Tuesday 29 June 2021

Heart and soul

I really like the stethoscope.   I'm so glad that I got the one I did, as I've been able to record my heart (both the sound of it, and actually capturing the output graphically).     It enabled me to see the stutter, every 4 beats.

It did carry on,  and  I did phone the doctor on the Monday.   The earliest appointment I could get was for the Saturday, by phone.  I was a little surprised, I thought that I'd be seen more quickly.  Still,  the NHS website reassured me that these things happen, are usually nothing to worry about, and I didn't have any of the other symptoms which indicated I needed to go to A&E.

By this stage, my blood pressure monitor was telling me that I had an erratic heartbeat and I should discuss it with my GP.  I took my bp every so often, and carried on checking my heart frequently.

I found the sound of the heartbeat really quite soothing, reassuring, even with the extra beat/beats.  

I was having trouble lying on my side at night, so I'd been sleeping on my back.  My neck (and upper back) ached as a result.  I dismissed any idea that these aches were the aches that come with a heart attack.   My chest was uncomfortable to left of my sternum, and my upper arm ached a bit, but I dismissed those as being psychosomatic.

When Saturday came, I was relieved.  I'd taken screenshots of my bp readings, and done some printouts of the heartbeat, and taken them in to the surgery on the Friday. so the doctor could have them when we spoke.    I'd explained to the receptionist that I had a telephone appointment the following morning, and that these were my bp readings and printouts of the additional heartbeat.    

The call was from the out of hours doctor, who wasn't at my surgery, and the stuff I'd taken to the surgey had not been scanned into the system.  Oh well!

I took him through the history (the current bout of erratic hertbeat,  and the problem I'd had a onth before) and told him my readings. I also mentioned our family history of heart issues.  He explained that it was entirely possible that erratic beat was a side effect of my thyroid medication.  He said I needed an ECG and a blood test, and to decide how urgent it was (being a Saturday) he asked my to take my bp while I was on the phone. 

 My bp was on the high side, but not high, so he said I should call my GP on Monday and get an ECG done then.  He sent me a link so I could arrange a blood test.  He said that the first sign of it getting worse would be a raised heartbeat, so he suggested I monitored that and recommended wearing a fitbit or smartwatch if I had one.  If it got too fast, and/or my blood pressure got too high, to go to A&E.   I was more than happy with the call.  He had been very thorough, he'd listened, I didn't feel rushed or stupid.

At 1.30 the following morning, I woke up and my heart was pounding.  I had worn my watch to bed, so I checked the pulse rate, it was 90.   90 doesn't sound like a lot,  but my normal rate is somewhere between 56-63, so 90 was not good news.

I got up and went to the loo.  I'd worked out  a while ago that needing to go for a number two sometimes impacts on my heart rate.  This time, it didn't make any difference. I went back to bed and  and told myself to stop overreacting.   I tried deep breathing.  My heart rate went down a little, but then crept up again.   I had decided that if it got up to 90 again, I'd get up and take my blood pressure.

When it got 89bpm,  2.50am, I got up and took my blood pressure.  It was  on the high side, but still only an orange flag.   I tried going to the toilet again.  I went back to bed.

At 3.30, it was at 90bpm,   so I got up and took my blood pressure again.  This time it was high, a red flag rather than an orange flag, and I didn't know what to do.  I sat on the bed for a bit, wondering whether to go to A&E.    What if I had a heart attack while DH was driving me there?   WHat if I got there and it was nothing?    I tried to work out what the measurements would have to get to for me to actually make the decision.

And then I decided I'd just do it.  I phoned for an ambulance.   I woke my husband so he could shut the cats in and let the ambulance crew in.    They checked everything out, and the ECG showed no sign of a heart attack (but it did show my ectopic beat, of course).      They took  me to hospital so I could have a more thorough check up.

I arrived in hospital at about 5am, and I was discharged at about 1.30pm.   They did ECGs, did blood tests (incuding the ones I was sheduled to have the next day), and did a chest x-ray.  As the on call doctor said, it's possible/likely that it is my thyroid medication so they've made some changes to my prescription to see if that helps resolve it;    and  I'm going back for an Echo shortly, just to check the overall function.

My ectopic heartbeat continues, I still struggle to sleep on my side, and my upper arm still aches a bit. My heart still feels a litle uncomfortable for quite a lot of the time and I still think that's psychosomatic.

I've lost the "could it be...?" feeling though, and that's helpful.  

I guess I'd be waiting until my BP reached 175/ or 180/  next time.

Sunday 20 June 2021

Procrastination continues

I've had my lovely overlocker downstairsin the kitchen for...so long now,I can't count.  It made making knickers for DH much more likely to happen, I was much more inclined to do it when I could cut and sew immediately.wthout having to run upstairs.  It worked - and he's got quite a few pairs now.  

I left it there because I planned to go on and make a maxi skirt, or another pair of flared joggers, or some plain tops to complement the maxis I made previously. But it hasn't happened.  Even rousing myself to clean the kitchen and  clear the table did not result in me getting the enthusiasm to make something.

Every day (it seems) i think "right, I'll definitely do it tomorrow";  tomorrow comes, tomorrow goes, and no sewing has happened in between.

I've got lots of reasons, excuses perhaps,  like the incredible heat making doing anything a chore,  or the housework gets in the way (I'm not sure when and how I let that happen), or my heart, or...whatever,  but the truth is, if I wanted to do it, I'd do it.

I considered selling my embroidery machine, which hasn't been used since.... since.... I'm not quite sure actually.   I didn't because I might regret it.

I'm so lacking in sewing motivation that I felt a mild surge of achievement when I finally got round to putting a kam snap and ribbon onto one of my oven gauntlets.  There had been one there befoere, attached to the inner label.  The inner label fell off several months ago, and the gauntlet has been living separately from its mate ever since. It kept being tossed onto one or other work surface, and being mislaid and overlooked.  I kept meaning to take it upstairs and fix it, and I knew that in the time it took me to make a mental note that it needed doing, I could have done it.   I did it in the end, after thinking about selling my embroidery machine.

So, why am I telling you?

Sometimes, writing something down helps clarify things for me. Sometimes, it strengthens my resolve.  Sometimes, it spurs me into action.

It hasn't this time.

But writing this has helped me realise why I'm trying to keep slightly more on top of the housework:  You never know what's going to happen.  You never know when someone is going to have to go into your house and look for stuff for you, or look after things unexpectedly.  You never know whether today could be the day you go out and don't come back because you've been rushed to hospital.

It started after my uncle had a heart attack when out on his bike. That morning, he left the house expecting to be back for lunch.   He'd pinned up some drawing paper on his easel.  He had his bills out ready to pay.  He'd left the washing up to do later.  he had his post partially opened. 

He went out one day, and it was 8 weeks before he came back.

You just never know.

Saturday 19 June 2021


My heart has been fluttering, and making me expel air with a single outward cough, for a few days.  I have circulation issues, so I'm often acutely aware of when things aren't right.

 Both Google and the NHS website say this usually isn't anything serious, and there was mention of it going on for a couple of weeks.   I didn't have any of the "call for an ambulance if..." symptoms. 

I am also acutely aware than "not being quite right" doesn't mean something is actuallywrong, and I don't want to go to A&E and find it's all in my imagination.   Our GP surgery used to let people book appointments online, but we have to phone now so they can triage and signpost.   I don't really want to get a GP appointment and find it's resolved itself, or it was nothing to worry about.  

I did some checks (as I have been doing for some time) with my 6 lead ECG device, which is actually about as much use as a chocolate teapot. It detected no arrythmia/fibrulation, even when I used it mid flutter.    

The blood pressure monitor did detect that my heartbeat was erratic, and suggested I mention it to my GP if that result kept occurring. .  I had two days where the blood pressure monitor detected an irregular heartbeat, so in the end  I did phone the GP.   Sadly for me, I picked the one afternoon when all GP surgeries in my county are closed for training.

While thinking about what to do, I decided to buy a second hand stethoscope.   There are a lot of cheap stethoscopes, widely available.  I was looking for something a bit better, second hand, ideally nearby so I could go and collect it.

It was all a bit confusing to start with, as these things often are. I did a bit of research into different types of stethoscopes (including different types of heads for them) and different brands, so I at least understood what I was looking at.    Then I progressed to looking at some review pages, and that helped me decide to limit my searches to Littmann ones.   I've no doubt the others are fine too,  but I needed some criteria to help me whittle down the lists, and this seemed an easy way to do it. .

Having decided on Littmann, I looked into the different models, establishing the new-buy prices,  and comparing the  second hand availability and prices.  This helped me decide on my bottom benchmark, ruling out a couple of entry level models.  I'm fully aware of how daft it sounds, as I'm not a doctor and i'm only looking for this for personal use.   However,  if I'm going ot be spending money then I want to make sure that I get good value for my money and I don't want to end up in a "buy cheap, buy twice" situation.    As part of this I also decided on my top cut off point, where the the top few models were overkill, even by my "while I'm at it" standards.    Having got my model range, I did some serious searching.  

Distraction always helps when I think I'm being one of the "worried well".

When I'd got my shortlist of both new and second hand versions, it turned out that the ones that were cheaper were some distance away, or the "end date" was several days away and they already had a lot of bidders.    

I could wait.  If I didn't want to wait, I would have to buy new.

In the (near) end, I decided I'd go for one near the top of my list. It had the best reviews, a 7 year warranty, and I didn't need the extras that the models above it had.  Best of all, it was available in a lot of places (including Amazon's same day delivery, if I was quick).

I hesitated before buying.  I like to get my Buyers Remorse done, where possible,  before I actually buy.   I had it in my basket, and I hesitated.    I hesitated because I went back to one of the review sites, which had mentioned electronic stethoscopes and I'd not bothered to read it.    

The  electronic one was actually the model I was looking at (which I hadn't realised, I thought it would be one of the higher models), adapted for electronic use.  It could be used standalone, or with an app.    The cost was, of course, more than the non electronic version  - but not much more in the scheme of things- and the app was quite interesting.

I did some research on that too,  looked at the reviews for it,  and thought about how much less...stupid... I'd feel if I could show my GP.   I also realised  that this would make the stethoscope useable for both of us,and could providean ongoing history (along with the blood pressure readings etc).  so it would be more than just a purchase for this particular flutter.  

By this time, I'd missed the "same day" Amazon cut off.  Whatever I bought, it would not now arrive until tomorrow.

It was a partly a case of "in for a penny, in for a pound",  and what sealed the deal was that a place down the road had the electronic version in stock and I could collect the same day. I checked this with their online chat before I  made my decision.  "Just buy online and then phone after you've checked out to let them know you want to collect."  I put it in my basket.

I went off and made a cup of tea, and considered Buyers Remorse.

As I went to checkout, there was no "collection" option. I have quite a good gut instinct, and I've learned to listen to it.   I decided I'd phone them before I checked out, just in case.    Good job I did.  No collections at the moment due to Covid.

I thought I'd give in and buy from Amazon because they offered next day delivery.  I didn't really want to get it from Amazon if I could support another company. It was being sold from a number of specialist sites (who also sell to the general public). so I did one final search.     Thanks to Google,  I found it somewhere where they promised next day delivery on orders placed before 1.30pm.   It was just a few pounds more than Amazon, but it came with a free case (worth £18) and some other freebies, and so ended up being even better value.

I bought it. I

I watched some videos on how to use a stethoscope,  I saw what online training was available to help me understand my readings,  and I was ready to give it a go.

To my surprise, it arrived the next morning.  I tried it out immediately.   I wasn't feeling particularly fluttery (typical!) and I wasn't suffering from the involuntary single expulsion of air that had punctuated the last three days, so I wasn't expecting to hear anything out of the ordinary.   However,  I did hear a definite additional beat.   Every fourth LubDup had an extra ping.  I recorded it.  I tried it later.  Same thing.  

This morning, as soon as I got up, I listened.  No additional beat.  A short while later, I could feel something, so I listened again: there it was, but irregularly this time, every 15-18 beats.  Later still, there it was, and it was now regularly every four beats again.

It's the weekend now, and I'm still not feeling any of the additional 'call an ambulance' symptoms.  

I'll keep listening, and if it carries on, I will call the GP on Monday and see if I can get an appointment.

Saturday 12 June 2021

Less calm

We have been really spoiled. Good weather,  a fab awning (one of our best ever impulse purchases), it has been a pleasure to sit in the garden recently.

Today, Saturday, ita slightly less calm.   We've had lots of planes coming in to land,   some helicopters, and the Red Arrows (RA).  The RA were fab. 

There is at least one adult football match going on, and it sounds well attended.      Next doors are busy, and the kids are home.  

Someone is drilling.   

For once, our Girls are  not adding to the cacophony.    I put the table shade up for them,  it casts a good shadow on the grass,  and they  are all sitting around.

I tried to take a pic,  and several of them got up and ambled off to have a snack. I waited for some to come back, but more wandered off...oh well. here's a small group.

I'm drinking some eyewatweringly expensive cordial  that was a relative bargain. It was short dated, and  so was being sold at  70% off. It was still £7 a bottle.   I don't like things too sweet so I'm getting a lot of drinks out of it.   No alcohol.

Wednesday 9 June 2021

The next warm day

I decided yesterday - pre Gloria - that today  I would do the other coops.    I decided to carry on and do them, as they really do need doing.

Being so busy was actually helpful in mentally dealing with Gloria's death.

First thing - the coops were dismantled and brushed out, and jet washed.  This took a surprising amount of time.     I left them to dry in the sun while DH and I did an exercise class.

Then I went out and sprayed everything,  and then I came in for breakfast while everything dried for a second time.

After breakfast,  I powdered everyhting (with Stalosan powder disinfectant and Diatom),  filled the nestboxes and lined the poo trays  with Aubiose, and then put everything back together.   I was caked in stuff.

I didn't finish until lunchtime, and I was so happy to get in that shower and wash my hair.

Meanwhile, the Girls have been creating mayhem  They couldn't use their preferred nest boxes, and of course they couldn't possibly use any of the other 6 nest boxes.    When everything was put back together,  there was a scramble (ha ha) to get in.   

No one would share.   No one would hurry up.   There was a queue to lay, and those in the queue were loudly vocalising their annoyance.    Those in the nest boxes were loudly vocalising how much they didn't care, and that they weren't going to hurry    Those that had laid, were announcing that fact.  Those that weren't  queueing, were vocalsing how they wished that everyone else would shut up.

I had to message my neighbour to apologise. I'm sure wshe had seen the bits of coop strewn around the garden, and she couldn't have missed the pressure washer.   I did want her to know that I know it's an unacceptable amount of noise,  and that there was a reason for it. 

She was lovely about it.

I've done just over 8000 steps this morning, and I'm ready to for a break.

An un-Gloria-ous day

Gloria (Or Gorgeous Gloriana, to give her my gorgeous girl her full name) died today.

Her death was not unexpected.    She's slowed down a lot recently,  and I knew a couple of days ago that she was getting ready to go.   I had time to tell her how much she was loved, and how she would be missed.

She was just short of her 10th birthday, and was one of 8 girls that we hatched from a dozen Castle Farm's Welsh Black Eggs. These are a cross between an Indian Game and an Australorp, and they had the best characteristics of both breeds. 

 She is survived by her hatchmates Poppy and Katy.

All the girls from that hatch were very robust.  We had planned to keep one girl here (either Poppy or Gloria) along with the single female exchequer leghorn chick, Lotti; we also planned to keep a couple of girls for the allotment.  The other girls would join the boys as dinner chickens.

In the end it was Poppy that stayed in the garden, and Gloria was one of the two girls earmarked as keepers for the allotment. 

For whatever reason,  we decided to keep all 7 of the allotment girls.  The other 6 were named after the wives of Henry VIII, and we kept one of the boys, Henry, as well.    They were all strong, gentle, determined, higly intelligent,  easy-to-do chickens.

When we lost all our Garden Girls bar Poppy to a fox, we brought Gloria back from the allotment to keep her company.  I was so happy to have her back in the garden, she was such a lovely girl to have around.   I'd said from the moment she went to the allotment, that I'd bring her back of we had a space.

The first of the 8 to go died at 5 years old,  already a reasonable age for a chicken.  The next died aged  6 and a half, and the next 2 were just under 8 when they went.  They really were a fantastic strain of bird, and I wish David was still selling eggs.

Gloria (L) and Poppy
Gloria was Number 1 chook from the day she came back.  When new girls were introduced, Gloria never had to assert herself, she was always automatically number 1.

She learned jumpy uppy, she knew her name and would come when called, she tolerated being picked up and stroked,  and she was just a lovely calm girl.

Her feathering was amazing.  Like all 8 Welsh Blacks,  she had Australorp eyes and she had shiny black feathers which had a green and purple irridescence which is impossible to catch on camera.  They were incredibly soft to touch. 

Her death was expected,  for those of her age (and older, like Nora),  "any time now" is likely.   She had a really happy life,  and a peaceful death.   It really helps me to know that.

I'm so lucky to have had her in my life at all,   and particularly having had her company for so many years.

Goodnight my Gorgeous Gloriana.  




Monday 7 June 2021


Its's been quite quiet here.  There are very few aeroplanes, so the garden is peaceful. It really is lovely  

My gardening friends would be puzzled, I suspect, on how I can regard our garden as lovely.  We no longer have any borders to speak of. The grass is wild.  Our veg beds growing, but haphazard.     I miss the flowers,   but our garden is mainly just there to be green for us and to provide food and interest for the Girls.

This time of year, there is plenty of grass.  We only have 12 (soon to be 11) Girls, and the grass is growing fast enough to not get worn down by them.  It will be like this for a few more months - less, if the rain stops and the grass dies off of course.

I love sitting outside, just by the door, under the shade (the one we bought and installed as an emergency last year).  The Girls are mainly calm,  mainly get on,  and spend their days switching between grazing and then sitting in a "mothers meeting"  in bits of shade.

I think 12 is a good number.  Less than I'd like,  but not too much for us to eke out the grass in Autumn.  

We haven't hatched for 2 years now. The first year was because of the uncertainties around Covid.  Back then, Covid seemed to strike without warning,  it would confine people to their sick bed unable to get up for a week,  and was potentially fatal for people of our age and health.  It was entirely conceivable that both of us could catch it, and so both of us might be out of action at the same time, and both of us might even die.     Back then, we had a lot more chickens to worry about,  and they weren't one flock.   We brought some o fthe allotment girls home, so that the allotment chickens would have enought food and water for a week, should we both be laid up. 

Since then of course we had 4 hens stolen from the allotment,  we had to bring everyone else home and cull the boys (we couldn't find homes for them because of lockdown, and we couldn't risk leaving them on the allotment);     My brother received instructions on what to do if both of us died, which included which hens to cull and which hens got on with each other and so it might be OK to rehome (if such a thing were possible at the time).  We  had all the stress of the various flocks,  and then wen we realised it was going to be long term, we had to try and start merging them;    we had the fights  real fights - between Fleur and our oldest hen, Nora;  Two of the younger birds, Violet and Bott,  were complete thugs;   Sylvia, our baby silver laced barnevelder, died in an accident (Fleur wlked over her to get into the nest box and broke her neck).    This year,  Big Bird died of old age;   Ping had a heart attack; and Annie had to be put to sleep because of an egg laying problem.   Big Bird wasn't a suprise, but the other two were.  

I've got four girls who are very old and creaky, and I'm fully expecting them to go this year.  I fully expected them to go last year as well.  one of them, Gloria, is on her way.  I'm hoping she will be able to go quietly and peacefully and in her own time.... but if not, I'll have to help her. Or ask DH to.

We decided not to hatch this year.  We haven't decided what to do about our allotment.  It's being borrowed by another chicken keeper at the moment, while we see how we feel. 

Maybe next year. Hopefully next year.