Kissing Frogs – first boyfriends, boo, hiss

I had my first kiss at 13. It wasn’t anything to get all excited about, but a young teenager does dream…
He was an odd one, that first almost-boyfriend. Wouldn’t speak to me at school, wasn’t I good enough to be seen out with?

I met a boy on holiday after O levels. We kissed and he gave me Glandular Fever, which was probably the beginning of the downward slope to Multiple Sclerosis.

So, first serious boyfriend. The lying, cheating bastard kind of boyfriend. Colin Moore his name was and he’s probably still the same.
I was a chubby, overweight teenager. It wasn’t an ideal thing to be, but however much I dieted and had thyroid tests (always abnormally low) I couldn’t get thin.
I left school at 16 and went to Newcastle College of Art and Technology and loved it.
I’d get the train to Newcastle from Hexham – I’d run all the way to the railway station and eat little for lunch and then walk home. I lost weight at a great rate and by Christmas I was thin! A great size 10 and I was looking good.
By the spring, I was going swimming a couple of times a week – well it was A -levels and not school, so once the lessons were over, my time was my own.
I caught the eye of a fit-looking blond guy and we got chatting and he asked me out. I was 17 and a bit inexperienced, but I was impressed – he had his own car and took me to a nice country pub.

In the 1970s, sex was a bit, well, freer than nowadays. Men (he was 23) thought that sex on the first date was normal and so we did the deed. Not great, but he rang and asked me out again.
We’d go out a few times a week and by summer, I was enamoured. I went into Newcastle to buy him a birthday present and as I stood in a small boutique, he walked past – holding hands with a girl.
For a minute, I stood there frozen. Then in some sort of trance, paid for the shirt and went back to my temporary job – helping out at a summer school for musical kids in Durham.
Colin picked me up and eventually, I asked him about the girl. He said that they had a ‘college’ relationship – on in the holidays and off when she went back to university.
Oh, red rag to bull time. I had to win. I had to have him and get him to leave her – I had to make him mine.
Now, that’s a huge mistake.
Yes, I made him mine and yes, I got a ring on my finger, but by the time I went to university, I wasn’t quite so keen.
After a few weeks there, I realised that I’d been dumb. No one should be tied down at 18. Not when life is so wonderful and different and so, so full of music.
One day, he rang (coin phone on the landing in the student accommodation) and told me he was at the bottom of Kingston Hill and to come and get him.
I scampered down the hill, but no Colin.
It had been a cruel and nasty practical ‘joke’. I said nothing about it, but later on, we split.
I knew he’d been unfaithful all that time. He even had genital warts, the bastard, but fortunately I didn’t catch them.
I gave him his ring back, he said that he didn’t know what he’d got until I’d gone, but that was that. Move along, nothing to be seen here and I was free.
Later, I met my Prince. One kiss and that was it. I knew instantly that he was my mate, my great love and quite quickly, my husband. That was 28 years ago this year and he’s still my great love. My Glyn, my best friend, the kindest person I know and I love him so very much.

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Woooooooooooo MS and complimentary therapies

I read a lot about MS. Know thy enemy. When you are diagnosed, you don’t know if your MS is going to be a progressive type or not.
It was obvious to my neuro that mine was RRMS. It was classed as ‘benign’ which doesn’t actually mean that it’s harmless.
What ‘benign’ means is that you can have a lot of relapses which make you really ill, but that you recover very well from them.
Now, for me, the poor sap who has MS, relapses are the pits. They screw up your life for weeks, or even months and they leave a nice lesion in the brain, like a sort of horrible calling-card.
In my case, the plan was to try not to have relapses. This is known as activity-free disease control.
I was really lucky. I started Rebif quite soon after diagnosis and it worked. It actually worked!
I didn’t get the shivery side-effects and my liver tolerated it well.
At the time I was diagnosed, (2000) there was a lot of discussion about relapses. Various commentators claimed that beta-interferon didn’t stop progression, but that’s (to me) like saying that a car crash won’t affect your car.
Lesions are holes in the brain, they fill with water, which means that this part of the brain no longer works. ‘The electrics have failed, gov. ‘
I quite like reading about complimentary therapies. Some are really useful – for example, I have awful muscle spasms. They pull my body out of alignment – my knees are really screwed up. The ligaments were becoming tighter and tighter, until I couldn’t bend my knees. The meniscus (cartilage) was shredded. Not good.
When I was first ill, I had muscle spasms in my back, ribs and shoulders and face. I’m a singer by trade and I couldn’t use my facial resonance, as the bones were literally being pulled apart.
I was ‘saved’ by a chiropractor who used strong massage and pressure to get the muscles to relax and I gradually improved.
I know what to do about sudden spasms. This is an important issue with MS – especially if you are a singer, or violinist, or pianist.
I was reading articles about CCSVI at This is MS. It used to be a great website with technical discussions about treatments until CCSVI came along in 2009. Now, it’s just about the venoplasty – or nearly…
There was a post there about jaw alignment. Now, I know what MS does, so anyone helping to realign the body is going to pique my interest.
All was fine, the usual claims that this treatment stopped MS (don’t believe that for a minute) and how much better people felt when their pain subsided (yes,good).

The dentist offering this treatment added an anecdotal account by one of his patients.
“Cure for MS with a dental brace”.
As everyone else who is Dr A’s patient says “and the rest is history”. It took me less than 48 hours to decide that the article needed further investigation. I had two things wrong with me, MS and a jaw that dislocated. Maybe going to a dentist was a step in the right direction. For me, from then on everything fell into place. Filling in the medical history in the extensive questionnaire that Dr Amir provides, made me see the connection between my long standing dental problems (I’ve had teeth extracted from age 8 to “make room in my small mouth”).

At my first appointment in Putney, I burst out crying when Dr. A. scanned my medical and dental history and said the unforgettable words “you realise you don’t have MS, you just have a problem with your teeth and jaws?”

WTF? Really – so those lesions don’t count? Blimey. How can a dentist claim that someone doesn’t have MS, when he’s never even seen an MRI scan of the patient’s brain?
This is wrong, wrong, wrong.
I believe that a good orthodonist/chiropractor can relieve pain, but to deny MS exists?
This is also, mad, mad, mad.
The MS world is full of this bullshit.

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Multiple Sclerosis – weird relapses

I was diagnosed with MS in 2000. I’d been ill with odd, inexplicable symptoms since 1992 and just got on with life.
The attack in 1992 was terrifying. I lay on the hospital bed, having been sent there by my GP with very high blood pressure and I was willing myself to stay calm and not die.
My blood pressure soared to 260/160 and my poor husband was holding my hand and trying to distract me, so that I didn’t see the defibrillator, that the worried doctors had wheeled over to my bed.
I think this was quite possibly an attack of autonomic dysreflexia. My neck and face were bright red – and yet my chest was a normal colour.
The doctors gave me nifedipine and other drugs to reduce the hypertension and after a while, they worked.
The worst part was that this life-threatening condition had become permanent. I take four drugs to control my blood pressure and no one knows how or why it happened.
I had really obvious MS symptoms – numbness, muscle spasms, cognitive problems, balance problems and these persisted for some eight weeks after this sudden illness.
Then I recovered, the hypertension was controlled by a beta blocker and we got on with life.
One day, in September 2000, I got out of my car and suddenly couldn’t focus. I had double vision and after a rather amusing dash around various clinics in Jakarta, I was sent to Singapore, to Mount Elizabeth Hospital.
The diagnosis came next day, after an MRI and it was a shock. I wasn’t devastated, but I was curious – what was going to happen to me?
I had steroid treatment and went back to Jakarta. Then I was ill again and so I started beta-interferon.
The thing about beta-interferon 1-b (Rebif) is that it takes time to work. The injecting is just a natural fear, generally dispelled after the first injection. I didn’t get the flu-like side effects and thought that this may be it.
The next relapse was two months later and it was the weirdest one ever.
We’d gone out to a cafe for lunch and I went to the toilet and as I was washing my hands, I had a sudden thought that I could take my clothes off.
I didn’t. But the urge was there. I went back to Singapore and had another MRI and there was another lesion glowing and flaring in my brain.
This time, I was in trouble. The muscles in my forehead became paralysed and I couldn’t close my eyes. I couldn’t move my head and felt that I was in some sort of psychedelic horror movie.
After a good bit of doping, I managed to cope with the symptoms but by then, I was very ill. I was numb below the waist – had to remind myself to empty my bladder, which worked, even though I had no sensation.
However, by June, some four months later, I was fine.
Moving on, I had a couple more relapses, both of which took months to recover from. I thought I was fine, except that last year’s relapse, seemingly mild, was definitely a weird one.
I’d been writing erotic stories for my husband. One day, my hand refused to work and I realised that I was relapsing.
I received steroid treatment that day, but found that I didn’t want to talk. I read my Kindle for hours and slept a lot, but the relapse didn’t seem to do anything dramatic.
Then, under stress, I began to have dangerous impulses. I wanted to cut my wrists, I thought about throwing myself out of the car and suddenly realised that this was something to do with that old relapse from 2001.
That part of my brain that sent me messages to take my clothes off was misfiring again. I still have that urge – never give in to it, but now it’s linked with self-harming, or suicide – haven’t given into that either.
I take a small dose of Citalopram (10mg) and this stops the self-harming/dangerous thoughts.
MS. It’s an odd and potentially lethal disease. It’s not just associated with disability (I’m not disabled) but it damages the brain. Beware.

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The sun is shining – quick wash the sheets!

Our weather here in Galicia, is quite similar to the weather in the UK. We have hotter days and nights in the summer and apparently, more rain.
We don’t get much snow – just on top of the mountains. There are no beech trees either. I do miss beech trees.
The days are fairly short. It gets light at about 0815 and dark at about six in the evening. When the sun shines, the whole world is suddenly very, very bright.
Everyone washes everything they can, knowing it’ll dry that day, the farmers roar past the house with their loads of liquid manure to spray on the grazing pastures and the cats bask in the sun.

You have to be careful walking back into a passage way or interior room. Temporary blindness is an unpleasant side-effect.
We sit upstairs in our bedroom in the afternoon, enjoying the free heat and stripping off most clothes to absorb the vitamin D3.
Once the sun dips over the western roof of our house, we head downstairs to light the woodburner.
The temperature plummets. I’m typing here and have got my three layers back on and a rug round my knees.
The sky to the west is bright and clear, painfully light, almost metallic, like titanium or silver.
As the sun sets, it drops behind the mountains at the edge of the Ribeira Sacra and their outlines are sharp against the light.
The stars emerge by seven or eight in the evening and each evening I make a new promise to master my telescope this year. I’m not very good at this, so it’s going on my list of things to do, along with getting back on my bike and meeting other musicians. It really feels like a new year here and I hope it’ll be a good one.

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It’s raining, one of the cats is depressed as she’s missing her man and so am I

It rains a lot here in Galicia. This is the reason why it’s known as ‘Green Spain’. The older generations had special clogs to wear for winter gardening – platform clogs, with a good 3 inches (approx 10cm) high sole, with a hole to knock off the mud.
There is winter gardening, the berthas (large cabbages) are important sources of greens, the leeks are perfect and so are the winter lettuces. Lettuces in winter? Yes, they grow well.
In January – or rather the first week of January, everyone plants their garlic. I can’t imagine a more miserable occupation. It’s cold and probably raining and there you are, aching joints and maybe a bit of hangover, planting garlic cloves.
Mr P has gone to London and he’ll be back soon. Our gorgeous toffee coloured tabby female (Harry) is missing her man.
He nursed her through the night as a kitten and kept her alive, with half-hourly dribbles of rehydrating mix, as she had contracted feline enteritis, or Parvo virus.
She has a bit of ataxia, but she’s nearly 2 and thoroughly in love with Mr P. She had 4 kittens this year (no Mr P was not involved) and they all found good homes.
We kept one, called ‘Splodge’ who seemed stupid, but actually he isn’t. He’s just a bit slow.
Harry is pining. On the first day-without-her-man, she was fine, but didn’t want to come up to bed.
The next day, she wouldn’t eat and growled when I picked her up. Last night, she was happy to sleep on the bed and ate her breakfast, but she’s still not happy.
I have lit the woodburning stove in order to cheer her up a bit. What am I doing?
I’m burning wood to cheer up a cat?
Mad. She is worth it though…

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Am I the loneliest musician in the world?

I have MS. It’s very difficult to be a musician or a singer with MS with MS. It becomes 100 times more difficult to interact and play or sing with other musicians when you move house.

I moved here, to gorgeous, green, comforting Galicia, largely because we couldn’t afford to live in the UK any more and also because I feel really well here.
The MS is still there, but I can walk down a lane and not develop double vision, or lose my balance as my eyes and brain are trying to process too much. Three cows are easier to avoid than a thousand people walking towards me.
I lived in York, a touristy city and it became impossible for me to go anywhere by foot, as I felt so awful after five minutes in the crowds of people.

So, here I am in my safe little valley and my ancient house and I’m happy here. I have Galician friends and British friends. I speak the two local languages and so, what next?
Well last year, I started to work on my singing again and after a gap of eight years without performing, it was hard work. It was wonderful though. Absolutely, amazingly, wonderful to able to sing.

This year, thanks to fairy godmother, I began to play the violin after a 32 year long rest. I sounded like a dying sheep to begin with.
I don’t sound so bad now. I can make a pleasant noise. No more dead sheep.

The emotional pain is that I don’t know a soul who plays any instruments. I can’t play with anyone else and it’s killing me. I NEED OTHER MUSICIANS IN MY LIFE!!!!

I want to sing with other people and I want to play the recorders and my violin and I want to soak myself in music. Total immersion would be bliss. I love music so much, that’s it’s like a religious vocation. I adore and worship music. It is my god. It is my life and I need others share it with. If I somehow manage this, watch me soar with happiness.

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No more excuses

It’s December now and I’m still not blogging regularly. I should be as it’s good discipline. So, no more excuses.

There’s a very nice little artesan/bric a brac market in Monforte de Lemos each Sunday. I have plans, cunning plans even.

I make chocolates each December. It is an activity that has brought me great pleasure over the last couple of years. I give them to friends as gifts and the best thing is that they are accepted. This is a big thing for me. My neighbours and friends here have given me so much in simple friendship; help with roof tiles and free wine.
They don’t like accepting gifts, but homemade gifts are acceptable.

I didn’t think I could make chocolates, as the baking/cake gene seems to be absent. My mother can make cakes and my daughter is a divine baker. Mine cakes are disasters and always have been.
My cookery teacher at school used to groan when she saw me.

So, I make chocolates. I invent fillings and I love it. So, next stop is finding iridescent plastic in squares that we can tie with ribbon and sell at the market. Watch this space.

I’ve had an odd sort of year. It’s been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster ride, but I’m happy and contented at the moment.
My very good and generous fairy godmother gave me a violin for my birthday.
I’m playing a lot of Irish and Celtic music on the violin and also the Tin Whistle and on an Irish keyless flute. The flute is a beast, but it is a true and fine instrument. The finger holes are quite far apart, so fast music isn’t possible on the flute. The whistle on the other hand, (so to speak, as it isn’t…) is dead easy to play.

I have neglected my voice. The diaphragm support is still strong, but I’m not singing much right now. I haven’t got much to sing that isn’t HUGE. I have plans for this too…cunning plans and they don’t involve turnips or Cylons.

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