A FEW WARM THOUGHTS…….

At this time of year when my joints are all protesting at the cold weather, my thoughts do not turn to ones of love, but to lovely warm sunshine, long sandy beaches and summery nights when it’s just too warm to put on a cardigan over your strappy t-shirt. It’s unlikely to be like that here for some months to come and I find my mind recalling my first ever trip down to Australia one wintery January.
I was just 3 months post-op of my hip replacement when my daughter invited me to come visit them in Cronulla, which is a suburb of Sydney and. as Pat was away working, I had to make the journey on my own with wheelchair assistance from the airlines.  Not having a clue about how long the journey was, my son took me to Cork and Aer Lingus flew me to Heathrow where I was met by a wheelchair and taken to the Malaysian Airlines Jumbo Jet first to Kuala Lumpur and from there to Sydney.  We sat on the tarmac at Heathrow for nearly two hours whilst the plane’s wings were de-iced, which then made it about a 14 hour trip in all to get to KL.  It was my first long haul flight and, after struggling up to the top deck, I thought I would never manage to sit still for that long.  But despite my fears the hostesses were wonderful and encouraged me to walk around the very tiny space near the stairs and then after a lovely meal, I stretched my seat out as low as it would go, swallowed a couple of sleeping tablets and turned on my headphones.
Luckily we flew through endless night and I had no idea of what time it was when we landed at Kuala Lumpur, but it was still night time and there was that lovely hot and humid air that tells you that you are somewhere tropical.  Next plane was not a Jumbo, but a much wider one and because I was in a wheelchair, I was boarded first.  I put my handbag down under my seat and went to try and understand the remote control that would move my seat, massage me, etc. etc.  Of course the minute I put it on, the seat mechanism got wrapped around my handbag and much to my chagrin, an engineer had to come on board and get it out again !  This caused somewhat of another delay and when my cross co-passengers boarded I found myself in the middle of a Visa Convention consisting mainly of Americans who were flying round the world courtesy of all my credit card payments !  The man next to me wanted to show me all the endless photos of his daughter’s wedding, so I just had to try the remote control again (with my handbag firmly on my lap) recline the seat and feign sleep for another eight hours.
I had no idea what day it was when we landed at Sydney, but Gemma drove me back to their house which they shared with about three other people and after dinner I retired to bed.  What I had not realised in my jet lagged state was that the bedroom had all the floor to ceiling windows wide open and just mesh to stop all the Ozzie hazards (spiders, scorpions, crocodiles, etc.) coming in to share the bed with you.  So at 5am when a bunch of kookaburras started up a dawn chorus, I shot up in bed thinking they were right there in the room ! I’d never heard anything like it !
Gemma and Ben had taken time off work and the next day we went on a driving trip round S.E. Australia. It felt to me like we had driven all around Australia as we did 6,000 km in 10 days taking in Ned Kelly country, Adelaide and the Barossa Valley (for a touch of wine tasting!) and then on to Melbourne.  From Melbourne we went all along the Great Ocean Road and then from there up the coast road and back to Sydney. Such amazing sights and sounds and, oh boy was it hot !  In the middle of the day in ‘the bush’ (which is composed of the most beautiful striations of red rocks and dust) it could reach nearly 45 degrees Centigrade, so we just had to get up early each morning at 5am and drive till it got too hot to go any further.  I can clearly remember the misty Murray River with its paddle steamers moored in the early morning swirling fog and acre after acre of vines growing for hundreds of miles on either side of the dead straight road undulating in the heat haze.  Every morning we would keep an eye out for the Golden M (MccDonalds) as it was the only place open that early for breakfast and I ate dozens of ‘pies’ in Ben’s search for the best one in Australia !
Pat had warned me not to buy any wine, but it was just too good not to purchase so maybe just one wouldn’t hurt so by the end of our trip we had bought a few dozen and, as the trunk was not air conditioned, poor Gemma had to sit in the back of the car trying to stop them all from toppling on to her as well as a few smelly cheeses that had seemed like a good idea at the time !  Getting the wine back to Ireland was a whole other story, but each one brought such amazing memories back of this spectacular place they call Australia, its friendly people and, despite the odds, my hip replacement survived it all !

apostles-on-the-great-ocean-road-2975
The Great Ocean Road

HOW TO COPE WITH WINTER WEATHER

Here in SW Ireland after a balmy autumn with hardly a drop of rain, we have suddenly been plunged into winter with icy frosts and wind straight from the Arctic and our local mountains are covered in snow. So I thought it timely to come up with suggestions as to how to cope with your RA and the cold.
It goes without saying that you should dress warmly, preferably with several layers as this traps and warms air between them from your body heat. Trousers and thick socks are fine for me, but if you wear skirts, then warm woolly tights will keep your legs snug. I have difficulty putting on socks if I am not near my bed and my sock-putter-oner so I tend to wear Ugg boots that don’t require any socks as they are full of sheep wool and can be pulled on easily. A word of warning though, Ugg boots come in the inside or outside variety and the former wont survive the latter !!
For outside a woolly hat, gloves or mittens. Gloves can also be layered to keep your sore hands really cozy, and a warm scarf can keep your neck and the bottom part of your face warm too ! I also have neoprene mittens which are brilliant and can be worn under gloves.
It’s really important in cold weather to keep hydrated or your system will rapidly cool down. So lots of water and possibly (like me) a hot port of an evening ! If possible try to drink warm water and apply this also to the outside of your body by lazing in a hot bath or swimming in a heated pool.
Swimming is excellent exercise and even if you have chronic pain it is vital to exercise in some manner. Walking at whatever pace you can manage is really good for you and if you have two enthusiastic dogs like me, give in to their pleading looks and get on outdoors for a stroll. I can’t walk very far after my two feet operations, but I try to go a couple of yards further each day. Also I find just getting round the house keeps me active or walking around the shopping mall when we go to Killarney.
Its really important to watch you don’t slip on icy pavements or drives. Get someone to put down salt on the ground where you walk most often and make sure you have good treads on your supportive footwear. I have Fell walking boots that lace up around my ankles. Difficult to get in or out of without a lovely husband like mine, but well worth the effort.
I take Omega 3 and a Glucosamine-Chondroitin supplement daily which seem to help me, and certainly cannot harm. Everyone is always full of helpful advice as to what supplements to take, but I think different things work for different people and if a supplement seems to help, then take it.
Finally there is a lot of debate as to whether people with RA (or even just arthritis) can foretell if a cold spell is coming – something to do with barometric pressure – that will set off a flare up. I definitely ‘feel it in my joints’ when the weather is about to change. The best advice I can give you on this is to immediately book a long holiday somewhere warm where you can laze in the sun, drink long cool drinks and swim off the beach in warm water – and, oh yes, a stroll down the beach at the water’s edge with your feet in the warm sand will do you a power of good as well ! DSCF1259.JPG4 mile beach – Port Douglas, Far North Queensland.