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

Showing posts with label 2021 Devon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2021 Devon. Show all posts

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Coming to the end of a holiday with ME

Combe Martin : Combe Martin Beach
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Lewis Clarke -

So our week was coming to an end as Friday was our last full day. The weather that day was horrible, hence I didn't get my own photo and am borrowing this one, but we did walk onto Combe Martin beach. For all of about 30 seconds. We'd really run out of places to go as it's a bit difficult when a) you're trying not to go indoors because of covid and b) trying not to be outdoors because of the rain. 

Whilst I can still remember childhood holidays where I know we visited places, but I never actually saw them, due to being stuck inside the car, with it's steamed up windows, eating our sandwiches, I had no wish to reexperience it.

For lunch, we were luckily able to dodge the showers and sit outside the Tides In and Out Café, in Borough Road, Combe Martin. We'd been there before. May I heartily recommend their fish finger butty: fish fingers - about half a dozen good quality ones - in a big soft bap with salad and tartare sauce. Proper treat. 

We weren't so lucky at dinner time. Remember, I mentioned that our holiday grocery order had Brexit shortages? So, we'd run out of meals. There was the usual problem that nowhere, that looked any good, ever had space; I didn't feel safe to sit inside and the weather wasn't going to let me sit outside. And after the not so great experience with the fish and chips, I didn't want to risk a dodgy takeout, so we went to Tesco and settled on a pseudo-Chinese meal-in-a-box. I didn't check the ingredients, but had survived similar. Now that I have checked them, I can't see anything listed that instantly alerts me to any potential intolerance, but once again, my system was having none of it. My gut immediately bloated, I felt sick and the pain in my stomach hit about a 9 on the Mankoski Pain Scale.

We came home on Saturday, via Tiverton, where we made a short visit to a friend (and sat outside) - this was the first time I'd socialised at all since March 2020 - and I'm pretty sure I did an Oscar-worthy performance of being relatively well.

We also stopped off for lunch at Elsie May's - which we chose, purely because of the outside seating and proximity to parking and were very impressed by their service, friendliness and food. Completely exceeded every expectation.

But a week in Devon and not once did we have a Devon cream tea. We had a takeaway scone, jam and cream in Minehead - which, of course, is in Somerset, where I can put the jam first and not risk extradition - but we had a hankering for a proper afternoon tea on tall cake stand, with sandwiches, scones, cakes, tea ... Everywhere with outside seating and looked any good was always full. 

We'd planned to stop off at the family graveyard on the way home, but new building and road closures meant it couldn't be accessed without going a long way out of our way. By that time I was too fatigued to deal with another delay or extension to the journey, so we gave it a miss, but this meant yet another disappointment in a long line of disappointments. There's a f*cking limit.

To be honest though, I just want to cry. It doesn't feel like I've had a holiday, because I wasn't able to enjoy much of it, firstly because of the stress leading up to it and not being able to rest (not helped that I've never got back to my baseline since getting the first COVID vaccine in February); I could only manage to be out for a couple of hours or so a day - I didn't feel well at all with daily headaches, sore throat, Post-exertional malaise (PEM), then I had back / neck / shoulder / hip pain on top (and my ankle still hurts), and had I been at home, I would definitely have stayed in bed, but a) the concentration camp wasn't pleasant enough to want to spend all day in, b) the bed wasn't comfortable enough (nor was the sofa) and c) I really had to 'show willing' so him indoors had some break or at least change of scenery. The result is that I spent most of the time in those odd hours basically in a fog or trance, wanting it over, not really 'being present' (I can barely remember half of it and none of conversations), only just about holding it together. 

The fact that I was 'below par' (even below my usual baseline) made everything so much more difficult, like being more susceptible to recurrent cold sores; faster and more violent reactions to food intolerances; I cannot stand for more than seconds at any time, but the fact that 'Devon was full', so there was a severe lack of space in restaurants, on park benches, etc., didn't make that any easier to cope with. (We've tried time and time again with wheelchairs, but I can't tolerate them outdoors with all the pain-inducing agitation of uneven surfaces.) It's another layer of difficulty having to try to avoid COVID (especially when nobody else is) and once the weather changed, that became even harder still. In the end, I gave up.

We picked the cats up from the cattery on Sunday morning. This time, I remembered to take puppy training pads. One of the cats pooped again, almost the moment the car started, entirely missing the puppy pad, of course. One of them managed to projectile vomit, which was strained out through the mesh 'window' of their crate. When we got them home, the marmalade one was wet and covered in puke, so I washed him down in the shower. He jumped out of the bath, dived into the sh*tty litter tray and emerged covered in stuck-on litter up to his armpits. Back in the shower. Catch cat. Towel dry. Push him out the bathroom door so he couldn't get to the litter again, at which point the other furry idiot with sh*t on his paws also escaped before I could clean him, because by that point and after cleaning up the crate and all the puke in the bath, I was so fatigued I was gripped in pain to my core and collapsed on the floor, unable to move. 

F*ck, I NEED a holiday, but I don't think I could survive another one!

Friday, 10 September 2021

Lynton & Barnstaple Railway

Train on the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway at Woody Bay railway station.

On Thursday, on the way back from Lynmouth, we'd called in to Woody Bay railway station on the promise of a cream tea, but it began to p*ss down and was rather busy and peoply, so we only stayed long enough to see the train pull in. 

Thursday, 9 September 2021


Moody skies over Lynmouth and I was glad we'd decided to drive down and park in Lynmouth rather than Lynton, (as we'd done last time we were there to have a ride on the cliff railway). The town was crowded, the car parks were very full and there were queues for everything. The queue for the cliff railway was far too much for me to have coped with, being unable to stand and queue anyway, was not socially distanced and wouldn't have been fun in the rain. Done that, so gave it a miss. Oh, we'd have like to have done it, so this was another disappointment and no matter how much I try to accept it and not want to moan about such a first world problem, the more I think, "but I'm entitled to have as much enjoyment as anyone else." Everywhere in Devon is always busy, but this year was busier than we've seen before, obviously as more people are having holidays in the UK. We waited until after the schools went back and think we therefore landed in 'wrinkly week'. :) We spotted one empty table outside The Ancient Mariner (can't miss the torpedo) and grabbed it, which was serendipitous when the sharing platter we ordered arrived with familiar delicacies, such as Iberian ham and Sobrassada

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Ilfracombe Harbour

Ilfracombe Harbour

The weather may have changed, but Ilfracombe was thronging with tourists, so there were no tables where we wanted to sit outside to eat - that was the case all week actually - so we got a sandwich to take away and sat on some piles of rope at the side of the harbour and watched the people walking or driving across the sand. They would drive to their boats and park up. One assumes they must know when the tide will come in, but you still feel like it's a gamble. Amusingly.

There was a wedding taking place at the church in the middle of town between the harbour and the promenade. Though I seriously doubt the couple will have noticed that their wedding had become a tourist attraction too! :) 

In the afternoon we played Crazy Golf, which is excellent value for the enormous number of hits you get at the ball when (like me) you're absolutely crap at it! 

We had wanted a Devon cream tea, but there were queues again.

In the evening there was karaoke at Maplins, I mean our holiday park and, had I felt well enough, it might have been fun. But, because of the huge cold sore I'd acquired the day before, I didn't dare 'infect' a microphone. 

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Saunton Sands

Saunton Sands

This was the best day of our week weather-wise and also the best excursion. After lunch at The Worx Braunton - highly recommend their food, service and lovely little courtyard at the back - we had a stroll along Saunton Sands

We'd tried Woolacombe Beach first, but all the car parks were rammed and the place was swarming with crowds. Now having seen Saunton, I'm glad it was.

There was filming at Saunton Sands while we were there - there are some tiny black dots in the far distance of the second image above that is the activity of the film set - with marshals at the entrance and exit to the beach, half the car park cordoned off and many vehicles coming and going. News reports suggest that this was for Aquaman 2. It was too far to walk to hope to spot anyone famous.

Paddling along the water's edge, in the breeze, was invigorating and, I didn't have the usual excruciating pain in my lower legs that night that I would normally have from a much shorter walk. And watching all the happy dogs enjoying themselves in the waves - and even throwing the stick for one - was also therapeutic. If I'd had the ability or the energy, I could have walked along there all day.

But just in case I was stupid enough to think I deserved these few minutes of pleasure, my punishment was a huge cold sore (yes, despite UV protection) that made eating and drinking difficult for the rest of the week; made sure I didn't do half of the things I might have done; made even the simplest of tasks like washing, or cleaning teeth difficult and made me feel even more fatigued and unwell. When I'm already suffering increased ME symptoms (not quite a crash) and / or stressed, this happens every time I go outside in sun / wind. Every. effin. time. 

Monday, 6 September 2021


A sea of clouds on the north Devon coast on the way back from Minehead

Unlike previous visits to Minehead the sun was missing and the sea was closed

Even sea mist has it's beauty and I hadn't seen a mar de nubes (sea of clouds) like that since I lived in Tenerife. But if Ilfracombe closes on Sundays, Minehead has it's day off on Monday, we discovered. We had to play hunt the lunch, but eventually found an amazing Ploughman's at Café/Bar 21 and sat outside on their flower-filled terrace. It came with tasty bread, a veritable mountain of high quality ham and probably a whole bag of mixed salad each, as well as various pickles and some tiny, sweet, tomatoey things with pointy ends - no idea what they were [since discovered that they were most likely these Tomberry tomatoes], but they were lovely. At only £8.20, I don't know how they would make a profit. 

Another favourite café on the harbour, Echo Beach Cafe, is still only doing takeaway served outside, with a limited menu. Don't blame them and applaud their covid precautions, but it meant we were only able to get a scone with jam and cream to take out and not the afternoon tea experience we'd have liked. 

Trains weren't running from Minehead on the West Somerset Railway either. :(

Around 3:30, as the tide began to come in, the sun broke through and the mist began to clear, the tops of the Skyline Pavilion at Butlin's across the bay appeared, almost floating, as if they were the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas. Well, that's probably poetically stretching things a bit, but you get the idea! 

Sunday, 5 September 2021


View across the River Torridge towards Instow from Appledore

After the long day yesterday, we wanted a relatively restful one today. Had lunch sat outside in Combe Martin, then drove west to Appledore, hoping inland was less busy (it wasn't). We were only there for a few minutes and didn't walk far (I couldn't). Into Ilfracombe on the way back, but it seems to close Sundays.

Saturday, 4 September 2021


Verity on the pier at the entrance to the harbour in Ilfracombe, Devon

Hillsborough Hill, site of an Iron Age fortified settlement

Ilfracombe Promenade

Verity is not my taste, but I like what it's supposed to stand for, "modern allegory of truth and justice" (we don't see much of those nowadays) and, whatever you think, I'm pretty sure indifferent is not among the common reactions to it.

Anyway, we arrived in Ilfracombe, in not too bad condition, given the stress leading up to the journey. We got the cats to their luxury 'glamping' holiday accommodation; not without incident as one crapped moments after we pulled out of the drive (at least the journey there wasn't too long to survive in a car full of THAT STINK), the other then did a sympathy crap and then one of them puked shortly before we pulled into the lane to the cattery. Can hardly blame him, being stuck in a crate with his brother and all that sh*t! At least the cattery were understanding: just said the cats would soon clean themselves up. :)

We arrived as the Sea Ilfracombe Maritime Festival was in full swing. We had a look at the stalls and the town, but avoided hanging around the vicinity of the crowds for anything other than a fleeting moment. It's a conundrum: on the one hand it was nice to see the world being lively again. On the other, you can't help seriously worrying as they stood close in a crowd in front of the stage, that people seem to think the pandemic is over, when it's clearly worse this year than last. 

Ilfracombe though, from what I've seen, looks like a lovely place to explore.

It would have been nice to have had street food at the festival, but there really wasn't anywhere to sit and I can't stand, so we opted instead to get fish and chips and take it back to our concentration camp - oops, I mean holiday park - BIG MISTAKE. The batter was greasy and the fish was dry: altogether unpleasant and my finicky system DID NOT WANT and made me feel quite ill. Que será.

Friday, 3 September 2021

Going on Holiday with ME

The park I nearly saw on our last aborted outing.

Now, I'm trying very hard not to be one of those first world people who feels "entitled" to a holiday, but, by god, we NEED the respite and a change of scenery. For the last 18 months, except for the one week we "escaped" to Lincolnshire last year, I've only left home for an hour or so on four occasions and even those times have come with consequences. Even leaving the bedroom and going downstairs now leaves me with chest pain and exhaustion, so I rarely do that either.

This is no life, but preparing to go somewhere for a week has been fraught with enough difficulties that threaten to outweigh any potential benefits. 

We - well, by we, I mean I - do not feel that it is yet safe enough, certainly not with my laundry list of chronic illnesses, despite being double-vaxxed, to travel by any shared form of transport like train, or plane (and I don't have the energy to deal with all the bureaucracy of forms, tests, etc.), so a holiday in the UK, by car, to a self-contained accommodation (like we did last year) it shall be.

Even pre-COVID, every time I went to a public place like a hospital, an airport or on a plane, once just to a local shop where someone sneezed, I would catch a cold or flu and it would then hit me severely. (Once managed to acquire Norovirus just from a quick visit to a hospital for pre-op screening - needless to say, I didn't go back for the op!) Most times I would be so ill that I'd have to remain flat, in bed, for anything from 4 to 6 months to recover. And if that's just from a cold or flu, WTF is COVID likely to be like for me? So I refuse to risk finding out. 

We just don't know what causes ME, but there is convincing evidence that in at least a subset of patients ME/CFS has an autoimmune etiology. In my case, I would describe my immune system as 'disrupted'. It seems like it doesn't want to work at the gate, letting me catch anything that's going, easily, then works all too well (overreacts), causing severe and longer lasting symptoms. By the same token, we have no idea if this same anomaly will disrupt the effectiveness of the vaccines. Will I have antibodies, or too many that cause a storm? In the UK antibody tests are only available to NHS workers. My GP advised against a commercial one.

So, with no effective COVID protections in place now and mutations running riot, I have no intention of taking any risk whatsoever. I will be wearing a mask often and I won't be remaining inside anywhere at all where there are other humans. Some will say I'm being "anxious", but based on past experience and the way my body works, I feel this is justified. It's my life and nobody else will protect it. 

Not knowing which way the wind would blow, we left it as late as we dared to book holiday accommodation. By then it was Hobson's Choice, in Ilfracombe

Seriously, I specified the whole of England at then whittled it down, eliminating any that didn't fit the rest of our criteria and ended up with just one available option. At least I haven't been to Ilfracombe before and there are places nearby that I have been to and am more than happy to visit again.

We did, however, decide well in advance on the dates, so we could get everything else organised. So way back in June, we booked the cattery for the cats' 'glamping holiday' while we would be away. The cattery, rightly (their licence depends on it) insist that the cats are vaccinated, so, at the same time, I also booked the cats vaccinations - which are due in Aug anyway - for the exactly right date. 

Then, just days before our appointment, our vet announced that they had people off with COVID and were cancelling non-urgent and regular appointments. At the same time, they posted that even the local emergency vet service had no capacity left as they also had people off with COVID. So there was no realistic expectation that an alternative vet would be able to do the vaccinations either. 

We then had five very anxious days, wondering, not knowing if ours would be among those cancelled - because no cat vaccines, no cattery: no cattery, no holiday - trying to not sound "entitled", but at the same time, trying to impress upon the vet how important this is for us and that our holiday depended on it. 

Among the list of things that travel insurance would likely cover, I don't suppose for one moment that "can't go because the cats didn't get vaccinations and the cattery (rightly) won't risk their licence without them", is on there.

Over those days I was frantically emailing backwards and forwards with every cat sitter I could find in the city - all of whom said either they don't cover our area, were fully booked because of the short notice, or didn't respond at all - to see if there would be an alternative for the cats that made the vaccines less vital.

The vaccinations were done in the end, but it was five days of mentally exhausting anxiety I didn't need. And they were only done the day before we had to either pay the final balance or cancel the holiday. That timetable was way too stressful. 

That timetable, leading up to a holiday for someone with ME ... we'll it's threatening it nearly as much as the vaccinations themselves were.

Stress is exhausting. Stress for someone with myalgic encephalomyelitis is liable to cause a 'crash' or relapse, worsening of symptoms and post-exertional malaise (PEM). Just what I CAN'T risk happening just before a holiday and a car journey for which I need to rest in advance to be able to cope.

We've booked self-contained accommodation with kitchen facilities so we don't need to go too near humans for anything. As last year, I ordered groceries for the week. Last year I was able to have them delivered direct to where we were staying, but this year we'll have to take them with us and we can't easily transport all the fresh ingredients we would normally eat and, my husband could do with a break from cooking anyway. Last year, I spent days and days reading every last ingredient in every ready-prepared meal and came up with a list of items that I could risk, that I felt I could tolerate as a temporary measure. It wasn't a long list. This year, of course, loads of those items weren't available and the delivery has arrived with items short, so we'll have to risk going into somewhere locally, and risk another lot of ingredients that my system may not tolerate.

We had tried to go out to an open air event in a local park in mid-August. We got there. We parked. I was walking across the grass on the way there and turned my ankle badly when I found a hidden rut in the grass (probably old pitch marking). So, with a holiday ahead, even though it was then still three weeks away, I didn't dare exacerbate it by walking any further or spending any more time out. So we gave up on that outing, came home, immediately applied cold compress. 

Day before the holiday and it still hurts like F*CK. I just don't heal.

We're not there yet. I NEED this holiday, but I'm also scared stiff. 

Most of these problems were avoidable: COVID difficulties would be a lot less if we didn't have idiots in charge and sheep following them and some proper protections in place instead. Brexit-induced food shortages ditto really. The point is, these additional difficulties are bad enough for healthy people, but are amplified exponentially for those of us who are chronically ill and vulnerable and means it is going to be a very long time yet before we can do anything 'normal'. /Rant