Monday, 23 June 2014

Health Update

I had an appointment with my GP (family doctor) this morning, following on from my recent hospital appointment – I have been having problems with my mouth and throat. I suffer from a dry mouth especially at night, and this is probably partly due to my M.E. and partly due to nasal congestion – I have to spend some time every night clearing my nasal passages with Sterimar (an aerosol saline solution). Also, I had a throat infection back in February and since then I have not been able to throw off a chronic irritating cough, the production of mucus and a constant feeling of a lump of catarrh at the back of my throat which I am unable to clear.

My hubby has been telling me lately that I am making a lot of noise while asleep – not exactly snoring but a sound as if I am struggling to get enough breath.

I mentioned the lump in my throat to the hospital doctor but she couldn’t find anything and only recommended continuing with the saline spray to clear my nose and prevent mouth breathing, which should help the dry mouth. She ruled out Sjorgren’s Syndrome.

The GP was very helpful, and agreed it didn’t sound like obstructive sleep apnoea which my hubby suffers from – she asked if he could hear me stopping breathing altogether when asleep, which he couldn’t, and I don’t suffer from the same daytime sleepiness which featured so strongly in his condition before he started with the CPAP breathing mask.

She asked if I suffered from acid reflux, and when I said yes – I get bouts of this and according to my GP where we used to live, this is probably caused by my M.E. and is the result of the sphincter at the top of my stomach not closing properly. The GP today said all my symptoms were characteristic of reflux – the acid contents of the stomach can cause inflammation and irritation at the top of the oesophagus and give rise to a feeling of swelling and a chronic cough. She has prescribed Omeprazole, a slow-release medication which reduces the acid concentration in the stomach, for the next four weeks, and we have to see how it goes. If it works properly, it should prevent the reflux and give my throat a chance to recover. If the symptoms persist, she will refer me to an ear, nose and throat specialist who will take a proper look at my throat, and take it from there, with any treatment based on what they find.

I also mentioned my swollen ankles, and she confirmed what my old GP said, that I should keep my legs elevated as much as possible, but obviously I can’t be on the recliner all day as there are other things to do when I’m well enough! She said that my lack of mobility is the main cause, because walking exercises the calf muscles and keeps the blood flowing, and without it, blood plasma can leak out from the blood vessels and pool in the tissues, causing the oedema and discomfort. She said that it was most unlikely that my left bundle branch block (chronic heart condition) would have any effect – since being less mobile this condition has been completely asymptomatic and I tend to forget all about it. She said being female was against me, and also the heat – both of which exacerbate problems with swollen ankles. She said support stockings might help but I said they would be terribly hot – I wore my travel socks when we drove up to our holiday venue, which helped, but I did get very hot! She was reluctant to put me on diuretics because they would make me pee more, and could cause more M.E.-type symptoms, and would not be good for long-term use in my case. She ordered a blood test for anaemia, which is common in people with ulcerative colitis because of continuous low-level loss of blood, and which can cause ankle oedema. I asked about those circulation booster machines, and she said it certainly might help, and would do no harm. Looking them up on the Internet, they are pretty expensive, so I am now watching one on Ebay and hope the price doesn’t rise too high!

So now I am waiting for the result of the haemoglobin test, and for the end of the four-week period on the new medication, and we will see what happens. I am very pleased with our new doctors’ surgery – my new GP is extremely efficient, really listens, is friendly, and takes all these various niggles seriously. Untreated, reflux can increase one’s risk of developing throat cancer so it should not be ignored. I am happy that I can hope to feel a lot better soon, because something is being done about it.

Today I weighed myself for the first time for ages and was absolutely horrified! I have never been so heavy. I knew I’d put on a lot recently, and going on holiday and having lots of meals out, and starting each day with a full English breakfast and delicious home made scones probably hasn’t helped, but it’s given me the impetus to try and do something about it, so starting tomorrow, I am going on the Fast Diet (intermittent 5:2 fast where two days per week you consume a maximum of 500 calories, and eat normally the rest of the time) – I know several people on this diet and the results have been dramatic. Losing some weight should improve my health all round, I think.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Salisbury and Cotswolds Holiday Day 8–Cirencester–2nd Post–Art Exhibition

As I mentioned in my last post, at the side of the museum in Cirencester is a small art gallery which hosts temporary exhibitions of work by local artists. The current exhibition is on the theme of William Shakespeare, and I think you will agree with me that these pieces are exceptional, and depict the Bard very well, each in their own way. Many of the pieces have an ancient feel but using modern materials, and in a modern style – in exactly the same way as we interpret Shakespeare today!

A mixed-media scroll, decorated front and back.

01 Mixed Media Scroll

“Birds on a Wire,” the wire being a quotation from Richard III: “True hope is swift, and flies with swallows’ wings; Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings.”

02 Birds on a Wire - King Richard III

Coiled pot with printed paper, “Love Potion.”

03 Coiled Pot - Love Potion

A display of mini-books.

04 Shakespeare Mini-Books

These were so intriguing and beautiful that I had to take a few detailed shots of them.

05 Shakespeare Mini-Books

06 Shakespeare Mini-Books

07 Shakespeare Mini-Books

08 Shakespeare Mini-Books

It is a shame there was so much reflection from the display case, but I did the best I could to capture them. These little books are so exquisite, and so along the lines that I want my own work to progress; I am very attracted to the idea of making art in books which themselves are little pieces of art, not something to be hung on the wall, but dynamic, to be handled, tactile, with texture to be enjoyed.

This beautiful installation displays a series of mini-books in a cabinet. Gorgeous distressed frame.

09 Shakespeare Mini-Books in Cabinet

Again, my apologies for the reflections.

10 Shakespeare Mini-Books

11 Shakespeare Mini-Books

Ariel, the winged messenger.

12 Ariel, the Winged Messenger

13 Ariel, the Winged Messenger Back View

Details about the exhibition.

14 Shakespeare Exhibition Details

15 Timon of Athens Mini-Book

16 King Lear Mini-Book

Beautiful backgrounds.

17 Shakespeare Mini-Book with Beautiful Background

A display of mini-books arranged between a pair of masked bookends.

18 Shakespeare Mini-Books Between Book-Ends

19 Shakespeare Mini-Books

Gorgeous grungey black and white mini-books.

20 Black and White Shakespeare Mini-Books

One of my favourite pieces in the exhibition, a paper sculpture entitled “Will Writes.”

21 Paper Sculpture - Will Writes

I love how the pages of words flow from the end of the giant quill pen and gradually become part of the structure in which he is sitting – just as his original ink-still-wet words have over the centuries become part of the edifice of our national culture. The words are for us all, but it is up to us to draw aside the curtain and dig more deeply to discover the beauty and meaning of the immortal words which transcend historical period and fashion.

There were many other pieces too, mostly paintings and a few more sculptures and ceramics, but I felt this selection best represented the theme to me. I hope you agree that they are beautiful and inspirational – a modern interpretation of the sublime works of our greatest wordsmith.

As with my previous post, this was composed on the following day, as I was too tired on our arrival home last night to tackle anything on the computer! As before, I have kept the date in sequence to make my holiday record complete.

Salisbury and Cotswolds Holiday Day 8–Cirencester and Home–First Post

On our final day, after leaving our lovely farm bed and breakfast, we visited Cirencester before beginning the journey home. We ended up spending most of the day there as it was just great.

My hubby took me to the amazing museum which celebrates the rich Roman history of the town. The museum is of a very high standard indeed, with the exhibits beautifully displayed. Just as we arrived, a school party from Oxford also arrived, and we spent some time going around with them, and I was very impressed with the standard of teaching, and the responses of the children. It was clearly a very good school and the children behaved very well throughout.

Adjoining the shop on the way out was a small gallery where they hold temporary exhibitions of local art, and the current one was based on William Shakespeare. I have done a separate post about this – more delicious art! We’ve been so blessed with it on this holiday!

The entrance lobby of the museum was screened off with a glass wall through which we could see the first of many displays of mosaics and wall paintings. Cirencester was an important Roman settlement and many very fine mosaics and other artefacts have been unearthed.

01 Museum Entrance

Looking through the lobby to the Roman Garden beyond.

02 The Roman Garden

Throughout the museum we found this beautiful logo, sand-blasted onto various glass panels, reflecting the museum’s emphasis on mosaics.

04 Museum Logo

In the first photo you may have noticed a large hare in front of the mosaics on the wall. Cirencester is currently holding a “hare festival” and various shops and other venues have these large figures, each decorated in a different way. The museum one was embellished, appropriately, with mosaics. A lovely piece of work.

05 Mosaic Hare

You can read more about the Hare Festival here. Lots more images here.

There were quite a few life-sized displays of figures illustrating life in Roman Britain (and other periods too – our time was limited so we just concentrated on the Romans). The school children were particularly fascinated by the mounted Roman cavalryman – or more particularly by his horse!

08 Roman Cavalryman

I am always fascinated that the Romans did not use stirrups, which were invented much later, and the horses are understood to have been unshod. Despite this, they were still a force to be reckoned with.

Walking in on this display, I almost apologised for disturbing a man sitting on his bed!

11 Roman Bed Display

The Roman soldiers certainly had pretty basic accommodation – this looks more like a scene from a concentration camp!

A closer view of the Roman Garden. You can see the beautiful wall paintings beyond, and the mosaic logo on the glass partition.

12 The Roman Garden

The reconstruction of a Roman hypocaust found in Cirencester. I am fascinated by this form of underfloor heating – not just the simple but effective technology, but perhaps it has something to do with the word itself? It has a wonderful sound that rolls off the tongue (I love words…).

13 Hypocaust Reconstruction

This display of Romans relaxing at home was very interesting. We listened to the teacher explaining that the installation of a mosaic in one’s home was a huge labour which would have taken many months, or longer, depending on the quality. This was a major investment, and proved that the owner was a person of wealth and status. They would have taken great delight in showing off their mosaics to their friends and neighbours. When they moved house, they would have to leave it behind as there was no way of lifting it and transplanting it to the new house, so I am sure that having quality mosaics would increase the sale value of the house. (I wonder if the wall paintings I left behind in our old house will have the same effect? Lol!)

15 Roman Living Room Scene

Viewed from the balcony above, the famous Hunting Dogs mosaic could be seen in all its splendour. This is a very fine mosaic indeed, with small tesserae, and a great deal of detail. The muted colours come from the local stone, carefully selected and cut.

20 Hunting Dogs Mosaic

A reproduction pillar with an original Roman capitol in the Corinthian style. Each of the four faces depicts a Roman god – in this case the god of wine, Bacchus, surrounded as usual by grapes and vines. What particularly intrigued me was his wand, or thyrsus – in this case, the shape of it was exactly the same as the labrys or double-headed axe of the Minoan civilisation – my father brought me back a beautiful heavy silver pendant in this shape. It was a sacrificial axe, and it gave its name to the famous Labyrinth of Knossos, where Theseus slew the Minatoar in Greek mythology. With further research I may be able to establish the connection with Bacchus but no time at present!

21 Corinthian Column Depicting Bacchus

From the Christian period of Roman occupation, this Sator square was found in Cirencester. It is an acrostic which spells “Pater Noster” – “Our Father.” It was probably a coded message passed between Christians, much as the simple image of the fish was used. There is plenty of information about this online.

23 Sator Square

Finally from the museum, a fine example of a wall painting in the form of panels – a popular design in Roman villas.

25 Wall Painting

I took plenty more photos but could not possibly include them all here – this is a good representative sample.

Some pictures of Cirencester streets:

26 Cirencester Street

28 Cirencester Street

It’s a beautiful town, with very classy and intriguing shops. We came across this book shop with lots of flying hippos and bunting in the window!

27 Flying Hippos in Bookshop Window

Then… more chocolate heaven! I managed to restrain myself from going into this particular shop, and contented myself with photographing it from the windows! The first photo reflects the Hare Festival and features a large hare made of chocolate.

30 Chocolate Hare in Shop Window

What about these chocolate cakes?

31 Chocolate Cakes in Shop Window

Yummy, or what? More pictures of the inside of the shop. First, a stunning chandelier consisting of carefully arranged hanging crystals, illuminated by small spotlights from above.

33 Chandelier in Chocolate Shop

34 Counter Display in Chocolate Shop

After this we found a very nice place to eat – a bit expensive but certainly worth it! This is the window seat with a set of lovely brown cushions in different fabrics. My hubby’s hat tones very well, don’t you think?

37 Cushions in Fleece Restaurant

After lunch we visited the outdoor market, and then an indoor antiques market – I had wanted to do this first thing, and was proved right because by the time we got there they were starting to pack up. In the antiques market I bought a length of cream coloured lace for art work but there wasn’t much else in the way of vintage linens or textiles. In the outdoor market I came across a stall selling beautiful bright coloured Indian clothes and the lady running it looked so beautiful that I asked for a photo, and she obliged!

38 Indian Market Stallholder

After this we really felt we should be making tracks for home, as we’d stayed a lot longer than we intended. I didn’t want to go straight home after leaving the bed and breakfast, but wanted to take advantage of our last day away, especially as several of the days were spoilt for me by feeling so poorly! We were home in time to feed two hungry kitties who were, of course, absolutely delighted to have us home again.

I have composed this post on Saturday 21st June but kept its date in sequence with the rest of the holiday posts – last night I was much too tired to attempt it, and today I am having a rest and attempting to catch up with myself a bit – we’ve got a family get-together tomorrow evening and I need to be on top form for that!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Salisbury and Cotswolds Holiday Day 7–Charlecote Park

Fortunately I was feeling slightly better today, even after another really bad night, and sleeping a lot in the car helped me keep going. We went to a National Trust property today, Charlecote Park, a magnificent Tudor manor house in Warwickshire. I took loads of photos but won’t include them all here!

01 Stable Block

02 Rooftop

The place houses a fine collection of carriages. Here are a couple of them.

04 Carriage Collection - Victoria

10 Carriage Collection - Barouche

Some of the names were very familiar from literature (Sherlock Holmes etc.!) – Barouches and Broughams. It was nice to see the difference between them, and for what purpose they were used. This was a very wealthy family who could afford different carriages for different occasions – rather like having a garage full of Porsches and Mercedes today!

I loved these black iron hay racks on the white wall.

08 Hay Racks

In the stable block area, there was a number of very attractive signs with simple graphics. I particularly liked the Kitchen sign with the servants’ bell.

16 Attractive Signs

Beautiful iron gates.

18 Iron Gates

A large mangle in the laundry. You could put a lot of embossing folders through this!

21 Mangle

A view of the main house.

25 Main House

The gardens were beautiful, with a mixture of formal and landscaped.

28 Garden Steps

32 Formal Garden

34 Stone Urn

The Great Hall ceiling.

36 Great Hall Ceiling

In the centre of the Great Hall was a large and magnificent Italian marble topped table. The workmanship was truly extraordinary.

38 Italian Marble Table Top

A bust of Queen Elizabeth I, who had associations with the house.

40 Bust of Queen Elizabeth I

Some stunning ebony chairs in the library, inlaid with ivory.

42 Ebony and Ivory Furniture in Library

Also in the library was this exquisitely inlaid cabinet.

43 Inlaid Cabinet

At the other end of the library was this beautiful pair of globes, one a terrestrial globe and the other a celestial. Both were mounted on delicate Chippendale bases. The guide explained that they were made of papier mache, and the printed map was known as a “gore,” being a strangely shaped piece of paper with curved gussets cut out, so that the pieces would fit around the sphere. I had not come across this name before, but it tied in with my dressmaking knowledge – a “gored” skirt is made up of narrow tapering strips sewn together to form the three-dimensional shape.

44 Globes in Library

A bust of William Shakespeare, who also had connections with the house.

46 Bust of William Shakespeare

Doing the rounds of the house, we met a group of men from a photographic club in the West Midlands and I got into conversation with one of them. He said he’d found a staircase upstairs, and someone had asked why on earth he’d want to photograph it as it was so uninteresting – but he said he could manipulate it and make it interesting, with monochrome and the addition of some grain. He was a man after my own heart, photographing unlikely things like rust and manky old rope, and we shared the experience of our families thinking we were completely mad! I made a point of looking out for this staircase, which presumably once led to the servants’ bedrooms, and photographed it, determined to see if I could follow his lead and make my own grungey version of it. Unfortunately I was unable to capture the single, unshaded light bulb at the head of the stairs which would have added atmosphere. Here is the original:

48 Dark Staircase

I wanted to share my “grungeyfied” version but for some obscure reason I am unable to export the picture as a jpg or png from Serif PhotoPlus without losing the noise that I added. If anyone has a solution to this problem, I’d love to hear it! (I’ll edit this post if I discover a way of doing this.)

A beautiful gilded ceiling.

52 Gilded Ceiling

A lovers’ couch made of Burmese teak. I have a screen made of this, deeply and elaborately carved, and it weighs an absolute ton!

53 Burmese Lovers' Couch in Music Room

The kitchen fireplace.

58 Kitchen Fireplace

In the kitchen region there was a large, impressive cast iron boiler.

57 Large Boiler

I decided to give this the grunge treatment too, but again, the gorgeous grainy “noise” was lost on export. Very mysterious… It looks nice and steampunk in the photo editor.

Just as we were leaving, I came across this elderly gentleman resting his feet in the sun, together with the resident cat, and he kindly allowed me to photograph him!

60 Relaxing in the Sun

A great day out, greatly enhanced by my feeling well enough to enjoy it! I went deeply asleep in the car on the way back and don’t feel too bad now. We are returning home tomorrow, and I just wish I had felt well all through the holiday as I feel I wasted several precious days, and also spoilt my hubby’s enjoyment, too, although he denies this, bless him!