Christmas has come and gone, and it was a good one.

Both sons and their girlfriends came along to share the festivities with us, and the twins entertained us, and the dogs behaved very well indeed. Even Jeffie, who is scared half to death of quite a lot of things* did very well with the babies and did nothing worse than slime them with dog drool whenever he got the chance.¬† He’d lick hands, or feet, or if he got half a chance, give them a full face wash.

The babies, for their part, behaved very well with the dogs, all things considered, though we will be working on teaching them that eyeballs don’t grow back once you pluck them out.¬† Don’t worry – we were vigilant.¬† Both dogs and both human pups were well protected from each other at all times.

Here’s Jeffie, looking oh-so-stressed at having to share his house with two infants.


And we ate too much.

There was Christmas dinner, of course, and then there were the ‘nibbles’, as my parents used to call them: figs and dates and stuffed and chocolate covered prunes and sausage rolls and mince pies and cake!¬† Oh, yes, there was cake!¬† And plenty of cheese, including a really nice piece of Red Leicester and a new favourite of mine; Cornish Yarg, which is covered in nettles and tastes faintly of mushrooms.

And we drank … well, maybe slightly immoderately but nobody got drunk, anyway.¬† Stars of the table were the Brunello di Montalcino for Christmas and a surprising bottle of Prosecco for New Year.¬† I don’t drink white wine, but this was good!¬†¬† Very gentle and really not acidic at all.¬† Fun to drink bubbles again.


We spent evenings playing board games – and haven’t they come a long way since my childhood hankerings for a game of Monopoly or Careers or Buccaneer?

One of the most entertaining was called ‘Aye, Dark Overlord’ which had us laughing so much that I needed a Ventolin and the lovely T – well, I thought she was going to expire on the spot.¬† The idea was that one player took the part of the aforesaid Dark Overlord and the rest of us were his (or her) minions.¬† The first Dark Overlord started by spinning a yarn about a mission she’d sent us on and required an explanation from us all in turn as to why it hadn’t been accomplished.¬† The cards we were dealt allowed us to prevaricate, invent, stall, grovel, whine, interrupt our comrades in arms and shift the blame at every opportunity.¬† The Dark Overlord herself had the ability to give us a Withering Stare by way of chastisement, which ended the round on the spot, and once someone had acquired three Withering Stares, he (or she) was out and became the new Dark Overlord for his (or her) sins.¬† It was absolutely hilarious!

Here’s Son No 1 in his Dark Overlord persona with T as a failing minion:


We also played a game called Pirate Dice which was fun, but not as much fun as it sounded.¬† All our ships got stalled, spun round and crashed into reefs until we were trading broadsides and floundering like a bunch of politicians, but not getting anywhere very much. But the fun thing about Pirate Dice is that Son No. 1 (who had brought it along) did some of the artwork for it.¬† He’s actually very accomplished at this type of artwork, and has also invented games of his own, which we have played with him, and those are fun, too!

And this is one of my favourite pictures of the whole event.¬† When it was time to go home, one small reindeer discovered¬† that there was a third twin in the hallway of Grandma’s house – and a second mother!


Well, it’s all over now, till next year.¬† And won’t those two be fun in 2014?¬† They’ll be on their feet by then and into everything.

We’re gonna need some bigger reindeer suits!

Oh yes – I nearly forgot: HAPPY NEW YEAR!


* Balls, Flying foxes, children, loud noises, dropped objects, squeaky toys, nail clippers, and small dogs, to name but a few.




You thought I’d forgotten How to be happy, didn’t you?¬† Ha!¬† No, I’ve just been busy with other things.¬† But here I am, and I have a few minutes so my mind is running in that direction.

Let me think, now.¬† What has made me happy this week?¬† Well, one thing is that when Sid was ill just before we went on holiday, we saw a different vet than usual, and she suggested we try him on gabapentin for his pain issues, in case some of the pain was neurological – for instance, he might be suffering from phantom limb syndrome.¬† He was ill with some kind of infection at the time, so we decided that we’d sort that out first, especially since we were going to be away for nearly three weeks,¬† but a couple of days ago, OH went down to the vet’s place in town and picked up the new painkillers.

I am happy to say that so far, they seem to be working very well indeed.¬† Yesterday, for the first time in quite a while, he looked completely relaxed, and he had his happy, hopeful, ‘isn’t life good?’ face back.¬† I’m not going to say his troubles are all over, but boy, did that particular face make me happy!¬† If we can keep him comfortable¬† and happy on this new drug, then maybe we can get him off one (or even both) of the others.¬† I know gabapentin will have its side effects too, but if it’s effective for him, it will improve his quality of life.¬† And that makes me happy.

Secondly, one of the things I’m trying as a self-help measure against acid reflux seems to be working!¬† I have had a lot less trouble this week to the point where I’ve hardly had to resort to the Gaviscon to back up the PPIs at all!¬† I’ve been drinking wine with what almost amounts to gay abandon, and I’m actually eating butter on my toast!

Personally, I suspect it’s the tea.¬† I have cut out tea drinking altogether.¬† But I have also switched to bottled water instead of tap water for most kitchen purposes, reduced my vegetable intake, cut out unrefined carbs, and no longer eat late at night.¬† It may well be a combination of factors, but I’m going to continue like this for a couple of weeks more before re-introducing one thing at a time.¬† Gosh, if I can deal with this by diet alone, I shall be enormously happy!

Thirdly, a couple of days ago, I found two websites where I can easily do revision for my Italian studies.¬†¬† I can pop in to Lo Studio Italiano when I have ten minutes and brush up on my prepositions, or vocabulary, adverbs, verb tenses, or whichever aspect I feel is lacking in my repertoire (which is pretty much all of them, really!), or I can steadily work through from the very basic levels as far as I can go on a site called Duo-Lingo.¬† I’d visited Duo-Lingo once before and hadn’t liked the way it was done for various reasons (not least the way they present it to you in their summary) but I popped back and took another look because it had been mentioned on a blog called ‘I Love Italian Movies‘.¬† Cherie actually did a post called ‘If you aren’t learning Italian using Duo-Lingo, why not?’ and I commented that I had looked at it but decided it wasn’t for me … but then I thought I should give it another try and I’m really glad I did – so thank you, Cherie!


Anyway, it makes me very happy to tell you that, using a combination of Lo Studio Italiano and Duo-Lingo, I have made some progress and consolidated a lot of what I had already learned.  There were even a couple of lightbulb moments, and they always make me happy!

Anything else … ?¬†¬† Oh yes -

New art!  These are two reproduction prints of old posters for greyhound racing, which OH found and gave to me for my birthday.


They are hanging dead opposite me as I sit and type this, and they look so nice against the yellow wall that every time I look up and see them, I smile to myself.¬† Aren’t they lovely?¬† They come from the 1920s or 1930s, I think, and the one on the left has some of the place names so familiar to me from my childhood in London.¬† Finsbury Park was one of the green spaces we used to go to sometimes on a Sunday to run and play, and the Angel, Islington was not much more than a hop and a skip from where we lived.¬† Buses with some of those names on them were a familiar sight.¬† I might not have enjoyed living in London much, but I’m a sucker for nostalgia!

Well, that’s How to be Happy for this week.¬† Join in if you’d like. Take a copy of this little badge and stick it on your blog, then write about what made you happy this week.¬† Maybe the happiness will spread!








Since we came back from Italy, I’ve been wondering deeply about one thing, and that thing is this:¬† why is it that while we were there, my acid reflux gave me hardly any trouble at all?¬†¬†

I began by being very careful what I ate, but soon realised that I could eat ribollita (plenty of onions in that) and fried potatoes, and food swimming in olive oil and small amounts of garlic. I could drink wine every day.  I could eat bread and pizza.   I have to admit that there were also biscotti and chocolate in sizeable amounts, too.  I drank orange juice!  I ate peaches and peach sorbet!  And I drank coffee all day.


So what, I asked myself, was I doing so differently in Italy that could so drastically improve my acid reflux for the duration of the holiday?

I made a list.

1 – I thought perhaps I wasn’t sitting around so much in chairs… but on the other hand I was sitting around for long periods touring in the car, and in fact I was sitting for quite long periods in restaurants

2 – I was drinking coffee and very little tea

3 – My diet included hardly any unrefined carbs, like wholemeal bread or pasta or wholegrain rice

4 – I drank a lot of bottled water

5 – I was eating regularly, most days including breakfast

6 – Meals were taken slowly, due to restaurant service leaving gaps between courses.¬† However, there was a LOT of food, so these weren’t necessarily light meals.

7 – Didn’t eat or drink much after 9pm, though meals often lasted until 9pm!

Oh, and …

8 – I ate a LOT less in the way of vegetables.¬† But aren’t they supposed to be good for us?


I thought about it.

Bread gives me a lot of trouble here in England.¬† Much of the time I cut it out altogether, especially if I can’t get the Alta Mura bread or the Cranks wholemeal, both of which I tolerate a lot better than Chorleywood* breads.¬† I’ve thought in the past that it was the yeast, and I still think that’s at least partly true.¬† Cranks bread does use yeast, but it uses a lot less yeast and a very long fermentation time so that the yeast in the bread is more ‘used up’ by the time it’s cooked.¬† I have no idea if that’s important, but it feels as if it is.¬† However, it Italy, I was eating white bread, much of it very fresh white bread – the sort I usually avoid like the plague.

We are told that unrefined carbohydrates are good for us, but this was certainly a big difference. If I¬† make a pasta meal for myself at home, it’s usually with wholemeal pasta, and I tend to buy wholemeal crackers, too.¬†¬†¬† Hmm…

This week I have cut tea out of my diet and added in more coffee, and if I drink water I’m using bottled water.¬† I’m also not eating too late in the evening and I haven’t eaten very much at all in the way of wholemeal goods, but I’m not back to where I was.¬† Why?¬† Somebody tell me why!!

I have to say I’m beginning to suspect the water supply.¬† After having done some research online, I see that flouride, chlorine and chloramine (a mixture of chlorine and ammonia) are all thought to cause acid reflux by many people.¬† Well, our water supply isn’t flouridated, but it is chloraminated and it would be nice to think the solution were that simple.


Stress?¬† Well, we all know that we are supposed to be a lot less stressed and more relaxed on holiday, but for me this isn’t necessarily so. As an asthmatic with a feather allergy and many food allergies, I worry when I’m away. I worry about food, and whether the waiters have really understood what I’ve said to them and taken it seriously, and I worry when I change lodgings because 50% of the time someone will have left feather pillows on the bed. Or a feather duvet, or a feather mattress pad.¬† I was also worried this time because Sid was most unwell when we left and though he was improving and being cared for by the best possible person (his trainer) I hated to leave him and I wondered how he was doing often.

So.¬† I would LOVE to get off the PPIs**.¬† They are seriously not good for you long term, but then, neither is acid reflux.¬†¬† The trouble is, we are all subjected, every day, to quite a lot of things that are not good for you: exhaust fumes, chemicals in our water and food, antibiotic residues in our meat, heavy metals in our fish, pesticides on our vegetables.¬† Pollution of innumerable kinds in our air.¬† You may say ‘well, I’ve been consuming and inhaling all those things for decades and they haven’t hurt me yet’, but is that really true?¬† How do we know that all this crap in our lives isn’t the reason for the rise in autoimmune diseases like asthma and allergies?¬† For the huge rise in cancers?¬† For metabolic disorders like Hashimoto’s Disease, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, heart disease and the rest?


I’m not really a conspiracy theorist.¬† When I’m doing my research online, I tend to avoid those sites that use heavy, lurid headlines and over use bold text within paragraphs with lots of repetition and offers of fancy (and expensive) devices or supplements to shield and protect and detoxify you from this or that menace.¬† However, the fact is that we do live in a sea of chemicals and radiation and contaminants these days, and it doesn’t seem right.

There’s also the problem that doctors seem to rely so very heavily on drugs for this and that.¬† ‘Oh, you have ‘X’ disorder, take these tablets’, they say.¬† And sometimes, bless them, they appear to forget that pharmaceuticals can cause problems too.¬† Is it any wonder that so many of us are looking for alternative therapies?

Anyway. To get back to the main point, I have not stopped taking my PPIs, but the fact remains that even with them, here in England, I suffer reflux a lot.  And in Italy, I suffered a whole lot less, despite going a bit nuts in the nutrition department.

So again, I have to ask: why is this?

Am I allergic to England?


* Chorleywood bread is bread made by a super-fast process which involves a lot more yeast and a lot less fermentation time.

** PPIs are Protein Pump Inhibitors, prescribed to reduce stomach acid and treat gastric reflux.






Posted on September 30, 2013 in Life, the Universe and Everything, The Home Front by Jay24 Comments »


‘Happily ever after’ sometimes doesn’t actually work out like that, does it?

These are my Mum’s wedding and engagement rings from the early 1940s.¬† I have them now because my mother passed away a few years ago.

When those rings were bought, as my father prepared to go to war and my mother entered nursing school as her part of the War Effort, happily ever after was what was intended.

I don’t mean that my parents weren’t happy together, because they were.

There was a lot of fun and a lot of laughter along with the hard work and the scrimping and saving.¬† My Dad was a very straightforward, pillar-of-society type; with a deep sense of responsibility and commitment to any task he set himself to, and I can honestly say I have never met anyone with more integrity and innate honesty.¬† Mum was a warm, loving, big-hearted, and very hard-working person, very clever with all kinds of knitting and sewing and baking.¬† She was a country girl who hated living in London but who did so because that’s where the work was.¬† Mum and Dad had their faults (as all people on this earth do) and their differences (as all couples do) and there were some sharp words at times, but overall it was a happy marriage as far as I could see. They loved to go out together to dinner or dancing or parties when we kids were older, and they had a huge social circle and some very good friends.

So why not ‘happily ever after’?

Because one day in the 1970s, my father had his first heart attack.¬† Mum tried very hard to improve his lifestyle and diet, but to no avail.¬† A second followed, and then a third, and he left us in the middle of one spring night while still in hospital recovering from that one.¬† If it had happened these days, no doubt he’d still be with us, but it’s no use thinking like that, is it?

They’d had 34 years together.

A few years later, Mum married again – a lovely man, but not my father.¬† He would never be my father in any way since I’d left home by then, but I was very fond of him.¬† Then, about fifteen years later, he died too, leaving Mum alone again.

I’ve always thought it was a bit cruel of fate to leave my mother alone twice.¬† Many people do well on their own, but my Mum was a very sociable person who loved people.¬† She loved visitors, and she loved to talk.¬† She could, as the saying goes, talk the hind leg off a donkey.¬†¬† Ah well.¬† She managed perfectly well in her little bungalow, still working as a nurse until she retired.¬† She went to her knitting club, she gardened, she kept everyone up to date with everything that was going on in the family, and she organised all the neighbours in her little road – years later, in her late eighties she was referring to them as ‘the little old man on the corner’, or ‘the poor old lady at the end’ as if she herself was no more than a spring chicken.

Now Mum is gone too, and I suppose I’m technically an orphan.¬† It feels strange.

Me, I have my own little bit of ‘happy ever after’ right here since OH and I have been married since 1976, and we are still each other’s best friend.

He drives me nuts sometimes, and I’m sure I drive him nuts too, but there you go.

This ain’t no fairytale we’re all living, this is real life!¬† And you know what?¬† ‘Happy ever after’ actually requires all those things which my father taught me so long ago by his own example: honesty, integrity, commitment and a sense of responsibility.

And love.¬† We mustn’t forget love, because that’s what ‘happily ever after’ is about, in the end, isn’t it?

I’m sure Ziva and Mike will have more cheerful posts for you. Go take a look!