Saturday, 29 September 2007
For the record, I'm not an adrenaline junkie. Adrenaline is not my friend. One reason for that is probably genetics. My mum is actually allergic to adrenaline. So much so that when she visits the dentist she has to have a different type of injection to everyone else. But I think the main reason for my less than friendly relationship with this 'basic sympathomimetic hormone' lies within the whole 'fight or flight' scenario. Adrenaline is one of the hormones released when the body is under undue stress. The brain is programmed to release all this gubbins when it thinks we're in danger. Adrenaline and it's co-conspirators are designed to get you ready for fight or flight. That's all very well, but my M.E. saturated body is equipped for neither. No matter how much adrenaline is coursing through my veins, it's pretty improbably that I'm going to be much use in fighting a fly, let alone something that could genuinely do me harm. Instead I end up as not much more than a jittery mess! Physically dodgy, mentally useless and emotionally spent.
Now you may ask, "Surely Giraffe-a-licious with her M.E. and lack of energy does not often find adrenaline charging around her blood stream?" The answer to that my friends is that I acquire my adrenaline vicariously. Let me use last night as an example. England were playing Tonga in the Rugby World Cup and had to win in order to remain in the competition (albeit just to get squashed by the Australians next weekend). I love sport, I love rugby and I love England but I was nowhere near where the action was happening. There was no reason for my 'fight or flight' mechanism to go into overdrive. Yet it did. Apparently I was personally having my adrenaline handed to me by the England rugby team. It's often sport that causes me this problem. If you collected all the adrenaline produced by my body over the years, purely from watching Tim Henman matches then it would probably fill a swimming pool.
I've no doubt that I would be much better off not participating in the viewing of these events. But I think adrenaline production is also a sign of excitement and having fun. Some people get theirs from rollercoasters, I just watch British sportsmen.
Thursday, 27 September 2007
Giraffe-a-licious awoke that Wednesday morning with the same disappointed feeling with which she awoke every morning. The world was still the same. She hadn't been magically transported to a parallel world of excitement and fun. At the age of 23 she was still living with her parents and experiencing the delights of suburban Britain. She extricated herself from the stack of pillows that had somehow made their way across the bed during the night and grimacing, levered herself into an upright position. She noticed the DVD player was still on. Whilst grabbing wildly in an attempt to locate her dressing gown she slowly began to piece together the events of the night before. She remember that she had forgotten to take her anti-depressants until gone 11:30pm - a good two hours late - and that she'd watched a number of West Wing episodes without getting to the point of sleep. Giraffe-a-licious was a closet Martin Sheen fan. In desperation at around about 1:30am she had reached for The Sound of Music. The last thing she remembered was Julie Andrews swinging her guitar and suitcase over-enthusiastically whilst belting out "I have confidence in sunshine.." Giraffe-a-licious did not have confidence in sunshine this morning. Or for that matter confidence in rain. She trudged to the door, down the stairs and into the kitchen. As she opened the cupboards robotically she noticed with great displeasure that someone had finished the last of the Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. She sighed. Little did she know just how bad her day was going to be.
Tuesday, 25 September 2007
"Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday's home page. When nobody's around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you to go bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up there is twice as much of it. It always gets more and more. No one can win against kipple, except temporarily and maybe in one spot."
I feel his pain. Kipple is my enemy. I fought a great battle yesterday against the forces of Kipple-dom and gained a draining but exhilarating short-term victory. Kipple holds a number of substantial advantages over me. Firstly, my lack of energy. To stand your ground in the face of kipple requires CONSTANT VIGILANCE! Forgive me the Harry Potter quote but it seems appropriate. Such watchfulness is tiring itself, let alone when you take into account the numerous calls to arms. I fear that my M.E. is in league with the kipple. They have joined forces to take over my room and with it my sanity. I am powerless to stop it. As I lie on my bed in the mid-afternoon, during the 2 hour nap necessary to get me through the rest of the day, I can hear it spreading. Bank statements, junk mail, hospital radio application forms, receipts, jiffy bags from Amazon, hair bobbles... they conspire against me and procreate to produce more and more kipple. This brings me to my second problem. This kipple reproduction has been going on for 17 and a half years in the same space! We moved to our current house in March 1990 and my room has been my room for that whole period of time. I haven't been out of it for more than 2 weeks at a time. I haven't been able to go to university or move out of home. I have 17 and a half years worth of kipple in that place! Not just kipple either. Kipple and M.E. have another cohort in their attack on my mental and emotional well-being. Odds and Ends. Brrrrr...makes you shiver doesn't it? All those silly, pointless, little ornaments that I've picked up along the way. I should just be able to merrily dispose of them into my only ally in the kipple war - the wheelie bin. But that's when Odds and Ends plays its trump card: sentimental value. I curse my memory! What would I give to not know precisely who bought me what and when. But alas, it cannot be and that is why I shall never win the war on kipple.
I mentioned a short-term victory earlier. Basically, I'm sticking a load of it in the loft! No doubt one day I'll have to face it again as it becomes too much for the attic and starts to burst out of the roof. Until that day however, I will keep fighting the good fight against the present kipple. As Mel Gibson once said, "They may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!"
Saturday, 22 September 2007
I ponder on this because despite all evidence to the contrary I am convinced that I must have a bit of Irish blood in me. Rugby was persuaded me as such. Ireland are second only to England in my level of enthusiastic support. And it's pretty much all due to, what up until today I thought was, their National Anthem. 'Ireland Calls' is the most rousing, brilliant piece of anthem writing to ever meet my ears. Check out these lyrics:
Come the day and come the hour
Come the power and the glory
We have come to answer
Our Country's call
From the four proud provinces of Ireland
Together standing tall
Shoulder to shoulder
We'll answer Ireland's call
Isn't it just perfect for rugby? Amazing. At least I thought so until I was informed by Wikipedia that it was written in 1995 specifically as an anthem for the Irish team! I had obviously noticed that there are often two anthems sung by the Irish before the kick-off but my simple little brain had reasoned that one was for Northern Ireland and the other for Eire. It turns out that what I had thought was the Northern Irish anthem is in fact Amhrán na bhFiann - the original Irish anthem. However, Unionists don't like the militant and potentially anti-British feeling of the lyrics. So in '95 the Irish RFU commissioned the new song. It's all rather complicated isn't it? But not to worry. I love this song and it would be even better if I was Irish! There aren't many anthems where you get to belt out your country's name in such a fashion. Plus it has its piece de resistance - a key change! If you've never heard it have a listen at the link below.
Altogether now.....#Ireland, Ireland...#
Thursday, 20 September 2007
Great Britain take on Croatia in The Davis Cup this weekend. In honour of this event Giraffe-a-licious brings you:
10 Things You Should Know About… The Davis Cup
For the bluffer:
1. The Davis Cup is an international men’s tennis tournament. Unusually for tennis, it is a team event. Players compete for their country within different divisions. The division in which each country competes, depends on their previous results.
2. The most prestigious division is known as The World Group. This consists of sixteen nations – eight of which are automatically included as a result of their progress in the World Group the previous year. The eight other places are decided by play-offs between the bottom teams from the last year’s World Group and the top teams from the lower divisions.
3. The Davis Cup is played in the form of ties between two countries. A tie consists of five matches or ‘rubbers’. One doubles and four singles matches are played over the space of three days and the team with the most victories wins the tie.
4. Great Britain’s tie against Croatia at the weekend is a World Group play-off. If Britain win they will be part of the elite group for the first time since 2003 when they lost 4-1 to Australia in the first round.
5. Tim Henman will be retiring from the sport after the tie with Croatia. His Davis Cup record stands at: Played 52 Won 38 Lost 14. He’s a legend and only the ill-informed say otherwise!
For the more knowledgeable fan:
1. Whilst Great Britain face Croatia, the Davis Cup semi-finals will also be taking place. Russia host Germany whilst Sweden have home advantage against the USA. Russia’s four team members all feature in the world Top 40, including world number 4 Nikolay Davydenko, and will be strong favourites to make the final. As will the Americans who are fortunate though to have the not inconsiderable talents of specialist doubles players, Bob and Mike Bryan – watch out for their Teletubby-esque celebrations.
2. The USA have won the trophy the greatest number of times; 31 and counting.
3. Great Britain are currently ranked 26th in the Davis Cup rankings, behind such tennis giants as Thailand, Japan and Peru.
4. The Davis Cup began life as the International Lawn Tennis challenge but was renamed the Davis Cup in 1945 following the death of one of its founders, Dwight Davis. The tournament was first held in 1900 and contested between only the United States and Great Britain, but by 1905 teams from Austria, France, Belgium and Australasia (a freakish hybrid of teams representing Australia and New Zealand) were competing.
5. The Davis Cup trophy is one of the largest in sport. It weighs in at 105kg (that’s almost two Justine Henins), stands at 110cm tall and is 107cm in diameter. Over the years it has been adapted and developed into its current ‘wedding cake’ style. The original trophy (a silver punch bowl) is engraved with the 1900-1919 winners and a tray bears the names of the countries that won from 1920-1932. This is followed by three tiers on which the winners from 1933 to the present are displayed.
Tuesday, 18 September 2007
Saturday was truly a glorious day weather wise. It felt like the height of summer. Looking out of the window, today also looks wonderful but I fear that the skies are deceiving me. Bright blue and hardly a cloud to be seen and yet once you pop outside there is a definite feel of autumn in the air. Bah. That means winter's not far behind. If winter in Britain was beautifully snowy, crisp and sunny then I would have little problem with it. The cold and the increased pain brought with it would be offset by the scenery and snowmen! But we just don't get that in the UK. So instead I have to deal with the cold, the pain and the overcast dreary misery that hangs around outside my 4 walls. You wouldn't believe the number of times that I've considered moving to warmer climes. But the upheaval and stress of making new friends (quite probably in a new language) just isn't worth it. Don't get me wrong, I love Britain. I love tea, Cadbury's chocolate, the history of our country and the fact that our sporting triumphs are made all the greater by our sporting failures. I delight in our sense of humour, the numerous accents present within such a small space and the relative freedom of our press. I know that it's a cliche for the British to complain about the weather but honestly, instead of our scientists spending years creating cow-human hybrid embryos, could they not just spend the time working out how to make it a bit warmer?
Sunday, 16 September 2007
Wednesday, 12 September 2007
Main Entry: os·te·op·a·thy
Etymology: New Latin osteopathia, from oste- + Latin -pathia -pathy
: a system of medical practice based on a theory that diseases are due chiefly to loss of structural integrity which can be restored by manipulation of the parts supplemented by therapeutic measures (as use of drugs or surgery)
Or to put it into my own words: The practice of making a patient strip off to their underwear, bend over in various directions, lying them down on a bench, twisting and leaning on them in various over-friendly positions, cracking their joints and in doing so causing an assortment of worrying sounds to be emitted from the patient's bones. Oh and charging you £35 for the pleasure.
I'd managed to escape this 'therapy' for over two years until today. Unfortunately the last 6 months of alternating between sitting and sleeping has had an effect on my poor M.E. ridden body. So having rummaged into the back of the chest of drawers to find some decent underwear, I headed off to the bone-cruncher's. Thankfully my osteopath is a woman. I don't think I'd ever be happy with a male manoeuvring me in such a way!
Ultimately the experience was fairly painless this time. Other than having to be separated from my £35. Although osteopathy has definitely helped me over the years (not necessarily with the M.E. but with some of the inevitable consequences of the illness) I'm still never entirely convinced that such 'skeletal manipulation' (ooh, get me with the jargon!) can be a good thing. But then again, I suppose that's what the Georgians thought about Alexander Fleming and his mould.
Monday, 10 September 2007
It's slightly depressing when so little is happening in your life that you can't come up with anything of interest to write two paragraphs about. I can't even sum up the energy to have a rant about something! Life just keeps happening and yet not happening at exactly the same time. It's an interesting situation and yet not interesting at exactly the same time. Perhaps I'm ripping a hole in the space/time continuum as I type. By the way, I know that 'continuum' doesn't look as though it's spelt correctly but according to Outlook it's right and when have Americans ever been wrong about anything as important as spelling? Cough. Splutter.
Oh apparently there's a scheduled outage of Blogger at 11pm PDT - whenever that is. Pickled Duck Time? Personal Disaster Time? Penguin Death Time? And what's an outage? It sounds like something out of a sci-fi/horror film like Resident Evil or Pitch Black. "We've gotta get back to the base before the outage, when the zombies/vampires/aliens/A N Other Monsters start hunting."
If I survive the outage and the blogger's block I'll be back in a couple of days. If not, remember - "You've gotta make it to the base!"
Saturday, 8 September 2007
Since beginning my blogging career I have taken it upon myself to do a little research. I've been browsing and reading blogs similar to mine, especially those by authors with disabilities or illnesses. Whilst many are both well written and entertaining, I've been put off by those few who seem to want to live life as part of an oxymoron. They write virtual-reams of text demanding that they be treated as 'normal', that they're just like everyone else and want no-one to act differently towards them than they would an able person. (Apologies for the use of the term able, I'm well aware that we are all able in some way or another). I understand where they're coming from - too many people struggle to know how to act around those of us with disabilities. The answer to that is of course to treat us as 'normal' but that's where it gets tricky. We're not 'normal'. I'm not going to bother trying to define 'normal' but I'm pretty sure that a person who at 23 years old has a blue badge and a wheelchair, needs to sleep during the day and is unable to manage any sort of work or studying, is not it. And these bloggers recognise that. This is the problem. They are insisting that they must be treated as normal whilst simultaneously complaining that their needs and restrictions are not considered. We can't have it both ways. If we want our constraints and limitations to be recognised and taken into account then we can't let people treat us as 'normal'. 'Normal' doesn't require parking directly outside a shop or making sure that hospital appointments are at the right time of day for our energy levels. It doesn't necessitate wheelchair access to shops or some sort of crazy exclusion diet. In short if you want to be able to get on in this world with a disability or illness, then at some point along the way you're going to have to accept that it's ok to not be normal.
Friday, 7 September 2007
N.B. Kudos to Argentina for their somewhat tuneless but enthusastic anthem singing.
Thursday, 6 September 2007
They had it easy. One shoe for all occasions. Granted, being a shoe probably caused them a few other problems but footwear wise they were set.
Men - they also have it easy in the shoe stakes. Three pairs needed at most; trainers; smart shoes; and possibly a pair of flip-flops. But the curse of womanhood strikes again for us females. I don't know where the ridiculous notion, that all women love shoes, originally came from but it's a falsehood. I hate shoes. I hate wearing shoes. I hate shopping for shoes. Even thinking about shoes gets me all riled up. If it was up to me I'd be constantly barefooted. The problem with that is that I also hate my feet. I'm in a Catch 22.
My loathing of shoes intensified vastly at around this time last year. I was going to a wedding, had my outfit all sorted out but had no shoes to match. Due to limited time and energy I bought pretty much the first pair I tried on. Sure they dug in a bit but I was sure they'd stretch out. The day arrived and I put my new shoes on (Paolo Nutini was obviously not talking about these shoes when he said that 'suddenly everything was right' and 'everybody's smiling'). I'd been in them 5 minutes before they began to hurt. Before I had even got to the wedding my toes had gone red in pain - a great look I'm sure you'll agree. Anyway, suffice to say I ended up taking them off and walking back to the car over ouchy gravel in bare feet. Not my most elegant moment.
I've got another wedding to attend in a week or so and yesterday I found what hopefully will be a nice comfortable pair of flat shoes to wear. No doubt heels would look better but I have learnt from my mistakes and am willing to sacrifice fashion for comfort. It's a choice every woman must make. I just wish that more would go for the comfort option, then the rest of us wouldn't look so unfashionable!
Tuesday, 4 September 2007
I bring this up having got dressed this morning and been appalled by the number of bruises I saw on my person! I admit that I've never been the most elegant or co-ordinated of women. Ladylike is not a word usually associated with me and I often seem to have trouble with knowing exactly where all my limbs are at any given moment. But good grief - I look like I've been battered. No doubt this is not helped by the anti-depressants I'm on at the moment. Primarily they're to keep the pain under control but they have the nice side effects of one, keeping me positive and two, making me bruise like a peach. The least little knock and my leg looks as though it's gone five rounds with Mike Tyson. Or that I've been paint balling, which by the way is one activity that I can say for certain I will NEVER participate in, even should I wake up one more morning miraculously free from M.E. I don't care that it's only paint being shot. I can't deal with people sneaking around trying to 'get me'. I took part in Lazerquest once - I must have been around 12 years old - I hadn't been in the room for 5 minutes when I freaked out and ran for the exit. Although that probably loses out for 'Most Embarrassing Childhood Moment' to an incident at age 7 when the mini-wheel (and it really was mini) at Wicksteed Park had to be stopped to get me off. My 5 year old sister was fine but I was bawling like a baby.
A group of M.E. friends and I were talking about bruises the other day. It appears that it's quite common for sufferers to bruise easily and often. That or I just have an exceptionally clumsy group of friends. Nearly all of us had experienced the fun of getting ready for bed, finding a new bruise or two and trying to work out where they'd come from! The most accurate way being to compare the height of the bruise on the body to surfaces encountered throughout the day. "Ah, that'll be the coffee table." Thankfully autumn and winter are on their way. I'm not usually a fan of the colder times of year but at least it means that I can walk around without displaying my purple and yellow mottled legs!
Monday, 3 September 2007
I'm sure that all of us at one time or another have wished we could be living someone else's life. It's perfectly normal. Other people seem to have it so easy whilst we struggle onwards through our problems be they physical, emotional, familial or financial. The grass is always greener. But these thoughts gain rather more significance when one is starting to wish for another life, but one that most people would consider undesirable at the least and horrendous at most.
During my darkest times of relapse these are the type of thoughts that I have found myself dwelling on. M.E. is a stinker of an illness. Not only does it restrict you physically and mentally but its symptoms mean that simply using a wheelchair or walking stick will not resolve mobility issues. What I would give just to have a problem with mobility. This is where it can get controversial. Many times I have wished that my disability was that of having no legs or something along those lines. Yes, everyday activities would be harder. I've seen enough documentaries to know that for someone with such a disability getting up in the morning can take hours and be frustrating beyond belief. But my point is that once that's done they have far more freedom than a sufferer of severe or even moderate M.E. Mobility is the only issue for them. Life is tough and may be painful but with effort arrangements can be made for the wheelchair user to get on an aeroplane to go on holiday, to drive a car, to live independently, to work full-time, to go out clubbing or pubbing. In contrast I can manage very little even with my wheelchair. The wheels don't solve the problem of fatigue; so I can't cope with the stress of an airport; I can drive for only short periods of time when my pain is under control and my concentration at it's best; I can't look after myself - preparing meals is exhausting, let alone housework, shopping, washing etc.; working even part-time is out of the question; and clubs and pubs? Forget it. Please don't think that I'm moaning. I am blessed in countless ways and grateful for all that I am able to do. But I think it's important for people to take M.E. as seriously as other disabilities.
I'm not going to dwell on this for much longer. Suffice to say that at times I have even wished that terminal cancer was my ailment. As a 23 year old in severe pain and with the prospect that it could continue for another 50 years or more, such thoughts are not incomprehensible. I'm not comparing my pain to that of a cancer patient. I have no idea how painful that illness must be. My point is that in that instance there is an end in sight and personally, being a Christian, that end would hold little fear for me. My greatest dread is that I'll end up 30 years down the line in a care home at age 50-something. My parents will have died and a husband doesn't seem to be on the cards! It's not beyond the realms of possibility.
But these are the thoughts of the dark times. Most of the time it's fairly light in Giraffe-a-licious's world. As anyone with a restrictive illness or disability will know, it's all about making the most of the good times. Cheesy but true.
On a happier note, here's something else that's cheesy but true: Greece is the world's largest cheese consumer (per capita). In 2003 an average Greek consumed 27.3kg of cheese.
Sunday, 2 September 2007
New York Cheesecake
For the crust
3 oz butter
10 digestive biscuits (5 oz) made into fine crumbs
1tbsp golden caster sugar
(Depending on how much crust you like, you may wish to increase the quantities by half again.)
For the filling (all ingredients should be at room temperature)
3x300g packs full fat soft cream cheese
9oz golden caster sugar
3 tbsp flour
1 and a half tsp vanilla extract
the finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 and a half tsp lemon juice
3 large eggs. plus 1 yolk
284ml carton soured cream
For the topping
142ml carton soured cream
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
- Position an oven shelf in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to fan 160C/conventional 180C/gas mark 4. Line the base of a 23cm springform cake tin with parchment paper. For the crust, melt the butter in a medium pan. Stir in the biscuit crumbs and sugar so that the mixture is evenly moistened. Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan and bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack while preparing filling.
- For the filling, increase the oven temperature to fan 200C/conventional 240C/gas mark 9. In a table top mixer (you could use a hand held mixer) fit the paddle attachment, beat the soft cheese at a medium-low speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, gradually add the sugar, then the flour and a pinch of salt, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle twice.
- Swap the paddle attachment for the whisk. Continue by adding the vanilla, lemon zest and juice. Whisk in the eggs and yolk, on at a time, scraping the bowl and whisk at least twice. Stir the 284ml carton of soured cream until smooth, then measure 200ml (7fl oz). Continue on a low speed as you add the measured soured cream (reserve the rest for later). Whisk to blend but don't overbeat. The mixture should be smooth, light and somewhat airy.
- Brush the sides of the springform tin with melted butter and put on a baking sheet. Pour in the filling and make the top as smooth as possible. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to fan 90C/conventional 110C/gas mark 1/4 and bake for 25 minutes more. If you gently shake the tin the filling should have a slight wobble. Turn off the oven and open the oven door for a cheesecake with a creamy centre (my favourite way) or leave the door closed if you prefer it to be slightly drier. Let it cool in the oven for 2 hours.
- Combine the reserved soured cream with the 142ml carton, the sugar, and lemon juice for the topping. Spread over the cheesecake right to the edges. Cover loosely with foil and refridgerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- Run a knife around the edges of the tin to loosen any stuck edges. Unlock the side, slide the cheesecake off the bottom of the tin onto a plate, then slide the parchment paper from underneath. (This bit is a lot more difficult than it sounds and so I usually end up leaving it on the bottom of the tin. It doesn't look as good but the taste is what matters!)
So there you are. You now have the knowledge to make this ridiculously tasty pudding. If you don't like it then I fear for both your physical and mental well-being. Do not under any circumstances throw any in the bin. Send left overs to the usual address.