Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Sleeping With The Enemy

Oh would you look at that! It's been a year nearly since my last post. Naughty Goblin! But what can I say? I was busy with the mission objective down at the allotment. (and a few other adventures i'll have to tell you about)

I did manage to write a guest post for my friend Karen's website 'Chronic Business' however, and here it is!

Sleeping With The Enemy.

Graded. Exercise. Therapy.
Do. Not. Do. It

Unless you are well enough to exercise in the first place, forcing yourself to do it in the vain hope that it will help your fibro is not a good idea.
If you are asked by your doctor to consider it, ask him for a detailed scientific break down of how that will help you with a condition made worse by exertion. He will undoubtedly say something along the lines of ‘Quack Quack Quack!’
And, unless you truly understand the myriad unseen functions of the human body, do me a favour, don’t assume you know better than it and get between something it needs (rest) or you are going to get pwnd! 

I’m going to tell you something you won’t like.
Fibromyalgia is the boss of you. That’s right, and you’d better do as he says or he'll kick you in the face.
He makes the rules, he sets the tempo and he decides what you do and don’t do.

Sleep when he demands it and plot sinister plots of your own, so that when you put them into play, the sinister little prick doesn’t know what hit him!

‘’But I’m in pain, I can’t sleep! And when I wake up, I’m all painful! I’m miserable! HELP!’’
Ok, ok, I hear ya! Now this is one area where our doctor can help. THERE IS NO NEED TO WAKE UP IN PAIN.

 I used to open my eyes to spine shattering agony every single morning, and if I wake up in a cold room I still get a taste of it. But I haven’t had that in a long time. Why? Because my doctor let me have the SLOW RELEASE version of my drug. He told me it was more expensive so it is not widely prescribed, but it releases over 12 hours. Voila! I could wake up and face the day.
Combining slow release Diclofenac, also known as Voltorol, also known as rheumatic retard (ha! U funny, funny pharmacists!) with co-dydramol worked well for me. I used to take the full dosage allowed a day of both, but now am down to taking Paracetamol for my aches. Or, more rarely now, co-codamol for worse aches.

SO, what does this tell us?

That you can get the pain to GO AWAY. (No, really.)

Please note that all of this only settled down after eliminating MSG and Aspartame from my diet completely. If I accidently ingest some, cue bone and nerve shattering agony that cannot be fixed with any amount of painkillers ,or by sitting in a warm bath crying.
When I first was diagnosed I was offered nothing for the pain. When I went crying back to my doctor, she, in between trying to diagnose me as depressed (beware of that, they LOVE that diagnosis!) She was surprised that I didn’t know that you can combine certain painkillers. (Well, I HAD been sent home from my diagnosis with nothing except a useful picture of a vicious circle...)

My waffly point is, sort your meds out. Different people have different tolerances and reactions to medications, but there is plenty to choose from

As ever, seek medical advice and be aware that some NSAIDs can severely damage your stomach lining. If you have IBS seek suitable meds and tell your doc if Paracetamol irritates)
Many prescription meds are available over the counter now, so Operation Never See Your Doctor Again is going nicely...

 One of the reasons that fibromyalgia and it’s friend CFS/ME is so depressing is all the missed social engagements (and sometimes lost friendships because of this).
Well, here’s a tip for regaining control



Ha, can’t wreck your plans now can he?  Tell people that you’d like to go, but that fibro is an unpredictable master and may prevent you even on the very morning of the event. Say that you will need to see how you feel nearer the time (I guess this only works if you’re out of the chronic closet)

Here is the question that has doctors thinking it’s all in our heads and that we have ‘unhealthy illness attitudes’;

‘But WHY can’t I climb the stairs without a break halfway through?’
Well that the 64 thousand dollar curious kitty killer isn’t it?

Have you heard of the ‘spoons theory’ it basically goes along the lines of ‘I only have so many spoons to give out per day and when they’re gone, they’re gone, no more energy’. I never liked that theory, it’s twee and what do spoons have to do with anything?

 Energon cubes! Now that’s a lot more like it. It’s modern. It’s Transformers! It’s got the word ‘Energon’ in it which is like the word energy. It’s got everything
So, you have so many Energon cubes a day. The amount is different every day. Sometimes you only have 1 (you can’t have zero or you’d be dead, you drama queen you!)

You can use them up doing whatever you want. But over spend and you go into debt for tomorrow and, knowing fibro-meow-meow, the whole of next week (or the week after as well if you’ve been a naughty naughty and overdone it at the allotment)

You MUST keep one for going to sleep with. GOING TO SLEEP TAKES ENERGY. One of the reasons that we feel perpetually shit is because fms is, in part a sleep disorder. We never get stage 4 restorative sleep. And also often suffer from insomnia (love this disease, its deep!)  
- pic is of me guarding my cubes wearing a Transformers costume.

So. If you fall into bed, exhausted as only a chronic can be and then wonder why you can’t sleep, it’s because you didn’t leave any energy for the body to go into auto shut down repair and defrag mode. You will linger in r.e.m lovely dreams, but feel fucked when you wake up. This’ll deplete your Energon cube allowance even more. Please refer to the NHS vicious circle picture if you are lucky enough to have one..
My advice? Sleep and rest till you get some cubes. HOARD THEM. Accumulate more; start to learn the currency rate. How long does it last? What activities burn how much energy (and it’s never the ones that you think. Digging a trench can sometimes cost you less than writing an essay. The brain uses a ton of your energy up, if you look on an infrared scan of the body, you will see that it is the hottest part of the body) When you start to feel functional, THEN is the time to begin exercise. But to get fitter, or to release endorphins, NOT to power through the fatigue to a brave new world of energy and health, coz it aint gonna happen like that.

Instant Energy killers;

Processed foods (and I MEAN that. From experience. Stop eating shit, your body will thank you for it. Even if you are super tired, avoid additive filled ready meals, you can buy artificial crap-free varieties at the very least.)
MSG (Google 'excitotoxins' for the low-down. Then start to get cross...)

Artificial sweeteners (once again Google 'excitotoxins') especially Aspartame/Acelsulfame-K (which is disgustingly present in some vitamins, sweetened to make them palatable for the overgrown children amongst us- I discovered this to my painful, fatigued horror)

Emotional turmoil.  I know it’s unavoidable sometimes and it’s stressful having this illness, but run, run away from perpetual stress. This is NOT a nod in the direction of ‘emotions cause fms’ or ‘its all in your head’, but rather the punch-you-in-the-immune-system scientific reality of what stress chemicals and hormones can, and will do to your body. I once had a job where I would cry every night. No, make that 3 or four times a night, and sometimes before work in the morning. Cue utter disintegration of my health, and 5 years of stress acne to add to the fun.

Hormones are the boss of your body. Do not do anything to throw them into Disarray.  The insomnia and poor quality sleep cycle is essentially a cascade of hormone issues triggered by one thing and swirling in a perpetual vicious cycle. It’s a good place to start when researching your way out of fibro-hell

Here’s a summary;
Stop eating shit

Sleep LOADS (whenever you need to, MAKE people understand that this is what needs to happen)

Don’t overdo it

Research, research, research

Avoid Quackery – It’s hard to know where to turn, but a good cfs doctor is Dr Myhill. She gives her research and treatment plan away for free (thus distinguishing herself from many of the private cash cows, sorry, clinics in London and such places)
When they say it’s not degenerative they mean in the way that MS is. But it CAN get worse. It’s a sliding scale of wibbly wobbly awfulness right up to ‘I’m feeling fine’.

Take your pain meds. Spend time sorting out the right dose for you. (Beware of Tramadol, it has negative effects in many people)

Finally, and most importantly. If your doctor believes that fms/me/cfs is a psychological/psychiatric condition seek a new doctor IMMEDIATELY. It is recognised by the world health organisation. It has definite diagnostic criteria used throughout much of the civilised world (UK is one of the worst offenders) It is NOT all in your head. If your doctor has this opinion then his medical knowledge is DANGEROUSLY out of date. If His/her first (or only) suggestion is antidepressants tell him/her to stick it (Often they will try to prescribe weak dosage ones as a sleeping aid I tried these and had a very bad reaction to them  As ever, research what you will be taking).
You wouldn’t trust a doctor to treat you for cancer if he believed that your Four Humours were out of balance now, would you? Don’t trust a doctor without up to date knowledge of your condition.

For my American readers; Chemo? For CFS? Really? Run Away from THAT doctor!

Anyway, THAT was a lot of information. But, chin up fibro-chickens, it can be done!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

That's the ticket!

Guerilla Gardeners improve South London. God knows it needs it!

When I lived in Peckham, my flatmate and I used to sprinkle seeds that we had harvested from the local community garden onto derelict bits of ground, or into neglected council flower beds. Little did we know that we were unwittingly part of a much larger movement...

Guerilla Gardener in Tokyo

(not to be confused with Gorilla Gardening!)

It certainly explains the 3 scraggy looking marigolds planted under a tree near my local shop! There must be thousands of us. It's a nice thought, like being a covert spy, or a subversive element or something.

The other day my friend and fellow Allotmenteer and I were in grumpy moods. We strolled along to the allotment having a good old bitch and a moan.
On the left of the path leading down to our site, the local school has let a piece of disused field turn into a meadow after rennovating their concrete tennis courts. (I hope that this is a permanent thing and that they arent going to turf it over!)

 I had harvested seeds from my garden with the aim of spreading the beauty and providing homes and grub for wild creatures. I had campion, wild daisy seed, birdsfoot trefoil, poppies and some others that I don't know the names of.

My friend and I threw great handfuls of seed over the fence, to contribute to the meadow and the little verge  that runs alongside it on our side of the fence. After  a few minutes of this we were both smiling. We had been frowning and letting out pent-up urban anger through flinging the seeds with force, but the positive nature of the act meant that we literally couldnt stay cross. We both came away feeling satisfied and happy. 

While we were happy to fling them by the handful and were more concerned with propogating the species and providing some food for bees, some people do it to fight against the ugliness of our Urban areas and pay priority to visual impact.  All are valid motives and are mutaully compatible aims.

But to seed hard to reach areas or youre going to need a bom!

You can buy seed boms, or you can make your own.

So, there we have it, there are more Urban Goblins than I thought.
This bodes well for our Urban Goblin-scape!

Friday, 10 September 2010

Bees in need say please for feed!

Our buzzing buddies in the busy urban environment are in need!

It's a known fact that bees are suffering from colony collapse and generally dying all over the shop in record numbers.
Now this is something you may think doesn’t concern you, or is happening far away in the creepy old countryside. But no, It’s happening right here in our urban environment too.
Whether you blame pesticides, GMO crops, mobile phone masts, disease or the HAARP project, a major factor is food. Our six footed friends are hungry. But why are they hungry?

The same reason any goblin is; A lack of good grub precious!

Have a look at your own garden and the kinds of plants in it. Bees don’t like fussy double –petalled flowers that make it hard to access the pollen, and they don’t like low pollen plants like Busy Lizzies. They likes big old fashioned blooms of the kind we British Goblins used to grow in abundance. Now it’s all decking and cordylines and palm trees and flowerless shrubs, there’s just not enough food.

‘But how can I help my buzzing bosom buddies?’ I hear you cry.

Well, the answer’s a simple one; and cheap. Good news for the cash strapped!

  1. Get thee to the pound shop
  2. Purchase as many pots/sacks of wildflower or cottage garden seed as you have pounds in your pocket.
  3. Sprinkle seeds in amongst existing flower bed. (If you don’t have a garden or allotment, you can still grow bee-friendly flowers in a window box or patio pot. Failing that, sprinkling pound shop native British wildflower seeds on a derelict site or on road verges will all contribute to the beauty and usefulness of our space.
  4. sit back, wait for a bit, and then enjoy the sound of the most helpful of mini beasts munching merrily on your now much improved meadow garden! The best thing is, you can harvest the seed the next year and spread the love. More on this later! 

    Being an Urban Goblin and trying to make the most of our small patches of green means that you have a duty to act as a steward for the less fortunate flora and fauna that live here too.

Bees will thank you by pollinating the nation’s food .
A fair exchange methinks.

Ps, It’s not just honey bees in trouble. Bumble bees are too. I sent away for this booklet from the Bumblebee Trust, who’s endearing motto is ‘Saving the sound of the summer’. 

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Support your fellow Goblins!

I had this toy knitted for my Dad’s birthday. He is of my most awesome four-footed friend Dennis, and a super talented fellow goblin by the name of Amy made him. 

Look at his face, is there anything cuter? I love him I love him I lov... what's that? I bought him for my Dad?....he's not actualy mine? ...?

Now, I could have bought a toy that looked like him from a shop. In fact I already own a toy that looks like my dear DenDen. He is from a shop and I call him ‘Mr Cat’. My reception class loved him very much.

So why didn’t I repeat the experience? Because it wouldn’t have been special. It may have looked like our cat, but it wouldn’t have been based on a picture of him, so it wouldn’t have been him. I can be sure that my Dennis has not been made in a faraway place, by small sweatshop goblins.

Handmade toys are heirloom toys. They can be kept and passed on to the next generation of goblin-sprogs in a much more meaningful way than mass produced toys.

Tell me you don't want this hippo and elephant.

Explore Gizmo&Stitch  here

Gizmo... now that’s a good Gremlin name! Most fortuitous! And if you’ve seen ‘Lilo and Stitch’ you’ll see why this business gets the double-goblin seal of approval!

But the main reason to buy local handmade goods is to support a fellow goblins dream of working for no one but her own sweet self. A goal I share. No goblin is an island, so stand tall (or small!) and support your local crafters!

Amy has expressed a liking for the barter system, so we have negotiated a mix of barter and cash in payment for Dennis.
 My fellow goblin has asked for vegetables from the urban-paradise known as the allotment. I am flattered and feel most heartened that at last, finally, someone has gotten into what I’m trying to do here; but also rather saddened that I’ve scoffed my main crop and lost the rest to some kind of potato lurgy, else I’d have happily paid her in precious precious potatoes! So I guess it will be a mix of beetroots, money and a promise of future cabbages and broccoli. A very gobliny deal indeed!

* I met Amy on an etching and relief printmaking course that I started a few months ago. It was a match made in HobGoblin Heaven. We literally couldn't shut up, and whilst the rest of the group seemed very serious to begin with, the chatter has thankfully spread and a much lighter hearted atmosphere now prevails. Until they get fed up with the giggling and kill us with our own etching needles.
More on the fun of the print and making new friends soon!!!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Inheriting the Allotment. Goblin Paradise part2

So I promised to post some pictures of the allotment before I cleared my little patch.

And here they are. Sadly, I never captured the 20 foot flames that caught suddenly and threatened to burn down Grandad's shed coz I was busy helping my Dad to bash 'em out and screaming and dancing from foot to foot Goblin style.

I haven't even looked in the shed yet. I can't wait to see what's in there. I'm guessing string. Lots and lots of string. Just like in Grandad's garage.
The allotments are not like other sites in that they have been neglected for a number of years. Several of the older allotmenteers have given up their plots or have taken smaller ones and the rest of the site has been lying empty due to persistant vandalism by the kids from the nearby Secondary school. It wasn't all one sided though, Grandad made a whole pack of'em flee from his pitchfork weilding antics once. Best that they got away really; He don't muck about does our Grandad.

Here is my free shopping trolley. I do love it I do.

In the last year or so there has been a big resurgence in allotmenteering and a big demographic shift towards young women taking an interest.
One woman has joined to beat the credit crunch and to give her young son somewhere other than the ghetto to hang about in. Poor concre-stutionalised lad seemed quite wary of of it all. 'Pon jumping and shrieking 'what was that noise?!' His mother replied 'birdsong'.

Our site has taken on lots of new people and it's heartening to see the brambles being cleared and vegetables growing again. It's always been a shabby site though, but we likes it that way. Nice and wild and carefree. Not like the prissy, edge-measuring tight-butts on some sites that we could mention...

Dad has a far nicer trolley than me. I've got my eye on his woodpile too.

This is my bean frame. It nearly killed me clearing it.( I broke rule number one and tunnelled in, snipping away merrily, forgot to look up and then had a load of prickle bushes fall down on me head.) Now i'm too tired to dig it out and grow beans in it, especially since I've grown pea plants by accident, and low growing varieties at that. I'm gonna grow some Nastursiums up instead I think, and try for beans next season. 

See that bush? That's a Gooseberry bush that is. Mmmmmmm.... Gooseberrys.....

Saturday, 19 June 2010

I quit my job.

It’s true. I are former teacher.

Having 30 other ickle Goblins to guide though the confusing days of their 4th and 5th year on this earth sounded like bliss. Paddling around in mud looking for worms, playing with sand, colouring, painting, singing and dancing and pretending to be pirates when you should be doing maths. What better way to spend the day?

But no.

Stiff necked paper-sniffers and list-tickers ruinsed our fun.
There are 6 areas of the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) document divided into 13 subdivisions. There are 9 scale points in each area and 30 children who need about 3 bits of evidence for each scale point (do the maths!). Observations count as evidence, so when you look through the playground ages and see the teacher following the children around with a clipboard, she IS actually writing down what they are saying and doing. Repeat this silliness in the classroom and we can see why little Goblins are having a hard time learning their numbers and letters. Teacher iz busy, bog off!

Free flow and continuous provision is good practice but if it’s cold enough to freeze our milk cartons, and the satsumas have gone solid why can’t we have snack on the carpet? Why can’t Goblin use common sense?
Because senior management Orcs will come and gets you that’s why. Because Orcs from Local Education Authority will come and gets them if they sticks up for you. Senior managements don’t likes to be told this, so don’t do it.

I was beginning to hate it and dreaded going in. I couldn’t sleep and was crying before and after school, very ungoblin-like behaviour. There was no time for junk, for mooching, for creating or growing or thinking or anything! But I forced myself to do it for nearly two years, and through two different schools.
Then I had a moment of clarity thanks to my brain. (My beautiful, wonderful brain who’s got me out of more fixes and messes thank I can ever thank him for) Let’s leave precious!
So I told them. I’m leaving. I’m gonna go. Byeeeeeeeeeee...

I had thought about this before, but my brain had not supported the decision. Think of the practicalities it said; Think of the holidays, think of the money, do the right thing for a change...
This time though brain was leading the charge, a glorious self centred save-your-own-arse charge.
I felt hot. Giddy. Sneaky and guilty.

I didn’t want to spend years of my life hitting the refresh button on the t.e.s ‘new career directions’ hoping for someone to post the answers to the perpetual question, what next?

The Original Goblin (me Nan) was the one what swung it for me though. With her typical no-nonsense approach to everything she said, ‘Izzy, if it’s making you cry why are you doing it? Nothing’s worth feeling like that over’.
So I went in the next day handed in my notice.
Telling my boss was haaaard. After all, she took a chance on me and this is how I repay her?

I felt bad. I just wish it could all have been ok. That it was the fresh start I needed, away from and the bitchiness of my previous school and my evil TA. But, if anything this place was even more restrictive. I couldn’t believe that I’d been TOLD how to do a display. Honestly I was allowed no creative input at all. What was the point of being impressed by my art credentials then and hiring me because of them if I’m not allowed to use them? Teaching is NOT a creative profession, so do not be fooled by comedy TDA adverts that show smiling teachers having the time to use their own interests to teach the smiling next generation. The preferred teacher is a mindless unquestioning drone who can parrot the words ‘best practice’ like the villagers from Hot Fuzz can say ‘For the greater gooooood’ Creepy.

Run away from the nonsense!

I got some sneaky ‘good on you’s and ‘well dones and ‘I wish I could do it’s. I also got some backstabbing and nasty looks but those kinds of teachers are the ones that make the nice ones leave so they are welcome to each other.

When I was considering leaving, people kept asking me, what next? They didn’t understand that that question could only be answered when I had a spare minute to myself again. And even so, maybe only a teacher would understand when I say that. A spare minute. A spare thought in my head, unconnected to school or my unending internal to do list. It’s not normal to be unable to make a decision as to what cereal to buy, which cheese, which colour milk top. It’s like having early Alzheimer’s. Why am in this room? What was I just doing, what did he just say? Huh? What? Sorry?

I have a really healthy understanding of the kid that cries and hates school. The perpetual non-attendees. When you start thinking, ‘if I jump under that bus I wonder how long I’d get off school’ it’s probably time to look for a new job.
Great Goblin, I hope it’s all going to be ok. I hope I hope I hope. It should be, with brain looking out for me. Lesson learnt, stop ignoring brain!

Next time I post I’ll detail what I’ve been up to since jumping ship in March. Lots of people talk about quitting their job or leaving teaching, but in all of my desperate Googling very few people actually said what they did next. So sink or swim, fail or win, at least you’ll have some idea of what happens when you quit your job in the middle of a recession.

PS, 10 points to Slytherin if you can tell me how to fix the picture/pictureframe silliness going on.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Goblin Paradise.

Got an allotment? Are you mental?

Goblining about up the allotment can be great fun but, we don’ts likes the hard work do we precious?
Follow these top tips if you want to minimise the workload and leave more time for looking for junk in the undergrowth.

Pick your crops. There’s no point growing tons and tons of things that need tons and tons of digging and watering.

Beetroots, radishes, carrots all only need to be sown in shallow dips. Spuds on the other hand... it nearly killed me putting two rows in. I had to break up the soil, dig a trench and then cover them over. Apparently I also have to pile soil around them as they grow, and I really didn’t think about how I’m going to get them out of the ground when they’re ready!

Another top tip is to plant stuff close together.

I have planted two small cherry trees and between them I have grown two rows of radishes and a line of beetroots. This way when I am watering the trees, I can do the other plants at the same time by barley swinging my arm (believe me watering cans are heavy and hose pipes aren’t allowed at this site). I also grow everything in a bit of a trench, so that any run-off will pool at the bottom and water my plants, rather than escaping and helping the weeds. And by weeds, I mean walloping great big brambles that grow an inch between blinks.

My neighbours’ crops all run in long straight rows, mine are grown in little clumps and small square patches as, and when I can clear some ground. No wandering up and down needlessly for me!

When I look at my neighbouring plots they have dug the soil over, leaving it all in a kind of raised hummock and then have planted their stuff in a row along the top. Madness!! This seems to be the standard way of doing things, but looking at the huge clods of earth piled up I can see that this is not a technique suitable for a 5 foot 4 fatigued chick such as myself. I only dig the parts that I’m going to be using- otherwise it’s just turning the soil for the benefit of the brambles. Old carpets are useful for keeping the weeds down on unused parts of your plot, but be careful leaving them too long or you will end up with a carpet-prairie, which, whilst comfy to picnic on is a real pain to get up again.

Check out the kind of cake you can graduate to eating once you have cleared a nice spot to sit. Mmmmm...

I 'm also going to experiment with growing stuff in some old plastic plant containers that have been expelled from my Dad’s garden for the crime of being old and shabby. They will be raised so less bending because I can kneel next to them; and it will limit the amount of hardcore digging- I’ll probably be able to just use a trowel. It will be much easier to keep watered as well as the water wont leech away into the dry surrounding soil.

Another thing I've bought to make my life easier is an Apprentice Gardner’s spade (Ok,ok, it's a kids shovel). I don’t need the fork because Dad’s one is so old that the tines have worn down and it’s a much shorter tool anyway, but I would love to get it because the spade is such lovely quality.

Having the right sized equipment means that I can get better leverage when I am digging and it also gives me a sense of validation that I certainly don’t get when I’m grappling with a ‘normal sized’ shovel that comes up to my chest!

I’ll have to dig out some pictures of the plot before I had cleared it – using your friend and mine, fire!