It’s not fatigue!

I know I said my next blog post would be on food, but after reading some research published today on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome the food post will have to wait.

I saw an exciting headline which said “ME is real.  Scientists have discovered specific blood chemicals in CFS patients which are similar to those seen in hibernating animals.”  Big sigh.  In fact, huge sigh.  Since when did hibernating animals feel ill?  Maybe this is just the Daily Mail’s take on the research, but if so it’s replicated by the broadsheets, eg The Telegraph.

The cardinal feature of M.E. is post exertional malaise (PEM), ie feeling ill and fluey after exertion, either mental or physical – very trivial exertion like cleaning your teeth.  When did this number no.1 diagnostic criteria disappear?  When did the no.1 diagnostic criteria become chronic fatigue, which btw is a symptom not a disease and common to many illnesses, eg. depression, cancers, hormone disorders, heart disease, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome to name but a few.

When did symptoms of immune activation, like sore throats and tender lymph glands, disappear from the diagnostic criteria?  When did central nervous system symptoms like dysautonomia disappear from the diagnostic criteria?  Why does no-one ever talk about paralysis, or a-typical seizures or new onset dyslexia?  Or horrendous muscle twitching, peripheral neuropathy, speech problems, light, sound and touch sensitivity?  Or drug intolerance (or in my case complete allergy) and alcohol intolerance?  When did the number one symptom for ME become persistent fatigue and nothing else?

What happened to starting ME with a virus or vaccination (ie an immune event) which you simply never get over?  What happened to having to rule out primary mental health issues like depression and anxiety before a diagnosis of ME can be made?

This is what happens when you call Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  This is what happens when you water down the diagnostic criteria and include just about anyone with chronic fatigue as a symptom.  You end up with the focus on fatigue and nothing else.

I was told by doctors that I was so ill I might not make it through the night.  Twice.  You don’t die from “fatigue”.  You are not bedridden, have seizures or become paralysed by “fatigue”.  You do not lose your speech or your mental faculties because you are persistently tired.  I was not in “hibernation” for 10 years.  I was near death for 10 years, every second of every minute of every day.  And FWIW I couldn’t sleep a bloody wink.

I haven’t read the actual research paper as I don’t have the brain power.  I read on the ME Association’s Facebook page, however, that it’s very exciting research and could be potentially important.  But the newspapers still focus on the F word and, let’s face it, the public are going to read the newspaper reports not the actual research.  And they’re going to take away from it that we are all cute little hedgehogs, sleeping our days away!  I wish.

When am I going to read a newspaper report that tells ME like it really is?  That doesn’t even mention depression.  That doesn’t drag up the ‘Yuppie Flu’ reference?  That doesn’t tell me changing my diet, joining a gym or taking an expensive supplement will cure me?  Because when that day comes I’ll celebrate and not until.



Weekly roundup

My next blog post will be food related.  I don’t talk about food much any more, so thought I’d better give you all an update as to where I’m at and why food isn’t really on my radar.

This week has been pretty relaxed which has been nice.  I have been a bit worried about my lovely Bertie though who, over the past 2 months, has been losing weight.  He does scavenge and loves to eat sheep poo, so consequently is prone to worms and that’s initially what I thought it was.  So I gave him his 3 monthly worming tablet early and upped his food intake by 50%.  He initially gained a few hundreds grams, but then promptly lost them again.  So I took him to the Vet who gave him a longer course of worming medication and told me to up his food again.  So he was now eating double his usual portions.  Again he initially gained 400grams, so I reduced his food back to only 50% extra and he starting losing again.  We were back at the Vets on Monday and she did some blood tests – all the usual, eg. white and red cell count, diabetes, liver, kidneys, pancreas etc.  The great news is they were all totally normal, but of course that means we still don’t know why he’s losing weight.  The Vet has offered to do a test for Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency but being as though Bertie is actually totally fine in himself, ie not ill in any way or extra tired or anything, her advice was to wait another month and just monitor his weight.  So I’m still over-feeding him by 50% and he is currently stable.  But I shouldn’t have to be over-feeding him!  His exercise needs haven’t changed, his food hasn’t changed………..something is obviously wrong, I just don’t know what.

Tuesday the Chairman of my Camera Club came to my house to look through my images.  I’d like to apply for my first photographic Award, the CPAGB (Credit, Photographic Alliance of Great Britain), so need 10 images to put before the jury panel.  Our chairman used to be a PAGB judge so knows which pictures work and which don’t, which is great.  He’s chosen 12 for me to print off then we’re going to whittle them down to the final 10.  The CPAGB is only given twice a year, and I’ve missed this year’s.  The first panel in 2017 is down south and too far for me to travel, so I might not be able to apply until next November (!) but still have to get the ball rolling with my application.  It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time.

I had a super day on Wednesday.  For my Dad’s recent birthday I decided rather than buy him something he doesn’t need I’d take him on a day out instead.  The weather was perfect and we went to an old Mining museum and had a ride up the mountain on a little steam train.  Then we walked with Bertie to a pretty Church high up in the fells, and rounded off with tea and cake at a gorgeous cafe.  Here are a couple of photos I took on the day – how lucky am I to live where I do?🙂

Last week I mentioned a project I’d been working on in my garden.  I’ve had some decking laid, which doesn’t sound like a big deal but it’s something I’ve wanted for 12 years now so to finally get it done is fabulous.  I had a little area at the front of my house which was gravelled.  I hate gravel.  You can’t walk on it (especially with crutches), you can’t put furniture on it and whoever had put it down hadn’t laid a weed membrane so they just grew up through the stones!  I didn’t want to pave it (too expensive) and didn’t want to turf it (don’t need grass to mow), so ended up laying a ground level deck which Bertie loves as it means he no longer has to sit with uncomfortable chippings digging in his derriere😉

Yesterday I unintentionally upset someone on Social Media but actually feel mad at having to apologise!  A family friend posted a gorgeous photo of a springer spaniel dog and announced it was the new addition to her family.  I asked all sorts of questions and the reply was that she had been kept in a kennel and used as a breeding bitch.  She’d just had her last litter of puppies however and couldn’t have any more so was being given away.  I replied “Awww, bless her.  She obviously needs lots of TLC and you are just the right person to give her that.  If you have any problems just shout.  When I adopted Bertie he had all sorts of emotional issues, despite having a good start in life.”  What I didn’t know was that the breeder my friend got her off was on her bloody facebook page and was related to her fiance!  So she pipes up “Polly might have lived in a kennel but was very well looked after and loved!”  Fuck-a-doodle-do.  My poor friend was now stuck in the middle and replied “of course she was loved.  You are our guardian angel by letting us have her and can come and see her any time you like.”

I also replied “Sorry, I just meant she’d need lots of love being adopted.  Bert came from a loving home and was very well looked after, but understandably had problems when I adopted him because he missed his previous owners.”  That wasn’t actually what I’d meant by my comment of course, but I was backpeddling frantically to keep the peace for my friend.  I now daren’t log on to Facebook this morning to see if the breeder has replied.

The thing is, I think the breeder is pond scum and the fact I’ve had to apologise to her is killing me.  How can she say a dog is loved when it’s lived in a kennel on its own for 6 years (bearing in mind this is the freezing, wet north of England not California) and now they can’t make any more money out of her she’s being tossed away like trash?  And how can they say she’s been well taken care of when Springer Spaniels are gun dogs and need masses of mental games and stimulation to keep them happy, which it obviously hasn’t received?  If that’s your idea of love I feel sorry for you.  Don’t get me started on the way many dogs are treated, with absolutely no regard for their individual and breed needs, the fact they are an actual dog who barks to communicate and needs to sniff when out walking, or the fact they are pack animals who need social stimulation, to meet and greet other dogs and not spend the majority of their day alone, and yet all dog owners think they’re perfectly good people who love their pet.  If dog’s could talk I bet they’d tell a different story.



The older generation

This post isn’t health related but I wanted to share it anyway.  As some of you know, I can get a bit exasperated with people who whine.  I know things aren’t perfect health-care wise in either the UK or the States but on the whole we’re pretty well looked after and have comfortable lives.  I listen to my Mum’s tales of growing up in a family of 9, living in 2 rooms with a loo at the end of the garden, and my Nan doing all the cooking from scratch on a black lead grate which had to be constantly fed with coal and it’s a different world.  She used to get up at 4.30am on a Monday to start the weekly wash, having to light an open fire then put a big tub of water (hand filled by her) on the top and scrub all their clothes by hand which took all day – bear in mind she did this while being either pregnant or breastfeeding for the better part of 20 years.  There was no health-care until the NHS was introduced in 1948 because they couldn’t afford a doctor.  My Mum’s best mate was wealthier and used to be given a fresh apple every day for lunch, so she used to keep the core for my Mum to eat on the way home from school even if it had gone all brown.  Yet when my Mum talks about her childhood her eyes positively light up – despite the poverty the children were really happy and seemed much more content than today’s kids.

My step-dad was born in the village I now live in.  When I moved here 12 years ago a widower was living in my Dad’s old house.  He was cow man on the farm next to me, was paid appallingly low wages but lived in the house for free as part of his job.  He retired a few years ago and of course had to leave his home of 42 years because he was no longer employed.  My Dad asked the Farmer if he could have a look around his former family home and it was a real eye opener.  The electricity was so old it still had the old bakerlight switches which were probably lethal.  There was no central heating and no double glazing.  The floors were stone flags and must have been freezing to walk on in winter.  The bathroom was downstairs and contained a metal bath, which when I touched it was so cold my fingers actually stuck to it.  The kitchen contained a metal sink on spindle legs and one free-standing 1960s unit.  The roof was leaking and, while we were looking round, part of the bedroom ceiling actually collapsed.  It wasn’t even fit for human habitation.

The former cow man, George, still works in our village and I see him often.  Despite being in his 70s he still helps out on the farm and cuts all the grass in the village, including the Church and graveyard.  He only has 1 tooth (Lord know how he eats anything), wears a flat cap and a thick cardigan even if it’s 30C outside and is constantly covered in grass clippings.  He can talk for England but can’t hear much of what you say ’cause he’s as deaf as a post.  He’s what we call a “character” – they’re a dying breed.

This year I’ve tried my hand at photographing people, which is something I haven’t done before, focusing on old folk.  They have such life, such character, in their faces and my hope is that I can tell their stories through pictures.  This week I plucked up courage to ask George if he’d let me take his photo.  His first reaction was a suspicious “what for?!” but I won him round and got a picture of him with his grass strimmer, flat cap, cardigan and all.  I hope he likes it.

Memory Problems

I’ve never had a particularly good memory.  I did well in my school and college exams but only because I meticulously learned everything parrot fashion otherwise I couldn’t remember a thing.  I’ve always had to make written lists of things I needed to do – relying on remembering stuff would have been disastrous – and wish I’d taken out shares in Post-it Notes because I’d have made a killing.  And then along came my meningitis, which turned into severe M.E., and my previously poor memory became dire.  Add to that the looming menopause and I honestly feel like an early-onset Alzheimer’s patient.  Which sounds dramatic, until you realize my Dad is currently being tested for Alzheimer’s and I’m sitting in on the tests with him, doing them along in my head and often scoring worse than my Dad.  I don’t know whether to laugh about it, or be absolutely terrified.

The front door to my parent’s apartment is security coded – you have to punch in a set of numbers before you can open it – but I have to keep the code in my mobile phone because on several occasions over the years I’ve stood by the door and not been able to recall a single digit even though they represent numbers both my parents and I should find easy to remember.

I’ve sat in my automatic car and forgotten how to start it.

I have to have alarms on my mobile phone to tell me to put the dustbin out each week and don’t get me started on the recycling, which is every other week with garden on one day and the household stuff on another – I’d be completely lost without reminders.

I have reminders to tell me to blow the car tyres up and check the oil.  Reminders to clip my dog’s toenails.  Reminders to do mine and my parents online grocery shop each week.  Reminders to charge my mobility scooter battery and, having put in on charge, a reminder to turn the sodding thing off again.  Even a reminder to have a bath, otherwise I can go 10 days and forget to wash!  There have even been days where I’ve forgotten to eat lunch and it’s gotten to 4pm and I’ve suddenly realized I’m ravenously hungry.  FFS.

Another memory issue I’ve always struggled with is recognising people’s faces and, since getting M.E., this has gotten totally out of hand.  There’s a woman who lives in my village who I’ve regularly seen to wave to or have a quick chat to over the past 12 years, but I recently saw her in the supermarket and walked straight past her like she didn’t exist.  Because she was out of the context of the village I simply didn’t recognise her and now she must think I’m a right snotty cow who only talks to people when she feels like it.  Same thing happened at a local country fair the other week.  I went with my camera to take some pictures and this man came up to chat to me, also carrying a camera.  He obviously knew me and his face looked familiar, so I winged it and decided he must belong to my Camera Club.  I’m asking if he’s entering the competitions this season and if he’d been on any of the club trips this summer and could see he was looking slightly puzzled, until 20 minutes into the conversation I twigged that he was indeed a Camera Club member………..just not of my Camera club but one 30 miles up the Motorway! I felt soooo stupid and he must think I’m totally off my rocker.  Then there’s the time I asked one of my Club members where he lived and he looked at me like I was mental because I’d actually been to his house to pick him up the week before!  And don’t get me started on people’s names.

I’ve become one of those annoying people who says the same thing not once, not twice but often three or four times.  Then I see the look of annoyance on people’s faces and the exasperated “yes, I know, you’ve already told me!” and feel really, really dumb.

I’ve now gotten to the stage where I’m honest with everyone.  I’m giving a talk at my Camera Club next month on some new software we’ve all been using and am starting with “I live with a mild brain injury, which affects my short-term memory so I really struggle to learn new things …….”  and can only hope it will explain some of my strange behaviour and that the members will be more understanding of me in the future.

The one thing my poor memory has given me is compassion for other people, particularly my parents both of whom now struggle with their memories.  It’s easy to get irritated with someone who’s told you the same story 10 times, but to them they’re telling it for the first time so I try and listen like it’s the first time I’ve heard it.  We laugh about them calling things “wotsit” and play the “guess the item” game when Mum in particular can’t remember the name for something.  I guess it won’t be quite so funny though when my Dad forgets my name or the fact I’m even his daughter.

When my brain fog is really bad, and my sensory overload is really bad, and my sound and light sensitivity is really bad, and my memory is really bad, the world outside my quiet, calm, ordered bedroom can seem like a frightening place to be.  But I’m trying to put in place strategies to help me function, as I assume things will only get worse as I age.  Which is depressing, but I refuse to look into my future with dread or fear.  Whatever the future holds is whatever the future holds – I’m not going to start worrying about it now.

I try to be as forgiving of my own brain symptoms as I am of my parents’.  I wouldn’t dream of castigating them over their poor memory, so try hard not to beat myself up over my own.  Instead of standing there feeling stupid over the things I do I’m going to make a concerted effort to admit to other people that I have difficulties – hopefully I’ll feel less like a nut job and they will learn compassion and understanding and that it’s not just old people who can be forgetful.


Weekly roundup

Better late than never🙂

This week has been sunny, warm (not hot) and dry………..and I’ve felt brilliant!  Loads of energy and motivation and my pain levels have been good.  I do really well in this kind of weather, the only down-side being I use my energy to catch up on all sorts of jobs I can’t do the rest of the time, which leaves me over-stimulated and unable to sleep.  So my new-found energy only lasts about 5 days before I crash from exhaustion due to my insomnia.  Rock v hard place.

Before I start on my roundup I just thought I’d let you know that I learned something new when writing yesterday’s blog post.  I learned that the 3 friends I mentioned were all hiding wealth – isn’t that odd?!  Two of the people had wealthy families they were hiding and the other had a spouse with a really well paid job that was kept very much under wraps.  Funny I hadn’t seen that until I wrote it down.

Monday was my step-Dad’s 77th birthday.  We went up the lakes for lunch and had a lovely time because Mum wasn’t too drunk and Dad wasn’t too loopy which in my world = happy days!

Tuesday and Wednesday I worked on a project in my garden – more on that next week.  Also on Tuesday I discovered my elderly next door neighbour, the one who lost her husband earlier this year, was in hospital.  She’d woke up Sunday morning unable to move – turns out she’d broken her hip in her sleep!!!  Despite now being in the Infirmary for an entire week she still hasn’t had the surgery to fix it, as she has a really bad skin condition and they’re trying to get that under control first, worried that it will infect the operation site.  I think it’s barbaric to leave an 84 year old with a broken hip for a whole week, but then I’m not a Doctor.  In a strange twist of fate, I’d asked her just a few days earlier if I could take her photo, so here is Mary.  It needs a lot of work still, but you get the drift:

Thursday my Dad had asked me to look at the water butt in his garden which wasn’t holding any water.  I got it dismantled and this was the ensuing conversation:
Me: “Have you shoved a bamboo cane up this water butt hose Dad?”
Dad: “Yeah, I did now you mention it.”
Me: “Why did you do that then?”
Dad: “Just thought I’d give it a clean out.”
Me: “Was it working before you ‘cleaned it out'”?
Dad: “Yeah.  Why have I buggered it?”
Me holding up a 2″ piece of bamboo cane: “I found this lodged in the hose – must have broken off and was plugging up the hole.”
Dad: “Eee, fancy that.  No wonder the water couldn’t get through!”

Friday my bezzie mate came through to see me.  As she’s Coeliac and my kitchen is a gluten nightmare she usually has lunch first, then drives the 45 minutes to my house for 1pm.  Only at 12.45pm I get a text to say she’ll be late as the traffic was awful.  By 2pm she still hadn’t arrived and eventually the phone went to say there had been a crash on the M6 motorway and she hadn’t moved an inch in over an hour.  Several phone calls later and she managed to get off at the next Service Station and escape the gridlock by taking a little service road used by maintenance vehicles which I knew about as I once broke down on the M6 and the AA man towed me home via said service road.  She finally reached me at 2.45pm, shattered and nearly two hours late, only to conk out 2 hours later (she has ME) and have to drive home again!


Be careful out there

I was going to do my customary weekly roundup post today but I have something more pressing on my mind.  It was a friend’s birthday this month but I didn’t want to send her a gift, although I did.  I didn’t even want to send her a card, the reason being our friendship (if you can call it that) is at the end of the road because I no longer trust her.

I met this person about 16 years ago through an email support group for people with M.E. from which we both suffer.  She was intelligent, sweet and creative, and we were the same age and both single.  We had several online friends in common and soon became buddies, emailing each other and eventually regularly chatting on the phone.  We even met up and went on a short holiday together which I really enjoyed.

However, for some considerable time now there have been alarm bells.  This person knows I’m on Facebook, and that several of our mutual friends are on my friends list, yet she’s never sent me a friend request.  I know she’s on Facebook because some years ago I searched for her email address thinking I’d add her, but although her profile contains her real first name it has a different surname, so I didn’t even tell her I’d found her.

She’s been ill nearly as long as me and been in receipt of sickness benefits from the Government, but several years ago the DWP contacted her to say there had been a problem with her initial application and she actually wasn’t entitled to receive the benefit and had to pay it all back.  So she suddenly had a huge debt to repay and, being too ill to work, was also without her main source of income.  Despite that, she decided to move house.  The property she bought, however, cost over £100,000 more than the property she sold so she had to have a huge mortgage.  How did that work?  What bank lends £130,000 to a person with virtually no income?  She obviously had an income source she wasn’t telling me about, which of course is her prerogative, but she constantly pleaded poverty.  She made a big deal of telling me she bought all her clothes second-hand from Ebay or charity shops and had no cash for a newer car.  Big red warning lights were flashing.

The place she moved to was hundreds of miles from where she’d been living, which again I thought odd as she didn’t know a soul.  But it turned out she had a brother living there who she’d just never mentioned who apparently has some serious mental health issues.  She’s told me that mental health issues run in her family (yes, I know this should have struck warning bells but we all have weird family members and it’s no reflection on us!).

The new house turned out to have some major structural issues and to cut a long story short she’s just spent tens of thousands of pounds rectifying them.  Apparently she was given the money by family members who I’d been told she didn’t get along with, so it seems fair to say she comes from a well-off family and is closer to her siblings than she’d led me to believe, which is fine but why lie about it?

Not only did the new house have loads of issues, her neighbour (an elderly married committed Christian) was apparently letching and spying on her and she involved the police, telling them he was a peeping Tom.  The situation put her under enormous stress and she installed CCTV cameras to keep an eye on him.  I’ve got to be honest, although I tried to be supportive I wasn’t sure what had actually happened or that I believed her version of events.

She’s recently had a handy man who’s done lots of work in her home steal from her.  Which is horrendous but at the same time all a bit weird.  The police have apparently told her to go and search his outbuildings secretly while he’s not there to see if she can see any of her belongings and if she finds anything she has to let them know and they will interview him.  Hmmmm.  I’m fairly sure no police force would tell a vulnerable, sick single woman to search a suspected thief’s premises (isn’t that actually illegal?!).  She then told me this handyman has guns and that’s how they met – he’d taken her on a 6 week course to learn how to shoot.  Er, why would she need to learn how to shoot?  I thought she was horrendously ill with M.E., at least that’s the reason she’s given me for only ringing me once this year.  And as if all that weren’t weird enough, this handyman is apparently in the support group for ESA (ie sickness benefit) yet she’s employing him to do work for her.  And he’s well enough to shoot vermin on acres and acres of farmland.  And she told me he does handyman jobs for a local Magistrate, who knows he’s claiming ESA but employs him anyway.  Really?!

Even if I could swallow all this drama and half-truths, as I mentioned above she’s only rung me once so far this year.  This is apparently because she’s had so much stress with all the work being done on the house, and then the theft, that she’s just been too ill to be in touch.  However, when I bought my little cottage and found 2″ of sewage water under my lounge floor, and needed a new roof, and found that I had a bulge in the entire side of the building that my surveyor hadn’t even noticed and I had to sue him which took 2 years, I still managed to go on holiday with her.  I still managed to email her when my Mum nearly died from her lung surgery, then her heart attack.  I still managed to keep in touch when I was having several anaphylactic episodes a day, then travelled 600 miles alone three times to get diagnosed with MCAD.  And I’m single too, and have 3 diseases not 1, and on top of all that am looking after my parents and have to cook every single thing I eat from scratch.   So the “I’m ill y’know!” excuse just doesn’t wash with me when I know she goes to various classes, has various friends she does stuff with and goes on several holidays a year.

She texted me on her birthday to thank me for my present, but said she was too ill and exhausted to ring.  Yet she spent her birthday meeting a friend in the morning, then going to a garden party in the afternoon – obviously really poorly then.  We finally spoke yesterday.  She texted me at 11am to say “fancy a chat this morning?  Only I’ve lost my address book and don’t have your landline number, so you’ll have to ring me.”  Modern phones have contacts lists built in them FFS, she must think I’m totally stupid.  However, I texted straight back that I would ring her which I did – but the call went straight to answer phone!!  I did leave a clearly-pissed-off message to say “I thought you’d pick the phone up being as though you’ve just asked me to ring you!”.  She then waited 10 minutes to call me back, even though I’d told her I had to go out at 11.30am.  It was the last fucking straw if I’m honest.

I seem to’ve met my fair share of women online who are secretive and untruthful.  As regular readers of my blog will know, in 2014 I fell out with a long time friend I’d met online.  In our 16 year friendship we’d never spoken on the phone and I’d never seen a photo of her.  Neither had any of our dozens of mutual friends.  Looking back with the benefit of hindsight she could have been anyone – she might not even have been female.  She wouldn’t send text messages because she said the signal affected her, yet she’d get her husband to text me who was sat right next to her – or did she?  Was it her texting and saying it was her husband?  She moved house without telling me (or anyone else) which was bizarre.  She didn’t get on with her Mum and told me she used to dread her visits, yet when she died this person spent 2 years on Facebook writing posts about how much she missed her “darling Mum” eliciting loads of sympathy from people who didn’t know the real situation.  The same happened with a friend, who she hadn’t spoken to for 4 years, who died and this person was writing posts online about how much she missed her “darling sister-friend” again getting loads of support from people who didn’t know the dead friend had ignored her for years.  And dozens of other little, and not so little, stuff which all added up to secretive, strange behaviour and outright lies.  Yet I was castigated for pointing this stuff out!  This person is so “lovely” and believable that no-one takes a step back and questions her story and when I did I was made out to be the Devil himself and unfriended by the majority of our mutual mates.

Another friend I met through the same online support group I used to talk to every single day.  She was originally from Pakistan and, although she was hard work at times and very demanding, I felt for her being ill in a foreign country where she hadn’t had chance to make friends.  She ended up going into hospital and myself and 2 other friends sent her some flowers, which were returned because there was no-one of that name in the hospital. Turned out she’d given us all a false name which is fine, we all use pseudonyms online to keep us safe, but to go 4 years without telling your closest friend isn’t right.  It also turned out this person came from a very wealthy family in Pakistan and I’m fairly sure she’d fed me an absolute load of bullshit about her family situation and her need to escape an arranged marriage.

There seem to be a lot of fantasists out there, who create personas for themselves online which I honestly think they end up believing themselves.  There are also a lot of people out there with mental health issues, who can appear completely normal and reasonable online but who in real life have some serious problems.  And when you’re a kind, compassionate, open person, who takes people at face value and thinks everyone is as honest as you are, you tend to attract these people like a magnet, then when you find out that someone you have told everything about yourself to has been dishonest about their lives it’s deeply hurtful.

I’m now much more wary of people I meet online, even if they seem “lovely”.  As Doctor Phil so wisely says “people who have nothing to hide, hide nothing”.  I am distrustful of people who have Facebook pages that don’t contain family members or personal information, especially if they’re on my friends list because my Facebook page contains details of my real life.  No offence to all you lovely people out there, but I’m not going to give my personal details out on my blog because I have no idea you are who you say you are and I’ve already had a couple of run-ins with nutters and some with people who are just plain rude.  It’s a sad fact of life that the anonymity of the internet allows people to make up any persona they like, act any way they like and tell any lie they like without consequence – well, apart from hurting nice people like you and me.


Bucket List

Bucket Lists, ie a list of stuff you want to do before you die, are popular at the moment.  I look at them and wonder when people list “swim with dolphins” or “jump out of a plane” exactly what kind of hole jumping 10,000 feet into thin air is going to fill in their lives.   How empty can a life be that swimming with fish is the pinnacle of achievement?

I seem to think very differently to the majority of people.  I don’t understand sport for example.  The current obsession with the Olympics baffles me.  That someone would spend their lives training to the point of exhaustion to chuck a metal ball on a bit of string to see how far it will go.  Or spend their lives running round and round and round a track in circles or chasing a ball of air up and down a pitch.  It’s all just so……..pointless.

Someone posted a different kind of bucket list on Facebook recently, which at least has a bit more thought behind it but his bucket list seems like really hard work to me.  It feels like a shed load of pressure to be perfect, instead of accepting our flaws and loving ourselves with all our imperfections.

I thought long and hard about what I would put on my bucket list and I couldn’t think of anything.  That’s because I already do the things which bring me the greatest joy every day.  I gaze into my adoring dog’s eyes and feel love so profound it makes me tearful.  I get lost in nature with my camera, watching with fascination the soaring life of birds and the hard-working toil of insects.  I marvel over the cycle of birth, life and death and watch with awe the changing faces of the seasons.  I am appreciative of the food I eat and the warm bed I sleep in at night.  I set myself challenges and goals every day, whether it’s to take a better photo, or write a paragraph of my book or to do something to help my parents, even when I don’t feel like doing any of it.  I appreciate my friends and I try to be kind.

We in the developed world are so spoiled.  We constantly seek out new thrills, new stuff to be bought, new horizons, new adventures…….and forget we already have everything that truly means anything.

If you wake up every morning with a passion for the day ahead, with gratitude at what you have not regret at what you don’t, and joy that you get to spend another day on this wonderful planet of ours then I’m not sure what else there is to a well lived life.  My bucket is already full.

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.”  Max Ehrmann, Desiderata.