Friday, 31 July 2009

Health dilemmas

So, what do you do when it's possible you *may* have swine flu but also possible that you haven't? Me and my husband are both starting to feel under the weather - sore throats, runny noses, headaches and the like. Nothing awful, just sort of cold-y kind of symptoms. My first thought is, 'oh well, we probably have a summer cold' - hardly unheard of, right? But, what if it is swine flu. Although it's only the first day, it doesn't feel anywhere bad enough to have the label of 'flu' of any kind. As the government, in their wisdom, are no longer testing people to see if they actually do have swine flu, the whole world and their wife are being diagnosed with it. I have jeard of lots of mild cases which sound similar to ours, but what if there's just a summer cold doing the rounds as well as the flu? How would anyone know? Now, as we have no intention of getting tamiflu or even ringing up the pandemic service, does it matter if we have a cold or flu, I hear you ask? Well, yes, because if it's damned flu we'll have to quarantine ourselves for a whole bloody week at least! Gah, just the thought of it is driving me crazy already!
Daughter is showing signs that she's sickening for something, so whatever it is, she's probably already incubating it and, given that even if it is just a little cold she will act like it's the worst flu ever, that'll be fun. Son seems his usual self and hopefully it'll pass him by as he's still breastfed.
Bloody swine bloody flu. *grump*

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The bill

So, the Improving Schools and Safeguarding Children Bill is listed already on the timetable for new legislation for when the Government come back from their nice, long summer recess in October, including the innocuous-sounding part about 'improving monitoring arrangements for those children educated at home'. It's nice to know that Ed Balls is really open to listening to the results of the Consultation of these proposals. I'm still very up and down about this whole subject. Part of me just thinks it can't possibly happen, it's so draconian, so mad, so far-reaching; the other part of me just feels numb at the inevitability and frantically makes plans for safeguarding my own family in the face of new legislation.
My own MP seemed quite resigned to the proposals becoming law, despite disagreeing with them, whereas I see other people's MPs (such as on the Sometimes It's Peaceful blog) take the opposite view - that there's no way there'll be time for any legislative changes before a general election is called.
I'm also finding the same pattern of thinking with the swine flu - one day I'll be completely blase about it. It's only flu, we're all healthy, it's a mild kind of flu, we probably won't catch it and even if we do we'll all be ill for a week and then fine. Then the next day, I'm terrified again, imagining horrible things that I don't even want to think about, let alone write down.
The whole up and down thing is wearing me out. I tend to be very up and down anyway, but these 2 current issues are exacerbating it and are really not good for my mental health. And there's no sign of any ending of either issue until the Spring either, so I'm going to have to learn to deal with it.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Allotment thoughts

This is our second allotment year, although I count is as the first 'real' season because we only took the plot over in March of last year, so didn't get much of a run-up to the growing season to clear it. And I've learnt so much this year already, and I already know there are some tings to do differently, or more of, next year.

I will plant more onions and also some garlic next year now that I've got the hang of drying and hanging them for storage. I will make sure the entire plot is properly weeded, cleared, dug and mulched over the winter this year, as well as planting the onions and garlic over the winter. The part that was mulched last year is definitely in much better shape than the rest of the plot.

I will get my compost bays constructed before next spring, and level the heaps of earth I've been left with from digging the pits for the shed and the compost bays. I will make fewer, but wider paths next year and more clearly define their edges somehow - stones? Sticks? Not sure. I would like raised, no-dig beds, but not sure how feasible this is in terms of actually getting it done.

I need to sort out my succession planting so that I have a steady stream of produce rather than gluts. This applies particularly to beetroot, courgettes, carrots - things which can't be stored so easily. I'm only going to stop planting this year when July ends. Once it's August, when I get bare ground after digging stuff up, I'm going to dig it over and prepare it for onion planting in the autumn. I've also got to research other winter plants. I have a small amount of purple-sprouting broccoli planted as an experiment.

There's a lot of work to be done, but I'm really enjoying it now. I've realised I like the growing and digging and weeding, what I don't like is the 'infrastructure' bit of the allotment, like constructing sheds and stuff. But it's great eating my home-grown produce!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Thoughts on swine flu

I am the kind of person who tends to panic about these kinds of things, worry that we'll all die, and then makes plans to move to an isolated Cornish island while also being unable to put the worry out of my head. Due to this, I tend to research these kinds of health scares a bit obsessively in the hope that I can find out that the *real* story is less alarming. Right now I am vacillating between panic and insouciance which is very uncomfortable, but I thought I'd share my thoughts and research in the hope it my comfort other hypochondriacs and also that others may have other hope to share.Firstly, it seems that actual facts are hard to come by. Given that the UK, at least, has given up doing serum tests to confirm swine flu infection and is advising people to stay at home and not contact anyone unless they feel 'very unwell', there is no way to have a true estimate of the number of infections. Worldwide cases have reached 125,000, but some sources seem to think up to 10,000 are coming down with it *per day* in the UK alone. It seems to me that without any actual hard facts, it is hard to make any kind of estimates about the damn thing.However, despite the lack of facts, the WHO have given a tentative mortality rate for this outbreak of 0.4% - to put this into perspective, ordinary seasonal flu has a mortality rate of 0.1%, bubonic plague a mortality rate of 30-75%. The 1918 flu pandemic is estimated to have killed 50 million people worldwide, while malaria kills 1-3 million people *a year* every year and is only classed as a 'health problem'.Experts have related this swine flu virus to the pathogen in the 1918 pandemic, just to wind us all up, I think, but looking back to that outbreak, conditions now are very different. For one thing, we haven't just had a world war. Which is always a good thing. The 1918 outbreak has been traced to mid-America and was then taken by American soldiers to the trenches which provided a fantastic bredding ground with their crowded, unsanitary conditions and their immune-suppressed inhabitants. From there, it spread worldwide due to troop movements as soldiers were demobbed after the armistice, and spread further due to victory parades held in various countries. Some have suggested that its unprecedented virulence (estimates vary from 2.5% to 20%) was mainly to do with the wartime conditions in that those who had it mildly tended to stay put and not infect anyone else whereas those who had it badly were often put on crowded troop trains to be transferred to field hospitals where they spread their virulent strain further. This is the opposite of usual conditions whereby people who have it badly are isolated and those who have it mildly spread their strain. I am hopeful that the wartime situations won't recur.And on to the vaccine. This I am also perturbed by. In what has become known as the Swine Flu Fiasco of 1976, the American govt panicked at the start of a relatively mild outbreak, announced a nationwide vaccination programme and had only managed to vaccinate 24-33% before realising that the flu had infected only 200 people and killed 1 person and the vaccine had killed 25 people and crippled up to 500. Of course, on that occasion, the flu luckily did not spread as it is now spreading. But it raises questions about the safety of vaccines which are rushed through. The UK govt has announced vaccinations will start at the end of August when the Head of the WHO has stated that the vaccine will need 2-3 months of safety testing starting at first availability at the end of August. Our givt seems to think that 5 days of mock-up safety testing will be adequate to start using the vaccine on our most vulnerable people - the elderly and children and those with these now-famous 'underlying health problems', those of which are immuno-suppressed will not be able to take a vaccine anyway. And the govt wonders why no-one trusts it.And the effectiveness of the vaccine? A recent piece of research has found that children receiving the vaccine against ordinary seasonal flu are actually 3 times more likely to be hospitalised with flu than those who have not had the vaccine. Plus the govt are stating in their NHS advice that having the swine flu now may not give you immunity if the virus mutates and returns in the winter. In that case what is the point of vaccinating everyone with the vaccine grown from this strain of the virus, if it won't help if the virus mutates into a different (and possibly, or possibly not,more virulent) form?Gah! Is it any wonder that I'm worried and don't know who to trust? Other thoughts welcome.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


This article from The Times is an old one, but a friend has just drawn my attention to it and I've found it interesting. I keep meaning to read Margot Sunderland's books on child mental health and her recent research on cortisol levels in babies and the damage this can do, but so far have only got round to reading articles about her views. I kept nodding as I read this one about the value of co-sleeping, and how current UK culture and health policy actually goes *against* much of the available evidence.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Meeting with MP

This afternoon a home educating friend and I met with our local MP to corner him about the Badman Review. I think it went as well as could be expected really. He had at least *heard* of home education before and did not need to be told the very basics. He even didn't ask about socialising or socialisation - hooray!
It seems he is already involved in putting together some kind of enquiry into the Government's current obsession with safeguarding and agreed that this had gone much too far. I think he was kind of on our side, but not for our reasons. He wants to oppose the Government on this because he has a typical Tory antipathy to 'nanny state' type legislation, and also I think to try and put one in the eye for the Government - but to some extent his agenda doesn't really matter as long as he's fighting to opose this for us.
However, he didn't seem very positive that this opposition would work. He seemed quite resigned to the fact that these proposals will be implemented, which was rather a depressing prospect.
We made all the points we had meant to - pointing out that safeguarding was a much more relevant issue within schools than within Home Ed, and that parental responsibility for child welfare still lay with parents, not with the Government. We highlighted the major problems with the report - the right of access and the interviewing children alone - and the current lack of training of EWOs and how this would only get worse if their role was extended without further training. At the end we left him with a big wodge of stuff to read - the stats, the points, the arguments - everything put together as the 'meeting an MP' pack by the Badman Review Action Group.
Will it do any good? I really don't know. He promised to keep us informed, and I'll keep corresponding with him to keep it in the forefront of his mind. I'm glad we met with him, at least we've done the best we could.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Idle opinion

A timely and interesting article by Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson in The Telegraph pointing out that home education is an entirely sensible option and that Ed Balls is talking balls and that Graham Badman is, ahem, a bad man. Gosh, the people involved in this review could almost have been written by Dickens in the aptness of their names for their current roles. Anyway, due to this article, I have forgiven Tom Hodgkinson for having written books which I wanted to have written myself but which nobody would have published if I had, given that he is the editor of The Idler and I am a Nobody.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

It feels really good...

... to eat our own produce for tea! So far, we've had strawberries for pudding, a lasagne made with our own onions and our own courgettes, had roast potatoes which were our own potatoes with our own rosemary. I now have 2 strings of onions hanging up in the kitchen (although the first string is much depleted as we use onions so much. I think I'll have to plant even more next year now that I've worked out how to dry and store them properly!) and another lot of onions that I'm drying to dry out before I hang. Though the rain the last few days has somewhat scuppered me.

It has just been announced that our town is starting its own Transition Movement, which is great and something I had been hoping for. So, even though I am somewhat busy at the moment with setting up the Home Ed Group, doing my course, the allotment (not to mention the kids), I *have* to get involved. I totally think the Transition Towns things is a good idea, even though I'm not sure how exactly I can help. Maybe we'll become another Totnes with our own town 'money' and a plethora of locally-sourced food. Ah, I can dream!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Taken the plunge!

So, after much soul-searching, research, asking people and meditating on the question, I have decided what I'm going to train as and have enrolled on the course. And what is it? Life coaching. Despite my misgivings at the California-esque, airy-fairy nature of it, it is what seemed right and what fits my skills the best. It also fits in well with some of my previous qualifications (nice to know I wasn't utterly wasting my time) such as reiki, NLP and Listening Skills. Once I'm qualified, I'm intending to set up my own practice and specialise in low-ish cost coaching for people who really need it, such as new parents, people who've been made redundant, those who want to simplify/downshift their lives. I'm not interested in business or executive coaching - I want to do purely personal coaching helping empower people to take control of their own lives and be happier. I *know* that sounds desperately new age, but I want to do it in a common sense and down-to-earth way. I know it'll take a fair while to build up a practice and will entail some self-promotion, which I'm not good at, but I think I'll enjoy the course (having spent ages researching courses) and also the work. In a few months, I may need willing victims to practise on, ahem, I mean, I'll be offering free, quality, coaching to people to build up my learning hours. I'm cautiously optimistic. It feels right, deep down. That's not to say that it will all just fall into place without any further hard work, but hopefully, I'm on the right track.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Double success

Two very good things today. Firstly, we had the first meeting of our local Home Ed Group in our new hall home and it was a resounding success! Loads of families there and everyone enjoying themselves. We easily made enough money to cover the cost of the hall and the drinks supplies, and everyone was very generous with bringing bits and bobs to add to our resources. Now we're already starting to think bigger!

And the second thing is that I have another article published in The Mother magazine. If you are a subscriber, check it out, it's the article about the Highly Sensitive Family.