Chaos to Cosmos
The path from chaos to cosmos was discovered by telling one's life story

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Humidity is my enemy, volcanoes are my friends

Recent events seem to confirm this and, what's more, have given me a few ideas on which to ruminate ...

Now I can remember the one and only properly hot British summer of 1976, when I worked for North Thames Gas in Staines, Middlesex, and, due to the heat, women were given a special dispensation to wear shorts in the office. It was unheard of in Britain at that time and I still howl as I remember some of the ex-army khaki jobs some of them wore!

What I also remember is not being able to stand the heat and constantly feeling nauseous and drained of energy by it in the humidity of the UK. Yes, I know there was a drought and a hosepipe ban, but there were also periods then and in other years, where it was just humid, uncomfortable and unbearable.

The only time I suffered worse was on a trip to Florida in 1980, because even though I was "relatively" healthy back then, I could barely walk 50 yards in the extreme humidity there - which was given out on TV as being 97 - 100%.

With fibromyalgia that's how humidity affects me all of the time now.

This morning, the humidity here on the Costa del Geriatrico (southern UK) was also once again up at 100% and the pain in my hip was back up to screaming pitch. It's really bad when I can't even lie on it. I certainly can't sit on it nor stand on it and the pain it generated - from my waist to my toes - when all I did was walk to the kitchen, was way, way, way off the usual pain Richter scale.

And, in addition, my neck hurts so badly I can't even get that comfortable lying down with my special neck pillows, my shoulders ache, there's a pain running down the back of my arms, my knees ache, my joints feel stiff and swollen, the pain in my lower back was so bad it was making me involuntarily moan ...

It's so bad, I'm having real difficulty concentrating, but if you'd run over me in a truck, I truly could not feel more battered and beaten than I do now.

This is an enormous contrast to last week, when I managed to walk to town on Friday to collect a prescription - the humidity then had been an ideal 51% - and, on Saturday (it was 59%), I'd gone for a long stroll to the fair and back.

Normally I just would not be able to go out twice in one week - one outing would be enough to exhaust me and raise my pain levels severely for another 5 or 6 days - and I certainly wouldn't usually make it both ways.

Saturday's walk hurt - walking at all hurts because of my hip and I'd begun to get overheated as the humidity rose toward the end of the day - but it only made me pleasantly tired the way you want to feel after a nice long walk.

In fact, I felt so relatively pain and symptom free after those outings that I wondered if my enormous super-mega fibromyalgia flare - that I've been suffering pretty much ever since I set foot back on UK soil in 2008 - might have finally abated, but this turned out to be merely wishful thinking.

On Tuesday this week, when weather was getting back to normal British humidity levels, I only went as far as the local corner store and that was utterly exhausting, as though I'd struggled through a vat of molasses, dragging a 1 ton weight. When I got home, I had to lie down and was asleep very early.

How many times have we had humidity as low as 51% here?

Just that once. Which reiterates, once more, what I've been saying, over and over, for years - that the only possible way for me to keep my symptoms under some control is to live in a relatively warmer and drier climate.

In all my 16 years in Tenerife, I was never so exhausted by a heat and humidity combination. In the UK, I can be overwhelmed by it and the temperature has barely reached 15 degrees centigrade. In Tenerife, my brain wouldn't start melting until 35C and I wasn't even comfortably warm until 25 degrees. And pain like I have today, I would only have on days when it was incredibly humid, i.e. when there were severe, monsoon quantity, storms and rain.

This has also got me to wondering - since Tenerife is home to the world's third largest volcano and, since the warmer, drier weather here last week did coincide with the presence of the ash cloud from from the Icelandic volcano - whether the presence of sulphur in the atmosphere (which we know is drying: it's effective against mildew) might have been the reason for my temporary improvement.

Maybe I should also be specifically looking for another volcanic landscape in which to make my future retirement home? (If I live that long.)

There may be more to it than the fact that sulphur / ash would dry out the air. I shan't pretend for a moment to understand the science, but consider:
  • Volcanoes spew out a lot of dust and gases like sulphur.
  • Sulphur is an essential element for life and is found in two amino acids: cysteine and methionine.
  • Cysteine's antioxidant properties are typically expressed in the tripeptide glutathione.
  • Glutathione is the food for the immune. As an antioxidant, glutathione is essential for allowing the lymphocyte (immune cell) to express its full potential. (without being hampered by oxiradical accumulation.)

Friday, 9 April 2010

Cruelty to Children

imageAs this spoof NewsBiscuit story infers, in Britain, one can become snowed under by a deluge of charity collection bags. Far too many for even the most wasteful, compulsive consumer to fill.

So, I know these bags can seem like a bit of a nuisance, but I was frankly shocked and appalled by my mother's reaction to one. The collection bag was from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), whom I feel are a perfectly worthy cause. It's always saddened me that such an organization is needed in a supposedly civilised world, which probably indicates that we're not civilized at all. 

Anyway, as she read who it was from, she spelled "N, S, P, C" out loud to herself, missing off the final C, but there was no doubt who it was from.

Then she declared, gruffly, "Oh, I can't stand them", hastily screwed it up and threw it away. There was really notable venom and anger in the way she did it too. The fact that my upbringing can be described by the NSPCC's definition of emotional abuse couldn't possibly have anything to do with it? 

Monday, 5 April 2010

Confidence and subtlety in inverse proportion

One of the downsides of living as a single female in Tenerife was the constant unwanted male attention. I'd added glasses, I'd died the blonde hair back to brown (then left it unkempt), I'd ditched all the makeup and covered up all of my bits in t-shirts that would happily double as black sacks. In the end, by comparison, I'd have made even the most butch lesbian look frilly, girly, feminine.

Did it deter the buggers? Not a hope!

They were incapable of taking hints and ignored direct negative responses.

It didn't matter how old, fat, bald, lacking in teeth, or married they were, even the village idiots truly believed they would be doing me a HUGE favour by suggesting that I needed a man, a partner or just a damn good shag.

Subtlety was not one of their strong points, even if confidence was.

It's one of the few things about living there that I don't miss.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Food intolerances

It's a good idea to try something one has previously eliminated from one's diet again, just to see if it was a one-off reaction or if one does have a genuine intolerance of the outlawed ingredient. Yesterday, only because I was being somewhat lazy and mean (I didn't want to open a whole carton of soya milk for less than a cup), I made a white sauce with part skimmed milk. This was for a vegetarian Moussaka and all the other ingredients I used in it are things I use regularly with no problem.

Once more, my stomach blew up into a huge ball and began to ache right after I'd eaten my dinner. In fact it ached so much that it ruined my entire evening: I felt too ill to do anything and all I could do was curl up in a ball with a microwave heated wheat bag on my stomach, groaning, until I fell asleep. I think I can now take it as a given that I am intolerant to dairy and, if I've been having this same reaction now for years, it probably wont change.

You Should Travel by Sailboat

Sailing off the coast of Tenerife

"When you travel, you really prefer to carve your own path and do things your way. You want to go at your own pace and do as much yourself as possible. You despise group tours. You don't travel from a schedule or plan... you just go with your intuition. You believe that travel is more about the journey than the destination. And you'd like to sail away into the sunset!"
And they're not wrong. 

No wonder this is one of my favourite quotes that I try to live by:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain
(The irony is that if you put me in a rowing boat on a mill pond, I can be violently sea sick. Whereas, in 40 foot waves in the Aegean one late autumn, I was out there on the sun deck, drenched, riding 'em and never sick at all.)

How Should You Travel?

The Spanish version of wireless

Wired wireless
About a week or so ago, I changed my broadband provider here in the UK from Orange, which sucked majorly, fell down daily and required one to phone India for help (only to be told to switch the router off and on again.) Upon advice, but with much trepidation, I decided to go with O2, who are, of course, part of Telefónica Europe. You'd think I'd had enough of them in Spain, wouldn't you?

First I had to get a bit assertive with Orange in order to get a Migration Authorisation Code (MAC), as they tried to hold me to ransom hoping to persuade me to stay and I told them it might be interested if they made the bloody thing work first, so can I have my number, thank you, as I believe is my legal right. They got their own back on me by switching the supply off early, at around mid-day on the appointed day, leaving me disconnected for some hours.

O2 had given me the date in advance and told me that I'd get an email and a text message once it was ready to go, so I'd put the router kit aside to wait.

Day comes and the email would have been pointless, because, as I say, Orange had cut me off already. By about 3 p.m., I still hadn't had a text either and, as it was a Friday afternoon, I was a little concerned in case the most competent people went home early and took weekends off. I was already having withdrawal symptoms - I mean it's frustrating when you're used to Googling everything, using online apps, etc., to be cut off for a moment - I didn't want to spend days offline.

So I rang O2 to ask when it might be ready to go ahead.

The first thing is I kinda like someone whose recorded message tells you that you can usually solve problems with your connection by switching the router off and on again! It's about as technically advanced (and therefore paradoxically comforting) as the days when we used to fix the TV by thumping it!

Anyway, the bloke on the other end - who was actually in the UK (although he was Scottish and, no offence to my friend Jack, but was probably less understandable over the phone than someone in India), checked the account and said that it should be working already. I said I'd give it a go then.

Now bear in mind that I've set up many different internet connections in my time, from veritably steam driven fax modems to wireless broadband and the last was a mere 18 months previously, so I could recall how it was done.

So, with scant attention to the instructions (you only read those when you're in doubt), I chucked the CD in the laptop, and plugged the router into the phone and lecky in the other room, exactly where I'd just removed the Orange one.

Yet it kept getting stuck saying that it couldn't find the router.

Well I could and it had found the Orange one OK, so what's the 'effin problem?

Eventually, I worked it out ... the instructions were still not entirely clear and specific on this ... but I had to connect it up with the Ethernet cable first (now I know I didn't do this last time and I didn't even know the laptop had a socket for it) and set up wired broadband before I could then opt for wireless.

This meant taking the laptop next door and groveling around on the floor for an hour or so, which again, I know I've not had to do before.

And you know, there seemed something strangely comforting and familiar about this illogical need for wires for a wireless connection.

For a while there, I felt almost at home as if I were back in Spain.

(Oh and of course, once I'd been surfing for about 3 hours already, the messages came through to say that it was ready. Yeah, like we know!)

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Who me a genius?

Your IQ Is 130
  • Your Logical Intelligence is Above Average
  • Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius
  • Your Mathematical Intelligence is Genius
  • Your General Knowledge is Genius
Which, apparently, is "Very superior" intelligence seen only in the top 2.2 percent of the population. 

Probably just means smartarse, but another point would make me a candidate for Mensa. (Not that I'd bother.)

The interesting thing is, I've taken this test before - on a bad day (probably foggy) - where I *only* got a score of 120. I knew I should have been capable of more and, indeed, managed a score of 135 in a more comprehensive IQ test in the past (while I was still in possession of my mental faculties.) And even yesterday was not a particularly good day. Mentally, I was fairly lucid, but I took the test while lying down to rest after a physically exhausting event.

Such tests could provide a visible indication of the effects of ME, fibromyalgia, et al., where they relate to cognitive abilities. Only the other day, I'd taken another cognitive test and found it supremely difficult and overwhelming to the point it gave me a headache. That was more indicative of the way my brain is affected in everyday things. Once upon a time, I could stretch my brain just for fun and it would respond by increasing it's abilities, but once I'd done the first couple of exercises in that cognitive test my brain just halted like a derailed train.

There's no point pushing it, because it simply won't go once capacity is exceeded. When asked to think of as many words as I could beginning with the letter "F", I was pretty much stuck on the one word with four letters. Overall, that test rated my verbal intelligence as deficient and my thinking slow. Years ago, I'd do vocabulary tests and always come out in the top band. Nowadays, you'd think I didn't speak much English at all from the number of words I get wrong.

The truth is my thinking speed has been seriously affected. I can cope if I write things down, whereas, I can actually hear how slurred and stupid I'm becoming now when speaking. If pressured, I cannot think of simple words, nor express myself. I find phone conversations particularly challenging now and avoid them as much as I can. In times past, I'd have phones superglued to both ears!

Some years ago, I used to be able to simultaneously translate Spanish newsreaders who speak at about 200 words per minute - well, the gist, even if not verbatim. Now I cannot hold a sentence of Spanish in my head long enough to translate it.

As Mark Twain so aptly said: “Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.