Sunday 20 September 2015

My other animals... part 3

A few weeks ago I was writing about one of my favourite books "My Family and Other Animlas" - so here is the second of a series of posts about my "other animals".

Pigeons are a huge part of our garden community. Half a dozen years ago we had a couple of feral pigeons (nicknamed by MiL as Anthony and Cleopatra) they were easy to spot with very distinctive plumage. Over time we have now collected a huge community.

We have a couple (they are a couple as well) of coloured doves. We also have a few extremely large wood pigeons (they are really rather large birds) and an absolute gang of pigeons. Some of these are kept by a neighbour at the bottom of our garden, some of these are feral, some of these are rock pigeons and some even now are the brown feral pigeons often seen over in the City of London.

Birdwatch 15

This is part of the pigeon tribe (mostly the rock pigeons) waiting for feeding time sitting on top our bedroom roof; you can hear them inside doing war dances (!)

This is one of the over-large wood pigeons. The are the absolute epitome of bird-brains! I have watched on walk up to the peanut feeder, wander around, work out that to reach he needs to climb on the brick, get a peanut, go back to the ground to eat the peanut... and then start the whole process of how to reach the peanut over again!


The collared doves are always hanging out as a couple, they look our for each other and raise their families together


My mother has a delightful family of collared doves, they bought up their brood in a rather precarious nest behind the satellite dish on the house next door, and used to leave the babies on the patio table whilst they were off hunting.


Babies resting in the sun and parent keeping an eye on the rest of the world.

Monday 14 September 2015

#ChallengeMS - 2nd Monday

#ChallengeMS - 2nd Monday! One of my colleagues returned from his holidays and noticed the orange hair!

I took a stroll along Piccadilly at lunch to visit the RAF Bomber Command memorial. I've driven past it quite a lot but this was my first visit. My grandfather flew bombers for the RAF so it is a lovely spot to sit down and remember him.

On the way to work

Taking calls
At Bomber Command

We will remember them

Through adversity to the stars

Sunshine in Green Park (just before it rained again!)

If you can please make a donation to the MS Society to help fund their continuing research.
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Sunday 13 September 2015

#ChallegeMS - how MS feels

First off, MS is a very individual experience. Everyone's symptoms are different, and, even when they are similar they effect everyone very differently.

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Should you wish, here are some suggestions that you could try (a la "ice bucket challenge") to experience some common symptoms

1. Optic Neuritis
The visual disturbances that come with optic neuritis can range from mild and slightly irritating to sever and difficult to deal with. For me they are characterised by general desaturation (just play with the filters on your favourite photo editing programme) and a specific loss of the colour red (very noticeable in London with all the red buses!). There is also quite often a general visual disturbance which makes it hard to see detail - choose a fairly grey day and walk around with your sunglasses on.

2. Numb legs and feet
I don't have much feeling in my legs below the knee, certainly pretty much none in my feet - I have to look to check if I have socks and shoes on or not, and to make sure where they are in relation to the rest of my body - they have their own pathway in time and space (!).  What does it feel like? Put on a couple of pairs of really thick socks.

3. Numb hands
My fingers are all pretty numb too. It makes touch typing quite amusing if I happen to miss placing my fingers on the home keys! It makes it difficult to put in earrings, do up necklaces and buttons and generally anything that requires mine motor skills. How does it feel? Trying putting on a couple of pairs of snug-fitting rubber gloves.

4. Balance problems
I can walk a few steps without losing my balance; it is safest to use walking aids (or make sure that there is some furniture to grab on to). To replicate this you could either try spinning around really fast until you get dizzy (you know how much fun that was when you were a kid!). To make you more conscious of your balance and walking get a nice heavy book, balance it on your head, and go about your day.

5. Fatigue
Fatigue is one of the difficult symptoms people deal with. It is invisible and misunderstood. It goes deeper than just being tired and needing a nap (although that should never be turned down). Fatigue is crushing. It comes on suddenly. I'll be walking, or standing, or just going about my day when I hit the wall. Then I have to stop. Immediately. I have to sit down. Immediately. Fatigue can be managed, you can plan your activities to make sure you don't run out of spoons. At the end of the day though, when fatigue hits that is it. Difficult to replicate this one, but a little way towards it would be getting some of those strap on weights and attaching them around your ankles and wrists and strenuously going about your day.

There are many more symptoms than the handful above; the best way to understand them, really, is to talk to people who have MS and find out what their personal experiences are.

#ChallengeMS 2015

Why #ChallengeMS - My Story

If you go to their website the MS Society summarise quite neatly why #ChallengeMS is so important.

For me, it's personal; so I thought I'd share a bit of my story and experiences.

There is no cure for MS, there are disease modifying therapies available, but there is no cure. Let's face it, science isn't even sure what causes it. Is it genetic? Is it triggered by an innocuous disease? Is it lack of Vitamin D? Could it be a combination of some and/or all of these things?

I was diagnosed with MS back around 2001/2002. I'd had several bouts of Optic Neuritis (I still suffer this and have just finished a combative course of steroids). Optic Neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve. It sometimes causes pain behind the affected eye, but more obviously causes visual disturbances. 

The next problems were pins and needles in my hands and legs; always exacerbated by activity and not enough rest. The pins and needles were joined by general muscle weakness which made gripping things, picking things up and writing harder.

The sensory disturbances developed into balance difficulties. Sometimes I had vertigo, most often I just wobbled. My legs didn't have as much strength. I worked through using a walking stick to crutches and now my wheelie-walker.

All of this happened quite gradually over the last dozen years, which means if nothing else I can adapt to the way my body does (or doesn't) work.

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Wet weather

#ChallengeMS 2014 

My other animals... part 2

A few weeks ago I was writing about one of my favourite books "My Family and Other Animlas" - so here is the second of a series of posts about my "other animals".

Recently voted as Britain's National Bird in an RSPB poll, we have a delightful family of robins living in our garden. From slim birds to little round birds their cheery red breasts are a common sight in the garden. They are quite happy to share the garden with all comers - especially the human gardeners!

Robin (4)

As Husband or MiL (or even sometimes me) make our way around the garden trimming and weeding and even moving the lawn the little robins will follow on behind to see what is turned up from our activities hoping for scuttling buts, or maybe a worm, or just some handy nesting bits. They often sit on the edge of the compost bin to make sure "waste not, want not" nothing good gets by them!

Robin's mate

This is one of the little round red-breasted tennis balls on wings! Making to most of the seed dropped by the pigeons (who are very messy eaters!),

Friday 11 September 2015

911 Remembered

For one generation it was the assassination of JFK...

For another generation it was man landing on the moon...

There is a moment in the global consciousness that people of a certain age can recall with total clarity years, now decades after the event.

For people of my age it was 9th September 2001.

It was early on a Tuesday morning in the United States, it was lunch time in London.

It is hard to recollect the Information Age that was around has at the beginning of the 21st Century. The Internet was not as prevalent, not the instant resource for news, and certainly not as fast and all-seeing and all-knowing as it is now.

We were sitting at out desks, eating lunch and catching up with the morning. I worked in a Regency style building in Central London at the time, lots of small interconnecting rooms over three or four floors of office. I remember one of my colleagues coming back from the shops and saying that they'd heard some people in the street saying that a plane had hit a building in New York. The instant verification from websites and Twitter wasn't the next call then. A few more colleagues came back from the shops, with bits of further reports - the World Trade Centre, a 747 plane... 

Surely 747 couldn't be right? That would be a jumbo-jet, surely they meant a light aircraft?

News was slow to emerge. Websites crashed under traffic requests. We all got back to work, but the afternoon was constantly interrupted with updates and further new snippets. 

My brother worked over in Canary Wharf and the buildings there were evacuated; several high profile London buildings were.

The evening papers were almost impossible to get hold of that night, everyone needed to know what had happened; although it wasn't until the following day that the full horror became apparent.

#ChallengeMS - Bonus Wig Out (Friday)

I took a trip over to Rotherhithe this morning. The original plan was to seek Tsar Peter the Great in Deptford, by I didn't quite make it back there today.

Waiting for a bus
I took the tube from North Greenwich to Canada Water where I took my first trip on the London Overground to Rotherhithe. 

Rotherhithe is famous for the tunnel, constructed between 1904 and 1908 using tunnelling shield and cut-and-cover.


Passing on the way to the river I saw St Mary's Rotherhithe, and took a look inside (memories of visiting the churches last September!).


Christopher Jones, Captain of the Mayflower is buried (unknown location) in the Churchyard of St Mary's. Also buried in the churchyard is Prince Lee Boo, born on a Pacific Island.

St Mary's Rotherhithe
Down by the river is the delightful looking Mayflower pub; a trip to the Brunel Museum and lunch at the Mayflower are definitely planned in the future.


This pub was built in the 16th Century and originally called the Spread Eagle. Rumour has it (couldn't be verified as the pub was closed when I was there) that you can by US postage stamps inside!

Down by the Thames
Outside The Mayflower
Feeling the heat!
The tide was out down by the Thames. Delightful river-scapes. Stay tuned for more adventures with me in the wig!


Monday 7 September 2015

#ChallengeMS - Wig Out (later that day!)

    Lunchtime outside the Royal Academy

    A Monday post-box 

    Phone box opposite the Ritz

    Taking the wig off!

    Ready for next week!

#ChallengeMS 2015 - Wig Out!

Every Monday throughout September I'll be wearing my fabulous orange wig to support the MS Society and the #ChallengeMS campaign. It is all about raising awareness about MS, and more importantly raising money for MS research (there is a link to my JustGiving page at the end of this post).

This is Monday morning; the commute to work, answering the phone, compiling submissions

In the car on the way to work
Answering the phone at work
Taking a breath of air
Going up!

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Sunday 6 September 2015

My other animals... part 1

A few weeks ago I was writing about one of my favourite books "My Family and Other Animlas" - so here is the first of a series of posts about my "other animals".

First up the Parakeets. Until I lived in the London suburbs I'd always assumed that the parakeets were an urban legend, or at least strongly exaggerated. Turns out not to be the case. There are anywhere between three and seven of them knocking around in our corner of South East London. They are social, noisy, argumentative and (quite honestly) usually referred to me as the Green Feather Hooligans.

2015-02-08 12.24.42

They do behave delightfully like the parrots and tropical birds you see in aviaries. Shown here with one hanging upside down to attack the coconut fat ball and the other waiting his turn patiently (ish).

2014-01-11 09.02.08

You can see three of them here sitting in a tree in our garden. Three seems to be about the most that will share a tree at once. The preferred roosting patterns involve sitting in trees that are several gardens removed, two or three in a tree, and squawking loudly and enthusiastically. Then all the squawking fails they take to the wing and chase each other around the trees. So sort of game of tag on the wing (!)