, I don't really like the flavour of bananas much beyond green - the ones most likely to make my situation worse - which is how I'd get most of them in Tenerife. Yet there, they caused me no problem at all (unless I seriously ate too many of them, which did only happen that one time.) It makes no sense.

    Anyway, sticking to the recommended daily intake of one or two can certainly be helpful for a lot of reasons and conditions and their contribution of potassium is well documented.
    But potassium's not the only important thing inside a banana peel -- this fruit also contains magnesium and malic acid, which many doctors recommend for our muscle pain and tenderness.  They also help your body produce energy. - Bananas for Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
    Another reason bananas might be helpful in ME/CFS is because:
    A banana contains Vitamin B6, which helps in the synthesis of antibodies in the immune system apart from red blood formation, protein metabolism and functioning of the central nervous system. - Banana Nutrition Facts.
    In more potentially contradictory banana properties, Adrienne says, "If you complain about nighttime leg cramps, your doctor will probably tell you to eat a banana before bed." I avoid eating anything at all late at night and would hope that consumption during the course of the day would be sufficient to have the beneficial effects. Elsewhere, it is suggested that, "Women shouldn't consume banana late at night, because this might cause temporary constipation."

    So, if you do eat a banana as a bedtime snack, better make sure it is a properly ripe one.

    "On a traffic light, green means go and yellow means yield, but on a banana, it's just the opposite. Green means hold on, yellow means go ahead, and red means where the hell did you get that banana ..." - Mitch Hedberg (via Bananas and Constipation)

    Yes, I had a red banana!

    Sunday, 21 March 2010

    Do Bananas Cause Constipation?

    image By Jane Burrell

    A common question posed by constipation sufferers is: "do bananas cause constipation?" This article explores this topic in more depth and seeks to give you the answer to this often asked question, once and for all.

    Interestingly, this question does not have a simplified "yes" or "no" response. The truth of the matter is that bananas can help fend off issues with constipation just as easily as consuming bananas can be a source of constipation.

    Banana Facts

    • Bananas are very high in soluble fiber which, in some cases, helps to move the bowels through the intestinal tract so bananas can be helpful in eliminating constipation issues.
    • Bananas contain an ingredient identified as pectin and the pectin is the source of fiber in bananas.
    • Consuming a single banana offers you more than fifteen percent of the entire daily fiber intake you require.
    • The ripeness of a banana will determine whether or not it will make you constipated when it is consumed.
    • The potassium in ripe bananas helps to alleviate diarrhea since it replaces needed electrolytes.
    • Fructooligosaccharide are found in bananas; an enzyme producing compound that assists in natural digestion and hinders the fermentation of bananas once inside the intestinal tract; this helps to prevent constipation in some cases.

    Unripe Bananas

    When bananas are green, consuming them can cause you to become constipated. The unripe bananas or Plantains are far more difficult for your body to digest; they are also bitter to the taste due to the tannin in the green bananas. Since Plantains are more difficult on the digestive tract, the green banana variants may move into the intestinal tract and cause a binding effect in the bowels. These types of bananas are also filled with heavy starches, which can also contribute to constipation.

    How Many Bananas Should You Consume?

    You should definitely consume bananas in moderation; one, but no more than two bananas per day is recommended to maintain healthy bowel movements. The bananas that you do decide to consume should be yellow with several blackened spots on them; this indicates the banana's ripeness. You might want to start with a single banana daily to see how the bananas affect your system.

    Are you sick and tired of constantly being constipated? Do you want to find out exactly which foods cause constipation? Then claim your free report now that will explain exactly which foods you need to avoid if you want to cure your constipation. Visit the following site now to claim your free in-depth report.

    Help Heal Fibromyalgia by Balancing Acid and Alkaline Levels

    By Deirdre Rawlings

    One of the single most important indicators to your health is the pH of your blood and tissues-how acidic or alkaline it is. The term pH stands for "potential of Hydrogen"-it's a measure of the relative acidity or alkalinity of a solution. The pH of a substance is measured on a scale from 0.00 to 14.00. The midpoint, 7.00, is neutral: neither alkaline nor acid. Water (assuming it is reasonably unpolluted) has a pH of 7.0. The lower the number is, the more acidic the solution and the higher the number is, the more alkaline the solution.

    All of the fluids of the body, with the exception of those in the stomach, depend on an alkaline environment for the entire metabolic process to function smoothly. Chronic over-acidity corrodes body tissue, and if left unchecked will interrupt all cellular activities and functions. The Oslo study also surveyed patients with various rheumatic disorders, including FM, on disease symptoms and diet. What they found was that 80% of the Fibromyalgia group reported aggravation of their disease symptoms including increased pain, stiffness and joint swelling after the intake of certain foods. Some of the top offending foods were listed as meat, wine, and coffee-all of which are highly acidic. Similar findings by investigators at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Pennsylvania on Fibromyalgia sufferers reported that highly acidic foods such as red meat, pasteurized cows milk, white flour products, sugar containing foods, caffeine, and chocolate all seem to trigger more muscle pain.

    Because your internal systems operate in a slightly alkaline environment the goal, then is to create the proper alkaline balance within your body. The way to do that is by eating the proper balance of alkaline and acid foods. When foods are broken down by your digestive tract a residue is left called ash which can alter the body's acidity or alkalinity. Depending on the chemical composition of the ash it is acid, alkaline, or neutral. This is not to be confused with the immediate acidity of a food. Oranges and lemons, for example, are acid due to their citric acid content. However, citric acid is completely metabolized and the net effect of eating an orange or a lemon is to alkalize the body, hence it is classified as alkaline-forming. High-protein foods like meat, which make up such a large portion of the standard American diets (SAD), leave acid ash. Fruits and vegetables (with a few exceptions) leave alkaline ash.

    By reducing the amount of high-protein, acid ash-producing foods, your internal environmental conditions become right for optimum health. Roughly 80 percent of our diets should come from alkaline-forming foods, and 20 percent from acid-forming foods. Let's take a look at the basic four food groups that are the cornerstones of most diets to see how they stack up in terms of their pH value:

    • Meats, Poultry, Fish - Very Acid
    • Dairy Products, Eggs - Acid
    • Cereals, Grains - Acid
    • Fruits, Vegetables - Alkaline

    When we follow the advice instilled in us throughout our lives on the importance of including a balance of each of these groups in our daily diets (for example, the Food Guide Pyramid), we can see that our daily diets contain 75 percent acid ash foods and only 25 percent alkaline ash foods. By switching these ratios around to favor fruits and especially green vegetables as 75-80 percent of your diet you will see immediate improvement in your health. It will bring you increased quality and quantity of life. Your energy will increase, many chronic health conditions will improve or vanish, you'll find new mental clarity and powers of concentration, you'll build strength and stamina, and you'll lose excess body fat while increasing muscle mass.

    Your entire body will function more efficiently, achy joints and tired muscles will disappear, and you will regain all the effortless energy and wellness you thought was lost completely. It truly will make all the difference to your health and happiness - guaranteed.

    Deirdre Rawlings is a board certified naturopathic doctor, holistic nutritionist, master herbalist, and author of the book: Foods that Help Win the Battle against Fibromyalgia. Deirdre holds a PhD in holistic nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is a certified health and wellness coach. She lectures to corporations, colleges, and groups about the medicinal & healing powers of food and nutrition to help people to empower, energize and transform their lives.

    Deirdre conducts monthly fibromyalgia group coaching programs called Eat to Beat Fibromyalgia where she educates people about underlying health conditions that often accompany fibromyalgia and how to address or heal those first plus provides proven strategies that help to restore balance and optimal health. She has worked with hundreds of fibromyalgia sufferers and helped them to reduce pain, eliminate their brain fog, dramatically increase their energy levels, and eliminate their dependence on prescription medications after using her protocols and system.

    Deirdre Rawlings - EzineArticles Expert Author

    To learn more about foods and holistic nutrition for healing fibromyalgia please go to or visit

    Further reference:

    Saturday, 20 March 2010

    The Friendliest Island on Earth

    Kamares Bay
    As others have already pointed out, the people of Sifnos are so friendly that a common reaction is for visitors to not want to leave. If I hadn’t been itching to explore Athens too, when I was in Sifnos 25 years ago, we wouldn’t have eventually left either and, I have always intended to go back one day.

    We were island-hopping on the ferries with no particular plan, but a vague idea of going to one of the next islands, Serifos (which we never did.) We arrived in the port of Kamares on route, saw the huge curve of beach and decided, “That looks nice, let’s get off here”.

    What made the island for me was the Boulis family.

    The Boulis House where we stayed

    When we’d arrived, a little blonde girl met us off the ferry with the usual greeting of “You want a room?” We did and she took us to the family home just up the road out of Kamares going towards Apollonia, to which had been added some rooms to rent. These purpose-built rooms were clean, fresh and – at that time, about 3 quid a night – with twin bedroom, bathroom and veranda and each with it’s own outside door.

    The Taverna we often used for breakfast, lunch and dinner

    We were given to understand that the same family who owned the restaurant we used for breakfast, lunch and dinner, also owned the house in which we were staying. This was when Boulis Taverna was on the waterfront at Kamares.

    Actually, we had to stop going to the waterfront for breakfast after a swarm of wasps had taken a liking to my jam. I’d tried running up and down the street faster than they could fly, but that hadn’t worked. So, we bought bread in the bakery, butter and jam in the supermarket and took breakfast back to the room.

    That was the point I discovered a) No knife b) No one at home who spoke English. So out came the phrase book and I made an attempt at copying out what I HOPED was “Please can you lend me a knife?” in Greek. And it can’t have been far off, because I got a laugh and a knife to spread my butter and jam with!

    Meanwhile, back at the Taverna for main meals. Because it was small and family and because I can’t abide doing the “Oy, you!” business to call a waiter, since I had heard ours called Yannis (as it turns out, by his father), I did likewise.

    No big deal, it just seemed more courteous.

    Well, these are people upon whom such small courtesies are not lost and Yannis insisted that my partner and I accept a drink on the house as a gesture of thanks. And, so began a week or so of us tripping over ourselves to take our custom back to the same establishment daily and them treating us like right royal visitors!

    We had actually intended to hop on and see other islands, but ended up staying in Sifnos for the duration of our holiday, bar one day in which to see Athens.

    Probably the best known and certainly the best content site on Greece is Matt Barrett’s Greek Travel, which I found a couple of years ago via a link on the BBC website. He has been traveling to or living in Greece since 1968 and Sifnos is his own favorite. It is through Matt’s site that I know that Giorgos Boulis Taverna has moved to larger premises, pretty much where the house we stayed in was. It is listed on his page for Sifnos restaurants, along with the comment:

    Yannis, who is my favorite of the brothers waits tables and is the grill man.”

    Naturally, I had to write to Matt and confirm a few details, but I instinctively knew this was “our Yannis” (who had indeed worked the grill) and I have to say that it gives me a really warm feeling to know that the friendliness remains and that the family seems to be doing well with the restaurant, the bakery and the sweet and pastry shop …

    Saturday, 13 March 2010

    Pride and Prejudice meets Porn


    Belatedly, as these are from a day out a year ago, here are some snapshots from the village of Laycock in in Wiltshire, England, better known to TV viewers as either Meryton in the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Cranford from the series of the same name or for various bit parts in Harry Potter as well as other movie and TV productions.

    It's a crying shame that the English weather was, as ever, far from helpful for the photography, but an even worse one was that one has immense difficulty getting any decent shots of the streets of the "Charming rural village untouched by modern development", since they were chock full and virtually obscured by unsightly, modern vehicles. They need to address that.

    Above we have the Red Lion pub where, supposedly, in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth meets and is slighted by Darcy at the country dance and we had lunch. (Are we famous now?)

    And we wouldn't want to miss the entertaining group sex duck porn. :)

    Saturday, 6 March 2010

    57 Questions (updated)

    My bff sent me this by email, but rather than inflict it upon anyone by email, I thought I'd post it here. If you like, you can copy and paste it, change the answers to your own and post it on your own blog or inflict it upon your friends. If you post it on your blog, make a comment with a link.

    1. What time did you get up this morning?
    08.00 (It's when the cats' breakfast alarm goes off.)

    2. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
    Pretty sure it was JFK (when it was new.)

    3. What are your favorite TV shows?
    Depends what mood I'm in, but I'll generally watch a lightweight drama or something equally not too taxing at the end of the day. When I used to have a brain, I'd watch serious documentaries.

    4. What did you have for breakfast?
    Porridge with raisins and a black coffee

    5. What is your middle name?

    6. What is your favorite cuisine?

    7. Your favorite Potato chip? (crisps in English)
    Plain, cooked in olive oil

    8. What is your favorite CD at the moment?
    Too long since I bought any

    9. What kind of car do you drive?
    Had to give up driving years ago, because of pain, poor eyesight, mental confusion and the many other symptoms I have that would make it dangerous.

    10. Favorite sandwich?
    What I like and what I can now eat bear no relation!

    11. What characteristics do you despise?
    People who have brains, but don't use them

    12. Favorite item of clothing?
    Anything comfortable and black

    13. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go?
    Greece, again

    14. What colour is your bathroom?
    Ghastly green. If I had one of my own, it would probably have duckegg and teal tones.

    15. Favorite brand of clothing?
    I don't do labels, I do comfort.

    16. Where would you want to retire?

    17. Where were you born?
    Birmingham (the one in England)

    18. Favorite sport to watch?
    None of them, I'd sooner watch paint dry

    19. Who do you least expect to send this back?

    20. Person you expect to send it back first?
    As above

    21. What laundry detergent do you use?
    I'd prefer something ecological

    22. Pepsi or Coke?
    Neither, can't drink fizzy pop

    23. Are you a morning person or night owl?
    Night owl

    24. Do you have any pets?
    Two cats

    25. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with everyone?
    You kidding? Excitement would kill most of the folk around here!

    26. What did you want to be when you were little?
    A jet pilot and rich

    27. What is your favorite candy bar? (meaning chocolate bar)
    Turkish delight (preferably the real stuff, without the chocolate)

    28. What is your best childhood memory?
    Pass. I could recite quite a few worsts though.

    29. What are the different jobs you have had in your life?
    Shop assistant, window dresser, receptionist, office manager,
    accountant, journalist, waitress, karaoke compere ...

    30. What color underwear are you wearing?

    31. Nicknames?
    Haven't got one.

    32. Piercing?
    Ears, twice

    33. Eye color?
    Verdigris. Sorta blue/grey/green like mildew.

    34. Ever been to Africa?
    Yes, if you count 16 years in the Canary Islands, off the African coast.

    35. Ever been toilet papering?

    36. Love someone so much it made you cry?
    Yes, but mostly they have 4 paws and a tail

    37. Been in a car accident?
    Yes, at least four times (mostly as a passenger or victim.)

    38. Croutons or bacon bits?

    39. Favorite day of the week?
    Aren't they all the same?

    40. Favorite restaurant?
    I'm disloyal: I prefer trying new places.

    41. Favorite flower?
    Margarita (Daisy to you).

    43. Disney or Warner brothers?
    Depends on the cartoon

    44. Favorite fast food restaurant?
    None of them

    45. What color is your bedroom carpet?
    A bluey / grey / green.

    46. How many times did you fail your driver's test?
    Never failed

    47. Besides this one, from whom did you get your last email from?
    Probably some spammer

    48. What store would you choose to max out your credit card?
    I do not possess a credit card.

    49. What do you do most often when you are bored?
    I'd find something to do, but I'm never short of things and never bored

    50. Who are you most curious about their responses to this questionnaire?

    51. What are you listening to right now?
    The whirr of the laptop fan.

    52. What is your favorite color?
    All of 'em, but I like to observe how nature puts them together in seemingly strange combinations.

    53. Ocean, River, or Lake?

    54. How many tattoos do you have?

    55. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
    Debatable question.

    56. How many people are you sending this email to?
    Nobody. Who does email any more?

    57. Time finished?
    Goodness knows.

    Friday, 5 March 2010

    A Birthday Meme

    image Jen at Casual Slack, whose blog slogan is "Quality Nonsense, Served Up Fresh - Daily" (Take out "quality", "fresh" and "daily" and that's about what you get here too!) tagged "everyone", so I thought I'd accept the challenge of this meme:

    Type the day and month of your birthday into Wikipedia and then list 3 events, 2 birthdays and 1 death that happened on that day.

    3 Events
    1496 - England King Henry VII issues letters patent to John Cabot and his sons, authorizing them to explore unknown lands.
    1770 - Boston Massacre: Five Americans, including a black man named Crispus Attucks, and a boy are killed by British troops in an event that would contribute to the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War five years later. (And, I suppose that makes it my fault?)
    1936 - First flight of the Supermarine Spitfire fighter aircraft.

    2 Birthdays
    1948 - Eddy Grant, Guyana-born singer
    1956 - Teena Marie, American singer

    1 Death
    1982 - John Belushi, American actor

    I tag everyone else.

    PS: First person to work out what the date of my birthday is, can buy me a cake!

    Thursday, 4 March 2010

    Thirty-five is a very attractive age

    "Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years."
    Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 3
    Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet (1854 - 1900)

    (Yes and tomorrow, with a little selective dyslexia, I plan to join them! Winking)

    More Malaise

    There is so much that I want to do today, but I just do not have the energy and I am in far too much pain. First there's the deep burning, aching, stabbing, gnawing pain in my hip that does not respond to any painkiller I've ever tried and is so bad it breaks through any efforts at distraction with nauseating and tear-inducing regularity. I can't stand on it, I can't walk on it, I can't sit on it, I can't lie on it. I just can't tolerate it. Then it refers pain down my leg.

    And please don't tell me that some psychobabble pain management technique (however well meant) is going to be able to do anything for this either. It needs a ruddy miracle!

    My visit with the physiotherapist was helpful in a way. After I told her what a massive fail I'd had trying to do the exercises she gave me - I had tried several times, but even keeping down to 2 repetitions the pain it gave me was so severe I'd then spend the next three nights having great difficulty sleeping because of it. It had me in tears and was far too much to bear.

    Thus, she says, she cannot really do anything for me. She wouldn't even risk doing any work manipulating me, because it could cause too much hurt. (For the same reason I've shied away from getting massages or going to chiropractors.)

    But at least she recognizes that this is because of the ME and is not my fault, which is a VAST improvement on the general attitude of "if you'd just get some exercise", or worse.

    The bad news is that she would prefer me to go all the way to Poole to see the physiotherapist at the pain clinic for my ongoing treatment. Frankly, I have no idea what they think I could do, so hopefully it won't take too many visits to discover it, because it's hell of a journey.

    Normally after any outing I will come home, collapse and involuntarily fall asleep from exhaustion, then I'll wake up in the middle of the night and be unable to get back to sleep again because of the pain. When I got home yesterday, it wasn't easy, but I managed to keep awake and so was rewarded by an entire night of restless, semi-conscious painful dozing.

    This, I suppose, is marginally better than getting no sleep at all, but it's still no substitute for the real thing. Although I cannot tell you when the last time I had an actually restful night's sleep that allowed me to get up feeling properly refreshed: even when I was a kid, I started every day exhausted and had genuine, grave difficulty waking up.

    image Today my neck feels so weak and painful, again, that I can bearly hold my head up even for a few minutes. If I want to remain in a reclining position, I'm having to support my neck with a neck pillow.

    Yesterday, I went out by taxi (which is less painful or exhausting than walking or going by bus) and I only had to wait 10-15 minutes for my appointment, but just that amount of movement and that long sitting in a chair was enough to cause the pain in my neck and in my legs to flare up dreadfully again.

    It was making me feel panicky, because I didn't think I could manage to sit there any longer and wanted to be sick. I couldn't sit upright. I really wanted to lie down. And I couldn't turn my head even to look in the direction from which I would be called. Add to that extreme nausea and sweating from yet another hot flush and the situation was fast becoming unbearable.

    Now I'm adding a neck support to my arsenal - although it has to be said that between skin sensitivities and the hot flushes it's unlikely that I'll be able to put up with it for long, as I've already experienced with some wrist, knee and back supports - because I have to try.

    As this article, written by a nurse, says, "... neck muscle weakness can lead to a vicious cycle of limited head mobility and a stiff neck (resulting in pain and impairing head mobility ever further), causing more pain with emotional distress." Yep, that about covers it.

    My concern was that mollycoddling it with support might make my neck lazy and the situation worse, but the nurse suggests that, "Wearing a soft collar or a neck brace, called a cervical collar, is an effective method of holding up the head if this is difficult. A collar supports the head when the person is walking or being transferred from one sitting position to another. To protect against injury from sudden motion, people with advanced neck weakness should wear a collar when they are moving or being transferred from one seat to another, when walking, or riding in the car." I'll feel like a prat, but if it'll reduce the amount of pain, so be it.

    The awful pain I get in my shins if I sit in a chair or stand (even for moments), I attribute to orthostatic intolerance. After my appointment I called into the pet shop, went to buy a stamp (only had to wait for one customer, otherwise I'd wouldn't have even attempted that) and went to the bank (again, I was lucky to be only next-but-one in line), but even this tiny amount of walking (max 200 yards) and standing has caused considerable problems.

    Today, every time I get up, I feel lightheaded, my thigh muscles begin to spasm and my shins scream in pain. The pain in my back is nauseating and in my knees is beyond excruciating.

    I'd made a point of walking between each destination at a relaxed pace. I'd carefully worked out where I needed to go, so as to avoid doubling back on myself. I didn't browse in any other shops at all before getting a taxi back home. I couldn't have done more anyway.

    Adding it all up, getting a taxi both ways has slightly reduced - but certainly not eliminated - the amount of exhaustion caused by the outing and, maybe the recuperation period will be slightly less (normally, it takes a whole week), but doing so has done little or nothing to mitigate the increase in pain brought on by sitting, standing and / or walking anywhere.

    This is where the medical profession's opinion and my experience begins to differ widely.

    Here in the UK, they are seeing me as someone newly diagnosed (in 2008) and keep suggesting that with exercise I can build myself back up to being able to do more normal things.

    Even ignoring all the reports that suggest otherwise in the case of ME, my own experience over the last 15+ years, during most of which time I was getting at least the RDA of 20-30 minutes walking, is that I just kept deteriorating and never built up this elusive tolerance (then I came to the UK & the combined stress, climate, pollution, et al threw that deterioration into overdrive), I reckon - being realistic, not defeatist - the chance building myself back up is zero.

    Of course, I can't possibly afford to get taxis every time I need to go out. I avoid the bus, because there are so few of them and they aren't much cheaper than the taxis, as well as the fact that their jolting causes me more pain than anything else. Because of the pain, stiffness and weakness in my neck, shoulders, arms and wrists, I wouldn't be able to propel a manual wheelchair. And I couldn't go a whole mile to the shops even in a power wheelchair. I don't drive and wouldn't do so, for safety reasons. Likewise wouldn't even risk driving a mobility scooter, but again, that wouldn't be much use to go the distances required, would be a bloody liability in our high street and would be unusable in the cold or rain (364 out of every 365 days.)

    Basically, I'm buggered unless I can live nearer to the shops and in another climate.

    Which is, of course, what I've been saying all along. Not that my needs are ever considered.

    Bonus new symptom today: irritating, incessant chesty cough that seems to think I have loose catarrh - which, if I do, developed from nowhere.

    I hate my life


    My pain’s past cure, another hell,
    I may not in this torment dwell!
    Now desperate I hate my life,
    Lend me a halter or a knife
    All my griefs to this are jolly,
    Naught so damned as melancholy.

    - Robert Burton (1577 - 1640)

    (Via: The Ecologist: No-one put Keats on a well-being course and a dose of Prozac by Tom Hodgkinson)

    Wednesday, 3 March 2010

    Are You A Sociopath?

    image "You're empathetic, loyal, and introspective. In other words, there's no way you're a sociopath ... but you can spot one pretty easily!"

    Are You A Sociopath?

    Tuesday, 2 March 2010

    Stress reduction aid

    Bang Head Here

    Health costs

    Deep fried turds or deep fried Mars Bars, you decide! "Scotland is sitting on an "obesity time bomb" which could cost the economy £3bn a year, according to a new government report.", says the BBC.

    And Scotland is not the only place where folk are getting fatter, of course (thought a staple diet that has included Deep-fried Mars Bars won't have helped), but that's not why I brought this up.

    Something that I've noticed on many occasions recently (or, at least it has recently been jumping out at me), is that whenever the media reports health matters, it's always tied in with a statement about how much the problem will cost the economy. And they must know that doing so stirs people up.

    Whist as a former accountant and student of economics, I know this to be true: that there is always an opportunity cost, I cannot help getting the feeling that cost is all that matters now.

    The way that the genuinely sick have to fight for and are denied help nowadays bears this out.

    Gone are compassion and empathy for those "less fortunate" or "unable to help themselves" (through illness and / or disability). Nowadays we are just seen as liabilities, unproductive members of society, second-class citizens, or an economic cost to be cut.

    Make Fibromyalgia Visible


    Program designed to reach isolated patients and improve public understanding

    In an effort to bring attention to the life-alerting effects of fibromyalgia and help dispel the devastating consequences of misinformation, the National Fibromyalgia Association has launched “Make Fibromyalgia Visible.” The far-reaching campaign will consist of several components, all of which will be aimed at bringing hope to this often isolated and ridiculed patient population through improved public knowledge of this chronic pain disorder.

    Read more: NFA Launches “Make Fibromyalgia Visible” Campaign

    Monday, 1 March 2010

    What is Your World View?

    So this is what I am, am I? You scored as Cultural Creative:

    "Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational."

    What is Your World View?


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