Friday 25 November 2011

The responsibilities of being a cook

As the main cook and menu-preparer of the house I take total responsibility for the standard of our diet. If we eat rubbish then I’ve only myself to blame. Diet features high on the guidelines for caring for our kidneys and that’s something that I now have to take very seriously.

We spent the last two days in the Amyloidosis Unit of the Royal Free Hospital in London and we chatted with a lot of people whose kidney functions are far worse than Mr A’s and who are consequently on dialysis. Amyloidosis produces sticky platelets in the blood and so the kidneys are often the first organ to be affected. These tests that Mr A has twice-a-year are designed to keep him off dialysis for as long as possible but it’s not only Amyloidosis sufferers who have kidney problems... many of us abuse our kidneys on a daily basis? *sticks hand up in air*

As cook it’s up to me to take care of Mr A’s kidneys, to keep them going as long as possible and to stop abusing my own at the same time so here goes. I'm going to try and: 
  1. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables (including peas and beans) and grain-based food like bread, pasta, noodles and rice.
  2. Eat some lean meat like chicken and fish each week.
  3. Eat only small amounts of salty or fatty food.
  4. Drink plenty of water instead of other drinks.
  5. Maintain a healthy weight.
  6. Stay fit. Do at least 30 minutes of physical activity that increases my heart rate on five or more days a week.
  7. Not smoke.
  8. Limit alcohol to one small drink a day. (That's because I'm a female. It's two small drinks a day if you're a bloke.)
  9. Have my blood pressure checked regularly.
  10. Do things to help me relax and reduce my stress levels.

I don't really drink and I certainly don't smoke but my hardest ones are 3 (I can’t resist eating crisps!)(I’m lazy!!!) and 10 (I get wound up too easily!)

Which ones are hard for you?

Monday 21 November 2011


I do love ducks. In fact, I think they’re becoming something of an obsession. 

These are my top three ‘Things About Ducks That I Love.’

1.  I love the way they appear to glide across the water with very little effort and yet you can see their feet pedalling manically beneath the surface.

2.  I love the way their quacks sound like hilarious laughter. Whenever I hear them I have to smile.

3.  I love their beautiful markings, especially the ones with the petrol green/blue heads.

My favourite cartoon duck is Donald Duck. My son can do an amazing impersonation of him. Quacks me up every time! [Sorry]

And I love writing about ducks too.

Several years ago I had a picture book shortlisted in The Little Tiger Press' Picture Book Competition. The story was called A Day on Duck Park. After the competition was over I submitted my story for publication with more than my usual amount of optimism. It went out to sixteen publishers and was rejected sixteen times. Apparently it’s not ‘strong enough to make it in the present competitive market’. *sigh*

I have now written two new duck picture book stories. The duck characters are lively. I think they’re funny. I’ve done all I can to make the storylines ‘strong enough to make in in the present competitive market’ and they’re about to be submitted. So, with webbed feet crossed, here's hoping they have more luck than my first duck story.

Wednesday 16 November 2011


We drove up to Manchester to see the family last weekend and, even though the doctors have said that Mr A is well enough to drive, I’m still doing half of all our journeys so I don’t lose my nerve again. [What a wuss I am!]

Mr A’s half of the journey took in a bleak stretch of the M6, so I grabbed my pencil and notebook and wrote this:
The trees beside the motorway
Cling to man-made banks,
Drop carbon-coated leaves
That crumple beneath wheels
Revealing fields
of apathetic animals,
Stubbled crops
And barns that at a glance
Could be our local B&Q warehouse.
On Sunday morning we walked on Manchester’s lovely Heaton Park and saw these amazing Beech trees... a world away from those weedy M6 trees.

Thursday 10 November 2011

The Sleeper Train to Venice versus EL AL airlines

From the inconceivable to the incomparable 
[I’m still blogging on about holidays - Sorry!]

The inconceivable is what I think about the Sleeper Train to Venice. I’m terrified of flying so when, in 2009, we planned a holiday in Venice we decided to take the Sleeper Train from Paris. I thought it would be romantic to travel across the Alps by night and arrive in Venice next morning. I was wrong!

Firstly it was pitch black and you could see none of that beautiful scenery. Secondly, this was no Sleeper Train. This was a Wide-Awake-Screech-Lurch-Clang Train with cabins that were hardly big enough to stand up in.
[Mr A has just asked me to point out that the only thing stopping him from sleeping was me moaning about not being able to sleep!]
The only compensation [and it was a massive compensation] was that this was our view of the Grand Canal as we had breakfast every morning on the hotel terrace.

On the other hand, the incomparable is my view of EL AL airlines. Like I said, I’m terrified of flying so when we planned a holiday in Israel we decided to fly by EL AL, the Israeli airline. It’s more expensive than a package flight but I suspected that it would be money well spent. I was right!

Boarding an El Al flight was like entering a crazy village. I forgot that we were about to be suspended high in the air with no safety net. I didn’t even notice that we were over an hour late taking off. This was gold standard people watching! When the staff tried to get us to prepare for take-off few of the passengers saw the need to sit down, or fasten their seat belts, or turn off their phones. The airline staff were very patient. They’d obviously done this before.

Once in the air there were cots to be assembled, babies to be fed and changed, prayers to be said by the men gathering at the back of the plane, not to mention the drinks, nibbles, trays of food and, at the end of each aisle, drinks machines and snacks.

I’d been told that some people never fly to Israel. They walk and now I understand. This was a large plane with two aisles. A number of the passengers spent the entire flight walking up one aisle and down the other... even when we were coming in to land. On the flight home, as we were about to touch down at Luton airport, a lady casually wandered to the toilet as if she were in a cafe. That’s what it was! It was more like sitting in a cafe than being on an aeroplane and it was the first time I’d stepped from a plane with a relaxed smile on my face. As I said, El Al are incomparable.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Are you a 4p Worker or a Papillon?

Plus some more photos of Israel!
I've made up the phrase 4p worker so please don’t rush for the dictionary. It stands for perseverance, persistence, pertinacity and patience. I do love alliteration. So a 4p worker is someone who has:

      Perseverance – plain old-fashioned hard work
      Persistence – sticking with that hard work
      Pertinacity – stubbornly sticking with said hard work and
      Patience – the ability to not be irritated by and so not be distracted from the hard work.

These are valuable skills, especially if you’re a writer, and I must mention all those people who have just launched themselves into this year’s NaNoWriMo (write a novel in a month) challenge. I admire you all. I couldn’t stick to the strict regime, but then I’m not a 4p worker. So good luck everyone [assuming you’ve got time to read this blog post!]

Last week I saw two amazing 4p workers. [Did I mention that we were in Israel last week? Oh, you read my last blog post? Sorry. I’m still on a high!]

4p Worker Number One

We were visiting an Italian Synagogue in Jerusalem. It was a beautiful, gold leaf-adorned Synagogue.

The Synagogue had a small museum for tourists and there we met an antique restorer. She worked constantly while we stood and gaped.

This is said to be one of the oldest Arks in the world. [The Ark is where the Torah Scrolls are kept in the Synagogue.] It had once been very beautiful and the restorer was working hard to recreate that beauty. What a job!

4p Worker Number Two

Masada is in the Negev desert and when we visited it was steaming hot. In the heat of the midday sun we were taken on a guided tour around the ancient ruins.

We ended up at what had once been a Synagogue. The tour guide pointed to a small structure in the corner of the ruins of the Synagogue and said, 
      “There’s a scribe in there, writing out Torah scrolls.” But it was getting on for 90o up there! Surely it must be a museum dummy-style mock-up, but no! There really was a man writing each letter of the Torah with perfect precision.

Now that’s what I call a 4p worker. I only hope he had air-conditioning!

If I was a 4p worker I wouldn’t have five half-finished manuscripts on my computer... or an ironing pile that keeps falling over. I guess I’m one of those people who are destined to flit from one thing to another, like a butterfly... or rather a papillon! [I do love alliteration.]

So, what are you, a 4p worker or a papillon?

Tuesday 1 November 2011


We’ve just spent a week in Jerusalem. I was dubious about going. I’m not a great traveller but there were several reasons why I forced encouraged myself to go.

1.  I’d never been to Israel before.
2.  Everyone kept telling me that I had to go at least once in my life.
3.  When my Dad was very ill [he died in 1977] he said how he wished he'd gone to Israel.

So I went. This was my first view of the Old City. It didn’t fill me with awe but with trepidation...
A view of the outer wall from Jaffa Gate.

...because this was how we got lost in the Old City.
Don't know where we were, but it was somewhere in the Old City!

 This was the start of our second day and the moment I fell in love with Jerusalem

View from our hotel window as the sun rose over Jerusalem.
I don’t know how it happened but the rest of the week flew by in an emotional whirlwind. We went to Masada and floated in the Dead Sea.

Cable car about to take us up Masada.

A view of the Dead Sea from the top of Masada.

We walked right down to the Western Wall.
Men's section of the Western Wall.

And I was sad when it was time to come home.
El Al Departure Lounge and, yes, that clock does say 4.40 am!
I have a feeling that we’ll be going back sometime soon to see a bit more of that amazing country but first I have to get my head out of the El Al clouds and back into doing some writing. This isn’t going to be easy.