I am still here #02 20/07/17

Please skip over this post if you would find the details of my many conditions too much (or too boring) to read. In the light of my post on Tuesday 18/07/17, I decided to be candid about my current state of health. I know I have already written a lot about my list of illnesses and meds, but I don’t think I have really set them out in quite this way before.

Up until my late 40s, I was pretty fit and well, apart from the event I wrote about on Tuesday. I went to the gym regularly, attended a weekly yoga class, walked and swam (in my own weird fashion) and did loads of activities with my lads. My job as a school librarian kept me pretty busy too and had some very physical aspects. Yes, despite the stereotype, librarianship does involve some pretty active elements! After 50, however, my health started to deteriorate steadily until I reached the position I am in today, at 60.

So these are the conditions that I have today, which are getting worse:

  • Hypothyroidism. This was the first condition, hitting me in my very late 40s. It has caused weight gain, hair loss, general tiredness, weakness, and brain fog!
  • Chronic cough. This means that I have such bad coughing attacks that I collapse choking, struggle to breathe, usually vomit and lose control of my bladder and bowels. These bouts can be caused by triggers such as smoke, perfume, aerosols, cooking smells, food, spices, pepper etc. Or the attacks can come randomly with no apparent cause. I can go for weeks without a bad attack, or have several in one day. They can last for a few seconds, or go on for more than ten minutes. I can control some, others leave me beyond control and on the floor. I live in constant terror of the next big attack, fearing that this might be the one that kills me. My family members feel the same way and they tend to hover over me.
  • Sarcoidosis. This causes granulations in my lungs. There is no known cause and no known cure. The granulations have pressed on one of the nerves that control my left vocal cord, which no longer works. This effects my ability to swallow food without choking on crumbs and also my voice. At the worst stage, I lost my voice almost completely. Thanks to a brilliant vocal specialist I can now talk again, but I still lose my voice easily. I cannot shout or sing any more. I cannot project my voice above background noise, so cannot socialise very well. It isolates me.
  • Asthma. Diagnosed as an adult. I wheeze when exerting myself and cannot go out in strong winds or cold weather. Hot weather makes me struggle to breathe. Like all asthmatics, all kinds of things can set it off and I can wake up in the night in the middle of an attack.
  • Acid reflux. This can be extremely painful, last for hours, and is triggered by stress. I now also have a restricted diet and cannot drink any alcohol. Many of my former favourite foods and drinks are now off limits.
  • Osteoporosis. Caused by the steroids I have to take.
  • Postural hypotension. Caused by low blood pressure, perhaps made worse by some of the medications. I faint regularly when standing up or when getting up from a sitting position and am lucky that I haven’t hurt myself badly to date. My family are worried that they might find me on the floor one day with my head smashed.
  • Constipation. Caused by the morphine I have to take to combat my cough. Cough suppression is a side-effect of morphine and I am on a daily low dose.
  • Severe depression and anxiety. Not very surprising really! Counselling and anti-depressants are having a positive effect here and I am feeling a lot better, compared with a couple of years ago.
  • Weight gain. Already mentioned and related to my thyroid condition, taking steroids and enforced lack of exercise. My face shape has changed and I now have the typical “moon face” that many people on steroids report.
  • My medicines include thyroxine, morphine, codeine cough mixture, laxatives, steroids in tablet and inhaler form, anti-depressants, diazepam, antibiotics, stomach acid suppressors, vitamin D and calcium.

I am trying to be calm, cool, objective, and factual here rather than complaining. Readers can judge whether I have succeeded! Now for the more positive side:

  • I have huge support from Lovely Husband and our sons. Although the strain gets to us all at times, we try to look after one another and stay positive rather than sink into negative thought processes. In addition to my meds, extra therapy takes the form of long cuddles with my lads whilst I hear about their activities, ideas, thoughts, hopes and dreams. The best therapy of all 😍.
  • Online friends and former colleagues have also offered lifelines and care when things have got very difficult. It is really appreciated.
  • The NHS is obviously a massive bonus for us in the UK. I have had and am continuing to have world class care from eminent consultants, doctors and other medical practitioners. I have also had very expensive, ground breaking tests, treatment and medicines. I have no complaints whatsoever about my medical treatment. The only cost for us is travel and car-parking.
  • Retirement has given me lots of time to spend with my wonderful lads, contemplating a range of thoughts, reading books, learning new things, looking at the world through technology and simply being. Tech has been a link to friends, ideas and the wider world. I may never go to far away places, but I can still see and research the far Himalayas, the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, cherry blossom in Japan. I can connect with people around the world through Facebook and forums. I can spend money on scarves!!
  • This blog has enabled me to communicate again, practise writing, think about what I want to say, vent sometimes, occasionally be political, be frivolous, develop a routine, feel slightly more useful than I did a while ago, take selfies, wear my better clothes rather than slobbing in pyjamas all day. Because I am still here despite everything.

I am still here…

If you have managed to read my rather self-indulgent rant, I promise that I have now got the need out of my system and things will return to normal tomorrow. Whatever normal might be 😁.

Best wishes,

❤️💚💙💜💛

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Reading roundup 19/07/17

I reached that worrying point this week where I had finished all my library books and couldn’t see when I would feel well enough to raid the local library! Thank goodness for ebooks 😀.

Good Girls Don't Die by Isabelle Grey

Good Girls Don’t Die by Isabelle Grey

I still had Isabelle Grey’s Good Girls Don’t Die to finish. Having already read the second book in the Grace Fisher series, I was looking forward to this one. Because I had information from the second book, some of the impact in this one was lost, but I don’t think this spoiled the book. In fact, I thought it was the better of the two, giving it four stars on Goodreads, and a friend has told me that the third is good as well. So I am looking forward to that one: The Special Girls.

Arminius: The Limits of Empire by Robert Fabbri

Arminius: The Limits of Empire by Robert Fabbri

The Isabelle Grey book was the last in my book pile, so I then downloaded an ebook from our library’s digital service: Robert Fabbri’s Arminius: The Limits of Empire. I gave it three stars and wrote this review on Goodreads…

Barbaric, blood-thirsty and very, very violent. The story of Rome’s greatest defeat. I usually enjoy this kind of book, but the writing in this one was pretty bad. It also needed proof reading – love the image of lambs gambling, but I think gambolling was the correct word! I may read others in his Vespasian series, but only if I am stuck for something better.

I can’t think of much more to say about it really, except that there were very few female characters and those that were included tended to be stereotypes. Stunningly beautiful maidens or scary old crones – even both in different parts of their lives!

World War Z by Max Brooks

World War Z by Max Brooks

The third book was a re-read borrowed from Younger Son: World War Z by Max Brooks. I know that a film was made of this book and am quite glad that I have never seen it as I don’t see how it could work. The book is written as if it were a set of true personal accounts of a zombie war. Occasionally some of the characters are revisited, but we rarely see them more than once. Some of the accounts are heart-rending and stay with the reader (well this reader) way after finishing the book. I was also fascinated with the author’s ability to think out some of the unexpected (for me) consequences of a zombie plague on this scale and by his ability to work out military strategies which might work against them. I would give this 4 1/2 stars, but it is evidently a marmite kind of book because the Goodreads reviewers ranged from one to five!

Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves

Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves

Just today, after finally managing to visit the library earlier in the week, I started Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves – her latest in the Shetland series. I am already gripped and had to prise it out of my own hand to write this post! Now I must get back to it…

Happy reading and best wishes,

❤️💜💙💛💚

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I am here 18/07/17

This post is a little late this evening as I have felt so hot and bothered and was also gripped by my book and didn’t want to leave it until I had finished! I will write my usual Reading Roundup post tomorrow.

I was thinking earlier today about some of the things that have made me the person that I am now. One major “incident” which had a profound impact on me both physically and mentally was the life-threatening illness I suffered back in 1996. I was in my 40th year, a SAHM, Lovely Husband and I were still fit and well, and the boys were six and three. One day in February the family were shopping in a supermarket after LH’s work when I started to feel a bit strange. Once home, my symptoms began to get worse: hot and cold shivers, nausea, swollen glands in my neck etc. An out of hours doctor came and diagnosed me with mumps (which, as it turned out, was wrong). I went to bed and ended up staying there for about a week…

…after a week of agonising swelling in my face and even more horrible symptoms, I was eventually taken into hospital by ambulance. Without making this a full-length novel, things really went downhill fast and I was diagnosed, correctly this time, with septicaemia, pneumonia and organ failure. This took quite a long time and many, many tests, some of which were excruciatingly painful. I was moved from a tiny isolation room, via ICU (very scary but with brilliant staff) to a quarantine ward, as the medics were at first unsure if I was infectious.

LH was told to prepare for my death. I was not aware of this until well afterwards.

I was saved by an amazing consultant who mixed an incredible cocktail of antibiotics and the love and devotion of LH and my family.

By the time I began to recover the following had happened to me:

  • Hair had mostly fallen out and when it grew back it was very thin and sparse.
  • Nails had broken off.
  • Face had swollen to such a degree that my eyelids had burst.
  • Face was covered in bruises so that people thought someone had beaten me up!
  • I couldn’t see out of my swollen eyelids.
  • I could barely walk.
  • Jaw had seized almost shut so that I couldn’t eat solid food.

After I returned home, it took months to recover fully, although I was well enough to return to full-time work by June 1997.

During my time in ICU I had a very strange near-death experience. I was hooked up to loads of machines in a small room and had the idea that there were French windows behind me, opening on to a beautiful garden. I could hear a party going on in a marquee with music, champagne corks popping and the sound of laughter from a large crowd. People began to come through the window, pass by my bed and leave the room by the door. One such visitor was Elvis, who smiled at me as he walked by. Another was my Father-in-Law (who had died in 1989). He stopped next to my bed and said, “Don’t worry. It’s not your turn yet!”

Many weeks later, when I still had appointments at the hospital but was much better, I visited ICU to thank the staff. They asked if I wanted to see where I had been, so was shown the room. There were no French windows and no garden. In fact, there was only a blank wall behind the bed with the usual medical paraphernalia that you see in every hospital!

As you can tell, this whole event has had a profound effect on my life ever since. Now that it is 21 years on, I can also see how it has impacted on my husband and family as a whole. Even though I am now chronically ill, I will always try to seek that one tiny good thing in an otherwise horrible day: a sunset, a little snowdrop bud, a happy child, a daffodil, a silk scarf. I am here to notice and enjoy them. I am here to see the best in my sons and see them grow up into wonderful (most of the time) young men. I am here with Lovely Husband.

I am still here.

Best wishes,

💛💚💙💜❤️

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Outfit of the day 17/07/17

It has been a beautiful day and the sun is still shining as I write this post from my bed. I really needed to go to the library as I had finished all of the book pile on my bedside table and had resorted to re-reading something that I had enjoyed years ago (I will tell you about this in my Wednesday Reading Roundup post).

So, we went to the library and I chose six books fairly randomly and then started to feel dizzy and a bit nauseous. I think it is the fault of the long list of meds I have to take plus a few of my equally long list of conditions, but I get these problems regularly. Also, it was the first day of getting up after quite a few spent in bed. Anyway, Lovely Husband suggested that we should go for a cuppa, which we did, and I indulged in a very naughty bun. Well, I mean that I was naughty in eating it rather than the bun being naughty!

This did help to revive me somewhat and so we then drove to a local shop which sells white goods as we need to replace the small larder fridge we have in the kitchen. As we looked at these, I began to feel even more faint and became incoherent! This continued until LH got me home and Younger Son, who has a week off work, helped me into bed and brought more tea. I quickly felt a lot better so decided to write this post.

Today’s outfit took a bit of chopping and changing before we went out:

  • Navy cotton fitted t-shirt dress – Tigi Wear.
  • Soft teal viscose long wrap – Kettlewell Colours.
  • Turquoise resin earrings – Kenneth Jay Lane via Net-a-Porter.
  • Turquoise, gold and white beaded tassel necklace – BOHO-LANE.
  • Turquoise enamel and rose gold bangle – Halcyon Days.
  • Blue topaz earrings.
  • Navy leather sandals – Suave.

No, I didn’t wear both sets of earrings at the same time! This is what happened: in the photo you can see me wearing the turquoise resin earrings and my rose gold chain necklace. After I took the photo, I realised that the clasp on the necklace had broken, so I swapped it for the tassel necklace and the earrings for my blue topaz studs. I think the resin earrings would have been a bit much with the tassel necklace, don’t you?

Outfit of the day 17/07/17

Outfit of the day 17/07/17

To add even more bling, I tied my Bateau Fleuri gavroche to the gorgeous Blue Africa Massaccesi handbag:

Massaccesi handbag and Hermès' Bateau Fleuri gavroche

Massaccesi handbag and Hermès’ Bateau Fleuri gavroche

I hope readers have all had a lovely day,

Best wishes,

💛💚💙💜❤️

Posted in Clothes, Health, Jewellery, Libraries, Lifestyle, Outfit of the day, Scarves, Wardrobe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Scarf of the moment: Under the Waves

This lovely scarf, Under the Waves, was designed by Alice Shirley for Hermès’ Spring/Summer 2016 season. The minute I saw it I knew that I would have to save up for it, particularly for this silk twill 90cm colourway, #15, with its shades of aqua, blue, pink, cream and turquoise.

The design depicts a host of sea creatures weaving in and out of corals and plants on the Australian Great Barrier Reef. The dusky rose rolled hem surrounds a shimmering range of mainly pastel shades in this colourway. The other versions of this scarf include electric colours against a black or bright background, or dreamy toning shades which would be wonderful to wear. There are so many exciting colourways to choose from.

The scarf has been offered as a 90cm, a 140cm mousseline (SS2016) and a twilly (AW2016). I wish I could afford the mousseline version as the colourways are wonderful!

Under the Waves by Alice Shirley for Hermès

Under the Waves by Alice Shirley for Hermès

First of all, here are the different colourways offered for the 90cm silk twill. Gorgeous!

The mousselines are equally wonderful. I wish I could own #09!

And here are the twillies – so cute!

The design story:

Alice Shirley pays tribute to the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s biggest coral reef, off the coast of Queensland in northern Australia. The reef is the largest living organic structure on Earth. It features on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, and is home to a fascinating abundance of fauna. The living coral ‘sculptures’ attract a multitude of marine species, in an endless ballet of forms and colours. The sea turtle swims to Milman Islet, a small island off the far north of Queensland, to lay its eggs. The leafy sea dragon takes shelter among the fronds of seaweed, while the mandarin fish busies itself hunting for plankton. Each owes its existence to the fragile balance of this extraordinary ecosystem.

The details of the scarf are so lovely with the fish and other sea creatures swimming in and out of the corals and seaweeds:

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I love wearing this scarf in the warmer months and it looks great with a range of clothing in blues, turquoise, aqua and teal. Different ties show off all aspects of the scarf, including the lovely contrast rolled hem:

Under the Waves - Hermès - collage #02

Under the Waves – Hermès – collage #02

Scarf ties clockwise from the top left: asymmetric wrap with my aqua cotton jumper, half-bow knot with my marine teal twin-set, asymmetric wrap again against my bright navy twin-set, cowboy cowl knot, criss-cross knot, and cowl knot. All clothes from Lands’ End, horn scarf ring from MaiTai.

Below is a collage of some of my jewellery which would look lovely with the scarf:

Under the Waves - Hermès - collage #03

Under the Waves – Hermès – collage #03

Jewellery clockwise from the top left: iridescent seahorse earrings by MadMarchMoon, turquoise bracelet, London blue topaz earrings by Blue Nile, shell pendant, turquoise enamel and gold bangle by Halcyon Days, aqua glass and silver drop earrings.


Background information

Alice Shirley

Buro: Interview with Alice Shirley
Mentions Under the Waves as well as other designs by the artist.

There are hundreds of sites out there about the Great Barrier Reef, so I have selected a couple for you to explore if you are interested. You can also find out more about the individual creatures mentioned in the scarf design story.

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef
Official tourist website.

Great Barrier Reef
Similar site to the above.

Wikipedia: Great Barrier Reef
Main Wikipedia article.

Sea Turtles

Sea Dragons

Mandarin Fish


I hope that readers have enjoyed this Scarf of the Moment post about Under the Waves. The next one, Escales Mediterranéenes, should be in two weeks time.

Best wishes,

💛💚💙💜❤️

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Update 13/07/17 and school libraries

Good news and bad news today. The bad news is that I am even more ill than I was yesterday. Family tension plus the usual cocktail of chronic conditions and medications resulted in a mental and physical breakdown last night and I have been suffering the aftermath of that all day. I am hoping that things will have settled down again by this evening and that I, and my family, can regain some equilibrium.

The better news is that I have been able to read some material about school libraries again. When I retired back in 2014, I sank into such a miserable state where I was unable to think about my beloved profession. Even visiting a public library was impossible for months. I carried on following my school librarian friends on Facebook, but I left Twitter plus all other forums and only made the occasional comment on my friends’ FB posts when they talked about their careers or work. My family wanted me to write something about school librarianship whilst I still had something to offer the profession, but I found it impossible to do that.

Anyway, I have had a tab open on Safari for some weeks with a link to a publication by the National Literacy Trust and I actually downloaded it last night (well before the breakdown) and read it through. The report can be downloaded here. This is it below:

School libraries: A literature review on current provision and evidence of impact
This literature review aims to provide a comprehensive contemporary picture of school libraries in the UK. It focuses primarily on what is known about the extent of current school library provision. This is then followed by a review of the known impact of school libraries on pupils’ skills, motivation and enjoyment. The review then finishes with an outline of the elements that make a good school library.

It was very interesting to try to read something like this again after all this time. I am not sure what my friends and colleagues think of it, but I felt that something very similar could have been written ten years ago! Although much of the literature cited was new, it didn’t seem to say anything new. Perhaps because not much has moved on since 2014, apart from technological developments. Much of the work cited was also very familiar to me. In fact, there was a tiny unnamed link to me in there – nice to see that some of my influence lingers on after such a long period away from the book shelves! (I will only say that the tiny link to me is the Ofsted 2006 publication on school libraries, Good School Libraries: Making a Difference to Learning, which is mentioned several times).

Despite my slightly negative comments, I am sure that it will still be a useful addition to UK publications on school libraries, especially as it highlights the importance of good school librarians and the impact on students’ reading, motivation, research and study skills, and the library as a place of safety.

It appears that my friends and former colleagues are still battling very familiar issues, made even more difficult, I would imagine, by the swingeing cuts to school budgets and the huge pressure on school staff. It is very difficult to develop a comprehensive school library service when your teaching staff are leaving the profession in droves and are constrained by targets and paperwork. Collaborative working needs all parties to feel relaxed and confident enough to try new ideas. This is very difficult to achieve in a climate like the present and I salute all who are continuing to fly the flag for the impact of school libraries and librarians and who do their very best for their school communities.

My very best wishes to all school library staff and the teachers and other staff working with them,

❤️💙💛💚💜

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Reading roundup 12/07/17

I am amazed to see that I have finished only one book this week! Well, I am 3/4 of the way through a second one, but that is not at all like my usual reading rate. I think I have been too caught up with a range of issues, political and others, and have been flitting from site to site reading up on those instead. I have also been very ill again and this tends to have an effect on my book-reading concentration levels.

X by Sue Grafton

X by Sue Grafton

Anyway, I did finish X by Sue Grafton. I will copy here what I wrote in my review of the book on the Goodreads website:

Oh dear, this did need editing down and a proper central plot. Not three different storylines taking their turn with a huge amount of trivial detail. I have really loved books in this series and Kinsey Millhone is a wonderful character, but I don’t need repetitive details of every shower she takes or every route she drives. Not a bad book, but not great either. Sad, really.

As you can see, I was pretty disappointed with this book, #24 in the Kinsey Millhone series. I felt that it only deserved three out of five stars for its wandering plot lines and far too much detail about trivia, such as water-saving devices in 1980s drought ridden California. I will read other books in the series, but may try to seek out earlier ones that I have not already read as I think those books may have been better written. This seems to happen with many long book series – they start off well, get better as the author hones their craft, then deteriorate as eager readers beg the writer to speed up publication of new episodes. Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta books have gone the same way, in my opinion. Surely it would be better to have a shorter series and leave readers wanting more rather than allow your famous and favourite characters to deteriorate and your books to lose the high esteem that they once had? Ah well, I am not a writer so what would I know 🙁.

Good Girls Don't Die by Isabelle Grey

Good Girls Don’t Die by Isabelle Grey

The book that I am on the way to finishing is Isabelle Grey’s Good Girls Don’t Die, the first in her D.I. Grace Fisher series. I have already read the second book, Shot Through the Heart, and enjoyed that, so I think that this one will turn out well. I will write about it next week.

Sorry to give such a short Reading Roundup this week! I had better visit the library to stock up on more for next week.

Best wishes,

💜💚💛💙❤️

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