Monthly Archives: October 2013
Place yourself in the following situation: A sensitive middle-aged friend is prone to illness and often complains of being tired and chilled. He looks old for his age, is underweight, and his skin tone is grey and pinched. After having a conversation you become aware his minor health issues are due to a poor diet. He doesn’t eat regular meals, he hasn’t eaten fruit or vegetables for the best part of 20 years, and he lives off junk food. Should you offer advise?
On the face of it, it sounds simple. Of course we should say something, certainly if we consider ourselves a true friend. However, having given this situation some thought, I’ve decided it is not so easy to reach a decision.
First, let’s look at the reasons for voicing our opinion. Not only are you going to improve the immediate health of your friend, you may also be preventing a more serious condition from developing in the future. It’s positives all around, isn’t it?
Maybe not. Given your friend is the sensitive type, and doesn’t take criticism easily, you risk causing a detrimental crack in your relationship, if in fact it survives your bluntness. All of a sudden, you are labelled as patronising and arrogant, and he doesn’t want a bar of you. He tells you, ‘you know nothing. I have a good diet. I’m just not blessed with good genes.’ Your relationship is never the same again.
All of a sudden you wish you could take it back. With regrets, you tell yourself it’s not as if he was in a life or death situation. It really isn’t your business how he lives his life. Your duty as a friend is to provide him with happy moments and be supportive of the decisions he makes. That’s all. You shouldn’t be trying to change him. No one is perfect.
Would you like it if some told you you were fat or smoked too much? I know I wouldn’t. The mistakes I make in life are my own are they not?
Obviously, whether you decide to say anything or not comes down to many factors, the most important probably being the closeness of your relationship. Since the majority of our friendships are those of convenience – i.e. we see each other only in certain situations such as on quiz night – then we are unlikely to be close enough to say anything. We have too much to lose . . . don’t we?
When I first developed rheumatoid arthritis, I soon learned that diet was something I had to consider changing as it influences inflammation levels. Initially, it was difficult trying to determine what foods were making my condition worse, as the information that was out there varied a huge amount. However, after keeping notes of exactly what foods I ate and matching it to my inflammation levels, I discovered dairy produce, particularly cheese, was my enemy.
Eating one of my favourite foods just wasn’t worth the screaming pain I developed in my shoulders within hours. Cheese had to go, or more importantly, I had to find a way I could eat it without being affected.
I came upon an article discussing the acid-alkaline balance within the body. Apparently, we are meant to eat an 80-20 alkaline-acid proportion in the diet, to stay problem free. Foods can either be acid or alkaline, or they can be acid or alkaline-forming, meaning once they have been processed, the residue is either acid or alkaline. If we don’t eat foods in the correct ratio, we suffer from over-acidity.
Many diseases and allergic reactions have this association, but those conditions with symptoms of pain and weakness are affected the worse. Over-acidity equals inflammation. Therefore, for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, a high alkaline diet is essential.
What makes such a diet?
1) Fruits are mainly alkaline, so long as they are not canned, dried, glazed. Cranberries, plums and prunes, are the exception, and they are slightly acidic.
2) Most vegetables are alkaline, with the exception of dried beans, brussel sprouts, and lentils.
3) Raw milk (not boiled, cooked, pasteurised, etc), whey and yoghurt are alkaline, but butter, cheese, cream and custards are acidic.
4) Meat and fish are acidic.
5) All cereals are acid, with millet and rye been the least acid forming grain.
6) Teas are alkaline. Alcohol, coffee, sugars, vinegar, condiments and spices, and dressings and thick sauces are acidic.
If you maintain a primarily alkaline diet, you may be able to eat more of the acid foods without being affected. It worked for me.
I’d say, it’s worth a try. The benefits are huge.
After writing my last blog, ‘your imagination is your greatest gift,’ some of my non-writing friends considered the authenticity of my words, and asked me exactly how much of the scene I felt.
‘All of it,’ I said.
Their surprise was obvious. For some reason they considered a writers life to be boring. They couldn’t be further from the truth.
Whether my character is in a love scene or an abusive scene, I feel her emotions. Otherwise, how would I be able to adequately portray the scene?’ Each time I write I go on a journey and lose sense of the real world, completely and utterly. I have never considered what I do to be a gift, but if it allows me during trying times to forget what is going on in my life, then maybe it is just that.
This ability did not come the instant I started to write. During the early days, I would spend hours learning my craft, and struggling with the construction of sentences and grammar, as well as pondering the structure of the story. Do the words flow, have I used too many adverbs, have I followed the philosophy of show and tell adequately? Once writing came naturally and I didn’t have to think about it, that’s when I started to enjoy this fantasy world.
It’s like driving a car. Whilst you are learning, everything you do, from changing gears to watching for road signs, is an effort. When you are proficient, you don’t think of any of those things, it happens automatically. That’s when you enjoy the speed and the power of the car.
Writing is a drug, and more than anything, I love to put myself into traumatic situations and ponder how I would feel and how I would react in such instances. What kind of person does that make me? Similarly, what kind of people are writers of horror? Are they deranged? Sadists? Adrenaline Junkies? More on this later. All for now . . .
As a writer we must be all kinds of things, from psychologists and daydreamers, to detectives and agony aunts. This is what makes our job great.
I can be the murderer and leave a trail of clues.
I can be the lover and chose the most stunning partner.
I can be make people laugh and cry.
I can cause pain, desolation, ecstasy.
I can meet the rich and famous and be taken to best venues.
I can live a life of poverty and starvation.
I can be a detective, and search for the most obscure clues.
I can be the surgeon, and perform life saving operations.
I can live through a natural disaster and be labeled a hero.
Need I go on?
All, without leaving my living room. Why would I not want to write? Surely, it is the best job in the world.
I’ve just been listening to Joanna Trollope talk about her new book, Sense and Sensibility on BBC TV. I am not a big fan of the classics, yet since I understand their historic value I admire the decision that was made to rewrite this book in a modern style. I hope many more books follow suit.
Up until about 13 years old, I was an avid reader of children books, but during my teens, having been forced to read the classics at school, I was put off reading for some 15 years. In my naivety, I believed this was how adult books were – hard to read, slow-paced and uninspiring. I hate the omniscient style of writing (multiple viewpoints at same time) and don’t believe it does anything positive for the reader, often leading to confusion.
As Joanna said this morning, at the time when Sense and Sensibility was originally written, life was very measured, and therefore so was the writing. She also added that action scenes in the original book were wrapped up in conversation. These days we require actions scenes to create tension and drama, and so they need to be more explicit. It does allow for a more enjoyable read.
I must qualify that I do not believe the actual stories in these books to be poor, quite the contrary. Jane Austen was brilliant at creating stories of immense moral value, which is why I believe a modern day version of her books to be of benefit to everyone. Of course, many people will disagree with me and will tell me part of the pleasure is to get a very real sense of the time of book was written. There is something to be said for this, but maybe it would be better for the educational system to study excerpts having advised students to read the modern version. Then there is no risk of turning our youngsters off reading forever.
I am currently reading a psychological thriller that has been written by a popular author and has great reviews. Even though I am not yet half way through, I’m convinced I shall not be giving it the same praise. My reason for this? The book has not been written in a style with immediacy.
Let me explain.
1) The dialogue is interspersed with an overwhelming number of flashbacks, which loses me along the way. (One flashback often leads straight into another)
2) The scenes are written in a summarising style, which leaves me with a sense the story is being told retrospectively.
3) The author does not ‘show’ but ‘tells’ in the majority of instances, leaving me unconvinced by their accounts.
4) The dialogue is often short and has few descriptions of body language or emotions. Without these, I find it difficult to get a sense of what is going on, nor does it generate sympathy for the protagonist.
5) The protagonist spends a lot of time telling how they feel about other characters, but there is nothing in there to show/tell how she feels and how the incident described at the start of the book has affected her.
6) The scenes have no fluidity, with no definite sense of where they are taking place. As a result, a lot of the time I feel I am listening to the story in an empty white room.
7) The paragraphs are long and muddled, with, at times, several hours passing within the same paragraph.
In essence, I consider it a badly written book. But evidently, it hasn’t affected sales. So what am I missing? Could the author be deliberately slowing the pace so protect the reader from the harsh reality? Could they be so patronising? It is quite baffling.
Surely, there should be some link between writing style and genre? I read a book like this one to be in the moment and feel things I would like otherwise feel. Don’t you read horrors to be scared? I know I do.
Sometimes, the reviews and popularity of books completely baffles me. I’m not going to say who the author is, or what the book is called, but it would be interesting to see if anyone can guess.
Last time I discussed the benefits of exercise for Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferers. This time I shall discuss my own experience and explain how tennis saved my life.
When I started playing, I was in my mid-thirties and should have been at the peak of my health, but I wasn’t. Despite being on medication, I still had hot swollen knees, sore fingers and toes, and rigid, immovable shoulders for most of the day. I could barely walk, and limped from the house to the car. That was the extent of my exercise.
Something had to change. I was deteriorating rapidly and my outlook was bleak. I was constantly out of breath and my resting pulse was 79. It wasn’t a good position for someone of my age to be in. So, I joined a tennis club and signed up for group lessons.
I distinctly remember the early days. The racket was huge in my hand, and extremely heavy, so much so I struggled to hold it upright. In addition, I found it hard to grip the racket. When I did manage to make contact with the ball, (hard when you’re a beginner) either the racket was knocked from my hand or I was pushed backwards. Believe me, the ball wasn’t moving at a great speed. I was just very weak.
I had other problems too. Firstly, I couldn’t move very well around the court since my knees were so frequently like balloons, and secondly, I struggled with the service action since I couldn’t raise my arm above my head. Everything was against me . . . except my desire.
My coach, bless him, told me he doubted my ability to ever play tennis. Thankfully, I wasn’t so easily put off!
So I persisted, despite the agony. After each session, not only was I exhausted and needed a sleep, but my body roared out its complaint. Every time I was in agonising pain, particularly in my shoulders and knees. If I had told my doctor what I was doing he would have probably been horrified, but I had a theory. I was going to be in pain anyway, so what did I have to lose? And I was right. Over time, the pain I inflicted upon myself disappeared, and not only that, my hot swollen and stiff joints were no more. In effect, I had put myself into remission.
One other personal benefit was for my right shoulder. At the time, I couldn’t lift my arm much at all, but to my delight, when I played tennis, I could lift it above my shoulder. The reason for this was because tennis involves a swinging action of the arm, something that doctors advice RA sufferers to do on a regular basis to aid movement. I was doing it for a couple of hours at a time. It had to help. At first, the free movement only remained with me for the duration I was playing tennis, and the instant I stopped, my shoulder seized.
However, over time, this changed, and after a few years, I gained permanent free-flowing movement. For me, this was an amazing achievement. I could finally reach into the top cupboards in kitchen! If you don’t have RA, you may not appreciate how good that feels. It was huge.
Tennis is my favourite sport, but that aside, I do believe it to be good for RA sufferers. The swinging action is beneficial, the amount of running you do whilst playing doubles is limited, and the social benefits are immense. It is perfect for anyone with limited movement, and if you are like me and play regularly, you will get fitter and fitter.
I personally believe, had I not taken up tennis I would be in a wheelchair by now. Also, my life expectancy would have been reduced and my susceptibility to other illnesses would have increased. In essence, tennis saved my life. No wonder I love it so much!
Your joints are hot and swollen, and moving causes agonising pain. Exercising may even make you feel worse, and certainly will do if you over-extend those sore joints beyond a tolerable limit. Having said that, exercising IS ESSENTIAL to Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferers, and for me proved to be the turning point for achieving a healthy body. Basically, it saved my life. More on my own experiences in a subsequent blog.
Exercising is important for many reasons. First, from a physiological point of view, it helps rid the body of toxins. It is the function of the lymphatic system to rid the body of waste and maintain a healthy immune system. However, since there is no pump for lymph, as is the case of blood flow, it relies upon body movement. If there is none, it backs up like a clogged sewerage pipe. When this happens even the healthiest of us will feel lethargic. If you already have a pre-existing condition, you are likely to feel even worse.
So Exercise! It is a must!
Okay, so what are the other benefits? If we are bed-ridden due to some other illness, our muscles deteriorate. This happens surprisingly rapidly. Use it or lose it. It may be a cliché, but it is true, especially in the case of RA. If we don’t exercise, our muscles and ligaments waste and our bones thin. If a strong muscle can’t move a stiff knee, then how is a weak muscle expected to?
If you are worse in the morning, as are many RA sufferers, surely it makes sense to get those joints moving sooner. Get out of bed and move, move, move! It is worth the effort. Do you not feel so much better when everything has started working again? Of course you do, so make the effort!
Next time, I shall write about my own exercising experiences and how I progressed from being unable to walk more than ten metres without agonising pain, to running around a tennis court.
It did happen! It can for you too!
Do you enjoy women’s fiction but also like a strong plot? Do you enjoy reading books by Jodi Picoult, Sophie Hannah, Diane Chamberlain, Elizabeth Haynes and Ruth Dugdall? If so, then my books are for you.
The characters in my books are strong and identifiable, with their thoughts and emotions depicted throughout the book. However, this is not overwhelming for the reader as it is a plot that drives the story. From the start, the reader will know of the protagonists aim, and they will be carried along at a pace. I also include subplots for the other characters, both to make the characters realistic and to give them reason for being in the story.
If you enjoy a mystery/thriller combined with emotional content, you will enjoy them. The books have a good reading rhythm, with individual chapters each having a definite start and end. The books are well-paced, with few dips, and they will keep you engrossed. The endings will not disappoint.
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A heart wrenching mystery recounting the married life of Catherine, an isolated woman from the early 20th century, burdened by an indifferent husband, child deaths, accusations, disbelieving family, only supported by her modern thinking sister. With no one to provide enough moral support she makes a fatal exit.
100 years later Michaela inherits the house Catherine lived in, but not everything runs smoothly and the trail leads back to Catherine. She is driven to prove Catherine’s innocence, but it is an undesirable choice. Striven, she treads a distressing path.
REVIEW BY A. Davey
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A big pile of work is next to me, which I should have finished ages ago, but didn’t. The reason? I got engrossed in ‘Shackled’. I got hooked right from the start and just HAD to finish reading it. And, although I somehow imagined how it would end, I was still surprised about how it really ended. What a brilliant book, thoroughly enjoyed it!
Now back to work …