Thursday, 27 September 2012

Naming and shaming Fred the arthritis: Responsibility - a job for life

Naming and shaming Fred the arthritis: Responsibility - a job for life: What we learn at the knee, stays with us for life. This homily I find to be very true and it was so for me. My father was somewhat of a wo...

Responsibility - a job for life

What we learn at the knee, stays with us for life.

This homily I find to be very true and it was so for me. My father was somewhat of a workaholic and as a child he hardly seemed to be around. He had a day job, several, over the years, and he worked in the evenings too, to supplement the family income. My mother returned to work after the birth of both me and my brother so effectively my grandmother raised us.

Neither of my parents could see the point of me having much of an education with me being a girl, whatever career I had in mind. Learn to read, write and add up was all that was important, then leave school and get a job; any job.

The ethic of work is a good one but surely there is more to it than that. In my working life I had jobs that I hated and ones that interested me, up to a point. But never did I get a job that truly fulfilled me. I suppose the job that I liked the most was working in a shop as I am somewhat of a people person and it taught me a great deal. Dealing with the public suited me. I enjoyed the interaction with people, getting to know regulars and being a friendly face to the elderly as you were possibly the only person they spoke to all day.

Of course this wasn't the job I aspired to but being denied the encouragement and opportunity to further my education I had little choice. My school, in those days, didn't encourage it's girls to follow their dreams. If you were not in the top class you were destined for  shop work, a minor office job or a factory. The problem being, you began to believe you were not suited to anything else. Unless you had the support and role model of a parent who had 'bettered themselves' you saw what you were told was your place in society.

It was later that I realised I could have had different choices but these had been unknown to me at the time and no one advised me differently. By then I was married and had two young children. Money was tight and time too. It is easy to look back and think of what might have been but that doesn't do you or anyone else any good.

I would encourage parents to be good role models for their children in all aspects of their lives and set a good work ethic for them. In the present climate it isn't easy, unemployment is high as is redundancy. In that position there is still the opportunity to show that work is still a priority as is sourcing it. To show young people the resources available in finding that all important job is as vital as showing the ethics of going to work and earning money. We shouldn't forget the part that Saturday jobs and volunteering plays either. I encouraged my daughters to take up part jobs while at school and college and both became volunteers with the Guiding Association. Skills learnt at groups such as this are relevant to future employment and in life generally. My elder daughter found that out when she was in Norway as part of her teacher training programme. On an expedition she was the only one who could light a fire in the middle of a snowy forest with damp wood! Yes, as a Guide and then a Guide Leader she had the skill to get a fire going to heat water for a drink and to warm themselves. Also her involvement in the movement sat well on her University application form to start her teacher training.

But does the responsibility stop there?

Having the job is one thing but how you can manage on that pay you earn is another. Getting that pay packet or salary is exciting and a young person can become seduced by money in their pocket.

Parents can help their child set up a bank account and a budget, teach them to pay their way by explaining what needs to be paid for each month. Outgoings such as rent or mortgage, gas electricity, water, taxes, food, petrol or diesel and sundries such as savings and pensions are a priority of life. Children never think of cost, put your clothes in the linen basket dirty and get them back clean and ironed with no thought of what is involved. Electricity, water, washing powder all have to be paid for. On a cold, wet day to be snug and dry at home is idyllic but that central heating isn't free and neither is the house.

I got a shock when I had to start buying my own clothes! The cost of underwear, tights, tops, skirts, coats and most of all shoes was horrendous. Previously my mother had paid and that was it now suddenly I had to start choosing wisely. Food appeared on my plate as if by magic, I ate it with little or no thought about what it cost to put it there. When I started working in the delicatessen department of  a department store I began to realise the relevance of prices. I think it was when people asked for a quarter of this or that and the weight was a little over they said they couldn't afford that much. I began by thinking it was only a few pence but by listening I soon realised that those few pence added up over a week and had a great relevance on their choices of food, heat or accommodation.

When I married we were both working and between us we set a budget for the week. Menu planning was also high on the agenda so we shopped once a week at the supermarket for ease and stuck to the plan which in those days was easy to do as prices tended to stay stable and not change from week to week.

After our first daughter was born I vowed to shop more locally and got to know the local butcher, greengrocer and corner shop owner. We still did a bigger shop for things like washing powder and washing up liquid the heavier items but mostly our food items were fresh and local as I believed you got better value for money. I found the corner shop  to be especially useful and once a week I would buy bacon pieces (pieces left over from the bacon he sliced)  from him to make a bacon pudding or put in a casserole. My mother was horrified! I couldn't understand why as the bacon was meaty and had hardly any fat, I got a cheap meal and it saved me cutting it up. I thought I was being resourceful!

The principles of being adaptable rate highly and both parents and teachers have the responsibility of being the role models for future generations. Work isn't just 9 to 5 with a pay packet at the end; it is a life style. It means responsibility, encouragement, endurance, decision making, budgeting, negotiation, research, data collecting, making comparisions and putting in place the steps to build foundations for future generations to follow.

Parenthood is a gift and no one has the absolute right to become a parent, but if you do become a parent you take on the biggest job you could ever attain. I believe I was the luckiest woman alive to become a parent; twice. I took the gift I was given and vowed to nurture my children by giving them the best start in life I could with the tools they needed to make their way in life.

Responsibility doesn't end when a child becomes an adult as once they start on their own road in life the opportunities to continue the support and encouragement remain. You cannot relinquish your role in their lives as how you deal with the pressures of family life, work, job hunting, retirement and health worries has a deep impact on them. From a small child who you teach to budget their pocket money to an adult person you discuss mortgages and loans with, you are developping the potential of a responsible citizen.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Overcoming isolation

Ever since my computer gave up I have felt somewhat isolated with regards contacting friends and family.

I have been sharing my husband's computer but have to restrict the time I have it and therefore what I can achieve in the time allowed. I had to stop playing games on Facebook and just stop by to say hello to people and wish happy birthdays etc. My Blog had to stop as did my story writing.

I also felt a degree of being left alone regards my arthritis as I have many friends that I made through forums, these are people who understand what people with rheumatoid arthritis go through because they experience it everyday themselves. Having these contacts is vital as some people have no one to share the good times as well as the bad with. They don't have the support that others have from family and friends who, instead of giving the moral and emotional support needed, seem to not accept that the effects of rheumatoid arthritis can be so devastating.

I am extremely lucky that my family are supportive and, whilst not knowing first hand what I experience every day they see the effects on my body and emotions. I have had a bad year with regards my arthritis but felt I was coping with the support of my doctors. However, the beginning of August I had a really bad experience when I had trouble walking and using my left hand, also my speech was a huge problem. Eventually my GP came to the house and he gave me some strong medication to help with pain and increased my steroids which I hate. He sent me for a scan, which came back negative but he then made an appointment for me to see a neurologist and he arranged for a physiotherapist to call at the house.

My speech is still a problem and I get tired but I feel with my physiotherapist's help I am getting good results with regards my left side. The neurologist sent me for an MRI scan and arranged to see me immediately after the scan. He told me I have to go into hospital for further tests as he can see lesions on the brain.

I have spoken to my dear friends on 'the net' and no one gives me advice as in what I should do or what it might be but are there shoulder to shoulder with me. They virtually hold my hand, give me virtual hugs, are shoulders to cry on and most of all just listen.

I felt so lost without my computer and became reliant on posting on Facebook, Twitter (occasionally), a disability site I belong to, sending texts and e-mails on my phone and Kindle. Whilst this is not absolutely ideal I am thankful that I live in a time when we have access to such technology. When I think of the first mobiles which looked like a brick the idea of being able to talk to someone else while on the move was a fantastic innovation. With progress we were able to send text messages so people could reply at their leisure. Sending photographs drove the use of mobile phones even further than ever expected. Then we became connected to the internet via our phones. Searching became as easy as sending a text. Bringing up a map to search for a fast food outlet or restaurant saved the never ending driving round to look for a meal. Going on holiday and keeping appointments is easier as the phone has alarm, calendar with day to day agenda, camera, television, music, film, videos and so much more.

From a huge brick to so much more on a piece of technology a fraction of the size in just a few decades.

Being not able to have access to the technology of today but also having the ability to use it makes me extremely privileged. I remember my grandmother having a fear of using the telephone at my parents' house. She never had a phone and even her television was a black and white one till the end. She had no central heating, an outside toilet, no car and no fridge or freezer. This was in the late 70s.

At the age I am now my grandmother lived a fairly basic life. Her kitchen was a scullery, an old gas cooker, a large butler sink, a mangle, a safe keeper for cheese etc. Her only toilet was outside in the garden and she had no bath. She also had a gorgeous old black range, something I would love myself, in her back room. Here grandad kept his shoe repair kit which included a cast iron three footed last, leather, nails etc. He repaired all our footwear as long as they had leather soles and heels. Her front room or best room, was where she looked after me when I was little. We listened to the radio especially listen with mother and when she got a television Watch with Mother. Watching television was rationed except when the football results came on and when boxing was on as grandad loved those!

I am convinced gran and grandad were content. They owned their own home, were happy there, we spent Christmases there and although she didn't have the range of things we take for granted today what more could they have wanted I wonder.

She essentially shopped locally with two corner shops just a few steps away. A short walk to a butcher and a pub. The Prudential man came to collect for the savings club every week, the milkman called everyday, the rag and bone man with his horse and cart, the knife sharpener who had a whetstone on a barrow and it certainly fascinated the children watching sparks fly, the chimney sweep called when required and made an excellent job of the chimney leaving a fairly clean front room, the pig man called for the swill left out in pig bins and I remember Sunday evenings the Winkle Man came round selling winkles, whelks and cockles eaten with the use of a pin to prise the shellfish out of their shells and served with bread and butter.

She would shop further afield for clothes although for her a good pair of shoes (if your feet are comfy the rest of you is comfy!), a good corset (the foundation of the rest of your clothes) with lisle stockings, and a good coat. To my gran these were the essentials, she never went without her corset at any time of the year. During the day she wore an old fashioned wrap around apron over her clothes.

The street where she and we lived had a street outing every year and they were jolly affairs! She never went far for holidays, later in life she went on breaks with a club but not outside the UK.

So what do we have that she and grandad have that makes our lives so much better? Yes we can order our shopping from our computer or mobile and have it delivered to our houses but don't we miss out on interacting with others that way. I have used it when ill but not often. We can shop from catalogues or web sites but where is the joy of trying on clothes that way? We can do bank transactions on line so no queuing at the bank or meeting other people. You can telephone, text or send an e-mail instead of walking to visit a friend or relative. I remember going to tea with family or friends on  a Sunday or sharing a meal midweek now everyone is too busy to spare an hour or two to get together.

I have cooker, microwave, steamer, food processor, bread maker, fridge, freezer, washing machine, tumble dryer, television, computer, printer, car, central heating, wood burners, wet room, bathroom, Kindle, mobile phone, house phone, DVD player. But could I live without them? I think if I really had to many of them I could live without, as a child I did. I do however have things that I think would have really helped in my grandparents' lives. I have a home diabetes checker, a sleep apnea machine, an electric wheelchair, an armchair to help me sit and stand up, medication to help me in daily life.  But compared to the other list it is short. They walked or took a bus where they wanted to go, wrote hand written letters, went out and met people daily.

Grandma cooked everything from scratch no frozen pastry, frozen vegetables, she made fresh pastry and picked her vegetables from the garden and later bought from the greengrocer, meat bought from the butcher, fish from the fishmonger. I like to do the same except I make large amounts and put some into the freezer for a later date. Our car is essential nowadays, we live in a remote area with no public transport. The village has a small shop, a baker, a post office, a hairdresser, two caf├ęs and two restaurants. Also a number of farms. To get to the doctor, dentist or medical appointments it requires a car to get you around. It is possible to take a taxi but that is expensive. Supermarkets are at least 20 minutes drive away and although they run a system where they will take your order if you hand it in and then prepare it you have to go and collect it they don't deliver that hasn't arrived here yet. We order the oil for the central heating and that is delivered as is the wood for our two wood burners.

I like to meet people and for that reason I like to get out of the house. I have my friends on the internet but people I meet shopping or visiting an event is precious. There is a place in my life for both friends and family I see regularly as well as people I have met through Facebook, my disability site and Twitter. The people are important in different ways. Sometimes it is easier to talk to my online friends than to those I see often.  I have also found that  people come into your life for a particular reason and I make the most of that as it is meant to be.

Knowing I have access to the technology available is reassuring but I cannot become reliant on it. I know it is  possible to live a life free of this technology but it isn't possible to live a life free of good friends and family and I for one will embrace the means I have to keep in contact .

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

All mankind loves a lover - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Love is four small letters but it holds a big question; what is love?

Is loving the same as being in love?  That is a difficult one. Love is a word that is bandied about covering many facets. You can love your parents, your partner, your children, your friends, your home, your car, your new phone, your job. But, apart from your partner you are not going to be in love with the others.

How do you differentiate between love and being in love? I loved my parents and grandparents, I never queried whether I did or not and I felt loved in return. We didn't have much money but I never went without. I had warm clothes in winter and lighter clothes in summer. I had stout shoes in winter and sandals in summer. I had toys, not the mountains that children get now and not the electronic toys either. It took a lot for my parents to save up in a club for Christmas, I remember getting two big china dolls one Christmas. One was a blond, pink doll the other a black doll with black hair; they came with a twin pram, it must have cost my parents a lot of money that year. I don't equate my love for my parents with what they bought me that would be too shallow and that is not my style. I was fed well with plain home cooking, our house was warm, albeit that we had no bathroom we were clean we bathed in a tin bath in front of the fire. My parents had worked since they left school and worked into their 70s. After I married and had a family of my own I had a better relationship with my parents and the balance of love shifted a bit. I felt more protective of them as they grew older. After my father died I felt a rush of love that was difficult to explain. I realised that he had loved me but in his own way. I said I didn't evaluate my love for my parents on what I was given and that is true, my father loved me but he was undemonstrative. He hadn't received love as a child and he found it difficult to express it. After he died he left a wish for a requiem mass and at the service the priest said that my father had told everyone who would listen how proud he was of me, my brother and my daughters. But why did he not tell us? My daughters asked. I believe it was because he didn't know how. Children learn to love as they learn to talk, walk, feed themselves. It is through copying, watching, learning - from their parents and others around them who care for them. If a child isn't shown love, how can they express love? They won't know what it is. Children need to feel safe and loved, I felt that as I had my mother and her parents as well as great aunts and uncles to show me what it was I was exposed to family love. My father read to me, we went out in a family, he provided for us and that was love in the way he could express it but not the hugs and kisses love that my husband and I gave our daughters.

When I became a grandmother I never thought I would feel the surge of love I felt, it was just the sort of love I felt after the birth of my daughters. When I saw my first grandchild, a girl, I couldn't believe how beautiful she was. She was perfect and my love was so strong. That feeling was there after my second grandchild, a boy was born. He was perfect too, like his sister his tiny hands, ears, feet, nose, mouth and eyes were all  perfect and evoked the feelings I recognised as love. My third grandchild, another boy, was premature but still perfect in every way. Unfortunately we couldn't see him as soon after birth as his sister and brother but the wait was worth it. I held him and my heart overflowed. My fourth and fifth grandchildren are twins - a boy and a girl. Like their cousin they were premature and they looked like tiny porcelain dolls. I saw them, but could not touch them, in hospital but only held them when they got home. I loved them from the start and I felt so protective of them just as I did with their cousins. I felt so proud of my daughters for giving me such beautiful grandchildren. Obviously I am not the only grandmother who is proud of her grandchildren and who loves them so much but they are my grandchildren, part of me and love for them is part of me too.

I had and still have close friends who I loved and do love. There are two friends with whom I have been close to for many years and we are like sisters. Both my friends are only children and I never had a sister so I feel they are the people I can talk to and confide in. One friend lives in Australia and the other in the UK. I live in France so we don't meet up but we e-mail, telephone and keep in contact as much as is possible. The love is for someone who accepts you as you are and doesn't expect any more than you can give. I have experienced the highs and lows of their lives, been through the raising of our families, experienced the joys of adolescence from our children and the problems teenagers bring. We talked, cried, laughed, and sympathised with the agonies we went through with exams and university. We cried with pride at weddings and then when we became grandparents. At times in our lives we need friends who know us so well and who will empathise without being judgemental, will worry about you, care about you. All this is done differently to your family as they are outside of the family whilst still being 'family' to you if not the rest of your immediate family. Family and friends are loved and whilst it is possible to fall out with family and friends there is still an emotional tie to shared lives, the good and the bad.

We can love a house and there are people who have a really deep attachment to what is not just a house but a home especially if it is a place that they have grown up in and the building seems to hold strong memories. At the centre of the attachment is the love felt in childhood that seems to have permeated the very fabric of the building, or it was the place they raised their own family and every room has a story to tell.  Others have no such connection with what is in effect bricks and mortar. They can move with no qualms about leaving and will settle into their new abode very quickly.

So often it is heard when out shopping, ' I just love that dress/shoes/handbag/boots/' I wonder about using 'love' in such a superficial way. Can you really 'love' an inanimate object? Transferring love to objects takes us back to childhood. If a child is not shown love but is placated with 'things' their love will centre on objects rather than developing love for other people. People who develop a love and fascination for surrounding themselves with objects seems very shallow. But I think that it is a crutch they feel they need to lean on or they wouldn't have anything they feel would satisfy their needs. How sad that someone feels the need to fill their lives with objects rather than people. Even sadder are those that continue to fuel that need after they take a partner. Something is missing from their lives when they cannot let go of the passionate love of objects to replace the love of another person. The partnership with the other person is doomed to failure if they are seen only as a means to fund their obsession.

At some point in nearly everyone's life there comes a point when they want to find a life partner. I was very selfconscious  as a young woman and never thought anyone would find me attractive enough to want to go out with me, live with me or marry me. Then I met my now husband. I can't say I loved him or even liked him when we first met but he grew on me! We have been married over 40 years now so it must work. I did come to love him and there was a passion when it developed. The passion of the early days settled into a mature love and we were 'in love' the feeling that some people find elusive. How do you explain being in love? What is that bit of chemistry that is felt that is not present in the above types of love?

I can only describe how it was for me. The wanting to be together all the time, thinking about what we have done or going to do when we are together, hearing their voice in your head, seeing their face, wanting to touch them, feeling a shiver when they touch you, hearing them tell you they love you and seeing the love in their eyes when they look at you. But that isn't all. When you are upset it is being there, holding you, crying with you, helping you to overcome what is upsetting you. Sharing joys as well as sadness, encouraging dreams, giving you freedom of choice and not trying to control you. Trust is the most important ingrediant of a relationship, without trust there is no relationship. Remember this is all reciprocal and cannot work if it is onesided. Many people have someone they refer to as their 'partner' and that term is used whether they are married or not. A partnership only works if the partners work together to make the partnership a success. They need what is called give and take - one person doing all the giving and one doing all the taking - is a recipe for disaster. Sharing the chores, childcare and shopping makes life easier. If you share the boring as well as the fun aspects of life everything can look better.

However much you feel you love and are in love with your spouse or partner there has to be a life outside of that relationship to keep it alive. If you become insulated and cut off other relationships love can die as one partner can become stifled. Obsessive love is dangerous and can lead to tragedy. Keep your friends, see your family and discuss even trivial things with your partner. Keep your love alive by going out, if you have children arrange babysitters either from within your families or join (or set up) a babysitting circle. You don't have to spend lots of money, just going for a walk together can be quite romantic and keeping your love alive need not be a chore. Once it becomes a chore then you need to recognise why and work out together what you need to do to get back on track.

The title of the post - All mankind loves a lover - is a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson the 19th century American poet, essayist and lecturer who founded the Transcendentilist movement. I interpret this as meaning everyone loves a person in love. Love is universal and if you show love it is an emotion seen and felt by other people. Does love come naturally to a person? Some people, like those who have never been exposed to love may find it doesn't come as easily as perhaps Emerson might have thought.

'Love unifies the scattered ends of life and brings them all together into an intergrated whole.' So said Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who developed  the Transcendental Meditation technique thereby enforcing what Emerson said, that due to the nature of love it is a unifier bringing and holding lives together.

Love is beautiful, it is to be appreciated, shared and should be shown.

 "You live that you may learn to love.
  You love that you may learn to live.
  No other lesson is required of Man."
           The Book of Mirdad.                           

Friday, 18 May 2012

Herb garden in progress

I have wanted a herb garden for so long! Unfortunately we have a small garden and a traditional, as I view it, herb garden is not possible so I have had to improvise.

I bought some plants and seeds and started them growing in small pots. They have now started to get big enough to pot on.

I got my grandchildren to help, they painted some pots for me and a jolly good job they did too. My young grandson got a dibber and made holes in some soil in a long trough and we repotted some herbs into that. He tucked the soil round them and then told everyone they had to be quiet as the bubbas were asleep! We have quite a few small baby plants as he calls them in the garden and he won't let people forget they are there. The paintings here are done by the older two grandchildren.

I wanted to grow lettuce too so my husband bought some guttering which we filled with soil and added the lettuce plants and fitted it at an angle to allow for drainage.

I might not have the fanciest garden but I am happy. I have sage, tarragon, basil, thyme, lemon verbona, parsley, chives, rosemary and some others. Gradually I am building up the variety and I look forward to using them in cooking, teas and as medicinal herbs too.

I think getting the children involved is good as they learn such a lot about where foods come from if they have access to a garden. My children did as children and my younger daughter did her Brownie Guide badge in gardening through having a patch of her own.

It is sad that children think all food comes from a supermarket even in this day and age. Luckily the three grandchildren we have here in France live in a very rural community and they are aware of where food comes from. I know my other two grandchildren in the UK will also grow up knowing too, it is just sad that some children don't have the experiences that teach them that food is grown, harvested, sold and then is taken to shops to sell.

I desperately want to eliminate artificial flavourings and preservatives from my diet and growing my own food as much as possible, allowing for the small space we have. Buying fresh food to make meals from scratch goes a long way to knowing what you are putting in your body. Autoimmune diseases are horrid things and the food you eat, whilst not curing you, can help to eliminate some of the symptoms that are suffered.

Back from the edge

The last few weeks have been rather difficult and I have been on the point of throwing in the towel.

I have developed yet another chest infection. As with the previous ones it started with a sinus infection. I called the doctor and she came out and, after examining me, she prescribed antibiotics, nasal spray and something for my chest as I was coughing a bit.

After almost two weeks I was coughing worst than ever. I saw another doctor and he prescribed antibiotic injections, powders for the cough, some tablets, an extra inhaler and steroid injections. To have the steroid injections I have had to stop the Prednisone tablets I take daily for the rheumatoid arthritis. He also prescribed a course of physiotherapy to help clear the stuff from my lungs. So my day is taken with visits from the nurse to give injections and the physio coming, also I do the exercises throughout the day.

I am hoping that this time the chest infection will clear up. It is annoying that I get the same thing every time and I have to go through antibiotics twice and whatever happens it always goes to my chest. My GP, the nurse and the physio all think that the methotrexate I have for my rheumatoid arthritis is to blame for the chest problems. My rheumatologist however, is reluctant to stop the methotrexate although he is happy to stop the Prednisone and I am decreasing the dose monthly.

I had the methotrexate injection yesterday, Thursday, and as usual today Friday I am exhausted, in pain and very down. I told the nurse and he said that it is very usual to have this and the forums I belong to have posts from people who experience the same symptoms after having the methotrexate. It lasts a couple of days and gradually I get back to normal but I hate Fridays!

I have also been seeing a neurosurgeon with regard back problems that have been with me for years. At the moment he cannot do anything about the problems I have with my upper back/neck area. He has said though that if I have a MRI scan of my lower back he will look at it and say if it is possible to help with that at it is stopping me from walking and doing exercise.

I went this week for the MRI and the doctor at the centre said that it shows bulging and wear and tear. Oh good! So I see the neurosurgeon again in a few weeks for his verdict. Now I know that no one really wants surgery, especially so invasive as back surgery but if it helps me to walk and exercise I am willing to go through it. The alternative is pain and difficulty in sitting, lying and worst of all walking and standing.

I feel that I miss out on doing things with my grandchildren like taking them out unless I have the wheelchair and that restricts the things I can do. I do crafts and cooking, things like that but it isn't the same.

I bought some eucalyptus tea which is supposed to be good for chest complaints and although the taste has to be aquired I am hoping it will work. I also found a remedy for coughs which involves slicing up red onions and letting them seep with sugar, honey or stevia overnight then drinking the syrup; a teaspoon at a time. I haven't got round the doing that but it looks good.

Not feeling up to doing things I haven't kept this up to date  but I hope that the corner has been turned and I can sleep better and find some energy.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Turn up the heat!

Well, the rain seems it will never stop, every time you look out the window the sky is leaking.

Now, anyone who has arthritis will tell you cold, rain and arthritis just do not mix. My hips are so painful and I am pill popping to try and get some relief. A warm house and lovely warm food go a long way to make life more bearable.

We have a wood burner and an open fire which heat the lounge and kitchen which works to a point but the open fire is difficult to keep alight and smokes badly. We have managed, but things took a turn when our son in law came back from his late grandmother's house and offered us her wood burner to replace the open fire. We jumped at the offer and when it arrived we could see it is very solid. The burner is 150 years old and really heavy. We are cleaning it up and arranging for installation. Our son in law said that it took three of them to lift the wood burner and that was after taking out the bits and pieces that are loose inside.  It isn't what some people would call 'pretty' but perhaps I am from the generation that feels as long as it is functional then that is fine!

For us the weather is stopping us getting out in the garden and sorting out the planting. With me, the problem is the wheelchair won't roll over the soggy grass and when it is in position it sinks into the mud. I don't like my husband getting out in the rain, for a period of time anyway, as I can't risk him getting ill. That is for his sake as well as mine. We have seedlings to go out as well as stuff we have kept over the winter. We do have some herbs in pots and are using those for herb salads as well as in cooking but they will need to be replanted soon too. Planting and growing your own produce also saves money, something we are all trying to do nowadays.

We need to get some vegetables planted out very soon or they won't be ready when we need them. Even though we have a small garden we can grow potatoes, beans, onions, lettuce, rhubarb, tomatoes and anything else we can fit i, as well as the herbs. Pots are a brilliant way of growing salads, herbs and tomatoes. I have seen ingenious methods of utilising space and am keen to try them out. Some materials are close to hand or by recycling which of course is encouraged.

I have looked into getting plants, both floral and vegetables, and am in favour of sharing plants between friends and neighbours. We have furnished our gardens many times by cuttings from other people and have given them cuttings in return. Car boot sales are another good place to get plants as many people take cuttings, plants and seeds to sell alongside other goods. We have been lucky enough to grow some plants from seeds or pips in vegetables and fruits we have eaten. It doesn't always work but unless you try!

I am especially keen to get children involved in gardening. Our daughters were always involved in gardening and they were so proud when they saw things they grew on the dinner table. Our grandchildren now show an interest in what is grown. So many children have no idea where food comes from, except the supermarket. I feel they are more likely to eat food they have been involved in producing.

There is nothing more satisfying as planting a seed and watching it grow into something you can pick and incorporate into a meal. In this day and age when people are so busy and use prepackaged goods it is no wonder children are ignorant of where their food originates. I admit that there are times when I am lazy and use a packet or tin  but I try very hard to use fresh food and try to eliminate preservatives and colourings.

People who have illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis and other auto immune diseases react to certain foods and it is imperative to try and keep triggers to a minimum. If I make dishes from scratch, using fresh foods, I feel I am doing my best in reducing the risk of triggering a flare of the arthritis. I know what is in the meal and can monitor much more easily the foods that may trigger a flare.

So come on weather brighten up so we can get out in the garden and make the best use of the space we have available.