Thursday, 30 August 2007

Tea for me

I'm a firm believer that a cup of tea will help in almost any stressful situation. If I'm having trouble sleeping, a rendez-vous with the kettle and teapot in the middle of the night (de-caf of course) is the first port of call. Had an argument with my mum? Tea will put it right. Yet if I'm honest, despite my unwavering faith in the powers of a humble mug of Typhoo, I've always been a little jealous of coffee drinkers.

What amazing variety greets them as they walk through their local coffee shop's doors! Millions of different types of bean, espresso or latte, foam or cream, syrups the thought of which make your mouth water (amaretto, coconut etc) - until that is you remember that they come in a mug of EVIL! Ahem. That might be going a little too far but there is no doubt that tea is morally superior to coffee and yet the only option that we tea-drinkers have is, "milk or sugar?". It's an unjust world.
In the past week however, I'm delighted to say that I've been introduced to a whole new world of tea drinking possibilities. It's all thanks to a lovely friend's belated birthday present which came from a wonderful tea shop in Cambridge. I opened the jiffy bag that contained the gift with even more excitement than usual. Which is a lot of excitement. I have a rather irrational love of jiffy bags. The reason for this increase in anticipation was the smell of this particular jiffy bag. Please don't think that I sniff all my post. I don't. But in this instance you couldn't help but smell it. It was a gorgeous orangey, fruity, nutty scent. Inside the package I found a tea strainer and two cute little packets of posh tea leaves, complete with instructions from my friend on how to drink each of them and exactly what the man in the shop had told her about each tea. Thankfully I had my wits about me that day and didn't follow her instructions to the letter. She had stated that 1tbsp of leaves were required for each cup. That seemed a little excessive to me so I had a gander at the shop website ( if you're interested) and it turned out that she had actually meant 1tsp! Quite a difference but no harm was done.

So yesterday I sampled the first tea and today the second (I have to be careful on my caffeine intake). Wow! It's difficult to describe but I guess it's a bit like flavours in wine. It's obviously wine (or in this case tea) but they genuinely have notes of orange or coconut or almond in them. They smell amazing and taste just as good. I'm a convert. Please note that I am under no circumstances recommending fruit teas. Those silly fruit tea bag things that you can buy bulk in Tesco etc are not real teas! But these teas are the real deal. I sound like quite the tea snob don't I?

My favourite tea mug

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Dear Sir

If I told you that I read The Daily Telegraph would you hold it against me? I promise I'm not a raving Tory. I don't really have any strong political leanings, other than toward Martin Sheen in The West Wing and I'm pretty sure that it's easier to lead a country in a TV show than in the real world.

The Telegraph has always been the paper of choice in the Giraffe-a-licious household. Whilst obviously having the appeal of a broadsheet, ie. a paper that reports news rather than 'celebrity' sightings, it also has the best sport section of any British newspaper.

However last week saw a story appear in its hallowed pages, of such absurdly lazy writing, that I was moved to write to the Editor. The article reported on new guidelines published by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence on M.E. and the treatments and therapy that should be made available to patients. Despite the content of the story and the article's own acknowledgment that M.E. is a real and debilitating illness, The Daily Telegraph still saw fit to run the story under the headline of "Treat 'yuppie flu' more seriously, doctors ordered". I was stunned. Yuppie flu was a term coined over 20 years ago when there actually were yuppies and ignorance of M.E. was extreme. Yet still, even above a news article calling for better treatment and support for sufferers, this term refuses to disappear. It doesn't matter that inverted commas were used around the expression. The phrase is completely redundant and unnecessary. Replace 'yuppie flu' with M.E. in the headline and the report is fine, good even. Sufferers have been fighting for years to get rid of this term and to have their illness officially recognised. That finally happened in 2002 when the Government's Chief Medical Officer released his report on M.E./CFS and declared it to be a genuine and serious illness whilst also detailing the ways in which he felt that research and support should advance.

It goes without saying that 'yuppie flu' is a terribly insulting name for a distressing and incapacitating disorder. Yuppies disappeared at the end of the 1980s. 'Yuppie flu' must follow shortly.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Tell me why I don't like Bank Holiday Mondays...

There are three elements required for a Bank Holiday weekend to be counted as truly British.

1. A BBQ
2. A spot of DIY
3. Traffic jams

If measuring my own personal weekend by these conditions then it can be determined that my Bank Holiday weekend was 55% British. The calculations necessary to come to this number are both numerous and complicated and so I will mercifully spare you the details. Suffice to say that the percentage was damaged by a lack of car journeys but assisted by the consumption of not one, but two barbeques. How do you spell barbeque? According to Microsoft both barbeque and barbecue are acceptable. Blogger doesn't like it being spelt with a 'q'. No wonder we shorten it to BBQ so often. I've now got to the point where the word barbeque/cue has lost all meaning.

The do-it-yourself element of my weekend was rather a case of DIY by proxy. A DVD/CD storage unit was purchased by my good self from the wonder that is Argos. Please note the heavy sarcasm in that statement. My dad is no slouch when it comes to flat pack furniture and the like, but I have never heard him emit such distressed noises as when he surveyed the ridiculous number of pieces that this seemingly simple shelved unit required. Since when did you need to be professional mechanic to put together an Argos product? Surely this defeats the whole point of the flat pack business? If it had just been my mum and I then I've no doubt we would still be on the floor of my room 48 hours later, making various anguished cries reminiscent of a Wookie. Thankfully my dad is made of sterner stuff and was able to finally declare victory a mere 24 hours after purchase. On the plus side, this experience has enabled me to indentify a definite gap in the labour market. There is surely a call for professional flat-pack-furniture assemblers. Anyone with the necessary skills should apply to Giraffe-a-licious, c/o Blogger. I look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Au Revoir Tim!

It's always a strange thing when a sportsman retires. Reading the papers you'd be forgiven for thinking that the athlete in question had died! Career retrospectives have a definite tendency to resemble obituaries. It's a hazard born of the necessity to write in the past tense. In some respects there is a death to be mourned; the death of a career. But even when written in the most celebratory tones most pieces still wouldn't seem out of place at a memorial service!

It is with this in mind that I turn to Tim Henman. I apologise in advance if at any point it begins to sound as though the poor chap has shuffled off this mortal coil!

Tim Henman is a legend. Andy Murray uttered that very phrase yesterday and it would be a harsh and ignorant person who said otherwise. I have always maintained that anyone who knows anything about tennis and British tennis in particular, cannot help but acknowledge the great contribution that Henman has made to the sport over the last 12 years or so. The announcement of his intention to retire at the end of September after Britain's Davis Cup tie against Croatia was not unexpected and the general consensus has been that it is the right time for the Oxfordshire man to hang up his professional racket.

Henman will always be one of my sporting heroes. The general public often moan about the fact that he never won a Grand Slam title or that he is 'boring' but in my eyes he has been one of the most competitive and talented British sportsmen in recent years. Add to that the way in which he has shouldered so much expectation and he deserves the respect of all. Ultimately Joe Public's opinion won't hold much weight for Henman. Who needs their approval when he has the respect of the top players in the world? Not just Murray, but Federer and Sampras - two greats of the modern era - have often spoken of their admiration and respect for Henman and these guys don't hand out plaudits like that for nothing.

My first Henman memory comes from 1996 when he made it to the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the first time. I was 11 years old and from that moment I was a fan. Being a Henmaniac has had its downsides. The number of matches that I have watched from behind the sofa is I'm sure far higher than for fans of other players but such is the passion that his matches produce. No-one as boring as the tabloids make him out to be could inspire such fervour and excitement amongst British tennis fans. Brad Gilbert, the coach of Andy Murray and previously to Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi, said yesterday that he felt that Henman had often been misunderstood. I'm not sure that misunderstood is the right word but he has definitely been mistakenly labelled. Henman has a media face. It's the slightly boring one that is put on to enable him to deal with the press and many of the ridiculous questions he has to face. When we're fortunate enough to see 'behind-the-scenes' clips and interviews he comes across clearly as a normal, fairly easy-going guy with a particularly dry sense of humour. I'm convinced that as he makes the transition from player to commentator and pundit, that side of him will become increasingly noticeable.

Henman's relationship with the tennis world is obviously not completely over. Not only will the BBC no doubt be knocking on his door for punditry duties but surely the role of Davis Cup captain will beckon him in a few years time. Until then he deserves a well-earned rest. I don't see him getting anywhere in his last Grand Slam - the US Open. He has an particularly tough draw against Dmitry Tursunov in the opening round. Henman's focus will surely be on securing a Davis Cup win in September. Defeat to Croatia would be a sad way for such a sparkling career to end. So for one last time, let me hear you shout: "C'mon Tim!"

Thursday, 23 August 2007

The Scenic Route

Anyone who's checked out the TV schedules lately will have noticed a series from the actor Robbie Coltrane called B-road Britain. Coltrane takes to the back roads of Britain in his classic 1950s Jaguar (it's an XK150 don't cha know) to observe the many oddities of British village life. Today I had my own little B road adventure and I'm sad to say that they obviously have far more of a liking for Hagrid than myself.

It could simply be a matter of the car. How can my 2000 Skoda Fabia really stand a chance when going head to head with Coltrane's motor? I'd like to think that it's not the driver. Why any B-road would prefer to have a, shall we say, larger gentleman bearing down on it's rather fragile foundations than a fairly average 23 year old woman I do not know. But nevertheless today the B-roads of Northamptonshire and Leicestershire contrived to make my life as difficult as possible.

I passed my driving test last year after a huge amount of effort spread over a number of years and often hindered by relapses of my M.E. I merrily embraced this new found independence and enjoyed my little trips round about town. Unfortunately I had a major relapse in March I was unable to drive at all for a number of months and since then any driving has been limited to a very small journey every fortnight or so. However this morning I woke up, the sun was shining and I felt fairly well so I decided to make a longer journey; taking the A14 for a number of junctions (I hadn't been on it since the relapse) and then using the back roads to get home. If I couldn't concentrate quite as well by that time then it would be safer for me to be on smaller roads than a big dual carriageway.

11:00am I'm on the A14
11:20am I'm off the A14 (so far so good)
11:25am Oh bother. I've missed my turn off.
11:30am I'm lost
11:32am I'm behind two caravans.
11:33am Loose chippings. I'm going at 15mph and they're still hitting my car.
11:35am I check my map. It doesn't help.
11:40am I've gone round in a circle and I'm now back at the precise spot I was 20 minutes ago.
11:41am Ha - I made the turn off this time!
11:42am Hmmmm...this is a very narrow road. I hope I don't meet anything coming in the other direction.
11:43am I've met something coming in the other direction.

Many narrow roads and farm smells later and I eventually find myself somewhere recognisable. Thankfully I got home from there without much further incident and promptly threw myself upon the sofa and stayed there for half an hour.

I'd taken what my parents would have called The Scenic Route. As a child in the back of a car I liked The Scenic Route. As a driver with rapidly depleting energy supplies I do not. I need to get from A to B as quickly as possible. It occurs to me that I'm really taking The Scenic Route in life - but with my driver's attitude not the passenger's. I have to get from A to B. (Although I have no idea where B is. Unless we're talking my eternal destination. As a Christian I'm pretty clear on that.) I want to get to B as easily as possible, at the wheel of the best car, encountering the fewest obstacles and driving through the finest weather. Instead I have seem to have been landed with the life equivalent of an old banger. I'm finding road-blocks and obstacles at every turn and I'm driving through the biggest thunderstorm since records began. (I hate that phrase: since records began. Weathermen take note. One of the most overused expressions of the last 10 years.) I long for an A-14 life. Simple and straightforward. Sure there may be a few traffic jams along the way but I can be patient.

Just get me off these flippin B-roads!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007


I took a trip to see the vampires last week. They can be found at the end of a system of long corridors with magnolia walls. They have quite an obsession with cleanliness; before meeting with them I am required to wash my hands with alcohol gel. No names in this place, just numbers. It's like the cheese counter at Tesco. I pass the time until they call for me in a waiting room that seems to be stuck in the 1970s. The feeling that some sort of time warp is in place is made all the greater by the existence of a fish tank that looks like as though it was last cleaned when John Travolta was strutting his funky stuff on the disco dancefloor.

My number's up. A bored looking vampire beckons me into the blood-sucking room. Bored is good. It means she isn't new. Last time I had a newbie. I know that my veins are sometimes difficult to find but I felt like a pin cushion by the time she was through. Ms. Bored Vampire is now scanning my form. Date of birth confirmed and she's wasted no time in grabbing my left arm. "Er...excuse me oh blood-sucking one" says I, "could you possibly use the other one? There's often a bit of trouble with getting a vein in that one." She mutters something incomprehensible and takes the other arm. I don't think she believed me. Seriously lady, I have a thyroid disorder. I've been here once every 3 months for years. I'm an old pro at this blood taking malarkey. Never mind, she's tightened the cuff now and is ready to pounce. Best to look away at this point I've found.

A minute later and she's done. Fangs out, cotton wool on and I'm walking out the door. I'm passing the 70's waiting room, the pale faced victims and the magnolia walls. Then suddenly - light! The sun shines down upon me. I have survived once more. Blade's got nothing on me!

Monday, 20 August 2007


I, like a number of the British population, have been glued to the box in the corner each Wednesday evening for the televisual genius that is Heroes. The American import flew onto BBC2 accompanied by a shed-load of hype and a BBC marketing campaign of super-human proportions. Surely no programme could live up to this fanfare? Well, so far it's doing a darn good job. Intriguing storylines, glossy visuals and genuinely interesting characters have certainly contributed towards its success but it's main powerplay against the rest of the TV world is simply the fact that deep down inside we all wish we had super powers.

I'm no different. In fact I have been known to take this desire to another level. A couple of years ago my sister and I held a Superhero Party. Attendees were invited to create and dress as their own personal superhero. Party goers included; Radioactive Girl; Mattman; Superstar; Cycloman and Superglue. My crime fighting identity was Danger Girl. Sadly, not as exciting as it sounds. During the many in depth discussions over the the abilities of our alter-egos it was decided that even as a Superhero I'd still have M.E. Thus my role would be as a type of Superhero secretary, based at HQ and organising the schedules of my fellow heroes. Unexciting but ultimately indispensible I think you'll agree. Nonetheless, this has lead me to further thought on what type of superpower would be the most useful to the M.E. sufferer.

My first inclination was towards the power of flight. Everyone wants that one don't they? I've never even been on a plane so to fly independently would be something pretty special. Unfortunately, if we're still working under the assumption that I have M.E., then just as I can't walk very far, I would most likely also be rather limited in my flying capacity! Back to the drawing board.

Spontaneous regeneration? Well that rather depends on how we define it. If it just means that whenever I injure myself I heal and therefore can't die then quite frankly I can do without that. The idea of living eternally with this blinking illness does not fill me with joy. Although if we're talking no aches or pains then I'm most definitely on board.

However, I have to come to the conclusion that for the M.E. sufferer the most desirable super power must be teleportation. The ability to get anywhere you choose within a millisecond - what could be better? No energy zapping car, train or plane journeys. No need to worry if you run out of energy whilst out shopping and can't drive back home. The solution if you're house-bound and you've just about managed to get downstairs only to realise that you've forgotten some vital item now uselessly waiting for you upstairs! The possibilties are endless.

Sadly though, I must bring myself back down to earth. I cannot teleport. At least not yet. Maybe the next time there's an eclipse? Then with my powers at the ready, full of the confidence of a superhero I shall finally be fully equipped and prepared to fight my arch-nemesis........DLA man!

Sunday, 19 August 2007


Why are the things we want almost inevitably bad for us? No doubt there is a deep theological and philosophical discussion to be had from such a question but in this instance I'm referring to my love of sugar.

I have a sweet tooth. I'll consume sugar in almost any form. There's the more conventional items - chocolate, dolly mixtures, cakes. But then as sugar becomes increasingly difficult to source (usually as a result of a healthy crackdown on the part of my mum) I end up turning to the slightly more unusual - glace cherries, condensed milk etc. Although interestingly I've never developed a taste for sugar in my tea. As a kid I was never allowed it, so naturally one day when at a friend's house the question was put to me and I said yes. It was the most disgusting cup of tea I've ever had the displeasure to drink.

Many people have a taste for the sweeter things in life and despite a tendency towards consuming too many calories have no real ill effects from it. My problem is that I'm pretty sure that sugar affects my M.E. I've suffered from this illness for almost 10 years and every so often someone will bring up the question of diet and how a change in it may help me. The crux of the matter is that I'm 100% sure that cutting sugar from my diet is not going to cure me. However, I'm not nearly as sure that it wouldn't help in some way or another. I've ranted and railed against this theory for years. There are a lot of things in life that I am denied because of my illness; a job; independent living; the opportunity to go for a walk in the countryside or a trip to the shops without assistance; a holiday abroad; nights out with friends. The list is pretty much endless. But food? That I can enjoy! And yet, in recent years I've had to cut out chocolate and cheese from my diet due to the headaches they induce. Although in reality I have a bad habit of trying to push the boundaries of these banned foods - how much can I eat before I get a headache? Sensible huh?

A couple of months back I decided to take action against my unhealthy eating habits. I regret to say that this was triggered not by a desire to check if it made me less ill but by the fact that I had just put on half a stone in weight in the space of 2 weeks due to new anti-depressants. So we got rid of all the bad stuff in the house, bought in mass quantities of rice cakes and settled down to a month of misery! It didn't turn out to be so bad though. The first week was tough but eventually I got into the swing of eating better. Sadly all will-power drained away during a week when my parents were away and my sister and I were in charge of food. Disaster! What's more once you go back to your sugary ways it is incredibly difficult to stop again. Dearie me, I sound like a drug addict. So here we are, a month later and I'm still eating badly. I blame it on my birthday! The most frustrating part is that I have become more convinced of the 'sugar makes my symptoms worse' theory. I had a great week just before going back on the sugar and it is quite possible that my system had finally de-toxed. Of course, now I've got a month's worth of sugar inside me. Back to the rice cakes...

Saturday, 18 August 2007


Low key birthdays are the best. Yesterday was a lovely quiet day followed by meeting up with friends for a giggle in the evening. I struggle to understand people who have enormous parties for their birthdays. Perhaps for an 18th or even a 21st but when you get beyond that I think it starts to get a bit silly. Maybe I've just watched too many MTV 'Sweet Sixteens'. The number of American teenagers that I would like to inflict pain on, using their own Manolo Blahnik stilettos as a weapon, increases dramatically following a couple of hours of watching MTV.

I'm not sure as to why MTV is still going by that name. Music Television? Huh? Where's the music? The dross that comes across the Atlantic and infects our screens is incredible. These days it is not at all uncommon to hear people praising US TV to the heavens. Fair enough when talking about Heroes, The West Wing, Prison Break, 24 etc. But for every top notch import we also 'gain' a new series of Pimp My Ride, Date My Mom and Room Raiders.

Hmmm...I seem to have got side tracked. Birthdays. Right. I suppose if you like to be the centre of attention and have compliments and gifts lavished upon you then parties are the way to go. I cannot stand that type of thing. I'm not a humbug. I like parties. Just not my own. I'm perfectly happy for someone else to get the attention. I don't like being important! I'm a bit of a paradox in that respect. When it comes to my opinions I like people to pay attention to them. That's one of the reasons that I write. But there is a difference between my writing and opinions getting attention and my actual self being pushed into the spotlight.

Friday, 17 August 2007

23 is the magic number

Today I reached the ripe old age of 23. To mark this historic and oh-so-momentous occasion I have decided to start a blog. In the past I've always been rather wary of blogs. The assumption that anyone would be interested in the happenings of my life or my opinions seemed a little on the egotistical side. But I have concluded that no-one is being forced to read my thoughts. I apologies at this point if you are in fact being held under gunpoint and forced to read these words. I didn't have anything to do with it. Promise. So read if you like. Ignore if not.

I'm also slightly concerned that a blog from myself will be somewhat lacking in excitement. eg. "Today I watched Die Hard again.", "Today I had an egg for lunch." etc. But I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Although I fear that I may only be a couple of steps away from said bridge. For now I plough on enthused and motivated (possibly only in the short-term) to master the ways of HTML and make my blog page as giraffe-a-licious as possible. Although, that may just have to wait a while; that egg is ready for consumption...