Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Lib Dems- you should be ashamed

Here is a letter from me to the Membership Secretary of the Lib Dems

Dear Mr Seeker,

last year I was proud to be a member of the Liberal Democrats. This year I am appalled and ashamed. And angry.You have let the country down.

You have let X (I have removed details to protect identity here) down. They are not fat cat bankers. They have worked hard all of their life. Now their benefits have been cut
and I am not sure how they are going to keep living in the house which they have struggled to buy for many years. They are not fat cat bankers. They don't get a bonus each
year for failing to do their job. They simply struggle to make ends meet. I wonder how they will manage now?

Your party should be hanging its head in shame. I encouraged people to vote for the Lib Dems- I'm certainly hanging my head in shame.

I shall be cancelling my membership.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Hurrah. A non-diagnosis

'So, doctor,if you were to sum up the last hour for me, to give me a one-line diagnosis that I could give my husband, what would you say the diagnosis is?'
At this point in time I have been awake for more than 24 hours, I've had a one-hour EEG and we have been shooting a lot of shit, so to speak. I need something my brain can get around....

'Well....I have no idea....'

Ok...that sounds like it was a bit of a waste of my life, so maybe I should really start at, well, if not the beginning, somewhere a tad closer to it.

As you will know, I had an 'incident' in the US last month. MRI scan and consultation in the US was followed by a visit to my migraine doctor. He was worried about epilepsy due to certain features of the 'incident', hence my appearance at the neurologist this morning.

The upshot is: I had a seizure but I don't have epilepsy. The incident that I had was very odd in that it had lots of different features of lots of different things, but no overall 'thing' won out. As the doctor said, and I am sure fellow sufferers will agree, migraine brains are odd. They behave differently from other brains. It is possible that I started out with a period of hypo-perfusion in the brain due to low blood pressure, it morphed into a seizure and ended up as a migraine.

Seizures in the brain can happen when the seizure-threshold is reached.In a non-epileptic brain This is usually due to a combination of things: lack of sleep; illness; alcohol; stress; fever; antibiotics. When the seizure happened I was already exhausted- we'd had an amazing, but utterly exhausting, week in Costa Rica. I was already on my knees due to 3 months very bad sleep. I arrived in the US with the mother and father of all sinus infections. At the time of the seizure I was on my third lot of antibiotics. I had drunk a little more than usual in Costa Rica but at the time of the seizure hadn't had anything alcoholic to drink for more than a week due to the particular antibiotic, but when you look at all the other factors it doesn't seem implausible that the threshold was breached.

In addition, the EEG showed some 'peculiarities' which are normally associated with elderly men (WTF???). It isn't unheard of in women or younger men, but if the doctor hadn't got my details he would have assumed the EEG was an elderly man's. Oh well.

. So, plan of attack. Step 1: Do everything I can to lower my risk factors. If I have a fever, take paracetamol or ibuprofen, If I am ill, sleep a lot (no need to tell me twice). Also, continue to work on sorting sleep issue (perhaps move onto Seroquel instead of melatonin). I can continue to drink in moderation. Step two: medication. Can you guess which anti-seizure medication he recommended? Yep, you got it. Topomax. I told him that I regarded Topomax as the work of the Devil and suggested he tried other options. Said options were not to make me: (more) stupid than the migraines were already making me; fat(er) than I am now; ugly. I then gave him the list of medications that I had downloaded from UK epilepsy charity and he went through them all, disregarding them either because they caused one of the above or they would not work in my case. That left carbamazapine.

I will be starting on a very low dose and titrating up to a low dose. There are some side effects but these are generally associated with high doses, which I won't need. Unlike some of the other medications, these side-effects resolve if the dose is reduced or the medication is stopped. I need to go back for another EEG in February when I will be on the full dose. He will also check the blood level of the drug and do a liver-function test. I am sincerely hoping that there won't be any issues there.

Regarding my safety and that of others', I am still not allowed to drive. In my situation if I am seizure-free for two months I can drive again. I am not allowed to go swimming. Very high risk of drowning....

To be honest, it is better than I hoped for. I was worried that even though it would (hopefully) not be epilepsy, that I would be left in a limbo, not knowing what had caused it, no treatment, just waiting for another seizure to happen along. As it is, although the doctor cannot but a 'label' on it, everything he says makes sense.

I can breathe a bit more easily again.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

No, I don't have a mustard seed problem...

Sure looks like it, though. But do not worry, I have not yet descended into madness. I decided to make a little culinary gift for two of my foodie friends. Most of what you see here was converted into honey mustard. To that I have added some oatcake type biscuits for cheese.

Don't let this limpid photo put you off. These biscuits are seriously delicious. They are made from wholewheat flour and porridge oats and flavoured with salt, dried mustard powder and black pepper. Not only are they going to be great with cheese, I think I have stumbled upon the perfect Digestive Biscuit recipe. If you are an ex-pat Brit, you will know what an amazing discovery this is. SOmetime this week I am going to knock up a batch without the mustard and pepper, dip them in melted chocolate and then sit down with a cup of tea and a good book. And eat the lot.

Monday, 13 December 2010

OK. I admit it...

....I am completely dense....

I was on the bus home today when I realised I was missing something. An important something....a cashmere/wool neckwarmer which I had knitted for myself last winter. It was only one ball of yarn, probably about £10.00 worth. But I was fond of it. I knew where I had seen it last, sitting on the table at Globus while I ate my dinner. When I got home I called them up. No, they hadn't seen it but if I went to their Päckli service, I might find it there. My sorrow at losing it was slightly tempered by the warm glow that only speaking real German, and understanding the response, can bring.

I've just brought my hand up to my neck....guess what it found.....

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Her maiden voyage

Cherry came home with me yesterday. Isn't she gorgeous? The Kenwood Chef that had first belonged to my mum had been making some strange noises. Very strange noises. I decided that a full-blown bang-sizzle-flash-pop was more than my nerves could stand. So, Kenwood is sadly retired and will be recycled at some point in near future.

The first thing I made was these cookies:

Bear with me, they do look a bit ugly. Too much food colouring and applied with a bit of a slap-dash hand. But they taste great.

And you know what her best feature is? That plastic guard around the top. Now I don't have to remember to drape a teatowel over the mixer and bowl to stop the flour going everywhere. Result!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Recipe suggestion

Much as it saddens me to write this, the Kenwood Chef that was passed down to me by my mum, is no more. Well....it is...it hasn't been recycled yet, but it has been making lots of very.bad.noises. So come the New Year I will trudge with it into the local recycling centre so it can be eternally present in some other form...

But in the meantime I am the very happy owner of an early christmas present- a fire-engine red Kitchenaid stand mixer. Yippee!! So, my question is....what special recipe would you recommend for her maiden voyage? Oh, and she also needs a name' Any suggestions?

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


Decorating my front door for the seasons makes me feel Swiss-ish. It isn't just winter decorations, spring/easter ones are popular, too. I bought this after a failed attempt to have coffee with some ex-pats this morning. You know that un-loved feeling you get when you turn up for something and no-one else does? Well, I didn't feel like that, since I haven't been for months, but I was a bit naffed off that I yanked myself out of bed at 7.45 this morning.

After a couple of cups of coffee I headed off to the Apotheke (pharmacy). They have a good system here- my doctor can write a repeat prescription which is good for a set period of time, and I just go back to the pharmacy to pick it up, no need to contact the doctor's surgery first. Once again, my German was trotted out. I bet the guy though 'Oh, not again!' when, in response to his 'Do you speak English?', I replied that I must try German first. There then followed a long and complicated discussion, in which I came to appreciate just how much of what we say is actually padding. Very long story short...after delving into his computer he agreed with me that the doctor had actually prescribed '1 to 2 tablets' of Melatonin. His first thought was that this could not possibly be correct and he looked really worried when I told him I had been taking two tablets at night since last Friday. Melatonin is the latest in recent attempts to sort my sleeping out. It occurs naturally in the body and is what sends us to sleep. You should have seen Dr L's face when I told him that the doctor in the US had offered me Ambien or benzodiazepines!! 'Oh, please don't do that!' he blurted out. Not to worry, a tranquiliser addiction is not what I need right now, so I had turned it down. In the UK it is very hard to get benzodiazapines on prescription. They are very useful in certain circumstances but their use is carefully monitored. So far the Melatonin seems to be helping.

We are supposed to be heading back to the UK on Friday to do our christmas shopping. Not sure if that'll be happening, given the weather in the UK at the moment. In the meantime, the snow looks very pretty from the comfort of my living room....I'm off to curl up on the sofa and read. Tchüüs.

Monday, 22 November 2010

still health

I need to write about my trip to Costa Rica...it was amazing. Hopefully I can find my camera and rustle something up.

In the meantime, things are good here. I feel crappy but only in a jet-lag-why-can't-i-sleep-why-can't-I-stop-sleeping sort of way, so that's fine. I was delighted to find that 'my' migraine doctor is still at the clinic and have an appointment on Thursday to see him. I am trying to ignore the fact that I have to be at his clinic for 8.30 am....I even managed to sort it all out in German, so that's OK. From my brief conversation with the receptionist, I won't be the first person presenting with hemipleigc/basilar migraines which is both heartening and disheartening as you can imagine.

Tomorrow I am going to try to haul ass into Zurich and get a few things done...but then again I ma still be in bed at tea time!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Health update

Well, first of all, it is good news. Thenfirst thing the doctor told me today was that there was definitely no bleed, new or old, in my brain. In fact, he was very unhappy with the way that the scans had been read...he said that the anomaly was clearly a blood vessel in my brain and that what had been reported was just so wrong. To add insult to Injury, the person doing the reporting completely contradicted themselves at the end of the report and didn't even notice. At the end of the consultation the doctor showed Number Guy and myself the actual scans and took a lot of time and trouble going through them to show us exactly why he thought that there was no indication of a stroke.

During the examination it became obvious that I do still have altered sensation in my right foot....this became very obvious as I was feeling rather blasé aboutnthe blunt pin that he was testing my foot with. he then used the same blunt pin on my fingers and I nearly shot off the examination table. He said thatbthis sort of numbness is very common with migraine, as is my word-finding issue. He thinks that I had a basilar or hemiplegic migraine. I have given a couple of URLs at the bottom of the post. To be honest they don't really explain theybtype of thing that can happen, possibly because it is pretty scary, I don't know. A quick Google will bring up lots of information should you wish to know more.

the doctor said that he has followed patients who have had very, very severe attacks of this sort. To the extent that they mimic a stroke even more than mine did. A lot of these patients never have another episode, so it really is a case of getting on with my life. He didn't categorize the attack as either the basilar or the hemiplegic as I think I was fortunate enough not to have enough symptoms to make the differential diagnosis but he is confident that it is 'that sort of thing'. He didn't want to do anything about my meds as he, quite rightly, felt that it had taken a lot of adjusting in the past to get to where I am now. I did, however, ask him if he could do anything about my sleep, which over the past few months has been very bad. Now that I know my brain isn't frying I felt that this was the single thing that would help the most. I was very hestitant about asking since in the UK there is still quite a stigma attatched to sleeping medication......woman+ sleeping tablets = neurotic. The doctor thought that it was a very reasonable request and apart from the huge relief at the diagnosis I am looking forward to what I hope will be the best night's sleep I have had in months.

apologies if theere are glaring typos in this post....I haven't worked outnhow to scroll up,through the text when I am typing on my iPad, so oncenit goes beyond the top limit I can't get back to it.



Monday, 15 November 2010

Strokes are the new black

As some you will be aware, a well-known blogger had a stroke earlier this year. It seems that I cannot let her have all the fuss and attention, so I had my own mini-strokes, or Transient Ischaemic Attack, this morning. You will have gathered, obviously, that the fact that I am typing away here some ten hours later means I am ok.

I woke up early this morning and was very confused about where I was. This in itself is not unusual since we have been travelling so much this year. But, I just could not work out where I was...it took me a while to realise that I was in the US with my husband....and I am not sure that I thought of him as Number Guy but on,y as 'husband'. I tried to get out of the bedroom, but I couldn't work out how to do it. I got to the bedroom door and couldn't figure out how to open it. This sort of thing sometimes happens when I am sleepwalking, but I was definitely awake. I got a bit upset at this point and am not sure what happened next. Somehow I managed to get out and I visited the bathroom and then went to speak to Number Guy, who was in the living room. Just as well I did. I remember asking him to 'hold me' and then I basically fell over. Luckily he grabbed me or I would have been face first into the table and then onto the floor. My right arm started to shake and spasm and my vision went completely black with yellow stars.

finding a hospital with an Emergency Room was a bit of a farce....however things were resolving a bit. By the time I was seen, which was very quickly after we found the right place, I had some ataxia on my rightnside and I still felt very odd. I have had an MRI scan and it has revealed an 'old bleed that they are not worried about'. Well, I am because my migraine doctor arranged an MRI scan earlier this year and he made a big point of telling me that it was all clear and to tell doctors that if any future scans show damage. So this old bleed is notmactive now but it has happened in the last year.

so as you can imagine, I am a bit shaken. We have delayed our return to Switzerland by a week.I need to have a follow-up,appointment with a neurologist and we need to leave enough time to make sure that this is not a precursor to a major stroke, although the hospital say that if they were concerned aboutnthat they would have admitted me.

Friday, 12 November 2010

That'll be $700.....

so....second line antibiotics are not shifting sinus infection. ECG confirmed that although my QT interval is a bit long, it isn't so long that these new antibiotics are going to give me arrythmias (!). Howerver, both the antibiotics and the prednisolone can cause rutpured Achilles's tendon and other tendon issues (!!), so being on both means increased increased risk (!!!). So far, the total for the two visits plus medication is about
$700. (!!!!). So.....who is lucky to have health insurance, eh?

Other than continuing my medical Mystery Shopper job, I have just been chilling out here. We are going to spend the weekend lazing around, possibly going out for a bite or two to eat. Walking slowly. Watching those tendons....

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Books....Billie Girl

This novel by Vickie Weaver is desribed on the back as

Southern Gothic, dark humor and human sexuality, wrapped up in the theme of mercy killing :Billie Girl, b. 1900

I loved the start of the book, the description of how Billie, a baby who just won't stop crying, ends up being looked after by her two Moms. And then......well, it just didn't work for me. I am not always interested in the stories of the supporting cast, but in this novel there is something very unusual about Billie's adoptive parents. It is finally mentioned in the text and then, nothing. Now, it's pretty unusual and I am left with a WTF? feeling when there is absolutely no back story attatched. The book then meanders through Billie's life with a few rather odd bits thrown in, such as a graphic description of how to deal with menstrual cramps. Again, I was left somewhat bemused by this inclusion. OK, the blurb does mention human sexuality, but it doesn't feel like an exploration of said sexuality to me. Rather, it feels as if the author has suddenly remembered to put something of that ilk in and just rams the text wherever it (doesn't ) fit. I could ramble on, but I won't.

I feel like I have been very harsh about this book, and I wish I could have said lots of great things about it, but I can't. However, in this case it is probably down to personal taste, perhaps, rather than anything terminally wrong with the book. Unlike some prizewinners, I wouldn't be amazed if other people did enjoy this book. It held enough promise for me that I would have a go with another book by this author, if I get my hands on one.

Scores on the door...5 out of 10

Saturday, 30 October 2010


Well.....I failed miserably with my Booker challenge and have run out of steam, I guess I might get round to the rest of the books one day. Visited a local bookshop and only came away with five books, not bad, eh?

we are having a quiet, jet-lagged sort of day.. Tomorrow we need to pack the stuff that we need for Costa Rica as we need to leave the house at some ungodly hour in the morning on Monday. It will be so early that it will almost still be Sunday. Oh well....


....that was some typhoon that I just came out the other side of......I'm still shaking the water out of my hair and looking for safe harbor.

I've had a lot of shit on the internet recently and have been trying to understand why. Long haul flights make good opportunity for reflection- the last one I spent much of the time deciding how to reorganize my kitchen and freezers - don't let anyone tell you that I don't have an amazing inner life!

so, why the shit? Well, I think there are a number of reasons, some of which I can lay at my own door, some I am going to attribute to others.

As Number Guy and I were blearily wandering around Whole Foods ( or Whole Pay Check as it is known in these parts), I was trying to explain how I felt. " It's as if I've been just stumbling around the world, not seeing it. I feel like I've just woken up and am examining if for the first time." He reckoned that was very much like it seemed to him. I have my sceptical specs on and am not afraid to use them.

and therein lies the problem, I think. 'Seeing' the world for the first time makes everything seem brand new and open to question. I have realized that some on-line groups are not the place for that. I wish that what now seems blindingly obvious had occurred to me earlier.So, lesson learned for me then.

But, all that aside, it stil leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.

I understand, finally, that there are some places on the Internet which are like a local cafe, you pull up a chair, have a nice chat over tea and scones and if anything remotely 'difficult' crops up someone talks about the weather and another topic is found. Ok. I get that. there are some people who do not understand the difference between 'debate' and 'discuss'. And, even if they do, They do not want to have to get The Lancet out over their cup of Earl Grey. that's fine. But, when there is a thread set up called 'debate' and it is made explicitly clear that this is for....debate, don't get all huffy and pissed off because you were asked to back up your opinions.Don't start playing the 'everyone is equal' nonsense when what is meant is 'You may not express an opinion which is different from others.'. As I have said, i am not going to go into a thread which is called 'praise jesus' and then get all naffed off when that is what I find going on. Don't make comments that imply someone is making personal attacks and go all wide-eyed and innocent when challenged about it. Don't make personal attacks yourself and then refuse to come back to the person attacked and discuss the matter. Don't ask what someone thinks and then get pissed off when they say something that you don't like.

if you are offended or unsure, how about asking the person, instead of making snide comments?

so....I'll be thinking a bit more carefully where I post. I will be thinking. A bit more carefully about the people that I engage with. But if you think I am going to shut up and go way because YOU think I should, you'll need to think again.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Books: The Pesthouse

OK, a little break from Booker madness

Oneof the things I like about visiting the US is the chance to buy books that I just can't get in Europe. OK, there is Amazon, but as book lovers know, you cannot browse and online the store in the the way you can a real book shop. A recent fined was The Pesthouse , Jim Grace. I don't usually 'do' dystopian novels, with the notable exceptions of Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood.

Although the books by these two authors are very different, what they both have in common is writing styles that make you want to keep reading, no matter how crappy life in the book is getting.

In a twist from the normal run of things today, in The Pesthouse America is not where people want to be. In fact, it is the last place on earth that they want to be. There has been a breakdown in society, the climate and soil no longer supporting the population. Exactly what led to this problem we are never told. The constant fear in this new era is an old one, bubonic plague. Whether that came on the back of the meltdown of American society or was the forerunner, we are never told and it doesn't seem particularly relevant. The plague itself is relevant to the two main characters in the novel, Margaret and Franklyn, who find themselves oddly united by the fact that they are both too ill to run away from the other. It remains relevant as they struggle to make their way to the coast, where, it is rumoured, there are ships that will take them to Europe. It remains relevant as an unlikely ally when danger threatens them.

I found myself drawn into the novel and while not being an action-packed thriller (!) it was nonetheless a page-turner. The ending was unexpected, but just right. Good writing, believeable characters, satisfying ending. Can't really ask for much more.

Scores on the door: 9 out of 10

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Man Booker The Long Song

So....was this another winner by Andrea Leavy.....?

But I'm ahead of myself...I'm blaming it on the raging virus that I have at the moment, not on any failure in my writing skills. Naturally.

The story itself is predictable- how could a tale about a slave in Jamaica be anything else? Young July, taken from her mother by the plantation owner's sister and re-named Marguerite, is trained as a lady's maid. A tale of brutality. A tale of humanity. That of the slaves, of course, not that of the owners...and yet...and yet....I hate to admit this but time again I found myself feeling sorry for Miss Caroline. She really was a fish out of water.

Widowed young herself, Caroline finds herself in the care of her soon-to-be-widowed brother. Even before grief overcomes him he is not overly solicitous of his sister's needs and feelings and she is left to fall upon her own (scant) resources as she attempts to be mistress of Amity, the plantation upon which she and July both must live out their years.In the tumultuous years that follow, as slavery is finally outlawed and in the years that come after, July and Caroline rub along as best they can, despite July being forced to give up a son in order to stop Caroline 'selling him away.' July runs rings around her (stupid)mistress to the point where at times there was something of characature going on in the text. Some of these years were not bad to July, in as far as one can say that about being a slave, and she consolidates her position to the point where it becomes clearer and clearer that Caroline is Mistress of Amity in name only.

I was by turns perplexed, horrified, sorrowful and greatly amused. The complete self-centredness and lack of empathy displayed by the white characters was astounding, yet at the same time quite believable. Whatever my feelings for the characters during the book, by the end of it Caroline and the other plantation owners are found to be simply loathsome.

And what of July? It is clear from the beginning of the novel that July survives and is no longer a slave. But I found the end of The Long Song both too long and too short (I like to be difficult). The end of the book concentrates on what happened to her son. I found I wasn't interested in that- well, to be precise, I wanted to know more about what had happened to July in these latter years and less about her son.

Apart from the last few chapters, this book had me gripped. As I said at the start, there aren't many surprises to be had in a story about slavery, yet this had 'Aha!' moments scattered thtoughout. I was really interested in what befell July and at times almost found myself chiding her, questioning her responses and actions

Scores on the doors- 8.5 out of 10

EDIt: After some mulling over, I'm reducing this to a 6 out of 10. I know it made the shortlist, but I really don't think it should've.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Man Booker What purpose a book?

I've been thinking about why I read, and about why other people read. What really is the purpose? I started out with entertainment and enjoyment and then went onto:









recording history



I'm sure I'll add a few more to this list.

But in the meantime, why do I read? Is it 'simply' for pleasure? If it is, is that enough? Should I not want to be educated? Should I not want my conscience poked and prodded?

I'm gonna give that some thought and get back to y'all.

Man Booker What purpose a book?

I've been thinking about why I read, and about why other people read. What really is the purpose? I started out with entertainment and enjoyment and then went onto:









recording history



I'm sure I'll add a few more to this list.

But in the meantime, why do I read? Is it 'simply' for pleasure? If it is, is that enough? Should I not want to be educated? Should I not want my conscience poked and prodded?

I'm gonna give that some though and get back to y'all.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Man Booker Room

Ok, up next we have Room, by Emma Donoghue.

Loved this book.

I am really glad that I didn't read any of the reviews before I dived into this book. I find that some reviews just give far too much away- and I'm not talking about when 'spoilers' are highlighted, I mean simply in the body of the review itself. I probably go too far the other way and don't say enough. Ho hum.

So.....the narrator of the story is a 5 year old boy and for the first few pages I wasn't really sure what is going on- there is no back story, you are simply dropped into his day. As the beginning of the book unfolded I developed my own theory about what was going on, based partly on some 'clues' in the text. But all was not quite as I had thought. The 'clues' did indeed turn out to be hints to what was going on, but not quite the way I had expected. It was with growing horror and tension that I realised what the truth of the matter was. Now, was that sufficiently vague not to give the plot away and sufficiently pithy to hold your attention? I thought not, but I really don't want to give anything away about the plot.

About a third/ half way into the book the truth of the situation becomes apparent, yet despite this revelation the book remained a real page-turner. I think that says a lot about the strength of the writing and the believability of the characters. I stayed up into the wee small hours to finish this book.

I'm not going to say any more about the content as I don't want to give the game away.

Do I think it is a Booker winner? Who the heck knows? The fact that I loved it might be enough to blight it ;0).

Scores on the door: 10/10

Man Booker The Slap

I am half-heartedly predicting that The Slap ,Christos Tsiolkas, will win the Man Booker. Because I think it is a great novel? Because it broke boundaries, charted new territory? Nope. Because I really, really really didn't like it. And as Number Guy pointed out, I have a history of not liking prize-winning novels.

The plot is simple: people at barbecue. Child behaving like spoiled brat. (child is spoiled brat.)Someone slaps child. General outrage. Examining aftershock through the different characters present At The Time.

The first couple of sections were OK and I was somewhat interested in the characters. But lordy, according to Tsiolkas, your average Australian male can't keep his mind away from his groin for more than about, oh, 5 seconds. I got pretty fed up, pretty fast, with the sex obsession.

Another issue for me was the Australian vernacular. It just didn't sit with me, it felt forced and unrealistic. I asked my Australian friend if 'wog' was really such a common word to be heard in the Antipodes these days. She choked on her wine, fell off her seat and had to be rushed to casualty. Well, ok, I made up the casualty bit (what, you couldn't tell?) but she was somewhat taken aback. No, as far as she is concerned, the 'w' word doesn't get many outings. Phew.

I has sympathy for only two of the characters in the book. Aish, related through marriage to the man who slaps the child, and her Greek father-in-law. As a result of the pressures of the aftermath of The Slap, and the bias and bigotry of her mother-in-law, this relationship crumbles. In fact, not only were these the only two characters that I liked, the examination of their relationship was the only part of the book that felt real and held any kind of fascination.

I tried to slog through to the end, but I lost interest in the characters, and was losing the will to live, about 2/3 of the way through. it is Unfinished.

Scores on the door: 1/10

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Man Booker Skippy Dies

Number three from the list: Skippy Dies by Paul Murray.

Thoughts so far: Skippy is Everyteen.

More on that when I've had more/less beer and read more of the book.

OK....so now I have read more, but no more beer was drunk. In fact, I have read it all and still no more beer was drunk.

Very short summary- teenage boys in Catholic boarding school. Teenage boy falls hopelessly in love with girl from Catholic girls' school. Some dark thread running through story. Teenage boy dies.

I really liked this book. If you'd asked me about 2/3 of the way through I would have said that I loved it.....but for me it ran out of steam about 3/4 of the way through and I found myself repeatedly checking the progress bar on the Kindle app...not such a good sign. In my (very humble) opinion as a book critic, what really shone out was the characterisation. Skippy might have been a teenage boy, well, he was, no might have been about it, but I identified with him with every fibre of my once-teenage being. It wasn't Skippy falling in love with a girl he had never met, it was me falling in love with B, or A or....well....not quite the whole alphabet....but the sheer hopelessness of teenage love and angst is still seared on my soul and Skippy brought it all back...those of you who look back on your teenage years through a goldne glow may not recognise Skippy. He may not be Everyteen to you....but he certainly represents Twelfthknitteen to me.

The storyline kept me on my toes during the first half of the book. I kept having 'Aha' moments when I thought I knew just what this 'dark thread' was, only to have my assumptions shoved to the side within a couple of pages. The way the story was structured more-or-less guaranteed that the element of suspense was over while the book still had a fair way to go. In short, if about a quarter of the book had been hacked out of the middle, I would have liked it a lot more. I did wonder if my feeling about the book were influenced by the fact that it felt a bit like A Spot of Bother , and I couldn't forgive it for not being that book. But that wasn't it. It just needed a bit of pruning.....(I feel all audacious now....bit it is my blog, so I can be audacious if I want to... can't I ?)

Scores on the door: 6 out of 10

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Man Booker; The Betrayal

Having thoroughly enjoyed The Siege, in which Helen Dunmore tells the story of the siege of Leningrad through the eyes of one family, I was really looking forward to The Betrayal.

Like A thousand Autumns..., honesty, doing the right thing and being able to look yourself in the eye feature large in this book. In fact, it is the core of the story. Ten years after the siege Anna and her husband, Andrei, have built a life together with her much younger brother, Kolya. But it's a life amidst The Terror a life of looking over one's shoulder, guarded words and never-ending unease. A life of wondering when Stalin's hand will be felt upon one's shoulder. It is into this atmosphere that Kolkov's son is admitted to Andrei's hospital. In the rush to avoid the inevitable persecution which will be a result of failure, the child becomes irrelevant. He is to the doctors in the hospital simply the son of a rightly-feared man, simply Kolkov's son. But not to Andrei and another of his colleagues, who despite having the case thrust upon them, do their best to care for the child at the centre of all of this turmoil.

I enjoyed this book. I felt that Dunmore once again conveyed something of the atmosphere of living through The Terror. (I say 'something', because I'm fairly sure that any fiction about such events is only a mere shadow, no matter how adept the author.) With The Siege I was left wanting to know more, but felt that the book was in itself complete. This time I am left with a sense of dissatisfaction. The end indicates to me that there may well be a third book, but even allowing for that it still doesn't leave me satisfied.

Scores on the door: 7 out of 10

ETA: New scoring system

Friday, 30 July 2010

The Man Booker- A thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet

Here we go, book one of the long list.

But first, a disclaimer. I am not a book critic and I will be fumbling my way around here- normally my critique of a book is summed up by 'Loved it/hated it'....

And....I am hoping to get through the books before the award is announced and I will be deciding which one I would give the prize to. That doesn't mean that the book that I award most points to will be my 'winner', as I'll be thinking of the books in terms of what I think of as 'prizeworthiness'.

Jacob de Zoet is on a mission; a turn-of-the-18th century Dutchman, his only chance of earning enough to marry the woman he loves is to work as a trading company's clerk to Japan. There is but one problem- Jacob is an honest man and the theme of 'doing the right/honourable thing' is a thread that runs through this novel, causing him no end of problems. Falling in love with a Japanese woman, Orito, doesn't help matters much.

There is a lot of historical detail in this book. As someone who knows nothing of Japanese culture and history, it seemed accurate enough to me ;0) I really enjoyed the narrative and for the first time in a long, long time I had a book in my hands that I just didn't want to put down. There was just one wrong note for me- the 'device' (getting all scholarly here!!) that he uses to separate Jacob and Orito had me staring at he pages in perplexity and, frankly, annoyance. To me it seemed a contrivance that really spoiled the flow and 'believability' of the book. To say that I couldn't suspend my disbelief* is putting it mildly.

However, the rest of the book was so good that in time I manage d to forgive MItchell for this bum note.

Scores on the door- 9 out of 10

ETA: New scoring system

* I know, I know- the convention is 'suspending your belief', but for me it's always my disbelief that I have trouble suspending, and this is my blog ;0)

ETA: I haven't really given enough detail about the book I think, but I don't want to spoil it. IF there isn't enough detail for you, check out reviews on Amazon:0)

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Man Booker

My blog has been deathly quiet because I am trying not to use the computer so much on account of sore hands. However, I have decided to read the Man Booker longlist and will post my thoughts on each of them here. Be warned: I am no literary critic and will not be attempting any 'high faluting' stuff, just my humble thoughts on each one.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism


No time at the moment for a lyrical post- if you want to give some aid to current disaster appeals, click on the big red square in my sidebar. Go on, you know you want to.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

I refuse to accept it.

How can Gary Numan be 52 today????

Friday, 5 March 2010

the time traveller's wife

OK. Who messed with the ending? The ending in the book was better. It was the right ending. Filmmaker- I'm not impressed!!

Sunday, 28 February 2010

I officially declare these sausages a success.

Boy oh boy oh boy oh boy. I think the rapture has arrived- the sausage rapture. I am in love with my sausages. Well, that might be taking it a bit far.....actually, no, when I think about it, that sounds just right!

Slightly spicy and full of fennel-y goodness. I am not sure if I'll ever want to make a different kind. Well, maybe I will, but each time I make sausages, half of them will have to be be Hot Italian.

Off to drool some more..

Saturday, 27 February 2010


From this:

To this:

To this:

I used this Hot Italian Sausage Recipe, since it was seeing various recipes calling for same that finally promted me to get a mincer. Well, that and tales of delicious meaty goodness from my friend J. She kindly took me by the hand (I hate getting lost) and showed me this great butcher in Zürich where you can buy good quality meat and the sausage casings.

Handling the casings was a bit tricky- I managed to lose about 1/4 of it, since it got caught up in a knotty mess. This means that I am left with about 6 sausages-worth which I have just bagged up and will use in a Bolgnese-type sauce. Can't wait to try them, but it won't be tonight- all that raw meat handling has quenched my appetite!!

ETA: I followed the recipe pretty much as it was given, except I only put 3 tsp of salt in and no cayenne pepper as I didn't have any. I also added 100g of porridge oats to the mix, ground up quite fine in food processor beforehand as they were jumbo oats. When I make beef burgers I add oats as well (or you can use breadcrumbs) as I think it gives a better texture.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Southern Cakes.

Number Guy has spent a very pleasant weekend in the company of three friends from the UK. I have also found it very pleasant, but I was cooking and baking as opposed to board-gaming and Dungeons & Dragonning.

Due to the, ahem, weight issue, I don't bake as much as I would like to. Having people to stay allows me to relax the rules a bit. This weekend I pulled out
Southern Cakes.. I had wanted to try out the Tomato Soup Cake (yes, really) but I had bought a can of the ordinary stuff, not the condensed as required. Never mind, the Banana Chocolate Layer Cake came to the rescue.

I have to say that this picture does not do justice to this light-as-air creation.

The butter and sugar are beaten together, and then the three eggs are added one-by-one. Once the eggs are incorporated the mixture is beaten for another few minutes before the other ingredients are folded in by hand. The resultant batter is a dreamy mousse-like creation that I could easily have eaten straight from the mixing bowl.

The finished cake I loved. The chocolate frosting I found a bit too much, but this cake is deserving of another outing, I'll just need to think about the frosting issue

Saturday, 20 February 2010

In the kitchen

I've had two new toys to play with recently.

The baker's Edge has been in my sights for quite some time, but the cost of shipping it from the US was out of the question. So you can imagine that I was rather pleased at having scored one on my recent trip to the US.

The whole point of this cake tin is that everyone gets two chewy edges on their piece of brownie, something I had come to understand was vital ;0)I've only tried one recipe so far- Katherine Hepburn Brownies in Dorrie Goldspan's book . The recipe didn't fill the tine, but boy, they were good.

Next up- my Fleishwolf, or meat grinder to you and me. Given the ferocity of this machine, I think flesh-wolf is a very apt name! I don't have casings yet, so decided to just make meatballs instead. I chose a 'breakfast sausage' recipe off the internet, and they were not bad at all for a first attempt.

The ingredients were pretty simple, as you can see:

I want to make some Sweet Italian Sausage, so if anyone has a favourite recipe, please drop me a line in the comments.

On a non-domestic front, I've just started German lessons again. We have a test on Monday and I am trying, and failing, to work up the enthusiasm to study for it.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

All done

It's over. I can confirm what other people have said- thanks to the wonders of sedation, the worst part is the preparation. What made it a bit harder was having to get up to take the second solution at 4.00am this morning. The original plan had been 6.00 am (bad enough) but after yesterday it became clear that if severe public embarrassment were to be avoided, 4.00am it needed to be.

I told Dr F' I'm never having this done again, so this is the only chance to do all the tests that you need. I think he took me at my word. We need to await the histology results to be certain, but it look as if I 'merely' have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I say 'merely' because it's fab news that it isn't something worse, but I'm not sure what else can be done to alleviate the symptoms. Oh well, I should find out at my follow-up appointment next week.

Now, where is the horse, because I could eat one.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

I've been putting it off.

I have That Test tomorrow. Sitting in the fridge are two bottles of 'stuff'. How do you find the motivation to drink something that you know will: A) Taste so bad you might end up vomiting; B)Cause you to spend all night in the bathroom; C)and to add insult to injury requires a 5am start tomorrow morning to do it all over again?

10 minutes later.

It was bad. But not that bad. I was finding it hard at first because my throat kept feeling like it was just going to close. ..I had a taste. It was awful. I quickly developed a technique- 4 teaspoons of the liquid, which was small enough to be 'downed in a one-er' as we say in my neck of the woods, to which a hefty squeeze of lemon juice was added. There was 90 mls. That was 90mls too much, but still. Now I just nee dto drink 2L of water and hang around the bathroom. Oh Joy.

The only problem I foresee at the minute is that I am feeling quite sick. It really
will add insult to injury if it all comes back up after I went to the effort of getting it down.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

You might want to skip this.

It isn't really gross, but still...

I had my lactose-intolerance test today. It seems that I'm not. Lactose-intolerant. All I can say is that there's a mighty amazing placebo effect going on when I take lactase. It'll take me a while to get my head round this.

Anyway, my GI consultant managed to amaze me today. He needed me to explain to him why I didn't really want to have a colonoscopy. Yes, really.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

You know you're jet-lagged when...

...you use 4 different bottles in an attempt to condition your hair, and each one turns out to be shampoo;0)

We got back from the States on Friday and I spent about 36 hours in bed. It meant we missed The Blue Man Group . I feel bad about that- it was Number Guy's birthday present but I just couldn't get out of bed.

One of our suitcases was searched on the way back- I obviously don't mind, but I would have appreciated it if the strap had been put back round it....oh well, if that's all I've got to moan about I better stop it!

Jet lag affects me differently going west, so the first weekend we went to Half Moon Bay. I went into a yarn shop and managed not to buy anything- I know, odd, isn't it? After that I needed some lunch, so we went to Sushi Main Street , which had been recommended by a fellow Spoogler, M. It was fantastic. We had so much food we could hardly move and it was less than $60 plus tip. We made up for that saving a week later, in The Lodge at Pebble Beach, 17 mile Drive . We had an amazing view of the ocean, plus brunch, for a total of $140, minus the tip. Oh well. It was good.

I met up with M, who recommended Sushi. She has a number of good suggestions up her sleeve, another one being
Sprinkles for cup cakes. We actually went to two cupcake shops that day (well, I was on holiday...) but I can't remember the name of the other one.

A few days after that, C took me into San Francisco to a armers market down on the waterfront. I had the best beef sandwich ever. And I didn't have the stress of driving into the city. Just as well- if I'd been in the driving seat we'd never have left the car park.

Well, I seem to be rambling on and on, so I'll stop here and try to find something else to do that'll stop me collapsing into bed at only 2 in the afternoon.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

6 weeks

That's about the length of time that my migraines have been under control. Yay :0) This is how it is for me and 'my migraines', that constant companion. I get ups and downs. The downs really suck- weeks on end of painkillers and making sure I have them and my other meds with me, chronic pain, constant fear of an acute attack. Then something magical happens- it all.just.stops. The past week or so have been a bit niggly, as I have a major stress coming up, but other than that I have had a reminder of what it has been like to be a normal person. :0)

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Haiti- you can help

If you want to help the people in the wake of the Haitian earthquake, here is a simple, easy way to do so.

The Disasters Emergency Committee have an appeal on their homepage. Just click on 'Donate Now'.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Look closely...

...at the bottom left-hand side of this scarf and you will see 'I heart Z.' This fabulous scarf was knitted for me by my good friend
KEDKrafty as a special present when I moved to Switzerland. As soon as winter gets to be serious, out this scarf comes. It warms my neck and it warms my soul. It's great to have friends!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Slwo, slow, quick quick, slow.

I was cooking at both ends of the time scale today- slow cooker and pressure cooker.

I have resisted the appeal of a pressure cooker for years. My mum confirmed that my memory of a pressure cooker exploding was a real one. However, having clarified things with her I now know it was a case of safety-valve-blowing-and-dinner-hitting-ceiling, not bits-of-shrapnel-flying-about scenario.

Then I was kicking myself. The Coop in Switzerland has a 'merkli' scheme,much like other supermarket reward schemes. In this case you collect the 'merkli' (stickers) and once you get 2 sheets you can get a variety of discounted goods. The reason for kicking myself? The current discount was on cookware. They were offering a whopping 70% off- you guessed it- pressure cookers. To add to the frustration, the collection finishes at the end of January and goods need to be collected by the end of February. All was not lost- one sticker per 10CHF spent, 60 stickers to collect. With 4 extra people to be fed it wasn't long before the pages were full and I came away with a Schnellkochtopf in my hot little hands.

I won't lie, I was completely shitting myself somewhat nervous the first time I used it, but as you can see the world did not end and now I have a deliscious lamb stew for tea. And the slow cooker made a grand job of 'risotto' for my son's girlfriend. Happy smiles all round :0)

Monday, 4 January 2010

First Baking 2010

These cookies are the second thing I've made from Salty Sweets . When I tried one last night, my first reaction was 'Meh'. However, a reprise this morning has seen me change my opinion. I still don't think they're wonderful, but they are tasty enough that I wouldn't be embarrassed handing them round to visitors.

They're nowhere near good enough to nudge World Peace Cookies from pole position.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

This makes me feel so sad.

We sure are screwing up this wonderful planet. It's not too late , is it?

first knitting of 2010

I ran up this little number with some baby alpaca and silk. It needs a little blocking to show it at its best, but I wanted to give it a trial run today- it's cold outside. I foresee another Cité before much longer.

ETA: What a difference a little TLC makes: