SPRING IS SPRUNG !

Here in SW Ireland it is suddenly Spring and the sun is shining down into all those corners where cobwebs lurk and muddy doggie paw prints adorn the floor ! The rescue cats, Roobarb & Custard are living off a diet of baby rabbits, or sitting below the bird table waiting for one to fall off !  Cooper our labrador has discovered the delights of any muddy puddle he can find and has taken to sitting down in the small pond we pass on our morning walk.  I think he likes the cold water effect on his poorly knee and this week on our way to get Pat out of plaster, we have to take Cooper to the vet first too have his knee replacement !  Nothing like having everything happen at once is there ?!
I have sneakily asked my son Mark to visit us from Germany for 10 days to help cope with Himself and the dog as I foresee lots of lifting coming up, so he flies in tomorrow to Kerry airport from Frankfurt Hahn and Mum here has to go and pick him up.  Also I suggested to Pat that he could probably hoover whilst sitting in the Power Chair and this has proved relatively successful, so much so that he combined it with dusting everything he could reach up to waist level – so we are halfway there !
The nicest thing I have to report is that my Word for iMac code eventually arrived and I achieved its ‘Easy Download’ after lots of swearing and pressing buttons.  I then shut my eyes, put in the pen drive with my book on and did lots of praying ! Much to my relief it downloaded, pictures and all,  so caught up in the Springtime fever I wrote an astonishing letter to a Publisher and posted it off ! We shall see how that transpires.
When I wrote my last book ( in 1989 and pre. RD diagnoses!! ) I had to do lots of TV, radio and other such promotions, including The Late Late Show, so it has slightly caused me to wonder how I would cope with all that and my RD – doesn’t bear thinking about !  Writing a book leads to all kinds of other work, sometimes even paid work !  I can distinctly remember being asked by the World Wildlife Fund to travel to the Shetland Islands to write an article on Otter Conservation, along with journalists from The Times, The Telegraph and several others ! I had to fly to London, then to Aberdeen and thence to the Shetlands in the middle of winter.  Luckily I had taken one of Pat’s survival suits with me so I was the only one properly dressed.  I just recorded the answers to the questions asked by the other journalists, so I managed to scrape by, though we never saw a sign of an otter, except a dead one that they took out of a freezer which was waiting transportation to Aberdeen University and looked nothing like the real thing.  How do I know that ? Well, we have otters in the stream at the bottom of our garden, though I never mentioned that at the time !! Happy Days !
My RD has taken a pounding over the last few weeks and in desperation I went to my GP and asked for help. He has slightly changed my medication (from Cataflam to Arcoxia) and the difference in pain levels is remarkable. I actually feel much less sore, though I am still on the Humira and Methotrexate.  I’m trying to rest for an hour each afternoon, but the advent of Spring has tempted me outside and I’ve now got a sore back from trying to do some weeding! Such is Life and I’m wondering if Mark will remember how to weed after living in Germany for so long – let’s hope so !!

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Our garden in Springtime !

LATE AGAIN !!

Here I am, at last, late again for publishing my Blog – for which, many apologies. I really have had the most hectic week with Himself in plaster and whizzing about in my Power Chair and generally improving, so I decided that the moment had come to get my second book “Butterfly Summer” out to some publishers.
It was sitting, almost finished except for the index, on my old IMac in a publishing file called IWeb. Never heard of that – well, neither had Apple ! I actually started writing it in 2005 and finished it (almost) in 2006, just before I got my Hip Replacement. This and following numerous operations for my Rheumatoid Arthritis took up the next ten years of my life and were not conducive to writing books ! So now I am two years after my last foot operation and getting on with my Blog, I thought to myself “why not finish it” and get it out to some publishers ? Little did I know that in the intervening years, Apple had got rid of IWeb and not replaced it with anything else. The app only gives you the choice of putting it on line (which has now gone!) or publishing it to a folder. Hooray I thought, I’ll do that. A million (slight exaggeration ) tries later, I still could not get it to move the files and the photos – of which there are many – to a flash drive so as to put it on my new IMac for final editing.
These attempts, (combined with much swearing and cursing), eventually worked, but I tried so often that I can’t remember how I did eventually do it !! So then I put the flash drive into my new iMac and it put all the words in a sort of porridge-like confusion into Pages, with no photos, of course !
What to do ? My new IMac doesn’t have Microsoft Word for Mac which the old computer did have and which I had managed to put the contents of the flash drive on. So I rang up Apple and ordered the new Microsoft Word for Mac for €150 and they told me the relevant download codes would be emailed to me. Wonderful, I thought. No email arrived, but a Shipping Order to say they had shipped it to me. Why ship a code which will take at least a week, when it could be emailed I asked another kindly soul at Apple through gritted teeth ? Well, it’s because it’s Microsoft and Apple don’t like each other and refuse to email it apparently, so I still haven’t got the download codes as I’m waiting for UPS to deliver them – though it has got as far as Dublin they tell me ……… only another 300 miles to go !!
So with all this going on I didn’t write my Blog. I didn’t even finish writing the index to my book as I can’t be bothered to try and remember how to put it on the flash drive….. who needs an index anyway ? I’m downhearted and fed up with the whole shooting match and I still have to find all the photos and download them separately on to my flash drive…Gggrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr !
Mind you it has taken my mind off my RA which is a plus !
Hopefully back to normal next week……..

WILL YOU BE MY VALENTINE ??

As it comes round again, I think I am getting too old for Valentine’s Day as the pink and glitter scream at us from every shop and magazine.  I can remember back to when it really mattered to me if I got a Valentine card or not, but now I know my dearest husband will always give me one.  Even when he was away abroad the florist would drive all the way out to our house with a wonderful bouquet of flowers from him !  This year he’s already bought me a vast arrangement of roses which he had to give me yesterday as otherwise they would be dead by Tuesday and, no doubt, a card will materialise on the day. So why am I complaining ??
I was interested to find out something about St. Valentine and why over 1 BILLIONs cards are sent on this day each year and 20 BILLION dollars spent on roses and gifts. Just who was this guy St. Valentine ?
Well even that question has a number of answers. The front runner seems to be a Roman priest that married people in secret as Emperor Claudius 11 had decreed it was better to be single !  When Valentine was caught he was hung, drawn and quartered and then his head cut off (just to make sure he was dead !) in AD 270.
There were several other Valentines between the 2nd and eighth centuries AD, but the most recent was a Spaniard of the Dominican Order who was Bishop of Vietnam until 1861 when he too got his head chopped off !  There was also a Pope Valentine, but he only lasted 40 days in AD 827 when he died !
Then just to confuse matters even further the Catholic Church discontinued liturgical veneration of him in 1969, but did that stop Valentine’s Day – no Sir !  In olden days Valentine had a wide range of responsibilities including, of course, to watch over the lives of lovers. But he also was called upon by bee-keepers and epileptics, as well as the plague, fainting and travelling.
The day could also have something to do with birds as it was long thought that birds came together to mate on February 14th, so why not people as well ?!  If you would rather choose your mate on another date, there is always the female St. Valentina, a virgin martyred in Palestine on July 25th, AD 308 or St. Valentine of Viterbi on November 3rd.  The Eastern Orthodox Church officially celebrates St. Valentine twice, as an elder of the Church on July 6th and as a martyr on July 30th.
Take your pick, but I wouldn’t recommend you calling your child Valentine as they all seem to have come to a rather gruesome ending though the name comes from the Latin Valentinus which means worthy, strong and powerful.
Perhaps, also, this is not the time to mention Al Capone and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?  I shall just leave you all to your thoughts of love and hope you don’t get smitten by the plague on the 14th and I shall take myself off to make a glittery pink card for my lovely husband !
To end with I should also mention that if any of you plan to visit my home, Ireland on holiday – in 1835 an Irish Carmelite priest used his Irish charm to convince Pope Gregory XVI to dig up St. Valentine’s remains and brought them to Ireland where he is buried under a Dublin church so we have him all to ourselves !

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HAVE DOG – WILL TRAVEL !

Cooper, our black labrador, was born and raised for two years in Cronulla, which is a suburb of Sydney.  Our son in law named him after the Ozzie beer and we were first introduced to him when Ben and Gemma got married up in Port Douglas, Queensland. Shortly thereafter they moved up North to Port Douglas, dogs and all.  On our various visits there we loved it but observed that Cooper wasn’t coping well with the tropical heat. He wasn’t allowed to swim in the pool and the various lakes and streams surrounding the area had their fare share of resident crocodiles – so no joy there.  He loved the beach and splashed and swam to his heart’s content, but then had to be hosed down to get the salt off his skin – all of which he relished in a way only labradors can !  But the heat was a definite problem.
Eventually we managed to persuade Gemma to let us adopt him and she would get another Multipoo (a tiny white ball of fluff with an enormous personality !) in his place.  So we took Cooper down to Cairns and got his rabies shot ready for his long haul to the other side of the world.  The vet told us that he couldn’t travel for six months after the shot so as we would not be in Australia then, we arranged for a dog travelling company to pick him up from Gemma after six months and do all the necessary travel arrangements to bring him door-to-door to us in SW Ireland.
A WARNING here. Doggie travel is extremely expensive —- think First Class Return to Australia- air- ticket -type expensive!  There is lots of paperwork and as Ireland and Australia are both rabies free, the plane touches down at Singapore and that is not !
Things started to go wrong when the Doggie Company picked him up a month too early. No worries they said and flew him down from Cairns to Sydney.  International flights at Sydney said no way could he travel, so poor Cooper was sitting in a crate in Sydney airport waiting to be rescued !  Ben’s brilliant parents who lived in Sydney rushed to the airport and took him home to their house for a month and completely fell in love with him !  As they couldn’t keep him, after he was collected for the second time and flown to Singapore, they got a black lab puppy of their own !
So Cooper was put back in the crate, flown to Singapore and from there to London and four days later he arrived at our house looking very fed up and with only water to drink as they don’t feed them en route, despite the fortune you are being charged !  He came into our large garden, spotted the stream, looked in either direction for passing crocodiles, (of which there were none), and launched himself in with wild abandon.  He even just stood there whilst we hosed him down with extremely cold water and he has loved it ever since.
Five years have passed since that arrival day and him and Spottie ( our lurcher ) are the best of friends. Cooper is seven now and has a touch of arthritis in his back knee so he and me console each other. As we both feel less sore in the mornings, he goes for his crocodile free walk every day with us and his favourite thing is to roll in cold, wet grass – though I pass on this !!  His arthritis has improved a bit with a change of diet to expensive food containing Chrondoitin & Glucosamine, which I take as well (the supplements, not the dog biscuits !) and when evening comes and we are both feeling a bit sore, he lies in front of the radiator in my bedroom and watches TV with me.
It was definitely the best thing we ever did bringing Cooper over from Australia. He has found a best friend in Spottie and we have found a friend for life !

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Cooper !

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 !

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The Great Ocean Road

FEELING FATIGUED ??

I’ve just come back from my six-monthly visit to my Rheumatologist in Dublin and am still exhausted ! Pat and I went up on the train because I get free train travel for me and my ‘carer’ and rather rashly, I decided to do the whole trip up and back in one day!   Going up meant having to get up at 5.30am and it is a 3 hour journey to Dublin on a reasonably comfortable train – that is, it would have been if I did not have a very large person sitting next to me squashing me against the window !
The visit to the doctor went fine and she was well pleased with my lack of inflammation, so feeling full of good cheer we went and had a long chatty lunch with an old schoolfriend of mine and her husband. Two glasses of wine later came the time to get in the cab to go back to the station and, ignoring Pat’s advice to sit in the front, I got stuck half in and half out of the back of the taxi !  Never mind, two stout men to push and pull me and out I popped to sit feeling very foolish in the front. Memo to self: Take note of what Husband is saying in future !
By the time we got home I was exhausted and that Perfect Husband of mine was saying “I told you we should stop the night in Dublin” but I was too tired and sore to care and it’s taken another two days to get myself back to Square One !
On the way back down I was contemplating to myself ways to save energy – some of which I already do and some of which I really should do, so my Blog this week is all about ways to avoid feeling so exhausted.
– Food shop on line. This must be possible for all of you, because here in the remoter parts of the South West of Ireland, even I can do this. Keep a running list of groceries and order at the end of the week. Not only (for a few euros) will they deliver, but they carry it all into the kitchen for me, so no more having to haul heavy bags.
– You can also shop on line for gifts or gift vouchers for your relatives, saving the need to trudge around the shops getting more and more cross and exhausted. I pride myself on being a canny on line shopper and even got a heated cat basket for my rescue cat the other day !
– Line the bottom of your oven with one of those brilliant nonstick oven sheets that you can cut to size and rinse under the tap. This is especially useful if you can’t bend down far enough to wipe up spills !
– Cut back on ironing by spraying creased items with water and then pop them back in the tumble drier.  I never iron on principle.  If my husband wants an ironed shirt, he has to do it himself !
– Only ever clean one room a day. Set a timer for 30 minutes and when it rings, stop. If you haven’t finished, do it the next day. After all, who is going to inspect it ? I often worry that my kitchen/hall/livingroom are not tidy enough and have to remind myself sternly that it really doesn’t matter.  But then I am lucky to have my ‘secret weapon’ Pat who thinks housework is ‘fun’ – Yes Really !  I suppose it’s because he hasn’t done any before and the novelty hasn’t worn off yet !!

Next week I am going to give you all some tips on keeping healthy – but be aware that these are coming from someone who hasn’t quite started her New Year’s Resolutions yet – after all, there were all those left over mince pies and Christmas puddings etc. that needed eating up before they went off !  I am doing the walking each day, but I don’t think it counts if you are just trying to walk off the scrumptious dinner from the night before…….!

THE IDEAL HUSBAND

I definitely have the Ideal Husband and no, you can’t have him ! After 43 years of marriage I can say this with confidence, although it was not the ‘normal’ kind of wedded bliss that I had been expecting. For starters, within a few years of getting married, we moved lock, stock and a barrel-shaped me (pregnant with my daughter Gemma) to the South West of Ireland and shortly after she was born he left to work on an oil rig in the North Sea rotating a month on/a month off, so he was only at home six months of the year. In the meantime I had to cope with three small children, one enormous dog, two calves, four goats, two sheep and numerous chickens and ducks with the nearest shop 14 miles away ! Thank goodness I had no symptoms of my Rheumatoid Arthritis then – or maybe I did, but just didn’t have the time to think about it !
So my Ideal Husband came and went in and out of our lives, though when he was there he crammed all the jobs normally needed to be done over eight weeks, into four. He chopped wood, milked cows, took the goats (in our car!) to the Billy for you-know-what, built chicken coops and sheared sheep and then returned for a well deserved rest to be boss of an oil rig in far off countries. I’m sure a few people got fired who didn’t deserve it!!
I was diagnosed in 2000 by which time my kids were aged 25,23 and 21 and had mostly left home, except for the odd crisis, such as being ditched by a boyfriend/girlfriend when they had to return to mother on a temporary basis till the dust settled again. By this time I saw even less of my man as he became a Drilling Superintendent and roamed from country to far off country working and no longer came home on a regular basis like before. Mind you, I really quite enjoyed being on my own at home because if I felt unwell I could just stay in bed or take my time over whatever jobs needed to be done.
However being on my own meant that whilst I had a hip replacement, gallstone removal, a knee replacement, two broken feet, a broken shoulder and a broken wrist plus a touch of skin cancer, he usually wasn’t there. Mind you he would always attempt to grab a few days home too make sure I was still breathing, but it wasn’t something you could rely on as, hey presto, he was gone again ! During these times of bad patches for me health wise I came to rely on my eldest son Jason and his wife Debbie more and more as they lived about 20 miles away and when I was good enough to go, off I went to visit Pat in whatever country he happened to be in ! I discovered that it was a simple matter to fly to anywhere with the help of the airlines and I got to visit amazing places around the world and meet amazing people.
If he was really busy on a job far out in the Sahara desert, for example, and I was post first foot operation, he paid for me and my girlfriend to go and visit my daughter Gemma living in Far North Queensland for six weeks and unfailingly phoned 3 times a day for an update on my progress ! My second foot operation coincided with the bottom dropping out of the oil industry at the end of 2014 so suddenly I had a full time husband at home – what a novelty after 42 years of marriage !! As I was in a wheelchair, apart from looking after me, he had to do all the cooking, all the housework and shopping which were all whole new experiences for this rough, tough oil man and, what is more, he took to it like a duck to water ! I stand in awe of his competence – he’s much better at household chores than I ever was!
The only thing he isn’t good at is gardening and as I am now not able to remove so much as a weed from our large garden, I got myself another man to do the gardening and he has saved the day. This paragon of all things green has proved himself invaluable and treats our garden as his own so I can thank my lucky stars that I now have two ideal men !!

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My lovely husband Pat !
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Our garden