Nourishing and Flourishing

So many of my blog posts over this last year and a half have included images of or references to my garden, and I worry that I might be boring everyone with my growing personal passion for my outdoor space.

But to be fair, in an effort to survive emotionally on our pandemic-ridden planet my garden has necessarily become a huge part of helping me feel grounded in reality as the seasons progress. My daily world has effectively shrunk to the size of our property boundary, and I must admit that now I’ve got used to it, I find that’s perfectly OK with me.

Since 23rd March 2020 as a country we’ve either been in full stay-at-home lock-down mode or alternatively in varying degrees of Government-imposed restrictions (greatly reduced for now but still not fully lifted), and with the continuing rise in numbers of the Delta variant here in the UK, it may be some time yet before any return to any real semblance of ‘normality’ as we knew it.

Like millions of others I’ve had no option but to learn to live under whatever set of necessary restrictions are currently imposed on us, although thankfully it seems that some of us have been blessed with the wonderful circumstance of finding ourselves being nurtured by nature right on our doorsteps, in the privacy of our own gardens.

So for now I spend much if my time in my garden in a mutually beneficial relationship based on nourishing and flourishing, and I am content. Happily it looks like my garden is quite content with the arrangement, too 🙂

Up and Down

I’ve been feeling really up and down again this past week.

After my second dose of the Covid vaccine a couple of weeks ago I was delighted to find that after a good five months my sense of taste had pretty much fully returned and my excessive breathlessness was much better – two of my main Long Covid symptoms – so that was a definite ‘up’ moment, a real high for a few days. But I soon discovered that even though I’m breathing better I’m still finding ongoing fatigue a problem, I still seem to get a lot of headaches and my leftover cough isn’t improving either so that’s been a bit of a ‘down’ realisation.

So overall I’ve been feeling a lot better than I have done all year, but still not really fully back to normal.

And now I seem to have caught a cold so my sense of smell and taste is once more drastically reduced and my chest is starting to feel really tight and wheezy again, so I’m feeling really miserable and anxious. Part of me feels it’s definitely just a cold and it will all pass soon enough, but part of me is worried it’s maybe another big dip on the seemingly never-ending Long Covid roller-coaster ride – I’ve not felt well enough for long enough to be sure my symptoms are really gone for good or just teasing me, waiting for me to relax before pouncing on me again.

I must admit it gets me down, the not knowing. The how-long-is-a-piece-of-string-ness of it all. Nearly six months ago I caught Covid, luckily I wasn’t ever that sick and so thankfully I didn’t die. But somehow it’s still there in the background, niggling away, bothering me. I try to stay as positive as I can and push myself to do a bit more every day but it’s really knocked my confidence to not be able to trust myself energy-wise. I still get far too tired far too quickly and that makes me feel old before my time.

So as I said I’ve been feeling a bit up and down this week… 😦

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Up/ Down

Conspicuous By Its Absence…

I had Covid in January, thankfully just a mild infection (as in not hospitalised) but I certainly felt pretty crappy for a good couple of weeks – and OMG for months afterwards the ongoing tiredness and breathlessness and residual cough just would not go away.

I kept waiting in vain for everything to get back to normal but sadly for me the stubborn straggler symptoms of Long Covid seemed to be here to stay. Although my absent sense of smell returned relatively quickly, disappointingly my sense of taste didn’t improve much beyond the basic blunt-instrument differentiation between salty/ sweet/ spicy/ sour – sigh!

I’d read somewhere that for some people, having the Covid jab kick-started their system into a return to normal, so I had my first vaccine dose with high hopes of a similar response but although the grotty side effects certainly passed within a day or two, my Long Covid symptoms did not improve much. So I settled down to accepting (grudgingly) that health-wise I was likely to be in it for the long haul, and began to adjust my long-term thinking accordingly.

Last week I had my second vaccine dose, and this time around didn’t expect so much from it. However I was very pleased to find I had far fewer side effects this time – just a couple of days of extra tiredness, aching limbs and a thumping headache, but lots of rest and a few rounds of painkillers did the job. And to my surprise and delight now those minor irritations have passed I find I can actually breathe properly again, and day by day my sense of taste is subtly improving.

It may of course be total coincidence that things have started to return to normal for me at exactly the same time as I had my second vaccine shot – I mean it’s been five months since I first caught Covid, and ordinarily I would expect any post-viral fatigue to be naturally on the wane by this point.

All I know is that after five months of ridiculously laboured breathing after the least amount of exertion, my previous level of breathlessness is now thoroughly conspicuous by its absence and I honestly feel like a weight has been lifted from my chest. For the first time this year I feel like life might actually get back to normal after all, and oh, it feels so good! 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Conspicuous

Rest, Relax, Recharge

For this week’s Provocative Question Fandango asks how we recharge when we feel depleted?

Would it surprise anyone who reads my blog that for me, I usually prefer to recharge by spending time in nature. Sometimes that means going for a walk – in the woods, along the canal, by the sea – or sometimes it just means spending time in my garden, whether actively gardening or passively resting.

It’s not a big garden, but as we used to live in a first floor flat in London with no outdoor space at all, with not even a window box allowed, I’m just delighted to have any size of garden space to relax in 🙂

A Walk in the Woods

A few pics from today’s walk – I really pushed myself and went further than I have in a long time, so I’m exhausted now I’m home again but delighted that I did it! I used to be such a great walker BC (Before Covid) and I’m determined to build up my strength and stamina as sensibly as I can to try to beat this lingering breathlessness and tiredness.

It’s definitely a lot better than it was, I do feel some improvement month on month but I wish someone could give me some indication of just how long I should expect this ‘Long Covid’ to last for. Of course sadly no-one knows yet… It seems to be one of those ‘How long is a piece of string?’ questions… Sigh! 🙂

Weekly Smile: In the Garden

I’ve not found it so easy to find any smiles to share over the last couple of weeks, but even though the weather’s not been the best over the last few days and I’m still not feeling at my best health-wise, I’ve nevertheless made an effort lately to get out into the garden as often as possible to start some serious re-arranging of stuff.

When we first moved into our new home 18 months ago (a lovely 1930s bungalow in need of a fair bit of tlc) our priority inevitably focused on the interior of the house – and anyway, it seemed sensible to leave the garden pretty much as it was for at least the first full year to see what plants appeared, to best understand where the sun rose and set across all four seasons, and to give ourselves time to work out how we might choose to use the garden space in the long-term.

So we’ve been making plans to make some big changes in the back garden this year, and have made a good start by finding new homes for both old and fragile glass greenhouses so now have two empty spaces waiting expectantly for whatever comes next. As well as the two ex-greenhouse spaces there are also still two old sheds in situ – the largest wooden structure most definitely needs to be replaced entirely, it’s clearly not been properly weather-tight for years so is slowly rotting away from within. But we want its drier replacement to be re-sited on the other side of the garden, requiring some ground-work to be done in advance.

We need to move the current washing line, shift the active built-in breeze-block compost heap, and get rid of a large old tree stump to make way for the new shed, as yet un-sourced, which will sit on the footprint of one of the old greenhouses and then some. The sunniest, most sheltered spot in the back garden, currently occupied by the old shed and the ghost footprint of the second old greenhouse, will eventually become a patio area, and a replacement rotary washing line will be re-positioned on the site of the second, smaller metal shed, which will be repurposed elsewhere as a bike shed. A vegetable plot will be introduced. Flower beds will need altered in size and shape and some re-sited altogether. So not surprisingly that’s all going to take some serious re-organising to achieve and some time for us to get there.

In the meantime we’ve been busying ourselves outside for the past few days making a start on the ground-works. So far we’ve taken apart the old unused brick BBQ – the mortar was so crumbling in parts it really wasn’t too difficult to disassemble – and while my husband was at work I’ve spent some time starting to chip off the residual mortar with a cold chisel and hammer. I’ve also managed to stabilise the wobbly garden steps with the help of a breeze block or two filched from the base of the greenhouse, and have removed a rickety wooden railing that was becoming more of a hindrance than a help.

I’ve replaced some old unsightly rotting wooden border edging with some solid re-purposed narrow concrete facings, also taken from the old greenhouse base, and have already dug up and re-planted some early spring bulbs for next year. I’m going to have to re-position quite a few mature plants this year, so I’ve also spent time sitting quietly on the garden bench with a cup of tea surveying the situation and making even more plans. Because four months post-Covid I still tire quite easily, and still get breathless quite quickly, so I find I have to rest a lot, quite often. But still I can get out there and do something, so I do what I can.

So my Weekly Smile for this week is just that, no more no less – I’ve been getting out there into the garden and doing what I can, health permitting, and I’m really enjoying it. The focus on carrying out manual physical activity in nature helps me feel better emotionally, however tired and however breathless I get. The effort is worth it, the feel-good factor rewards are so worth it… I’m worth it 🙂

April A-Z: X is for Excess Deaths

From the beginning of this global pandemic there has been great confusion over how best to record Covid deaths. Countries across the world initially seemed keen to play it all down, showing how well they were managing the virus when compared to their neighbours, massaging statistics to sanitise and minimise numbers. Weaknesses and flaws in national healthcare and social care and welfare systems had to be hidden at all costs – usually paid for in human lives.

Official numbers may variously only include people who died in hospital or only those who tested positive regardless of where they died, effectively negating everyone who died untested, undiagnosed, untreated, unrecognised as victims of the virus. Or people with underlying illnesses who have contracted Covid and died either at home or in hospital may officially have that underlying illness named as cause of death on their death certificate, hiding that coronavirus has been involved in their demise.

But in the long-term, I wonder how will history view retrospectively these dubious, creatively cautious, collateral-damage global death-tolls? Will it simply cut through the politics of denial and pretence portrayed in official national numbers and look instead at the one set of figures that matters most in every country regardless of how they may choose to play down the devastating effects of Covid on their population – namely excess deaths above and beyond the norm as averaged out over previous years?

In my mind looking at excess deaths is probably the most reliable way of working out how Covid has affected any particular population. How many more people than usual have died in this period? Because surely that gives the most realistic view of how many lives have been lost as a result of this Covid pandemic, and not just due to complications of infection, questionable or otherwise. But also including people who have died of unrelated heart problems or cancers or other terminal diseases who have not been able to access healthcare in a timely manner due to the virus taking precedence over resources. Surely a death is a death, and each one has to count for something towards the final reckoning?

The world has undoubtedly suffered great losses over this past year, and these losses continue globally, however much we may wish to welcome a return to free movement and economic stability sooner rather than later. Restrictions cannot stay in place forever, but neither can we deny reality. Getting the see-saw balance right between prioritising potential health over wealth during periods of lock-down, then prioritising wealth over health when the economy reopens again isn’t ever easy, and both have come at a collective cost we have no real option but to continue paying for a long time yet…

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…

April A-Z: T is for Taste

When I first tested positive for Covid three and a half months ago, I still had my sense of taste. It had definitely altered a bit as the initial infection took hold, because I found for the first few days everything tasted metallic and yuk, but then slowly my sense of taste disappeared entirely, taking my sense of smell with it. It’s so weird eating and drinking stuff and not being able to smell it or taste it at all. Just when you most want a nice cup of tea to make yourself feel better, or to comfort yourself with some old familiar flavours, it’s so disheartening not to be able to taste anything.

I hadn’t ever realised before just how much my enjoyment of cooking depends on my sense of smell and taste – I found I was still able to make my usual food favourites by rote, seasoning things from years of habit, but frustratingly when it came to eating all I could discern were textures rather than tastes. I learned how strange some food feels in the mouth without your taste-buds zinging things up. Pancakes feel like rubber, chicken soup feels slimy, meat just feels chewy and heavy. If I closed my eyes, I’d probably be unable to name exactly what was in my mouth. If I knew what I was eating, I’d remember the expected taste and try to conjure it up.

As the weeks passed my sense of smell slowly returned first, along with a slight restoration in taste in that I could once more differentiate salty or sweet, spicy or sour, but little else. Suddenly food would smell good again, but still taste disappointingly bland and blah. Then things started to taste really weird for a while as I began to recognise a partial taste but nothing else – for example delicately smoked fish tasted so strongly of smoke I couldn’t even eat it. The sweetest green veg tasted really bitter, even good quality milk chocolate tasted mainly of cloying fatty solids, and wholemeal bread somehow tasted earthy – the balance of intensity was all wrong.

But more recently, thankfully there has been a marked improvement in the subtleties of taste I can decipher. We were eating crunchy home-made garlic bread the other day and I got really excited because I could actually properly taste the luscious herby garlic butter in my mouth – sadly it only lasted for a moment, for one meal, but at least it was there, and it’s a start! To be honest I really miss those delightful nuances of flavour dancing so delicately on my tongue, and I’m so tired of tasting all or nothing with my blundering blunt-instrument taste-buds. But I have hope that things will continue to improve day by day – watch this space! 🙂

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…

April A-Z: S is for Symptoms

I was lucky to only have had a mild experience of Covid. ‘Mild’ as in not having to be taken to hospital struggling to breathe, or suffering multiple organ failure. I was lucky to have stayed at home, sick but not seriously ill, not at any time in any danger of death.

My symptoms started with dizziness, ear-ache, headache, sore throat, sneezing for a couple of days. Then I developed a funny taste in my mouth, and then I began to cough a bit differently than usual. I was bone-tired, a flu-like level of exhaustion that left me feeling weak and fuzzy-headed with wave after wave of nauseating chills. And a tight-chested breathlessness on a scale that even for an asthmatic felt a bit much. My sense of taste and smell both evaporated completely over that first week, but surprisingly I had no fever at all; not then, not now, not ever.

After a couple of weeks of doing little more than sitting on the sofa or lying in bed feeling miserable I started to feel a bit brighter, but then I’d have a bad day or two, and then I’d feel a bit better again, and the whole process would repeat itself. It felt like a case of two steps forward and one step back, for weeks on end. I felt for the longest time as though I was riding a never-ending rollercoaster of symptoms, being taken up and down and flung this way and that on a giant Covid feedback loop until I lost track of what direction I was heading in and just clung on, bewildered.

For a while it felt that complete recovery was a distant dream. Week after week I kept trying to remain as active as I could, and eventually found as time passed and perseverance paid off not only was I managing a bit more every day before having to rest, but also it was taking less and less time to recover after each prolonged period of rest. My sense of smell returned fully, although my sense of taste is still a bit of a blunt instrument for now, but thankfully it too is improving day by day.

So a good three and a half months on from my initial mild Covid infection I still have a few stubborn straggler symptoms – tiredness and breathlessness still bother me a bit but not nearly as much as before. If I do too much I still get pounding headaches reminding me to slow down and rest, and of course I still have the remnants of that tell-tale cough and my sense of taste still has the sulks. But hopefully my continuing dalliance with Covid will turn out to be of relatively short and sweet duration rather than the beginnings of a long and lingering lifetime commitment… 🙂

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…

April A-Z: R is for R-Number

The R-Number must be low not high

Stops infections from rising, so try

Keep it down below one

Til this virus is done –

We’ll breathe easy again, by and by…

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…