Weekly roundup

I haven’t been touched by another human being for a decade.  My Mum stopped hugging me when her alcoholism took off, my Dad isn’t a hugger and I don’t have a partner, so my little dog Bertie is the only physical contact I have with another living creature.  Monday he went to the vets for a little operation.  He needed his teeth cleaning but also had a deformed dewclaw removed, which sounds trivial but is actually classed as an amputation because rear dewclaws are attached by bone just like a thumb.  Even though he’s elderly now at 11 and has a heart murmur I wasn’t concerned – he’d had anaesthetic before for his castration when he was little and all went well – so imagine my horror when I went to collect him only to be told they’d had to ring the cardiac specialist during his operation because his heart had been going like the clappers 😮  It had started the second he was given his pre-med, so I’m assuming he had an allergic reaction to the drug.  Thankfully he pulled through and is recovering well but I swear my blood turned to ice when the vet was relaying what had happened – I simply don’t know what my life would be like without him.

I barely got any sleep Monday night as Bert was in pain and couldn’t get comfortable, so Tuesday I was fairly knackered.  Following my Dad’s hip replacement last Friday, however, my parents are needing much more help than usual so despite my exhaustion I was in town helping them out.  My youngest brother and family have really stepped up to the plate though for which I am truly grateful and are making them meals, getting my Dad his newspaper each morning and going for prescriptions etc.  My elder brother and family haven’t even been to visit, despite living only a few streets away :-/

Weds I went to visit a friend as she has been having awful problems with her 9 year old daughter, who’s suddenly developed severe anxiety disorder.  My friend is so worked up and getting so little help that she literally can’t eat or sleep and cries at the drop of a hat, so I popped round just to offer her a shoulder.  I can’t believe in this day and age there are still so few mental health services for children – it’s a bloody disgrace.

Everything caught up with me on Thursday and I felt stupendously MEish.  Despite having a banging headache and spinning vertigo I had to go into town for Bert to have his post-op checkup and when I got back at 4pm I was literally dead on my feet.  Desperate to just get into bed I was accosted by my neighbour, irritatingly saying he’d been trying to get hold of me.  His landline had developed a crackle and the BT engineer needed to check the box on the side of my house which feeds his line, however as he needed to go up a ladder he wanted to drill a hole in the side of my house to secure it – health and safely ‘n all that (it’s a tiny cottage for heaven’s sake, not the bloody Clifton Suspension Bridge!).  I said no.  There are water and gas pipes buried in the wall, not to mention the fact my house is up for sale and the last thing I want is a hole drilling in the outside render which I would then have to fill in and re-paint.  My neighbour stomped off in a  huff and I wearily ran myself a bath, the first time I’d had a wash or cleaned my hair for 6 days!  I hadn’t been in the water 5 minutes when the doorbell went.  It was the sodding BT engineer and before he’d even opened his mouth I barked “I’ve already told my neighbour you’re not drilling in my wall!” and virtually slammed the door in his face.  I got back in the bath but by then the water was luke warm and I was pissed.  I got into bed and cried with exhaustion and the unfairness of not even being allowed half an hour to have a bath without someone wanting something from me.

I’d dozed off watching telly when, at 9pm, my phone went.  WTF?!  It was my Mum to say my Dad’s leg had swollen like a balloon and there was a bruise the size of a grapefruit behind his knee.  I had no clue what to do.  The hospital had given us a post-surgery helpline number to ring so I tried that, but it was only open during office hours – useful!  So I rang the ward at the hospital, but the nurse said unless she could see it she couldn’t advise us and told me to ring the non-emergency NHS number 111.  It’s fucking useless.  I tried to ring it last month when I found my disabled friend on the floor having fallen out of bed, but after being on hold for 40 minutes gave up and rang 999.  This time, after being on hold for 20 minutes I also gave up and went online to fill out a form which gave me no opportunity to actually describe what was happening.  Luckily, though, the minute I wrote my Dad was on the blood thinner Warfarin it told me I needed to see a Doctor and I was allowed to request a call back from a medic.  Without even seeing him, the Doctor told my Dad “you should be fine” (reassuring, not!) and to see his GP in the morning.

So at 8.30am Friday morning I spent 20 minutes on hold trying to get a GP appointment.  They were short-staffed due to sickness, so in the end he had to see a nurse who didn’t really have much clue what was going on and removed his dressing to check his wound, even though we’d been told at the hospital not to do that under any circumstance :-/  He was sent home after being told it was all “normal”, despite the fact no-one could tell him why he’d suddenly had a massive bleed from his thigh to his calf a whole week after his surgery.

I was awake most of Friday night with a thumping, sickening migraine which made my right eye bloodshot and the right side of my face swell up.   Of course I was.

Saturday I contacted my bestie and said if I didn’t speak to someone who wasn’t a) old, b) crying or c) furry soon she would be visiting me in the local mental asylum and, bless her, despite being really unwell herself she drove 45 minutes down the motorway to meet me for lunch and spent the first hour listening to me offload.  I’d do a heart emoticon, if I knew how to do that in WordPress!

It’s Sunday today and after taking Bert out this morning I want to put my Christmas tree up.  I haven’t even given Xmas a seconds thought and am now panicking that there is only a fortnight to go and I haven’t even bought my cards yet, let alone written or posted them.  I’m sure everyone would understand if I didn’t do Xmas this year, but I actually love Xmas (well, I would if I didn’t have to spend any time with my drunk Mother) and putting my tree up is something I’d like to do for me.  I’ve treated myself to a lightbox for Christmas to photograph flowers, but have decided I’m not waiting til 25th and am going to try it out this afternoon – I think I’ve earned a treat.

p.s. after my meltdown to the Blue Badge team I receive an email from them to say my renewal had been successful – they probably feared for their lives if they refused me 😉

I’m female, get over it!

I meant to write this post last week but life got in the way.  As you know, I recently did a talk at a Camera Club in Scotland.  I started off by talking about my experiences of being a wildlife photographer, and did a small section on the hurdles faced by female wildlife photographers.  I talked about wanting some camouflage trousers and finding just what I wanted in the men’s department, but only finding pink lycra camouflage in the women’s.  I wanted a Timex Rugged Expedition watch (mud, shock, drop and water proof) and out of the 20 on the Timex website, 19 were for men and only 1 for women – the men’s had stop watches, compasses, altimeters……..and the women’s told the time, no other features not even the date (I actually wrote to complain to the head of design for Timex and to point out that women lead very active, outdoor lives but didn’t even get a reply).   I also talked about the fact that I have a pop-up hide for my wildlife photography which has a lovely comfy chair, but when I sit in the chair I can’t see out of the view holes because they’re designed for much taller men – not a single photography hide is made for women and even if one were available I’m fairly sure it would be pink.

Left: male Expedition watches   Right: female Expedition watch

The question I’m most often asked about my creative photographs is “where do you get your ideas from?!” so in the second half I talked through the inspiration behind some of my photos.   One of my pictures was inspired by the fact that all the books I read as a child had women trapped in turreted castles waiting to be rescued by a man on a white horse and I commented that it is great these days that girls get to read books where they are Dora the Explorer or Rebecca the Steam Train (although it did take 70 years for Thomas the Tank Engine to get a female counterpart).  Another picture was about the myriad of hurdles faced by women every day and which even we don’t notice, for example supermarket shelves which are too high for women to reach, the fact that an average 5.5″ mobile phone is designed to fit in one male hand but is too big for a female hand, DIY equipment only sized for men (everything from safety gloves to screwdriver handles) and the fact car seat belts aren’t designed for pregnant people.  About my niece who became a police officer last year and who has to wear a stab vest all day designed for men not women with boobs, despite the fact we’ve had female police officers for over 100 years now (some female police officers have resorted to surgery to reduce their breast size due to the pain!) and the fact that since the Thalidomide scandal 70 years ago 99% of drug testing has been done on men, even though we know men and women metabolize drugs differently.  That last statement was one too many for some of the men in the audience, one of whom muttered loudly “it’s 60%!”  No, mate, it’s not.  Even when drugs are on tested on mice in a laboratory they are male mice, not female.

At the end of the evening, I overheard one woman in the audience say “I thought I was coming to a photography talk, not a talk on feminism!”.  Well fuck a rubber duck.

It astounds me that some women will defend the male world we live in.  They say it hasn’t bothered them.  My response to that is you need higher standards.  You need to have more self esteem and to demand to live in a world which is designed for both genders.

A man came up to me after my talk, trying to be helpful.  He was small for a bloke, about 5ft 4″, and told me of this particular shop where I’d be able to get camo trousers to fit me because they fit him.  I thanked him politely, then walked away shaking my head.  Has it escaped his notice that even if we’re of roughly similar heights we are not shaped the same?  Does he think I have a male, 32″ waist?!  FFS.  “Unisex” clothing means the clothes fit men, and we women are just supposed to lump the fact the sleeves and legs are too long, the bum is too tight, our boobs are flattened and the waist is like a boat.

Body shape front   body shape side.jpg

I’m not a feminist, whatever one of those is.  I just believe men and women are equal and should be treated equally.  Which isn’t to say we’re the same.  The women who get ahead in life have to behave like men to do so, which really pisses me off.  Women like Karren Brady (Vice-chair of West Ham Utd football club) and Angela Merkel (German Chancellor), who are called “ballsy” even though women don’t fucking have testicles!  Even the adjectives given to successful women have to be male.  I want to live in a world where a female Prime Minister doesn’t have to wear power suits – she can rock up in a floral dress and still be taken seriously.  We’re not there yet.  Not by a long shot.

We’ve had 2 millennia of hearing about the world from a male perspective and it turns out that in the 21st century we still can’t even stand 90 minutes of hearing about the world from a female perspective without feeling the need to denigrate the speaker.  It makes me furious and just really, really sad.



I had a bit of a meltdown this morning.  Not huge, but enough to make my stomach so knotted I can’t even contemplate eating lunch.  It was bound to happen, eventually, because I’ve had enough stress just recently to sink a ship but it still kind’ve came out of the blue.

Here in the UK we have welfare benefits for disabled people, ie those who have mobility issues or need help with bathing, dressing and/or feeding.  The money is hard to come by and usually only given for a limited period before being reviewed, but as I have a brain injury, 2 genetic diseases which are never going to get better, and one acquired disease which after 26 years obviously isn’t going anywhere, I have an indefinite award.  They’re as rare as hen’s teeth.

We have a scheme whereby if you have the higher mobility component of disability benefits it entitles you to a “blue badge”, which means you can park in restricted areas such as double yellow lines so that you’re closer to shops, doctors etc.  I have a blue badge and it has to be renewed every 3 years.

Mine runs out in January, so I applied online last week to have it renewed.  You have to send all sorts of paperwork, ie photo ID, a recent utility bill and a copy of your disability benefit award letter dated from the past 12 months.  However, I have an indefinite award and already had a scanned copy of my letter from 2016 on my laptop so I sent that.

This morning I received an email saying they couldn’t send me my blue badge because I hadn’t sent a copy of my benefit award from this year.  I email back it was an indefinite award and wasn’t that good enough?  The reply was no, it wasn’t.  I burst into tears.  It was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back and I don’t have the resources to deal with it today.

This was my reply to my local blue badge team:

“Dear Karen

I cried when I received your email this morning. It was just the final straw for me, today. I’ve lived with painful, exhausting, chronic ill health for 26 years now. I live on my own, with hardly any care – the government cuts have seen to that, plus I live in the countryside and it’s almost impossible to get help even if you pay for it yourself privately. I’m currently without a cleaner, because she quit for a full time job and my house is filthy. I’m sleeping in a dirty bed.

Despite my own issues, I’m the main carer for my 80 year old parents. My Mum is wheelchair dependent with advanced heart and lung disease. I got up at 4am Friday morning to drive in the dark, fog and ice to take my Dad for a hip replacement operation – I felt so ill on the drive I had to pull over to vomit.  I’ve had to wait in line for 40 minutes this morning to speak to his GP because he’s having complications and am now going to have to drive 14 miles to pick up a prescription for him, even though I don’t have the energy to get dressed yet.

Yesterday, I took my little rescue dog to the vets for an amputation of his toe. I’ve been awake half the night because he was in pain and couldn’t sleep. I’m so exhausted I can’t think straight.

I know it’s not your fault that the rules state you need a current award letter from this year. But, seriously, I have an indefinite award – that should be good enough. I’ve now had to spend 45 minutes trying to find this year’s pathetic inflation increase which was in a pile of paperwork 2 foot high in the corner of my lounge as I’ve not had the strength, or time, this year to file anything. Then I’ve had to scan every single page as it states on your website, even though this has meant 5 trips to the printer at the other end of the house to turn the pages over – another absolutely unnecessary chore when the information you need is on the first page.

You may like to bring my gripes to the attention of your boss at the next meeting you both attend. Blue badges are there to help very ill and disabled people, whose lives are hard enough without making them harder than they need to be.

Best wishes
p.s. no need for a reply, it’s not like anything you could say would make today better for me unless you’re offering to come and hoover or wash my bed sheets


Weekly roundup

I have had one of the busiest times of my sick life this past 2 months and I thought that after I’d done my talk in Scotland last week that I could finally rest up, because I was on my last legs.  Looking back now, that seems a bit………..naive 😉

I can’t cope with the sensory overload, not to mention the physical effort, of going to a supermarket, so have my groceries delivered to my home courtesy of Tesco.  I’m in love with Tesco – they are the 8th wonder of the modern world – that is until Christmas, when the battle for delivery slots becomes a catfight to the death.  I have a delivery saver plan and therefore have access to the Christmas week delivery slots early, along with tens of thousands of other delivery saver plan subscribers.  We were informed that the slots would be available at midnight on Tuesday night and I knew I had to book my delivery then or I’d have to actually visit the store on Christmas Eve and, having done that last year and barely survived, I’d rather starve.  However, I have been so exhausted recently that there was no way I was going to be able to stay awake til midnight, so I went to sleep around 9.30pm and set my alarm to wake me, which it unceremoniously did at 11.45pm.  The ringing felt like a bomb exploding in my brain but I managed to come to and blearily got myself ready, finger poised, to book my slot on the dot of 12.  With a minute to go, however, I panicked and decided to reserve a delivery for Monday 23rd just in case something went wrong (last year the website crashed and I ended up delivery-less!).  Then on the stroke of midnight the slots for Christmas Eve appeared…………and they all said “unavailable”. Say WHAT?!  Either there were shoppers out there with freakyily speedy index fingers, or Tesco had failed to tell us they WEREN’T FUCKING DELIVERING on Christmas Eve.  Thankfully, though, I had my reserved slot on 23rd, and it’s a damned good job because at 3 minutes past midnight the site crashed.  Again!

It goes without saying it took me about 3 hours to get back to sleep and I woke on Wednesday feeling like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards.  My plan was to rest up all day because I desperately wanted to go to my Camera Club in the evening, but the Universe had other ideas.  My Dad is on the waiting list for a hip replacement and it was booked for 24th January, but at 2pm on Wednesday afternoon the Hospital rang me to say they had a cancellation for Friday this week and would he like to come in?  Holy crap!  So then I had to go through to town to break the news to my (very nervous) Dad, who’s never spent a single day let alone a night in hospital in his life.  Mum and I got his hospital bag out (they both have one packed ready in the wardrobe for emergencies, well they’re 80 and we think it prudent) while my Dad got in the shower, as you’re supposed to bathe with antiseptic body wash for 5 days before the op.  We then had to change his bed, because he needed to use fresh sheets every day after his shower.  I did still make it to my Club, but by the time I got home at 11pm I was so ill and exhausted my brain was swimming, I was literally seeing stars and could barely focus.  Proabably shouldn’t have been driving – don’t tell anyone!

Thursday I’d arranged to go to my elderly, disabled friends’ house to finally finish his unpacking.  I knew I should cancel because I needed to conserve my energy, but he’s been in his new house 2 months now and hasn’t had the internet all that time because his laptop, modem, printer etc. was still in a box in the spare bedroom.  So I made the effort to go, and thank God I did because I arrived to find his house freezing and him flushed.  Neither the heating or hot water had come on and he obviously had a temperature.   I discovered his gas boiler had no pressure, so I re-pressurized it which got the heating back on but there was clearly a leak somewhere, so I arranged a visit from the plumber the following day.  I then forced him to ring his GP (he wouldn’t have if I hadn’t made him) who told him to go straight down to the surgery.  He landed back with stronger antibiotics because his chest infection was back with a vengeance (it never went – he should have been admitted to hospital the other week for heaven’s sake) and an insulin injector, because she’d found his blood sugar was sky high (he’s type II diabetic).  I wonder, now, if I hadn’t gone that day whether we’d’ve found him the next morning in a hypothermic, diabetic coma :-/

Thursday night I felt like the undead and barely slept in case the alarm didn’t wake me the next morning.

My Dad had to be at Hexham Hospital for 7am, which meant me getting up at 4am.  I have fucking M.E. and waking from deep sleep in the middle of the night, then having to get dressed, eat and venture out into the pitch black freezing cold of winter was never going to make me feel my best.  I dropped Bertie off, picked my Dad up and at 5.30am set off to make the 80 minute journey over the Pennines to the North East.  It’s a windy, twisty, narrow road over the mountains and my brain lurched around in my skull every inch of the way, which made me massively motion sick and at one stage I thought I was going to have to pull over to throw up, but I somehow (and I really have no clue how) got there without crashing and killing us both.  All went well and he was home at 5pm the next day – as it was Saturday my brother offered to go and collect him which was great.  My Dad’s not going to be able to drive for the next 6 weeks though, so it’s going to be a busy time for me – my life is never anything but busy and I just have to give up the expectation of it being anything else!

I’ve woken with a stonking migraine this morning and a raging sore throat (my sign that I’m way overdoing it).  Of course I have, it’s all been too much this week, but I swear I’m going to deck the next person who says to me “you need to rest more”.  Which part of my life would they like me to cut back on, exactly?  Should I leave my sick, disabled, friend to die in a hypothermic, diabetic coma or to live without central heating or hot water in the middle of winter, or without his laptop even though he’s too ill to leave the house so relies totally on the internet for just about everything?  Or should I leave the care of my parents to my siblings, who all work full time and aren’t available at the drop of a hat at 7am on a Friday morning to take my Dad to hospital, or at 11am on a Tuesday morning to drive my Mum 90 miles for a cataract operation?  Or should I not walk my dog?  Or should I not eat, which would negate my need to cook?  It’s not like I’m doing stuff unnecessarily, well apart from going to my Camera Club but even that feels vital – I need something of my own in amongst looking after everyone else.  Instead of the pseudo-caring advice I’m given, it might be more useful to me if these people who tell me to rest more actually fucking helped me in some way – offered to walk the dog, for example, or brought me round a casserole, or offered to change my bed or hoover my floors because I currently don’t have a cleaner.  But they don’t because that would mean they had to put themselves out.

I’m a bit tired and grumpy this morning, as you can probably tell 😉  I’d sell a kidney for someone to go and make me a brew or bring me breakfast in bed, but as I gave up waiting for my Prince to arrive on his white charger about a decade ago I guess I’ll have to do it.  Then I’ve got Bertie to take out, despite the fact it’s -6C outside (and will feel like -10C on my scooter!) and my skull feels like it’s being stabbed by ice picks.  I’m delighted that my Dad is OK after his operation, but I have to be honest and say that just now and again I wish someone would care for me, just for a little bit.  Dream on!

Note:  It’s 8am and I’ve just logged on to my email.  The first mail of the day isn’t from the Lottery saying I’ve won the jackpot, but from my parents’ energy company requesting a meter reading from disabled customers who are on their ‘extra care/at risk’ register.  What the fuck ever happened to Meter Readers?  Y’know, people who came to your home to take a goddamn meter reading?  It’s not like we don’t pay a shit load of money each month for our energy, more than ever before, yet we receive fewer and fewer services.  It’s another chore to add to my list.  And the first person who says to me “have you heard of smart meters?” will die.  Just sayin’.

Weekly roundup

My week started at 5.50am with me, in my dressing gown in the pitch dark, following my dog around with a jug.  Over the past 18 months he’s been drinking more than he used to, so the vet requested an early morning pee sample to test for diabetes and kidney issues.  Every time Bert cocked his leg and I placed the jug underneath, however, he looked at me in horror and refused to widdle.   I can’t blame him, I’d’ve felt the same way 😉

I eventually managed to catch a little bit of urine and it turned out to be fine.  But he is having a small operation next week.  His teeth need a scale, plus he’s had a deformed dew claw since he was born and it’s a nightmare to trim.  It grows like the clappers and has to be cut every 4 weeks, but it’s becoming increasingly painful for him to have done and he yelps 😦  So the vet thought it best to remove it, but it’s classed as a digit amputation as the rear dewclaws are attached by a bone, a bit like a small thumb 😮

My Dad had his cataract surgery on Tuesday.  It was at Sunderland, 90 miles away, and I refused to take him.  I’ve already been once this month with my Mum and both of them are due back for checkups in December for which I’ll be taking them, so I made my lazy-arsed brother go this week instead.  He works 3 shifts, then has an entire week off – I see no reason why he can’t do more for his parents.

Wednesday I was guest speaker at a Camera Club in Scotland.  I’d battled a throat infection for days and was worried my voice wouldn’t hold out, but apart from the last 5 minutes when I sounded like Donald Duck it went OK.  Well, I say that but it was an interesting evening and I’m going to do a whole post on it just because I can – so watch out for that.

Since my surprise period 12 days ago I have been plagued by severe migraines and I spent most of Friday drinking ibuprofen suspension like it was pop (I’m allergic to all other forms of migraine medication).  I’m so over the whole hormone-induced head pain I can’t even tell you.  I woke at 1am today with the right side of my brain throbbing and as I type this it feels like rats are gnawing on my skull.

Also on Friday I was informed by my estate agent that someone had requested to view my house the next day.  Eeeek, it wasn’t much notice so after I walked Bertie in the afternoon I did the 14 mile round trip into town, in Friday rush hour traffic (which did my migraine no favours), to spend £10 on flowers and to get some polish ’cause I’d run out.   My cleaner has quit and the house was a bit of a pig sty so I spent the whole of Saturday morning cleaning, tidying, washing the front gate (covered in bird poo), sweeping the yard, washing the front door and all the other stuff you do to make your house immaculate.  I palmed the dog off onto my neighbour as he barks his head off at visitors and I can’t concentrate and when 2pm arrived I waited.   And I waited.  And I waited.  And the bitch was a no show.  Four hours later I get a text forwarded from my estate agent apologizing but giving no explanation and asking if she could book another viewing for in the week.  This is the 4th booking this person has made and she hasn’t shown up for any of them.  Needless to say, I said no and that I wouldn’t be accepting any more viewing requests from her.  Today I can barely walk as I’m crippled with back pain from hoovering and mopping all the floors and both wrists and elbows are on fire.

In amongst all the dross there has been some good news but.  Each year, the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain holds a competition where they choose 60 photographers from the 40,000 members of Camera Clubs around the UK they deem to be a master of print.  And I am absolutely thrilled to say that, for the 2nd year running, I have been chosen.  I still have to pinch myself that little old me, lying in my bed in the wilds of the lake district has found something that, not only can I do and which gives me huge joy, but has reached this level of acclaim.  It’s freakin’ awesome 😀

Liberate me from the liberators!

I rarely talk about food on my blog these days.  For the first 2 or 3 years it was all I could talk about because I’d spent 18 months battling severe reactions after eating, not to mention after any kind of medication, and honestly thought I’d die so, naturally, the topic was all-consuming.  But my Histamine Intolerance and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome are, for the most part, under control now and have been for at least a couple of years so I’m happy to not have to think about every single thing I put in my mouth any more and the relief is HUGE.

Now and again, some lovely person out there in the Universe will leave some catty comment here on my site.  Something like “you’re talking shit” or “this site is a joke” which is hurtful considering how ill I am and the effort which has gone in to 6 years of writing twice weekly posts, not to mention the thousands of hours that have gone into research, putting together information, links and photographs, or all the recipes I’ve made available here for free, but not everyone in the world is nice or has manners so you just have to take it on the chin.  A couple of weeks ago, one of these kind people left a message on one of my histamine-related food pages to the effect that the information was out of date and I might like to sort that out.  I was taken aback, as I’d only revisited the page in January this year and hadn’t heard on the grapevine of any significant new information on histamine in food lately (or ever), so I asked the poster to please point me in the direction of said new information so that I could share it with all my followers.   She didn’t reply.  They rarely do when asked to provide proof to back up their claims.

I had some free time today and, despite the most god awful thumping bloody headache, I decided to do some digging to see if I could find any new information on histamine in foods.  I failed miserably, but I did find an abundance of low histamine food lists and every single one had a big list of “histamine liberators”, ie those foods not actually high in histamine themselves but capable of forcing mast cells to release histamine.  Things like egg whites, strawberries, ‘additives’ (unspecified), pineapple, peanuts, fish, pork, liquorice, spices (again unspecified), tomatoes and of course citrus fruits.  Seriously?  No, really.  Seriously?!  And then people have the gall to say that my painstakingly researched information on histamine in food is out of date!

I spent nearly a year researching histamine in foods and could find zero evidence for any food “liberating” histamine from mast cells.  If you don’t believe me, Google til your fingers bleed.  There is no such thing.

Hardly any of the low histamine foods lists, even really popular ones like SIGHI, reference the research on which they base their information.  Most freely admit it’s gathered from patients,  which is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard.  There is a reason we have laboratory tests and double-blind randomized controlled trials and it’s so there is a level playing field, all the participants have exactly the same disease and no other disease (like fructose intolerance, or coeliac disease, or an issue with nightshades), and the resulting information is accurate.

So where has this myth that egg whites, citrus fruits or strawberries liberate histamine from mast cells come from?  It took me ages to work that little puzzle out and eventually I realized that where research was cited on a low histamine food list it usually came from a single source: a paper called ‘Histamine and histamine intolerance’ by Laura Maintz and Natalija Novak in 2007 which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and their information came from various sources cited at the end of their paper.  I followed the trail and discovered that the myth about egg whites came from ‘research’ (and I use the term loosely) by Schachter and Talesnik in 1952 (!) that egg white releases histamine in non-sensitised animals when injected intravenously.    A 64 year old single animal research study which didn’t even involve the animals actually eating anything is the basis for everyone excluding egg white on low histamine diets – jaw dropping isn’t it?   And the myth about strawberries liberating histamine came from unpublished data by Schachter in the 1950s but the paper is so old and obscure no-one has actually been able to obtain a copy to see what it actually says! In the Jul-Aug 2005 edition of the Netherlands Journal of Medicine is a paper entitled ‘Mastocytosis and adverse reactions to biogenic amines and histamine-releasing foods: what is the evidence?’ in which the authors conclude “We could not find any study on histamine-releasing effects of most of the foods suggested of having histamine-releasing capacities.”  I rest my case.

Everyone is a lot more savvy and clued up on histamine these days and there are now dozens of sites giving information on low histamine diets………….and they are all, without exception, wrong.  I simply can’t understand why these myths linger or why sites that really should know better perpetuate them.

Most of the people who write low histamine food lists are genuinely trying to be helpful and offer guidance to patients suffering from HIT and MCAS and it is nice to hear about other patients’ experiences of their safe, and not so safe, foods but it’s merely anecdotal and you simply can’t treat this kind of information as fact.  For example, buckwheat is listed on many lists as a safe food low in histamine, but I simply can’t tolerate it.  The truth is no-one has ever tested buckwheat for its histamine content as far as I’m aware and I have no clue where the testing figures or research information is that says it’s ‘safe’ for someone with HIT or MCAS to eat.

I could be wrong, of course.  There could be exciting new and accurate information on the histamine content of foods out there which I know nothing about and if so I hope one of you, my lovely readers, will tell me all about it. I’d like nothing more than to know which foods are safe to eat for someone with raging HIT and delinquent mast cells and which foods aren’t, but I suspect I’ll still be guessing by Christmas…………2030!


Weekly roundup

Mr Sod and his Law have made their presence known this week.  I’m guest speaker at a Camera Club on Wednesday evening and have gone down with a raging throat infection.  My left tonsil is huge and I want to gag every time I swallow 😦  I also have a headache and feel generally bleugh.   WHY NOW FFS?!!  I have no clue how I’m going to talk for 2 whole hours.

My 75 year old, disabled friend who fell out of bed last week was discharged from hospital less than 24 hours later.  He was admitted with a fever of 101C, a chest infection and abnormal heart rhythm (he’s already had a heart attack, has a stent fitted and has angina).  He spent 12 hours in A&E, without any food despite being diabetic (he’d barely eaten for 3 days), and was eventually placed on the acute admissions ward at 1am.   He was given IV antibiotics, there were no beds, so at noon he was asked if he wanted to go home.  “Yes please” he says, because there isn’t a person alive who actively wants to be in hospital.  So they whipped his drip out and sent him home.  Alone.  With no carers or any other help in place.  I was fucking livid.

I met him this morning for our weekly brunch at a local cafe.  He looked awful and had apparently fallen asleep in the car in the car park.  He only lasted til 11am before telling me he had to go home because he was exhausted.  I’m going to ring his GP surgery tomorrow and speak to his doctor because something is clearly not right and men are hopeless, on the whole, at telling doctors what’s really going on.

Aunt Flo paid me a surprise visit this week and it was most unwelcome.  I had my last period 132 days ago and had thought I was well on my way to full menopause, to the point where I’d chucked out all my sanitary wear, but obviously my ovaries have other ideas.   I’m now consulting with my solicitor to issue my hormones with an eviction notice.

On a more serious note, for the past few months I have had god awful nerve pain in my legs.  Both shooting, electric shock type pains and more general heavy achiness from the knees down on both legs.  I’ve had continual back and hip pain for years so thought it was coming from there, but the day my period started the nerve pain almost disappeared!  Very odd.  It is still present, but has gone from maybe a 8/10 to a 3/10 and for that I am truly grateful.

I made a complete and utter arse of myself this week.  I have a gas fire that works from a remote control.  A couple of weeks ago the knob which turns the flame up and down started to get really stiff, so on Tuesday I called out the gas engineer to take a look.
“Have you tried new batteries?” he asks.
“In the remote control y’mean?  Yes I have” I reply, smugly.
“No, in the fire”
I look at him puzzled.  “Didn’t know there were batteries in the fire” I admit, turning crimson.
So he pulls a black box out from under the fire, slides the back off and shows me 4 x AA batteries.  “If you haven’t changed these in 8 years I’m fairly sure that’s the culprit” he tells me, trying not to laugh.
And sure enough he changes them and the knob works perfectly.  That little lesson in being a complete airhead cost me £50.  FFS.

Wednesday I made it to my camera club.  I haven’t been for a month as I’ve other things on so it was nice to be back.  It’s a much more relaxed club than my old one, with younger members and more light-hearted banter but although some of the older members make a point of talking to me none of the women my own age do.  They all just sit in a group together and don’t even look in my direction, which is a bit shit and I don’t feel all that welcome.

Yesterday I had coffee with a couple from my old camera club.  They’d contacted me out of the blue to suggest meeting up and I was really touched they wanted to stay in contact.  I didn’t even know them that well as they’d only been at the club for one season, but we had a lovely couple of hours catching up and it was nice to know that at least some of the members were missing me.

Well, it’s time for another salt water gargle (eugh!) and a honey and lemon tea.  I’m resting up for the remainder of the day and having a binge fest of Love Island  Australia on catch-up.  Thank God I’m no longer in my twenties and feeling pressure to find my soul mate – it all looks like far too much hard work and disappointment and makes me happy I live with my dog and not a bloke 😉