Posts Tagged ‘health’


I recently volunteered to fill in a survey by staff at Manchester Metropolitan – the basic question was ‘How do I feel about the current lockdown situation’. There were questions about home, community, relationships, health and activities included in the survey. The purpose was to create a record of the lockdown from a human, nationwide perspective. I thought it would be good for me too, to record these things for later, so that when I look back, I might remember and understand what I was thinking, doing and experiencing during these unusual times.

I have therefore saved the answers I provided for the survey and have now edited and arranged them here, for my blog.

The lockdown has changed the way we live, at least temporarily. There is much talk of a ‘new normal’ just now, but what that new normal is, remains to be seen. Only time will tell.

The virus.

The virus crept up on us very slowly – at first it was ‘just’ another thing that was infecting China, and then a wider area of S.E. Asia. By the time it reached Europe and Italy decided to lockdown, we began to see unimaginable numbers of people infected and increasing death counts. Sharon and I were in Spain as this began to unfold, but we were lucky enough to have planned our return to the U.K. before Spain was put into emergency measures.

We noticed very quickly that some early measures were being put in place: e.g. on a visit to a consultant in Rochdale in late February, I was asked if I had come back from Europe within the last 14 days. I had, but Spain was (apparently, at that time) okay. My mother is in a care home suffering from dementia and luckily, they saw the potential for disaster quite some time before our government’s isolation measures were introduced and they banned all visits to the care home at least one week before the U.K. was put into lockdown.


Sharon and I started to self-isolate a week early because we had been with a group of friends’ mid-March and because Betony was due to give birth imminently.

The lockdown, and the fear that came with it (by now the news media had ramped up their facts, figures and warnings) changed life considerably. If we were regarded as vulnerable, over 70 or simply scared, we were not to leave the house for 12 weeks. Others should self-isolate and, if they had symptoms, they should stay inside for 14 days. As I write this early in June, I have friends who, because they fit the vulnerable or over-70 categories, haven’t left their homes for over 11 weeks.

At this point I stopped using public transport and used my once-a-day exercise period to explore the local countryside. Sharon rarely left the house as Betony was expecting her second child at any time (he was eventually born 14th April) and didn’t want to get infected as she was to be the carer for Chester (#1 child) while Betony was confined.  This itself was different to any time prior. Previously, it would have been a grand family occasion and the father could have stayed with his wife throughout – but not this time, Josh had to wait in a car park (around midnight) until called. He only just made it back inside to be there when Hunter was born. He’s now over six weeks old and thriving.

Because of the self-isolation none of us were able to visit family. This has been especially difficult for my 92-year-old father. His inability to see his wife, my mum, in the care home has led to his complete mental breakdown.  He used to visit her twice a week but now cannot. He has said that it is much harder for him to accept than if she had died. He has had tremendous difficulty with accepting or understanding the situation that the country is in. For example, he was very surprised to find, during week nine of the lockdown, that his doctors were closed and that he could not enter the surgery. He phoned to tell me this and I had to remind him that most shops were also closed as well as all the pubs and all the cafes he might normally visit.


The small town I live in is usually a bustling, busy semi-industrial place that we call a village and during the first months of lockdown it became a wonderfully quiet place to live. The six or so real-ale pubs, the six or so coffee-bar/cafes and two Indian restaurants all closed. All the take-away shops stayed open but other than those, the hub of the village became a well-placed Aldi and the village Co-op. People queued around Aldi and along the road from the Co-op patiently, waiting for their time to be allowed entry. Two metres (or six feet) apart became the norm and even now, after eleven weeks, this distance is fairly well, but not universally, observed. Numbers inside the shops were limited too, something which even the take away shops adhered to.

During the last three to four weeks, the roads in and around the village have become much busier. Some shops have begun to re-open; one Indian Restaurant has opened for take away meals (although there are three other Indian take away’s in the village), the burger shop has re-opened and does deliveries now. More and more people are using the chance to buy hot cooked food and have begun to enjoy eating it al fresco along the canal side** and on other grassy areas roundabouts.


We live in West Yorkshire, in a village nestled into the eastern Pennines. The countryside around us is beautiful, especially during this magnificent springtime. It has been a delight to watch the trees unfold, the meadows to bloom and the blossom to come and go. There are signs just now of summer; the brighter colours of spring are now beginning to turn to deeper shades. Our village is in a valley, so there are hills all around. What’s more, it is an old industrial mill-town through which both railway and Industrial Revolution canal pass.

The canal has become a pedestrian walking/cycling motorway over the weeks of lockdown, especially during the many bank holidays we seem to have had.

Home life.

At home, very little has changed. Sharon’s work has become more intense but as she works from home, online, over 22 hours per week, she has been able to spread much of that work out. She is the course manager for a company offering online Access Courses.  Much of her normal work has had to be postponed because of the changes required by awarding bodies, for those wanting to start university this autumn. My own (average 1hr per day) online work has been furloughed until the end of June. We have both been fine.


Not being able to see my father has led to problems, but my mother remains well cared for as before. I’ve kept in telephone contact with my own grown up children but still have Easter gifts we were unable to deliver for my grandchildren. I’ve made a point of calling retired or furloughed friends on the phone to see how they are doing, or passing by the end of their garden for a socially distanced chat. Other friends and I have regularly exchanged funny pictures, jokes and videos – all have helped me to stay sane.

Typical day.

There hasn’t really been a typical day in lockdown – perhaps a series of ‘differently’ typical days. One day for example, I started making a loaf of bread* at 07:00am and while that was proving I completed my ablutions before going to Aldi for some essentials. After that and while the bread baked, I read a little, did some quizzes and games (brain games) on my iPad, checked my emails and looked on Facebook. I am also following a Duolingo course, learning Spanish – it only takes up 15-20 minutes a day and my progress is slow, but I am enjoying it.

Lunch that day was a sandwich made with two slices of the newly baked bread and some left-over chicken pate. After lunch, I got out my jigsaw board and spent an hour or so working on that. About 15:00pm Sharon and I went out for a walk. The weather was gorgeous and we set off along the canal westwards, before heading up the hill (right up), and back around the other side of the village. We were out maybe 75-90 minutes. When we got back I made some fresh pasta (110g strong flour, 1 egg and a dessert spoon of pesto) for tea. To go with this, I’d defrosted some spicy tomato sauce which I’d made earlier in lockdown.

After our evening meal, as it was Saturday, we logged on to a Zoom-quiz hosted by a friend at 20:00pm.  He has up to 16 participants each week from all over the world. I also host a quiz for friends on Wednesday evenings – just six couples (which means we have to have 2 x Zoom sessions to overcome their 40-minute limit on free accounts).

* I suppose these activities haven’t really been new. Baking bread for example, I’ve done it before, but as we’re blessed locally with a superb artisan bakery I haven’t needed to bake for years. During lockdown however, I have perfected both my white and my brown bread skills. I thoroughly enjoy the kneading, the proving and the baking – it’s so rewarding. To do this I had to buy 16k of flour online as all the supermarkets were sold out. I’ve also spent the odd day bulk cooking, for the freezer, so that more of the other days can be enjoyed, rather than be spent preparing meals. Finding yeast became an issue, but I found some at a local farm shop.


At other times, we’ve spent the evenings watching some of the theatre productions put out by various companies: Andrew Lloyd Weber, The National Theatre etc. YouTube has been a revelation! We’ve also started (and are presently 3/10ths of the way though) the entire series of Friends. We now have a login to Disney and have begun to watch the Star Wars films in order as well as The Marvel series (in some kind of order). We’ve finished watching the most recent series of Bosch and Outlander on Prime and the occasional film on Netflix.


I see myself as healthy, for my age (68). I am fairly fit, my walks involve distance (although not as far as pre-lockdown, because of the necessary solitariness), hill climbs (which have improved my recovery time) and regularity. I now walk more miles per week than pre-lockdown. I stopped eating fatty snacks EVERY day after a few weeks of lockdown and feel better for that. My own treatments have not been affected but those of my father have been.

Just before lockdown I went with him (he’s 92), to his doctors, and two hospital appointments were made as a result. One was exploratory and the other was to update his hearing aids as he is quite deaf.  Both were cancelled, so now over three months later, he still cannot hear and has still not been diagnosed.              



Remembering lockdown.

The thing I hope to remember the lockdown by will be the wonderful weather we have experienced. The trees going through their leaf-growing process during April, their unfurled colours in May, along with the spring flowers burgeoning throughout. And all the walks. Wonderful.

The thing I want to forget. My father’s suicidal deterioration.


Picture Credit. Not sure to whom the b/w photo belongs. All credit to them for that. Others, my own.

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I’ve recently been suffering from man-flu. But please don’t worry, I’m getting better now (if only very slowly) 😉

Whilst in the throes of suffering, I managed to add a comment to a blog, which on reflection, might have left the blog owner scratching her head. Sorry Liz.

Nevertheless, the subject is one close to my heart.

I’d written: “...when manufacturers say that bread is wholesome they are being disingenuous, as is not entirely true. The mass manufacture of bread has changed so much in my lifetime that it now contains twice the amount of fat that it used to – or needs.

To clarify – around 80% of all bread bought in Britain today is made using the Chorleywood Bread Process (CBP). Compared to the more traditional bulk fermentation process CBP allows manufacturers to use cheaper wheat, bake the bread in half the time and reduce costs overall. The result is a much softer product. To work, CBP needs more yeast, more fat (solid fat, which until recently was hydrogenated vegetable fat) and chemical ‘improvers’. Don’t try to replicate this at home!

The research bakers at Chorleywood discovered that by adding hard fats, extra yeast and a number of chemicals and then mixing at high speed you got a dough that was ready to bake in a fraction of the time it normally took.BBC

So what’s the problem? Cheaper bread with a softer texture is always readily available and it lasts for over week!

Well, one thing is that the high speed steel milling of the wheat enables the resulting flour to take on more water, but it also removes much of the nutritive value. It is suggested that around half of a modern loaf is water. More worrying is the fact that hard fats are used to support the structure of the dough that would normally be supported by developed gluten strands in the traditional bulk fermentation process (do try this at home). Chemically, these are the same hard fats that are proven to cause heart disease.

The extra yeast is also thought to cause problems with the human body: thrush, irritable bowel syndrome and various yeast intolerances are cited.

Furthermore, I would concur with this opinion:

In fact, in my not-so-humble opinion, it more closely resembles expanded polystyrene than bread” by John Maidment

If the bread you eat forms a sticky ‘cack’ in the roof of your mouth – no matter how old the loaf is (it could be anything other than a loaf too) – you’re eating a Chorleywood product and it could be the reason you feel less well than you should.

Of course, there are counter arguments, which I acknowledge but pay little credence to.

If you like bread, bake your own or find a traditional baker. It makes taste sense and it make health sense. The local ‘traditional’ baker might seem more expensive, but a) you’ll need to eat less of it and b) what price do you put on your health?

Sites used:

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This second post concludes that posted on January 9th [link]. WARNING – this post is much longer!

Following my consultation I began the usual wait for things to happen at my local healthcare authority. During the waiting time, Nexium seemed to have worked, lower-bowel discomfort was reduced and I’d begun to forget all about the procedure discussed. Then just before Christmas (which I survived without any digestive distress) the appointment dropped on the mat for January 6th 2011.

The preparation
Instructions provided by the hospital are full and sufficient. They required me to eat a particular diet on day one, a mainly liquid diet on day two and to undertake the procedure on day three. The instructions comprehensively explain how the procedure will work and what to expect before, during and after the x-ray. So a rare well done to Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Healthcare Trust.

Basically, the bowel has to be as clean as possible for the procedure to work. For whatever reason, I had to have 2 slices of white bread toast for breakfast ‘with a scrape of butter’ on both days one and two. I could have had egg instead, but the toast wasn’t far off of my normal routine. However, I usually have a dark, rich artisan-baked bread – and rarely eat the sticks-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth soft and pappy stuff.

Day one
For lunch on day one I could have any lean meat and mashed potatoes (there was a slightly wider choice, but given the fact the my evening meal could only be a lean meat, white pappy bread sandwich I opted to pop out to the local butcher and buy some calves’ liver). As I was forbidden to drink anything other than ‘clear’ drinks now, I had a cup of oxo with my dinner, which also became the gravy for my calves’ liver and mashed potatoes. Actually? Lovely!

The clear drinks included orange juice without bits, tea without milk – although ‘a dash of milk’ was allowed with breakfast on days one and two; marmite, oxo, Bovril or water. I also had to drink approximately half a pint (250ml) of such liquid every hour. EVERY HOUR! I know that we should all drink about 2ltrs of water per day but who does that? Who can? Most of my daily liquid intake is tea and I couldn’t drink much of that as I like milk in my tea (I did get a taste for Rooibos with honey though). So the odd cup of oxo and Rooibos had to suffice as hot drinks.

Coffee might also have been on the list but as coffee is a major contributor to Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), I thought it best to avoid. I do enjoy coffee though and am usually prepared to put up with any resulting discomfort provided it’s a good brew – see: http://eduvel.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/good-coffee/. But not at this time.

The sheer quantity of liquid I had to drink affected my voice for a few days and although my throat wasn’t sore, it was distinctly ‘unusual’. However, I dared not drink less than advised, as I knew what was to come on day two.

Day two
On day two there are two very important drinks to have: the first at 8.00am and the second at 2.00pm. The packet says that the drinks are ‘powerful laxatives’ and well, they are POWERFUL LAXATIVES! By now the reduced diet on day one and liquid-only diet of day two made so much sense. The frequency of toilet visits was not unlike having severe bouts of diarrhea but without the pain and discomfort. Also, because this was enforced evacuation, rather than the result of any illness, my urinary system continued to work too. So although I’d dreaded this middle day, it wasn’t half as bad as I’d imagined. By bedtime I felt that I had enough control of my bodily functions to sleep soundly – which I did.

Day three
Come the day, I had what I could manage of drinks and still contrived to be the first in line at the hospital’s x-ray department. I changed into a hospital gown and was taken into the x-ray room. Here, I met three people. The lady in charge, a young male radiographer and a young female nurse training I think to be a radiographer. They were as polite and respectful as you would hope to expect when faced with a patient about to undergo a series of indignities.

The first indignity is the gown itself. I know why there’s no backside in it, but it doesn’t help you to stand up straight and proud.

The next indignity comes when the senior radiographer (the lady in charge – SR) asks the others, just after you have laid on the x-ray bed and bared your backside “has anyone seen the KY Jelly?” (That made me giggle). The whole procedure was actually made more relaxing by SR’s comments: “I’m just going to apply a little gel, it might be cold” and “I’m just going to insert the tube, it might be a little uncomfortable” etc. In fact none of that was too traumatic at all, certainly much easier than a doctor’s probings! Neither was it uncomfortable as the liquid was run into my bowel. At each stage, I was told what was going to happen and what it might feel like. So far, nothing was disturbing at all.

She then said that she would start to add the air and that this “might give me tummy ache, but it was unavoidable and it wouldn’t last long” – which was reassuring. The first injections of air were no trouble at all but as the procedure went along it did get a little uncomfortable. Despite having a tube up my bum (“I’m just going to tape this in place”) I was asked to turn this way and that for about ten to fifteen minutes as SR took the various x-rays of my bowel. At one point, the table I was laid on was tilted upright and I was hanging on to the bed in much the same way as I used to hang on to roller coaster cars! At each turn more air is pumped in and only when I thought that I couldn’t possibly take any more did the procedure finish. The most uncomfortable time on the table was at that point, as the procedure finished – because of the amount of air that I was holding inside me.

Nevertheless, nothing had been half as bad as I had thought it might be.

I was escorted out of the room now for the final indignity of being shown to the toilet and being told to spend 5-10 minutes getting rid of as much liquid and air as I could. The first flush (sorry – not intended as a pun) is a big one, but there is still plenty of barium liquid and air trapped around folds and bends of the bowel. As the bowel wall begins to work again (I had been given an injection of Buscopan – http://www.patient.co.uk/medicine/Hyoscine-butylbromide.htm – to relax the bowel wall as the air was added to it) the air’s journey is inexorable as it attempts to find a way out. This led to the only real discomfort I experienced during the entire day.

I was now allowed to eat and drink normally, so my starved stomach was able to pass the omelette through to my small intestine pretty quickly. I left the hospital about 11.20am and by 2.00pm I was in agony. The air was now being compressed between my lunchtime food as peristalsis pushed it down into the bends and folds which were preventing any urgent or worthwhile exit strategy (although there were one or two occasions). Basically, I had to go to bed and lie down for almost four hours to allow the discomfort (gurgling etc.) to pass. And it did pass. By 6.00pm I was fine – and have been since.

So that’s it. Don’t worry about the procedure, lie back and think of England – but don’t plan on going back to work afterwards, you’ll need to relax your tummy! 🙂

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I’ve written this post in the hope that its content can help others. This piece and the next (part 2) refer to my personal experience of the title procedure. Anyone not interested in understanding the process should back off now. It is fairly graphic (in as polite a way as the subject allows)!

First of all, this was not an urgent or emergency procedure for me.

Once you get past fifty, your body begins to play tricks on you. Bits you’ve always sworn by, relied upon and learned to trust, begin to let you down. It’s a very slow process, which even though expected (and remorseless) tends to creep up on you. It could start with your eyesight – just small changes reported at each visit to the optician or it could be your memory. You don’t worry too much about this because your friends and peers say that they are just the same: Things like ‘I’d forget my own head if it wasn’t screwed on’! But these things don’t come in series, the come in parallel (old school physics!).

I still consider myself to be reasonably fit, maybe not as fit as some contemporaries, but far fitter than many others. Nevertheless, one of the things to change over time has been the way in which my digestive system has worked. Whereas at one time I could and would eat anything, I now have to be quite careful about many foodstuffs. For example, raw onions at an Indian restaurant used to be a delight, as were the many curry flavours – but now raw onions are ‘out’ along with all take-aways and most Indian restaurants. Some restaurants seem to be ok and all home-cooked curries are ok but there has to be a little thought about what I eat these days.

The problem
It seems that I’ve suffered from acid reflux for a number of years. Initially, I’d thought it was a persistent sore throat and I have had all the tests (just the beginning of a long series of indignities that await folks who have gone fifty). But I’d resisted that label because my symptoms didn’t fit the norm. Basic Message here: beware of ‘the norm’. The doctor eventually put me on Lansoprazole http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lansoprazole and told me I’d have to take those for the rest of my life. I’ve therefore tried hard to find ways NOT to take those for the rest of my life! As time went by I began to develop what I thought was IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irritable_bowel_syndrome) – this remains unconfirmed, currently. I eventually visited a (second) consultant who suggested that I was both blessed and beggared. Blessed, because I understood the workings of my body (I’d enjoyed all of my school biology lessons and taught Digestion for many years) and beggared because I was more aware of my body than most. He also said that the Lansoprazole could be partly responsible for the discomfort and therefore prescribed Nexium http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esomeprazole.

After a long consultation he suggested that there was noting seriously wrong with me but if he were to offer more in-depth investigation of either the top half of my digestive system or the bottom (pun not intended) – which would I have. I elected to have further investigation of my bowel for two reasons: 1) it was a relatively new complaint for me and 2) everyone over fifty should have their colon inspected as a preventative measure. I’d previously avoided it and decided now to take up the offer.

The next post will look at the procedure itself.

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