Friday, 31 January 2014

Dying for an apple.

So I'm sitting in a cafe with a friend chatting and drinking posh healthy fruit juice when suddenly my throat starts to close up and I can't breath. Pretty scary. They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away but not in my case. In fact quite the contrary. I just got back from seeing one as a result of the cafe incident and he's referred me to see even more of them in an allergy clinic, and given me two EpiPens.

It turns out I'm allergic to apples and perhaps pears too and possibly lots of other fruit besides, and it's not strange as you might think. Apparently oral allergy syndrome, or OAS, which is what this allergy is, is surprisingly common. In fact it's the most common food allergy in adults and is not a separate food allergy at all but a "cross-reactivity between distant remnants of tree or weed pollen still found in certain fruits and vegetables" (Wikipedia).

As with most sufferers I've eaten apples all my life without a problem, it's only been the last few years that I've noticed something odd. 
I would be cutting up the fruit for my boys in the evening as usual (it's the best way to ensure that they eat any, hand it to them on a plate, quite literally, while they are watching telly and they will absent mindedly stuff it all in) and afterwards I'd rub my eye, or touch my face, and one eye would flare up, all red and itchy and weird, usually just the one eye but sometimes both. 

I started washing apples before cutting them, thinking it might be pesticides on them, and became very careful not to touch my eyes or face afterwards, and it stopped happening. I forgot about it. But I didn't eat apples after that, not raw ones anyway. Sixth sense maybe?

Then I noticed that if I drank apple juice, proper posh juice made in a juicer with all the peel and the core and the pips and everything, my lips would blister. Normal apple juice from a carton would be fine, I can still drink that by the gallon without a problem, which just goes to show how processed it is I guess. But after drinking 'real' juice, with all the apple in it my lips became sore and red around the edges, like when you've been out in the cold and the wind too much. Very uncomfortable. So I switched to pear juice if I was out in one of those posh cafes where they offer lots of 'real' juice combos, and that seemed to be fine...

Until a couple of weeks ago when I was in a cafe with a friend and ordered my usual - pear with ginger and cranberry - and oh my word! Something really horrible happened very quickly, which is a characteristic of this allergy (and all allergies), a quick reaction and an escalation.

Immediately my throat started to close up, I was coughing, I was wheezing, I thought my throat might close all together and I wouldn't be able to swallow, which was scary. I went up to the counter to ask for a glass of water to wash the nasty feeling away, and found it hard to speak. I drank and drank and drank and the lovely friend I was with at the time dashed out to the chemist a few doors away to get some antihistamine tables. I took them, and slowly the feeling and the wheezing went away. But my throat carried on hurting after that for 24 hours, which worried me. 

Am I allergic to pear as well now? Could be, apparently the reaction can jump from one fruit to another, or start to embrace more and more. Or it could be that there was some residual apple left in the juicer, the staff at the cafe said it hadn't been rinsed between juices. But if I reacted like that to apple residue in the bottom of a juicer… blimey, that's a hell of a response to not very much apple.

When I got home I looked it up. It's all linked to hay fever apparently, which I also get nowadays, and in particular a reaction to tree pollen, Birch is one culprit. I had already worked out that I'm allergic to Birch pollen, my hay fever comes on in early spring at exactly the time the tree pollen is emerging. Apparently the immune system lumps it all together as one, and the reaction to certain fruits can be much worse when the victim is also suffering from hay fever.

Off I trotted to the doctor, who listened to my tale and told me that was a very serious reaction and could be even worse next time, apparently my throat really could completely close up. He referred me to the allergy clinic at the local hospital, and sent me away with two EpiPens. I'm to keep one with me all the times ready to jab the needle into my own thigh, taking care to administer the drug for a good 10 seconds, at the first sign of any trouble. Cripes!

From perusing my notes there on the screen in front of him the Doctor also reminded me that I'm allergic to latex, (how did I find this out? Suffice to say, pregnancy, internal exam, much discomfort that followed). Latex is, of course, another tree bi-product . So that's the pollen from trees, the fruit of some trees, and the milky glue-like liquid from yet more trees. Bit of a theme here. And the irony is that I love trees. 

Sadly they don't seem to love me.

Love E x 

Here's a thought - have some people always been allergic to apples? Does it go way back in history? What about Sleeping Beauty? She bites an apple, it sticks in her throat, she 'sleeps' for a hundred years. The story has it that the apple was poisoned but maybe she had OAS? Ha.

Friday, 24 January 2014


Mums are great at guilt. In fact women are great at guilt. Here are some things I am currently feel guilty about...

1. When Youngest says, "I know what we can do together this weekend! You can help me make a new stop frame animation and we can make the characters out of plasicine!" And my heart sinks because although I love the adorable little fella to distraction, I don't really want to spend the weekend making plasticine characters. (In the end I gave it a good half hour and then slunk off.)

2. Leaving the children to sit on their computers when they come home from school and not nagging them to get off them because I am having a lovely bit of peace and quiet downstairs in the kitchen reading the paper and drinking a cup of tea. Pretty similar to number 1 actually.

3. Not putting the clean washing away or pairing socks. It all sits in little piles waiting to go to the bedrooms. It's a permanent throbbing pile of guilt. 

4. Having a cleaner. In fact two cleaners. They are a Brazilian couple. This also makes me feel guilty about…

5. Being British and middle class and very fortunate to live in a lovely house and have a lovely family and friends and lovely holidays and all that blah, blah, blah.

6. Not doing maths homework with Youngest and leaving it for Husband to do with him when he gets in after a hard day at the office. Also similar to number 1 and 2.

7. Not opening post and filling in forms. I avoid it like the plague. There are piles of unopened bank statements and energy bills sitting on my desk, and some in the kitchen.

8. Spending money on myself. Especially at the hairdresser.

9. Not getting round to reading my book group book because I'm reading my own book, or the papers, or staring out of the window at birds/squirrels. 

10. Not ringing people or inviting them for dinner when we owe them. Mostly friends I haven't seen for ages and have left to drift away out of apathy, and if you happen to fall into this category and are reading this then I apologise profusely. I love you.

On the plus side I don't feel guilty about going out to work and leaving the children when they were little because I was lucky and didn't have to do that. And I don't feel guilty about food because I pretty much eat what I want (in moderation, obviously) and then try and exercise it off. And I don't feel guilty about my parents because I ring them all the time and know exactly what they are up to. And I do voluntary work in a school and went in twice this week. And I'm doing some paid work at the moment writing and directing some education videos so will be contributing to the family coffers...

Just don't tell husband that I snuck off to the cinema in the daytime yesterday with two mates to see Gravity (what a load of tosh) and that I'm meeting some more for lunch today. Quite soon. That makes me feel really, really guilty… 

So I'm just off to pair some socks.

Love E x



Friday, 17 January 2014

Musings about age.

I am a week and two days older than I was when I wrote my last blog entry.

When I look in the mirror I simultaneously know that I look older, and know I look as young as I ever will do from now on.

When I bend down to pick things up I often find that there is a low grunting noise. Then I realise that I emitted it.

I forget what I went there for, and I am always putting my phone down somewhere in the house and losing it.

This week I am accompanying my eldest child to his first university interview. Actually I am here right now. This seems incredible.

I’m sure I break wind a great deal more than I used to.

My skin is drier. I’ve always had oily skin. Now I need to use hand cream for the first time.

Lately I have taken to staring out of the window at birds. I even put food out for them now and then shake my fist angrily at the squirrels that try to nick it. This is what my Grandparents used to do.

I think about my Grandparents a lot. Is this something to do with my age? I keep thinking about how I will never see them again and I wistfully remember my grandmother’s ice cream floats, and her watercolour paintings and her love or wearing purple and green. And I think about my Grandfather’s yellow knitted waistcoats and his penchant for bow ties and the way he kept his garden shed so neat and tidy. And I think about my other Grandmother and how she would have loved my new kitchen. I would like to show it to her.

Yesterday I went to the local shops to collect Youngest’s glasses from the optician, to get Eldest his student railcard from the station, and to buy food. I bought the food and got the form for the railcard and stood on the high street for a few minutes thinking, I’m sure there was something else. Nope. It’s gone. That must have been all. Then I came home and Youngest said, “Did you get my glasses, Mummy?”

Also lately I think about my past and my so-far-unmet ambitions and wonder whether any of it really matters anyway because we all end up wearing purple and watching birds and farting a lot.

And I think about Eldest about to go to university and begin his life out there in the big world and I think, time and tide waits for no man, and every single day we get older and so we may as well try and enjoy every single second we have left, Carpe Diem, in other words.

And then I get up from my desk to go downstairs to make a cup of tea and realise that I simultaneously farted and grunted, and when I get to the kitchen I’ve forgotten what I went there for and can’t find my phone.

Love E x



Monday, 6 January 2014

A new year, a new list.

Do you make lists? I do one every night. I'm obsessed with lists. Lists for little things: 'ring Doctor, put clothes away'. And lists for big things: 'do CV to get more work, finish novel'...

So because it's the beginning of a new year I have a massive mega list at the moment, and the problem with this is that the bigger things tend to get overlooked by the smaller ones, don't you find? 

I have this little adage: 'just as soon as the house is clean and tidy I will sit down and write', and the problem with that is that the house is really only clean and tidy for about one hour a week on a Friday, and then I tend to flop on the sofa with a cup of tea, a huge pile of newspapers, an enormous sigh, and then instantly fall asleep. 

At the moment I have, 'use old toothbrush to clean grout between the floor tiles on bathroom floor' on my list. 

If Shirley Conran thought life was too short to stuff a mushroom then it's sure as hell too short to scrub a floor with a toothbrush, but I can't help myself, I really like a clean house, I would go so far as to say I LOVE a clean house, although I don't love the process of getting there.

I'm certainly not what the charming Godfrey Bloom would call a slut (you know, that UKIP buffoon), and maybe that's my problem, writing wise. Because it's my hunch, based on no evidence or research whatsoever, that Doris Lessing and Iris Murdoch and the like were massive sluts, in the Godfrey Bloom sense. 

So perhaps I should just accept that I'm more of a Margot Leadbetter than a Margaret Drabble and get on with rearranging the cushions, dropping Husband's shirts off at the launderette and bossing the cleaner?

Anyone know if there's a Rotary Club around here?

Love E x



Saturday, 4 January 2014

A Christmas Interlude.

I apologise to anyone who has been kindly clicking on the old blog over the Christmas period only to find it as empty and neglected as Ebenezer Scrooge's Christmas card list. 

I have been taking a small break, not deliberately, but because with Husband and three boys around all the time and all the festive comings and goings, together with the usual unending catering operation, I haven't had a single minute. 

So, normal service will resume on Monday next week and in the meantime I thought I could entertain you with a few more kitchen photos with explanation. Some kind people have been asking where things came from...

The lovely bespoke windows with bi-folding doors came from Express Bi-folding Doors, in Leeds...

The beautiful smoked oak wooden floor came from Waxed Floors in Clapham…

The vintage lights over the island came from Urban Cottage Industries… Urban Cottage Industries 

ditto the three little over-sink lights…

The vintage blue enamel lights over the table are reclaimed ship's lights and I got them from ebay and had them rewired…

The metro tiles are Valencia white from Fired Earth…

The inset wood-burning stove is a Swedish Contura i6 bought from a shop called Kindle in Twickenham...

The oak cabinets are from the freestanding Vermont range from Fired Earth…

I had the carpenter make the floating shelves from cheap 4 by 2 wood which we sanded down and stained to look old…

The island and sink run worktop is metal grey leathered granite, textured, from Marble City in Wandsworth…

The five island stools (new acquisitions!) are reclaimed from a school science lab, sanded and stained and also from ebay…

The table cloth, for until I get that fabulous new table (!), is from good old John Lewis…

Love E x