Tag Archives: mast cells

Confused.com

I’ve never claimed to have any answers to my, or anyone else’s, health problems and freely admit I just muddle along with the rest of you in the land of The Confused.  And there is no more confusing a world than that of histamine, as I’m sure many of my readers have discovered.

Having said all that, I’ve been diagnosed with both Histamine Intolerance (HIT) and Mast Cell Activation Disorder (MCAD) for 4 years now and have learned and made discoveries along the way so thought I’d share this knowledge, for what it’s worth, with you.

When I was first diagnosed I knew I had to start an elimination diet because I was having anaphylaxis every time I ate.  Naively I just thought there’d be a foolproof diet online that I could follow and all would be well.  Oh, if only it were that simple!  I did, indeed, find diets online that claimed to be ‘low histamine’ and I followed Dr Joneja’s because she seemed like an expert and the diet was comprehensive………but it was a nightmare.  As a pesco-vegetarian it cut out all the foods I’d lived on all my life and didn’t tell me what to substitute the excluded foods with.  Having been sick with M.E., which decimates your digestion, for years before my mast cells exploded I knew that lack of good nutrition causes as many issues as exclusion diets solve, so I instinctively realized that simply cutting out so-called “high histamine” foods without substituting foods with equal nutritional value would be disastrous.  Bearing that in mind, I set about trying to find alternatives, eg I cut out tinned, chopped, tomatoes in recipes but substituted them with a home-made red pepper sauce.  I cut out Cheddar Cheese, but substituted with Mozzarella cheese.  I cut out fresh fish, but substituted with frozen fish which I discovered was gutted and frozen on-board the ship thereby reducing its histamine load.  I cut out spinach, but substituted lamb’s lettuce.  And so on.  It took about a year but I finally came up with a diet which was still balanced and nutritious but low in histamine (or so I thought!).

This is what I learned: if you exclude a food, try to substitute it with a food of equal nutritional value. 

After 4 months on a ‘low-histamine’ diet I stopped having anaphylaxis every time I put food in my mouth and the relief was enormous.  But many of my symptoms were still present, eg. hives, insomnia, itchy skin, nausea etc.  It took a while to work out what was going on, but I discovered that mast cells react to all sorts of things, not just what we eat, and that realistically I was going to have issues for the rest of my life.  In particular I was in my mid-forties and had begun peri-menopause and I learned that hormones have a massive impact on mast cells.  There was nothing I could do about the situation and 4 years down the line I’m still suffering the effects of wildly fluctuating menopausal hormones on my histamine load.  In addition, I react badly to stress (which with 2 sick aging parents to look after can be unavoidable), extremes of temperatures, my dog, some pollens and simply doing too much and getting too tired.

What I learned: I could not manage my MCAD using food alone.

My next big revelation was that all of the advice on low-histamine foods online seemed to contradict each other.  It took a lonnnng time to figure out why, but eventually I discovered that no-one was testing food for its histamine content and that all the lists online were based on nothing but guesswork.  I was devastated by this revelation and everything I thought I’d learned about food and histamine came crashing down round my ears.  It was then I really started to look at where the information online was coming from and wrote my ‘Histamine in Food: the Evidence’ page.  Even popular histamine writer The Low Histamine Chef can’t find a lab that will test for histamine in foods and with all her connections if she can’t find proper info on the histamine content in foods it doesn’t exist.  That doesn’t stop people occasionally coming on my blog and telling me I’m talking crap and that this food or that food is high or low in histamine, not realizing that far from me being wrong, they are wrong and when I ask them to back their claims up with hard data they never can.  Bearing this in mind, and finding sticking to a rigid low histamine diet really difficult, I started to experiment with re-introducing certain foods.  I still exclude foods which I know have been properly tested and found to be high in histamine, eg. hard cheese, aubergienes, tinned fish, soya but now eat normal yeasted bread, beans and pulses (including red kidney beans as there is not a scrap of evidence they are high in histamine), and my symptoms are no worse than before.  Having said all that, my re-introduction of chocolate was a disaster and definitely increased my histamine load, so it is still forbidden *sob*.

What I learned: only a handful of foods have been tested for their histamine content.  We have no clue whether most fruits or veg are high histamine.  So-called low histamine diets are far too rigid and unnecessarily cut out highly nutritious foods.

My next big revelation came from my lovely readers, who would write and say that although I might be tolerating lentils, or wheat, they reacted to them.  This totally threw me, so again I researched what might be going on and discovered that we are all simply individual and will react differently to our friends.  In addition, just because we’re reacting to a food doesn’t mean it’s because it’s high in histamine.  You might also have a problem with nightshades, fructose, gluten, lactose, salicylates or any number of other components in foods, whereas I might not.  This is why I don’t give advice on my blog.  For a start I’m not qualified to, secondly I don’t know you and thirdly we are all so different that it would be totally pointless in any event because what works for me might not work for you.

What I learned: we are all individual and our mast cells react differently other people’s.

When I was first diagnosed I read everything I could about MCAD………..and found that much of it was totally contradictory to my own experience.  For example, on Yasmina’s Healing Histamine website is this post about Melatonin and how research has shown that it counter-balances histamine.  I’ve had horrendous insomnia because of my illnesses and years ago tried a Melatonin supplement, which gave me one of the worst mast cell reactions I’ve ever experienced.  Wondering why, I had my melatonin level checked by a lab and discovered it was  actually far higher at 3am than a healthy person’s, despite the fact I was wide awake!  So melatonin doesn’t appear to be reducing my histamine levels, which flies in the face of this research.  The research does say, though, that mast cells produce melatonin which makes more sense – my mast cells were rampant and this would obviously mean a high melatonin output, but in my case this wasn’t a good thing!  Some of the histamine writers online are treated a bit like God and their every word taken as Gospel, but trust me when I say if Dr Afrin doesn’t have the answers yet no-one else does either.

What I learned: don’t believe everything you read.

My experience with MCAD is that it is a highly fluctuating condition, which changes over time.  For example, when I was severely ill with M.E. (which as my readers know I think is some kind of mast cell disease) I was highly sensitive to chemicals, eg. I couldn’t bear to read a newspaper because the ink used in the printing gave me asthma-type symptoms.  I couldn’t tolerate normal paints, hairspray, perfume, bleach and any number of other substances.  However, as my M.E. started to improve my chemical reactions also improved and now I don’t have any problems with smells.  My drug reactions started off fairly minor, with me reacting to just the odd medication, but over the years this has gotten worse and worse to the point where I have anaphylaxis to just about all drugs.  To make matters worse, I can start off tolerating a drug really well but 12 months, or 6 years, or 20 years down the line suddenly have anaphylaxis to it and be unable to take it ever again.

What I learned: things can change, for the good or the bad.

When I was diagnosed with MCAD I thought there would be information out there in cyberspace that would have all the answers and it came as a huge shock to discover that that information simply doesn’t exist.  This is a new area of medicine and even leading Doctors in the field are still finding their way around the complexity of mast cells and the havoc the chemicals they release (like histamine & prostaglandins) play on our bodies.  If the experts don’t have the answers yet, no-one else does.  Not me and not other bloggers or writers, and if they pretend they do they’re fibbing.  Much of the research cited online is conducted on animals or in a lab, and this often doesn’t translate to human beings.  We are decades away from any real understanding of mast cell disease and when it does happen you can bet your life the answer won’t lie in whether or not you eat Pak Choi on a regular basis!  There are diets which may help, but absolutely won’t cure you.  There are drugs you can take which might help, but won’t cure you.  There are supplements you can take which might help, but won’t cure you.  There are ways you can live your life which might reduce symptoms, but again won’t cure you.  And that’s because MCAD is currently a chronic, incurable disease.  Sorry to be the bearer of bad news 😦

What I learned: MCAD may, or may not, be manageable but certainly isn’t currently curable.

My journey with mast cell disease is ongoing, but I’ve learned a fair bit over the past few years.  You’d think this would make me more knowledgeable, but in fact it’s been the opposite and there are days I feel more confused than ever!  My biggest revelation has been that we are all basically in the dark……Doctors, Researchers and Patients………because our knowledge of MCAD is in its infancy and, much as we’d all like it to be different, no-one really has the answers to our questions yet.  Which makes me feel kind’ve adrift and alone and scared.  But I’ve had M.E. for 2 decades too and no-one knows anything about that either and I’ve survived….just.

Weekly roundup

I have my period, so I feel like a limp dishcloth.  I am grateful, however, that so far it has not been excruciatingly painful and I have still been able to function.  Funny how, when you’re chronically ill, the things that make you grateful change!

Monday my Scooter was carted off to the shop.  It’s been cutting out on me and despite two engineer’s visits he hasn’t been able to fix it, so it was taken to his workshop for diagnostics.  The accelerator was on its way out, so it’s been given a new one and is now working fine.  I am £80 lighter, however, which I didn’t need considering it’s Christmas and I now only have £21 left in my bank account to last me til January.

Tuesday I had another counselling session.  It’s only my third one but to be honest I’m not sure how helpful it’s going to be.  Yes it’s nice to offload on to someone, but I really don’t think we’re coming up with any solutions.

I spent most of Thursday and Saturday cooking.  I want to make loads of meals, smoothies and treats and freeze them, so that I can have a break from cooking over Christmas.

My cleaner has now been diagnosed with a slipped disc, so will be off until at least the new year.  I know she can’t help it, but I really didn’t need my help to be AWOL at this very busy time of the year, when I’ve had a virus, a sprained wrist and am so exhausted I’m on my last legs.  There’s no way I’m going to get another cleaner 2 weeks before Christmas, so I’ll have to do it the best I can myself for another month then advertise for someone else.  By January she will have been off for 3 months which is no good to me, so she doesn’t know it yet but I am going to have to let her go.   If I get another cleaner that will be my fourth in 12 months.  Getting reliable help is a fucking nightmare and really stressful.  Not only that, but these people are in my home and I have to keep starting from scratch building up a relationship with them.

This week has felt like a bit of a drudge.  I seem to have just done chores and had no fun.  My Christmas stay-cation can’t come soon enough.  I’m ready to relax, read some books, watch some telly and have a bit of me time (inbetween taking the dog out twice a day as my dog walker is off, feeding myself and keeping on top of the housework!).  Let’s face it, what I really need is a month on a tropical island with my own chef and butler, although knowing my luck I’d end up with Malaria 😉

 

Weekly roundup

As we’re now in December I turned my Christmas lights on this week.  I don’t usually have any outside lights, as I don’t have the energy to put them up or take them down, but I spotted a cheap pre-lit Cherry tree in B&M which just had to be plugged in and couldn’t resist buying it.  It looks similar to this and is really pretty in my miniscule front garden:


My cleaner is still off sick and has no idea when she’ll be back at work.  I have to ask myself how long I can leave the situation before letting her go and finding someone else (good luck with that in December Jak!).  The thing with backs is that once they’ve been damaged they tend to never be the same again, so how will she cope with a very physically demanding job?  In my last Weekly Roundup I mentioned that I find cleaning the car myself almost impossible and one of my lovely readers asked me why on earth I need to wash the car.  I don’t wash the outside, I go through a drive-in, but when you live in the countryside and own a dog this is the reason you need the inside regularly cleaned 😉

Bertie regularly has half a forest stuck in his fur then shakes himself and the mud splattered up the car door took 3 goes with a scrubbing brush to get off!  More than anything, the smell of wet muddy dog is enough to knock you sideways!

I was in tears on Tuesday and it takes a lot to make me cry.  You’ve all heard me complain about the sodding dog on the farm next door barking at all hours of the day and night, but it’s not the dog’s fault.  It’s treated appallingly, not given any attention or affection, and left on its own for hours on end.  In 2014 I reported the owner to the RSPCA for tying the dog’s muzzle with wire – it was nipping the heels of the cows it was herding so its muzzle was taped shut.  The problem is, dogs don’t sweat like we do and have to pant to cool down.  In addition, one of its front paws was being put through its collar and it was being made to hobble around on 3 legs.  The RSPCA inspector visited them and the farmer pleaded ignorance saying he had no idea this was abusing the dog (is he having a fucking laugh?!).  That was 2 years ago and the dog is still regularly having its leg put through its collar for reasons I can’t work out.  If it’s to stop it running off it’s not working, because this week I found it hobbling ¼ of a mile up the village.  I was furious and called the dog over to me, took a photo for evidence, then undid its collar and freed its leg.  I then, once again, reported the cruelty to the RSPCA.  The dog is abused on a daily basis – I’ve seen it kicked, hit and strangled.   A beautiful Border Collie, highly intelligent and extremely affectionate.  I came home and bawled my eyes out, imagining someone treating my beloved Bert that way.  I’ll let you know what the outcome is – at least this time the farmer can’t plead ignorance as he was told in 2014 that this treatment of the dog is cruel.

Another lovely reader wrote in and told me that the C5 programme I mentioned this week is now available on Catch up here for anyone in the UK who missed it.

I had a bit of a mishap on Thursday.  At 9pm I went downstairs to turn all the lights off, missed my footing and fell down my wooden staircase.  My wrist is proper sore and still bandaged up (don’t panic, it’s not broken just sprained).  Ouch!  Although I didn’t actually say “ouch” at the time.  No, the air was blue with goddamn-motherfucking-swear-words.  The worst of it all was that in trying to save myself I ripped the pretty Christmas garland wrapped round the bannister off and broke it.  Bugger!

In this situation, the first thing I did was slap on some Arnica cream to help with the bruising, then a compression bandage to help with the swelling.  You’re supposed to ice these kinds of injuries but it was late and I was ready for bed so I didn’t bother.  The weird part was that the next day other parts of my body were itching like mad.  I just thought I was producing histamine in response to the trauma of the accident, so went about my day as usual.  It was only when I got undressed to get in the bath that night that I realized the parts of my body that were itching were actually injured!  I’d bruised my hip and taken the skin off various other areas.  Bizarre that I didn’t feel pain.  The injury sites itched instead, which is a peculiar response to being hurt.  My wrist doesn’t itch though.  No, it hurts like a son-of-a-bloody-bitch 😉

As Christmas is heading for us like a runaway horse, look out for a post this week on how I survive the holidays.  I used to try and do Christmas like a healthy person, then relapse and be in bed til March.  Something had to give and several years ago I put my foot down and said enough is enough.  We still celebrate but it’s no longer stressful or exhausting and doesn’t culminate with me ending up in a coma.

Our diseases on the telly!

I saw a trailer in the week for a programme which featured a girl who was “allergic to everything”.  Things like that always wave a huge red flag for me so I decided to watch it.  It focused on 3 young adults, one who slept constantly who was finally diagnosed with Kleine Levin Syndrome, one who was “allergic to everything” and one who “had the body of a 90 year old”.

As I watched the story of the allergic girl unfold I thought “OMG, I must get in touch with her – she has MCAS!”  The fact she was also a professional gymnast, and clearly hypermobile, was the icing on the cake.  She’d been hospitalized over 40 times in 3 years with severe anaphylactic reactions, yet extensive immune and allergy testing had shown no reason for her symptoms – sound familiar?!  However I had no need to contact her, as at the end of the programme she saw a Haematologist in Leicester who diagnosed her with MCAS.  The fact she actually obtained an MCAS diagnosis in the UK was staggering.  Hurrahhhh 🙂

The third girl featured had had problems from childhood, initially mild then all of a sudden severe.  Her joints were severely hypermobile and, like me, she was initially diagnosed with Hypermobility Syndrome.  But she was far too unwell for that diagnosis, eventually ending up in a wheelchair and having blackouts and seizures.  Her family did some research and her Mum thought she fitted the diagnostic criteria for EDS, but there were no experts where they lived in Northern Ireland so they had to fly to London to the hypermobility clinic at St Johns & Elizabeth where she was indeed diagnosed with H-EDS.  She also saw Prof Matthias who diagnosed her with POTS which had been the reason for her seizures.

It was heartening to see both these girls diagnosed at a fairly young age, though they and their families had been to hell and back for several years first with none of the doctors they saw having a clue what was going on – a familiar story for most of us I would imagine.

The programme was badly titled ‘the boy who can’t stay awake’ and was on Channel 5.  I’ve looked online and it doesn’t seem to be available on the C5 catch up TV website, but it is being repeated on Sunday at 3.10am if you live in the UK and want to set your recorders.  For my readers outside the UK, the MCAS girl is featured in a Daily Mail newspaper article online here.

Histamine on the rise

This year has not been good histamine-wise and my histamine levels are currently at a three year high.  How do I know?  Here are my symptoms:

  • I’m getting up in the night to pee again, which is something I’d stopped doing.  Last night I had to get up 3 times.
  • I’m not sleeping, and my sleep was the best it’s been for 20 years.  I drop off OK but wake after an hour, then drop off again and wake after an hour……and so on until about 4am.  I’m exhausted after months of insomnia.
  • My skin itches all the time.
  • I have constant hayfever symptoms.
  • My GERD is out of control.
  • I have back pain so bad I can’t sleep comfortably, when the pain had all but disappeared.
  • My bowels are sluggish and irregular, after regularly pooping straight after breakfast for the first time in my life.
  • I’m tired but wired and can’t relax.

Funnily enough I don’t have hives, but I know they’re coming.  They seem to be the last symptom to appear then take weeks to get rid of.  I also haven’t seen an increase in headaches or migraines, which is brilliant but they do usually accompany insomnia for me.

I haven’t been under any more stress than usual, so I’m going to rule out stress as a cause of my histamine rise.  I have been eating too much chocolate than is good for me, so I’m going to stop the chocolate altogether and see if that helps, though I can’t see how a small increase in chocolate consumption could fill my histamine bucket to overflowing.  Other than that I haven’t made any major changes to my diet – I was going to re-introduce yeasted bread but found that I actually like my organic yeast-free bread better so I’ve continued with it other than the odd sandwich with regular bread now and then (which I’ve eaten all along, so no real change there).

The unknown factor is the hormone fluctuations I’m having due to peri-menopause (which is causing the chocolate cravings!).  I’d guess I’m in the final 3 years of peri which is the time when hormones are surging wildly then crashing, wrecking absolute havoc.  Many healthy women have insomnia, increase in itching and allergies, frequent urination, migraines and a host of other symptoms during Menopause so I’m not going to be immune.

Other than that I’ve no idea why my histamine level is increasing.  Despite eating “low histamine” my diet isn’t restricted as I made sure that if I cut something out, eg. tomatoes, I substituted them with something of equal value, eg. peppers.  No hard cheese but soft cheese.  No dried fruits but fresh fruits, etc.  So I still eat a wide range of foods and still make virtually everything from scratch.  I also try my very best to walk for up to half an hour every day, even when I’m in a lot of pain from my EDS or exhausted from my M.E. – exercise has so many benefits that I try religiously to keep my fitness up despite my many limitations.  I should relax more, but I’m so busy I admit I find that challenging, however I’m having a 2 week “stay-cation” over Christmas and might even impose an internet ban (then again, I may not have the will power 😉 ).

To be honest I’m a bit stumped.  I’ve done so well for three years now to suddenly see my symptoms returning is very disheartening, particularly when I can’t put my finger on why.

I’m going to increase my intake of olive oil as per the menopausehistamineconnection website, though I already use at least a tablespoon every day in my meals, and I’m plucking up the courage to try Sambucol (a concentrated elderberry extract which is high in mast cell stabilizing quercetin, + Vitamin C another mast cell stabilizer) even though I’m petrified to try supplements as I’ve reacted badly to almost all I’ve ever taken.  I’ll let you know if I notice any change over the next few months.

 

Weekly roundup

I’m slowly getting over my throat/cough virus though it has taken an entire month.  My energy is still very limited, however, and I’m struggling to get anything done.  My cleaner has now been off for 5 weeks which doesn’t help the situation, especially as I’ve no idea when she’ll be back.

Wednesday I met my bestie for lunch and it was lovely to have some different gossip and for someone else to do the cooking (and the clearing away afterwards!).  I usually go to Camera Club on Weds night but the past two weeks I’ve conked around 4pm and not been able to get out of bed.

Winter has really bitten this week with beautiful blue skies but freezing temperatures.  I can’t tell you how pretty it is here so, despite having the energy levels of a coma patient, I dragged my thermals on and drove up the lakes to take some pictures.  Luckily I was able to park right next to the shore and only had to walk a few yards which was just as well.  Here are a couple of the pictures which I’ll be putting on my Redbubble page shortly:

Friday I was back at the Doctor’s having my breast lump checked.  She said my boobs were so lumpy it was hard to tell what was going on and the little bruise I’ve had for 2 months now is still there, so she’s referred me to the benign breast clinic at the hospital just to be on the safe side.  They usually see people within 2 weeks but are behind at the moment so it may take a bit longer.  The Doctor doesn’t think it’s anything sinister but it is painful, so if it’s a cyst or something they may be able to drain it which should help.

I trim Bertie’s nails myself and usually don’t have any problems.  But for some reason this week I cut one of his dew claws too short and there was so much blood you’d think I’d amputated his leg!  Bertie looked at me in pure shock that I’d hurt him and I felt so sick I couldn’t eat my lunch. I’m still waiting for a knock on the door and the RSPCA coming to arrest me for cruelty to animals!!

I put my Christmas tree up this weekend 🙂  A couple of years ago I treated myself to a ‘feel real’ artificial fir in the Boxing Day sales.  It’s pre-lit with lights and each year I just put it away in a cupboard complete with baubles and everything as I don’t have the energy to decorate it from scratch each December.  Let the holidays begin!

Weekly roundup

Apologies for there being no blog post this week.  I’ve been in bed since last Sunday with a lergie – an achy, coughing, throat infecting, energy robbing lergie which has made me feel completely lousy.  Don’t you just love winter bugs?!

On top of that it’s been a week for stuff going wrong.  I bought a trio set of new phones in June and was chatting to a friend this week when, after 15 minutes, the battery on my bedroom phone said it was dead (despite always being kept on charge).  So I picked up the call on the lounge phone, which after 12 minutes said the battery was dead.  So I picked the call up on the kitchen phone which, after 10 minutes said the battery was dead and has never worked since!  So I’ve had to return them to Amazon and order another set.

The bulb in my bedside lamp blew this week, which tripped the fuse in the plug so that was to sort.  I put a new bulb in, replaced the fuse, turned the lamp on……….and the new bulb exploded in my face!  It’s the 2nd bulb from a pack of four which has exploded so I’m now going to have to go back to the shop I bought them from and complain that they’re dangerous.

I’m desperate for a new wig as, after about 6 months of use, the fibres get really coarse and grate on my neck like sandpaper.  I’m happy with my current wig so just sent for another one of those from the same online shop I bought my original one from.  Only when it arrived it was totally different to my current one, despite the label saying it was the same.  So I’ve had to get in touch with the shop, send it back, they are going to send for another one from the manufacturer to compare it to, and I have to wait for the conclusion.  And all the while my neck is being rubbed raw!

My Mum wants a new watch for Christmas as she’s struggling to see the time on her current one.  Finding a bracelet watch without a clasp, in gold, with a large face and clear letters has been near impossible but I finally got just what I wanted in Debenhams.  However the bracelet is far too big so I’ve had to send it off to be shortened.

My cleaner is still off with back pain and it’s not looking like she’s returning to work any time soon.  Much as I feel for her I selfishly could really do without being cleaner-less in the run up to Christmas when I’m always more tired than usual and am trying to get over this energy zapping virus to boot.  So, despite feeling like death warmed up, I’ve had to change my bed, clean the sink in my bedroom and mop all the floors which, with the snow and rain we’ve had this week and a certain person’s filthy paws, were disgusting.

I haven’t seen my parents all week as I didn’t want to pass this bug on to them, but had to get out of my sick bed on Friday to take Mum to see her GP.  She’s now struggling to do even basic tasks without getting totally out of breath so we’ve asked for a referral to the lung clinic at the hospital for her to be assessed for supplemental oxygen.  Of course it was sleeting, freezing cold, pitch black as it was an evening appointment and I had Mum’s wheelchair to get out of the boot, get her in it, wheel her inside, then go back and park the car – reversing everything after the appointment.  I was bloody exhausted and soaked :-/

In amongst all that, and with a brain like mush, I’ve had to make a start on a presentation I’m doing for my camera club next month.  The chap who usually runs our beginner’s class is still off with horrendous back issues so we’re all covering for him.  I have to talk for over an hour (!) on “composition” alongside a powerpoint slideshow and, while I don’t mind, I am finding it hard work.

Speaking of the chap with the back issues, who as you may recall lost his wife unexpectedly this spring, we met for lunch recently.  I don’t know him that well, but he was the one who very generously gave me his old printer for nothing so I feel obliged to be kind during the truly dreadful year he’s having.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, he makes me slightly uneasy in as much as I know he’s terribly lonely and grieving and that’s never a good combination when you’re a single woman – the fact this guy is 70 and old enough to be my Dad is irrelevant.  I’ve kind’ve been waiting for him to hit on me and, while that thankfully hasn’t happened yet, he did ask me this week to go on an all-expenses paid holiday abroad with him in the New Year.  As I’ve said, we’re not especially close friends or anything and I was so taken aback by the offer I said “No!” rather too abruptly then felt dreadful.  I know he just wants some company, but surely he has male friends or family members he could have asked, not a single woman young enough to be his daughter.

Being as though it’s only 5 weeks til Christmas I thought being stuck in bed was an opportunity to make a start on my festive online shopping.  I always have cards made for my very closest friends and family and this year Bertie is the cover boy.  This photo is available to buy in my Redbubble shop, which is where I sell my pictures and merchandise (blatant plug!).  Not every single photo I’ve taken is available in my shop yet, though I am trying to get it updated – if I post a picture on here that you would like to buy as a card or whatever please just let me know and I’ll upload it.  If you click on any of the images in my portfolio, then scroll down you will see which types of merchandise are available for that photo.  I think making Bertie wear a Santa hat has traumatized him for life 😉