Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Accident on the Motorway

I left the house a few minutes before quarter to six this morning.  I needed to be near Manchester Airport, sixty miles away, for a job working with medical students, by half past eight and I wanted to leave plenty of time.

Lovely quiet roads - - hardly any traffic - - so I made my way to the M621.  No traffic - - and then, as I passed it, a sign flashed on.  I thought it said something like "Junctions 25-26 Closed".  Nooooo!

Then, suddenly, stationary traffic.

I had the radio on and after the six o'clock news came the traffic report.  A lorry had overturned on the M62 and that part of the road was now closed and expected to be closed for some considerable time.  Traffic was building up in the area.

It certainly was.  We inched forward and it took an hour or so to get to the next junction, which was where all traffic had to leave the motorway as it was closed.

They had not had time to put up diversion signs and so all the traffic left the motorway and had no clue where to go next.

So I made a wild guess as to a suitable route, hoping the satnav would work it out eventually, and set off that way.

But, of course, so did many other people.  More stationary traffic.

By about half past seven I had gone another couple of miles and it was at this point that I realised that, even if the traffic jam cleared - which it was showing no signs of doing - I was going to get to Manchester very, very late as by the time I got to near Manchester I would be stuck in all the normal rush-hour traffic there.  I had set off early to avoid precisely this.

Then my leg began to get the feeling it gets when it's about to get cramp.  I had a thrombosis years ago in my right leg and one thing it doesn't like is stop-start driving in heavy traffic.  When I do get cramp in it it is like the worst pain imaginable the whole length of my leg and I can't do anything except yell a lot.

Then I saw a sign for Leeds.  I took a deep breath - it was a really big decision as I pride myself on my reliability - - and set off for home.

I got home at about quarter past eight.  Two and a half hours and a total of twenty miles.

I apologised to the person I was working with - who ran the class on his own and I'm sure it went really well - but I felt terrible.  I hate letting people down.  How unlucky, I thought.

Then I saw the report of the accident.  A lorry had hit a car and the two people in the car had been killed.  The accident was at ten to six.  I reached the motorway just a few minutes after that.  I was about five minutes behind the accident.

Suddenly I stopped feeling unlucky and started to feel really, really fortunate.


Monday, July 16, 2012

The Porridge Diet

Here's a poem by the late Goon, Spike Milligan:

Why is there no monument
To Porridge in our land?
It it's good enough to eat,
It's good enough to stand!

On a plinth in London
A statue we should see
Of Porridge made in Scotland
Signed, "Oatmeal, O.B.E."

I'm very fond of porridge.  I saw on telly that the cattle drovers in Scotland used to make themselves a big pot of porridge in the morning and it would give them enough energy to keep walking until the evening.  I have a memory that they put some of the cow's blood in it too in a kind of black pudding.

Anyway, it's good stuff, porridge, high in fibre, high in protein.

At the beginning of May, I went to the doctor and complained like mad that one type of my diabetes tablets, Metformin, made me feel queasy all the time, and the other kind, Gliclazide, made me so hungry that I would find myself looking at bits of furniture wondering whether I might gnaw on them if lunch was a bit late.

I had, therefore, piled on some weight because somehow the eat-everything-in-sight effects of the Gliclazide overrode the feeling-sick effects of the Metformin.

The overall effect was not good.  In spite of the swimming, I was gradually getting fatter AND feeling queasy almost all of the time.  And what is bad for diabetics?  Yes, being overweight.  Sighh.

So I said all this to the doctor.  And he said, to my amazement, that I should give up all the tablets and just see what I could do with diet and exercise.

So I have.  

Now then, nobody ever tells you  how much they weigh, do they?  They'll give you every sordid detail of their sex life but not their weight.  I'm bravely going to tell you mine.

My weight had soared to a positively slightly plump - - ohh all right then, FAT, thirteen stone three.  Not actually as fat as you might think even though I'm only little because I really do have the build of a Russian peasant - - broad shoulders!  But FAT.  

And now, in two and a half months, I am down to a very nearly sylph-like twelve and half stone.  (Yes, yes, okay, okay, not QUITE sylph-like - - but getting there!)  So I've lost about a pound a week and that's great - I hope it will continue.

I think my method is mostly down to porridge.

Every day I have a large bowl of porridge for breakfast.  Half a mug of oats, a whole mug of milk and an extra gloop of water.  Microwave for three minutes.  Add a handful of frozen raspberries, or sometimes a banana (okay, occasionally both!) and then microwave for another thirty seconds and sweeten with just a bit of Canderel or other artificial sweetener.  (Yes, eat your heart out, Jamie Oliver).

I'm being careful with the rest of my diet too, of course, and eating lots of fruit and veg - luckily I love all fruit and almost all veg! - but the filling properties of porridge really help.  

Perhaps I should expand this blog post into a book and hope for a Christmas best-seller.  Daphne's Porridge Diet.  You read it here first!

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Sea in the Rain

""Bring me sunshine" I wrote at the end of my last post - and to my surprise, the sunshine appeared.  Wednesday and Thursday were glorious, proper Tenby days and we went on a boat trip to sea some seals and then on another trip to Caldey Island and we did proper Tenbyish things such as swimming in the sea and it was all wonderful.

Yesterday we knew that the rain was forecast to return in the afternoon, but having had some good weather we didn't mind so much.  So in the morning we wandered round Tenby, revisiting our favourite places, and then in the afternoon Olli and I were determined to swim in the sea, rain or no rain.

"Mum," he said earlier in the week, "Why did you bring me up to enjoy swimming in freezing cold sea?"

I had no explanation, except that I love it.  So down we went to the beach.

The tide was far out and the sea was almost flat calm.  It began to drizzle slightly as we walked towards the sea.

The previous day, a huge number of moon jellyfish had appeared in the sea.  They are round and white, rather pretty, and vary in size from an inch or so to about six inches.  They don't sting people but it can be a bit unnerving to be jellyfished all over, as Olli had discovered the previous day.

Now there were dozens of them stranded on the beach and because I can't see very well, even with my prescription goggles, I kept treading on them with a rather unpleasant "pop - - squish".  I do appreciate that this was worse for the jellyfish than it was for me but it was a very strange feeling.

Into the sea we went and we were the only people on the whole of North Beach - we could see right to the harbour.  I wouldn't want to swim in an unknown place when we were the only ones in the sea, just in case there were hidden currents - - but North Beach is my "home patch", I have swum in it for years and years and if you're careful and don't do anything daft it's a really safe place to swim.

It's a Blue Flag beach (which means the water is really clean) and has a delightful view of the harbour to one side, the cliffs to the other.

The rain got heavier and heavier, but we didn't care, and stayed in, swimming and floating and looking at the view and the passing jellyfish until we began to get cold and thought we really should come out.

Olli is much thinner than I am so I knew he'd need to hurry up and get warm - - and also, let's face it, he's twenty-two and I'm fifty-five and he could climb the hundred and thirty-three steps rather faster than I could. (We'd usually go up the zig-zag cliff path, which is in a beautiful setting in a kind of near-vertical forest, but it would have been too slippery.)

So on he went ahead.  I dawdled along the beach in the heavy rain in my swimsuit and goggles with a very wet towel round me, and I thought well, I can't get ANY WETTER so I can take my time.  I found an interesting piece of driftwood, which I brought home, and I found a very strange sea creature which I'm still trying to identify - a kind of sea anemone is my best guess.

I was the only person on the beach, and it was tipping down, and I was meandering along, doing my best not to squish the jellyfish, and I was as happy as could be.

As I came up the steps and approached Park Hotel, I thought I'd like to swim some more, in their delightful open-air pool.

Steam was coming off the pool, in the rain.  Olli was already in the water.  My mother had been swimming and was just getting out.  Clearly, whatever it is that makes me love this kind of thing so much, it has travelled down the generations.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Pembrokeshire Monsoon

Tenby weather. Sparkling sunshine on a blue, blue sea in the early mornings. Long, hot afternoons in and out of the ocean. Sun-reddened skin. Sunhats. Sand in everything. Ice creams. Golden evening light on the harbour.

And so it has been for the past forty-seven years. Okay, we've had the occasional drizzly afternoon. Sometimes a rainy evening. But always – always! - the knowledge that there'll be sunshine to come.

Not this week, though. This week is a different Tenby. Our hotel is on top of the cliff and we're up in the clouds. Or perhaps it's just mist. Certainly, the glorious view of the harbour seems to have been removed. It has rained so much that apparently there is 95% humidity. You can't tell where the sea ends and the sky begins.

Out on the horizon we can usually see the big rocky outcrops on the Gower Peninsula, Worms Head, where I spent a delightful – and gloriously sunny - day with Silverback a couple of years ago.

This year, we haven't seen Worms Head all week. Our usual beautiful coastal walks are still walkable – just – but there's lots and lots of mud.

Stephen pointed out to me today that there was nothing to stop me swimming in the sea. So off we went, down the zigzag cliff path to the sea. I have been up and down that path hundreds and hundreds of times over the years but today it was so slippy that it was only just possible.

Into the sea I went, and then I felt I was home, and I didn't want to come out, and it was only poor soggy Stephen waiting patiently for me that finally brought me out of the water. We didn't dare risk the cliff path again so walked along the beach and came up the steps - - and by now I was as wet as it was possible to be, so I went in the outdoor pool for half an hour.

I still love everything here – we all do. But this weather is strange, and just plain WRONG. Bring me sunshine.