Monday, 26 April 2010

We’re here because of history

Some of you may know that when I was a twenty-one year old undergraduate I had a serious illness which saw me in and out of hospital for about six months. That experience changed my life and has rather like a small stone in a pond continued to send out ripples ever since. At the time – actually even now – it was a horrible, terrible thing to happen, but I’m still here and maybe it made me a better person or maybe I tell myself that to excuse the screw ups that happened as a result, who knows?

Anyway, one thing that happened back then was that I learned how friendships can be forged or broken by illness and experiences. Experiences alter us, sometimes it’s in tiny almost unnoticeable ways and sometimes it’s huge adjustments. Maybe I became more aware of my own mortality or maybe I began to realise what’s really important in life – it’s not your job, your possessions or status, it’s relationships. It’s a cliché but no one lies on their deathbed and says they wish they’d spent more time at work.

So now R’s diagnosis of being a Type 1 Diabetic which is currently incurable and life threatening makes work and money retreat into the background while family takes the fore. At the moment we’re still in the shadow of diagnosis and I certainly want to educate everyone I meet – I want to tell you all how without insulin R will become extremely ill. I want to remind everyone how less than one hundred years ago this was an illness that routinely killed children. Now, thanks to the work of Banting, Best, Collip and MacLeod children and adults with Type 1 diabetes can continue to have normal lives. Yes, they need to inject themselves four or more times a day and  they need to test their blood repeatedly each day, but that’s a small price to pay if we consider the alternative. Today I watched a short film all about how insulin was discovered, used to treat Type 1 diabetes and save countless lives. Thanks to ‘Sofaraway’ on the Diabetes Support Website for that link.

And now reading back this post it seems like I’ve been trying to say two things at once (it’s a regular problem with me!) . I wanted to say something about relationships and how illness and big life changing events often alter us and them. And then I got carried away educating everyone about diabetes – just can’t help myself….

I’ll come back to both topics soon – I guarantee it.


Last week both boys returned to school after the Easter break. For R this was his first day at school since diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes. I took him in by car, his brother went on ahead (out of choice) on the bus. The school was great – showed me the medical room, explained to both of us what procedures are in place for the two other pupils with Type 1 and generally reassured me that they’d take good care of him while he’s there. I was about to leave when R needed to do a quick blood test as it was about two hours after breakfast. And he had a bad hypo – his blood was 2.3 – so what does that mean?
For non-diabetics our blood sugar levels hover around 5.0. R was sky-high at 30.0 just before he was diagnosed. Now we aim to keep him between 4.0 and 10.0. Anything below 4 is an indication of hypoglycaemia and if you follow that link you’ll see that it explains that having a hypo can simply mean feeling ‘spaced’, lightheaded and odd right through to becoming unconscious, slipping into a coma or ultimately death.
Scary stuff added to the daily life of every Type 1 Diabetic.
Fortunately for R he ate some dextrose tablets and within an hour he was back up at a normal level and he could go into class. So what caused this hypo? He’d eaten a large bowl of porridge only two hours before and it’s a slow release carb – greatly loved by GI dieters – it fills you up and should help to keep your blood glucose levels nice and stable. However, add a growing boy and a large dose of anxiety about returning to school, being the centre of attention and having to deal with injecting and testing – the whole newness of it – and his blood glucose levels hit the floor.
A new note to add to my mental filing cabinet about R and his diabetes – nerves give him hypos.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Growing vegetables in your car and other forms of procrastination

Why is it as soon as I have an approaching deadline I begin to find other pressing tasks to do? These same pressing tasks never get done when I’ve plenty of time and nothing better to do, no instead I wait until the new term is beginning and I have classes which I need to plan and prepare for. In a few short days I will be back at work and teaching an entirely new set of students. I’m looking forward to this because I like my job and often there are some really interesting people taking my classes. You would have thought then that I’d be working hard to come up with some thought provoking, entertaining, enquiring lesson plans and doing lots of background reading to re-familiarise myself with the set texts. And that’s not to mention the marking I need to get done for another group of students.

I found this list I wrote months ago about procrastination because I don’t change. Back in September I wrote:-

Actually I feel like having a little nap right now and so far today I have…

weeded the garden [Don’t know why I bothered, it’s full of weeds again now and we’re in April]

fed the chickens

cleaned up the bird table

baked three angel’s food cakes [they tasted HORRIBLE – don’t bother making them again – and they don’t freeze well]

done three loads of washing [see Weeding]

watched part of a David Bowie interview

browsed through videos on

looked at Facebook

checked my email about ten times

looked at how to grow 100lbs of potatoes in a 4x4ft square – I almost forgot to add the ft to 4x4 – now that would be interesting – how to grow potatoes in a 4x4. Would the 4x4 have to be a static wreck somewhere? Or could you do this will continuing to use the car as your family vehicle? Potatoes probably wouldn’t be the best thing to grow as they need to be cooked once dug up. Tomatoes would be better but they require quite a bit of water and unless you managed to rig up some sort of diversion from the windscreen wiper fluid or the radiator it could be tricky.

See what I mean? That was another five minutes or so just pondering how growing veg in your car would work.


And now in April I’m really pondering the car as greenhouse thing. Interesting.

Add an extra ten minutes for looking on Google Images for a Greenhouse car and then another minute or two wondering how long it would take me to draw a cartoon and then upload it to the laptop.


You know the best advice for combating procrastination? Do the thing you hate doing first. Get it out of the way. Just do it. Then you can play all you like.

*Blows raspberry at screen*

Monday, 12 April 2010

Good writing is full of surprises

In September I’m going to be teaching a whole raft of different classes for Kent Adult Education and amongst these classes is a one day course on Booker Prize Winners of the last twenty years.  I want to teach this because I think so often we hear all the hype about the book but never get around to reading it. Sometimes we get around to reading the book and no one else has and if you’re anything like me you’ll want to talk about the book. Thank goodness for the internet on that count – at least now I can stop boring family and friends endlessly about books I think are brilliant – now I can bore all of you.

No, that’s not come out right….

Anyway, I took a look at the Booker site and picked out a few of my favourites and added some of those I hadn’t read to my Must Read List. In the last few weeks I’ve worked my way through all of Pat Barker’s wonderful Regeneration Trilogypatbarker Which I can’t recommend highly enough – I adored it. The Ghost Road is the final one of the trilogy and mixes fact – WW1, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon with fiction – the character of Billy Prior who is an officer alongside Owen. The story was gripping and the prose quite beautiful. The ending was no surprise, inevitable to anyone who knows even the smallest amount about the First World War. I was reminded of the BBC comedy series Blackadder Goes Forth by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton and staring Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnery and Stephen Fry.

Even though this is a comedy it’s widely used now in schools to explain and teach about WW1 and personally I can’t watch it through without feeling tearful at the loss of a generation.

Pat Barker uses black humour throughout her books and the effect is similar to Curtis and Elton’s – one moment you’re laughing and the next in tears. Truly wonderful stuff.

Fabulous shoes, fashion and Brighton

So P and I went off to Brighton on Friday night – all entirely last minute and without a great deal of planning or thought. If we’d thought about it at length we wouldn’t have gone – R is only four weeks from his Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis and we’re all feeling raw. The boys stayed with my parents – my dad is Type 2 (old age onset diabetes) and my mother knows exactly how to deal with the boys. This involves going to the amusement arcades in Margate….

Anyway, we set off alone to Brighton. We managed to get a last minute room at the incredibly funky and fun Snooze in Kemptown. We were in Room 1 which is beautifully seductive with red leather armchairs, velvet curtains and walls covered with old metal advertisement signs. The breakfast room was even funkier – each piece of china reminded us both of our childhood homes. P is a vegetarian so often staying somewhere can be difficult for breakfasts, but not here – great veggie sausages that matched my excellent full English breakfast. the-beautiful-breakfast Anyway, enough of the B&B review – although the place was great! We went off into the Lanes on Saturday for some light retail therapy and were rewarded by some great independent boutiques. After a couple of hours wandering around in the bright April sunlight (yes, the best weekend of the year so far) we stopped for a coffee at the Komedia bar in Gardner Street. Excellent coffee and even better mini passion fruit cheesecake! We sat and watched the world go by (pavement cafe culture really does work in the UK). It seemed as if everyone walking past had taken a great deal of time and effort dressing that morning – streets like this earn Brighton its name of Nottinghill-on-Sea (or is that Whitstable?).

And then I saw them…..

An impeccably dressed woman wandered out of a boutique – Jell-o -  opposite our table. She wore a pair of slightly oversized jeans (I think they were Levis) turned up a couple of times to show off her ankles and the most beautiful pair of red Mary Jane shoes I have ever seen. The shoes matched her brilliant scarlet lipstick and complemented her stripey matelot with a twist t-shirt. The outfit as a whole was spot on trend but it was the shoes….the shoes just made the outfit.

I had to have them!

We went in and I discovered the shop sold these wonderful shoes – designed by Vivienne Westwood. They had other designs and no prices on them. Always a bad sign – if it has no price it generally means I can’t afford them.

mary janes The only ones I could see that were the same design were these gorgeous green glittery ones. Yes, they were expensive (but not three figures!).

And even better yes, P bought them for me – an early birthday present. I even wore them out of the shop.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Dizzy with exhaustion

Spring really has sprung around here – the bees are buzzing, trees and bushes are in bud and today I’ve not worn any socks. Spring is definitely here.
I finally put the review to bed – all done and duly submitted. I’m not sure it’ll go to press simply because the show opened three weeks ago and closes in a few days. I’ve written my review though and it’s one thing ticked off the list.
R’s blood glucose numbers are looking reasonable – not so many highs and only a couple of lows so we’re all feeling more positive about this whole Type 1 Diabetes thing. That is if you can ever feel ‘positive’ about it. How it alters your life is rather scary – he looks and acts just as he did before diagnosis. He’s a fit, healthy boy full of sparkly eyed curiosity and generally up to no good. How can I explain then to family and friends that actually he has a life-long and potentially life-threatening condition? One missed meal could result in a hospital stay. One mixed up soft drink – normal for diet – could result in him being sick, suffering stomach pains and generally feeling low for quite a while. Each thing that passes his lips has to be considered.
And unless a cure is found this will be his life.
All of this kind of puts into perspective all my usual moans and groans about not having enough time or money to do what I want, when I want.
Anyway, enough noodling about in my head. I have a bag to pack – P and I are off to Brighton for the weekend. Both sons are staying with my parents. Mobile ‘phones are all fully charged and the DVDs are all set up for a weekend of Grandparents and Boys fun. (Ha! I bet that won’t be how it feels to my parents by Sunday evening).
brightonI do have mixed feelings about leaving both boys right now but we’ll only be just over an hour’s drive away. The local children’s ward is on speed dial. We can all do this.
We must return to some sort of normality, otherwise I’ll lose the plot entirely.
Onwards and upwards! 
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Thursday, 8 April 2010


Hopefully you've found me. I've left my previous blog - Farmyard Tales because I was having problems logging on and also life has moved on so far from those early days almost four years ago when my life did still involve a great deal of the farm.

Now life is about having different jobs, new responsibilities and new demands and pressures - all of which I'll blog about.

Right now I'm worrying about finishing up a review of an exhibition I visited a couple of weeks ago and it's long past its deadline.

I'm also worrying about whether my son's blood glucose levels are okay.

There's gardening that ought to be done, a new fence to be ordered, a new driveway to be planned, essays to be marked, classes for next term to be planned, courses for next academic year to be mapped out and emails to be replied to.

Yet here I am writing a blog.

My excuse is that I just read this great article called
and this is one of the tips - do something every day instead of a couple of times a week.
I really can't be bothered to go to the gym every day and to be honest the chances are I won't write this every day....but so what.

The weather is lovely, the birds are singing, insects buzzing and the grass is growing. Wonderful Spring weather. I should be outside in this doing that gardening or at the very least taking a walk through the woods. It'll have to wait - now the review is glaring at me.