Saturday, March 27, 2010

Not one for the foot fetishists

Despite being outwardly a cynical journalist and borderline hypochondriac, I am such a sucker for old wives tales and home remedies. The more ridiculous, the better.

I'm currently battling a really ugly infection under one of my toenails. I've had it for ages and my GP's medication, some poxy little clear nail polish that I'm supposed to use once a week, has achieved nada. If anything it's made the thing worse.

So I hit google, happily grossed myself out with pictures of other people's manky feet and then discovered an alternative cure - vinegar baths and Vicks vapour rub. Needless to say I am now sitting here with my toe in an empty pot of moisturiser filled with rather expensive balsamic (poncy I know but it's all we had to hand). I don't have any Vicks but perhaps Vaseline will do the job.

Oh, the glamour.

The Boy and I are morbidly fascinated by my horrible toenail. He thinks it should somehow be scraped out. I am beginning to wish the nail would just fall off so I can start over. I don't think I can bear a second summer without open-toed shoes (in the unlikely event that it ever stops raining, of course).

There's an episode in Sex and the City where Charlotte gets free designer shoes in exchange for indulging the shop manager's fetish for looking at feet. Definitely wouldn't work for me right now.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Someone wrote a tweet that's given me food for thought all day. OK, he's an author so he's biased, but John Graham Cumming wrote that despite loving his e-reader, he misses the exchange of books between friends.

I think choosing a book for someone is up there with making them a mixtape (yup, showing my age now - and by the way there's another dying tradition). You have to really know someone well and scrutinise their tastes in order to get the perfect book.

I can map out my life in book gifts.

The first book anyone ever gave me was an illustrated hardback of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. It was a gift from my dad in 1981, and it became my favourite bed time story. I still have it and the best thing about it is the message he wrote on the flyleaf.

Aged 11, I got a proper dictionary (which is still the designated Scrabble dictionary chez-nous... I really should update that).

At 15 Wuthering Heights made me yearn for a Heathcliff of my very own.

At 29 a dear friend gave me Wrong Rooms, the memoir of a journalist called Mark Sanderson who describes the incredibly harrowing way in which he lost his partner to AIDS. It is still the most unflichingly unflinchingly candid yet eloquent account of love and grief in my possession.

Before we married my husband gave me a limited edition, handprinted book of poetry by a British Northerner called Hovis Presley. His beautifully gruff poem I Rely On You was one of the readings at our wedding.

For Christmas in 2006 I gave my mum a book of haikus and it inspired her to write one a day for the entire year of 2007.

I could carry all of these treasures around with me on one e-reader but somehow it's the smell of the paper, the inscriptions and, as Mr Graham Cumming says, the physical act of giving that makes them special.

What's your booklife?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Love me... or else

I'm generally vaguely amused by the things people say on mobile phones in public places but the girl sitting behind me on the bus today had me spitting feathers within 3 minutes of taking my seat.

"I'm on a hunger strike until you say what you know I want to hear," she wailed down the line in all seriousness.

"I'll starve - I'll probably die - but I won't eat until you've said it."

If I'd had a lighter on me I would have set fire to my (expensive) bra then and there. I looked around at her in disbelief.

Was I really listening to a twentysomething, 21st century city girl? Surely we ladies have a little more up our sleeves than emotional blackmail and the threat of self-harm to get what we want?

I'm not about to launch into the history of feminism (although I would have liked to have given this particular female a few URLs to browse) and I'm not of course suggesting that she was genuinely serious. But it angered me that she even thought this particular tactic worth saying out loud.

Maybe I've been out of the dating game for too long but "go out with me otherwise I'll kill myself" doesn't seem a particularly romantic or empowering proposition.

I know she was talking to her boyfriend by the way because in the next breath she told him that her mum believed him to be "the son she never had".

"She's so glad that I'm going out with you," she trilled. I bet she is darling. Probably takes the heat off her for a bit.

Something tells me that relationship is doomed.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bills, bills, bills

Life is bleeding me dry. In the space of one week I've had a £300 garage bill, £200 gas, £100 water and £85 electricity. It's ok, utility companies, I wasn't planning on eating very much this month anyway.

I will however need to retain a small fund for my new favourite drink. Last night a girlfriend and I discovered the joys of the pornstar martini. This fruity yet potent little devil is served with a separate shot of champagne. How gloriously decadent is that?

After a couple of those I teetered home and watched six episodes of Sex and the City back to back. The Boy bought me the box set for Christmas (more fool him) and I think it's beginning to infect him too - he returned from a night in the pub with his mate with some skincare advice for me, much to my astonishment.

Over a pint they apparently concluded that I should be using Bio Oil on my operation scar. I am hugely touched, if rather baffled. They're not exactly metrosexual types. If word of Bio Oil has reached them, it really must be good stuff.

At £9 for a teeny weeny bottle it better had be. That's almost 2 pornstar martinis during happy hour.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Back to the grindstone

It's my first day back at work and I'm bewildered.

I've already put my foot in it by accidentally printing out an intensely embarrassing email exchange between my sister and I. I wasn't even aware that I'd hit print until a male colleague sheepishly handed me our correspondence in full.

The topic of our conversation was mooncups, those strange little acorn-shaped things that are marketed as an environmentally friendly alternative to tampons and towels.

We were contemplating who uses them, how one knows when one's mooncup is full, how one removes said cup without splattering the entire bathroom with its contents... you get the drift.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

All clear and the patter of little feet

The lump on my thyroid was benign. I feel like the luckiest lady in London. Life is fantastic. Weirdly this also means that, strictly speaking, I have just had my first bit of cosmetic surgery as it now turns out that the lump could have remained after all.

Not the most glamorous of beginnings and I can't say I feel the need to repeat the experience in a hurry. Which I guess rules out a career as a footballer's wife. Damn.

Anyway it means the end of the whole sorry chapter. Of course now I'm cursing the fact that I got so upset about the lump in the first place but seven months of wondering on a daily basis whether one has cancer is not conducive to sanity.

I haven't really had a chance to digest any of it yet however because for the last 48 hours I have been surrounded by toddlers. Two adorable little girls under the age of 3 took over my entire world.

Yesterday I had imaginary tea parties with my little niece. Within an hour most of her toy collection was spread all over the lounge floor and she wanted to get out her 48-piece wooden train set.

Today I played My Little Pony (I had no idea they still existed) with my friend's 2 year old in a coffee shop in Hampstead Heath while she guzzled ridiculously overpriced apple juice and taught me about Peppa Pig.

It was exhausting and, at times, relentless. But I was still putty in their hands every time they flashed me one of those million dollar toddler smiles.

Broody, moi?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's a small world after all

Mine at any rate is shrinking rapidly. It now consists of my flat, the local park and the supermarket. Today I lounged around until 2.30pm in my pajamas reading a splendid spine-chiller of a ghost story (The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters). Then migrated to the kitchen to bake banana bread with all the bananas I've been given as some sort of weird get-well-soon ritual.

Yes, I baked.

I haven't baked since I was about five years old, with my mother.

I think I've burned the top of the loaf and I'm almost reassured by that. Of all the adjectives i use to describe myself, home-baker has never been one of them. No offence - it has just not been part of my world for rather a long time. It's simple and therapeutic, I enjoy it. I find myself thinking that I must invest in a food processor.

And this from someone who had a champagne dinner at The Ivy less than 2 weeks ago! This is all the more poignant for me as today I should have been flying out to Texas to report from the sxsw festival. Instead I am happily padding about in my kitchen and debating whether to pop to the store for extra milk.

Times are indeed a'changin.

I'm feeling a lot better one week after the op. It still hurts to swallow and, as I discovered when I absent-mindedly attempted to hum along to an old Queen track on the radio earlier, I can't really sing. I hope that comes back. The karaoke bars of London need me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Day 4 in the dodgy thyroid house

Milestone of the day was washing my hair. It hasn't seen shampoo since the day of the operation in the interests of keeping my neck dry... And it was pretty rank, frankly.

I was so delighted with my newly clean hair that I went the extra mile and put some mascara on too. Weirdly this made me feel a million times better too. Are there endorphins in make up and hair products? There should be. I felt like an annoying beauty advert with my newly swishy hair and voluptuous lashes.

My best friend came over and, armed (or should that be necked?) with trusty silk scarf disguise we ventured out for tea in poncy west London.

Back in the same park as yesterday, a pattern is definitely emerging. I saw the yummy mummies and their offspring - there's definitely an unofficial club that meets regularly around here. I wonder whether I'll ever be a part of it. Half of me hopes not.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I've decided to look at this period of recovery as something infinitely more glamorous than it really is. I plan to spend the next two weeks cocooned in a home made spa/relaxation zone - a bit like I imagine somewhere like The Priory to be, only without the attention-seeking celebrity contingent.

So today involved moisturising myself to within an inch of my life, followed by a little walk around the local park accessorized with big dark sunglasses and a floaty silk scarf (Puccini in my head).

After a large hot chocolate and a muffin it was time to head home for a disco nap (seem to be taking rather a lot of those at the moment. I blame the anaesthetic) before settling down to DVD One of the Sex and the City box set with herbal tea and smoked salmon bagels.

How am I doing so far? Still in a lot of pain but somehow this seems to be helping.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lumps and bumps

Woah. that was quite a cliffhanger to end on... apologies for the unnecessary drama. Needless to say MC and I have not killed each other in a drunken rage since then and married life meanders on at a very pleasant pace most of the time. We're both making concentrated efforts to drink less, which has definitely helped the mixture.

Now, I always promised myself I wouldn't write a blog about being ill (hangovers excluded). But having just had an operation for the first time I can't resist recording some of it so please humour me.

On Wednesday, seven months after my mother uttered the immortal line "what the hell is that on your neck?" just as a play was about to start at the theatre, I finally had a lump on my thyroid removed. Apparently it was the size of a plum (although they wouldn't let me see it, spoilsports). For the operation afficionados out there, the operation is called a hemithyroidectomy. Because yes, they took half my thyroid along with it.

My neck is now surprisingly dainty even if I do look a bit like Frankenstein. I thought I would enjoy the whole experience of being drugged up to the eyeballs for the operation but actually (and disappointingly) the thrill of a legal high turned out to be over-rated. I shivered, sweated and heart-pounded my way out of the anaesthetic like a bona fide crack addict on a comedown - just say no, kids.

And I had to resort to using a bedpan. Only once - but my god, never again i hope. The nurse was so lovely (and by some fantastic quirk of fate I ended up in a private room rather than a ward) but it just felt bitterly humiliating. I dragged myself and my drip to the bathroom next time round, I just couldn't face it. You really do leave your dignity at the door in hospital, however pleasant they make it.

The next step is to find out what said lump was. There's a small chance that it's something sinister, in which case I have to go through the whole palaver again to remove the rest of my thyroid. Perhaps I'll enjoy the drugs more second time around although I hope not to have to find that out.

In the meantime I have a rather sore neck. They have quite literally glued it together and it's not very happy. My vocal chords are still intact so i can still boss MC around, much to his delight. He has been amazing. He was up at 5.30am to come into hospital with me and didn't so much as flinch at the gorgeous hospital chic I was issued (those DVT stockings. sexy they ain't).

I am now back home and unable to stay awake for more than a couple of hours at a time. This apparently is quite normal. I feel like a teenager again. I thought the days when I could sleep for 13 hours at a stretch were behind me. I've got a Sex and the City box set and I intend to use it in earnest.... perhaps after a little mid morning nap.