More Lifestyle Changes…

I’ve been trying to get this thing written and published for 3 days now. It’s getting absurd – I keep getting sidetracked or just fall asleep. So, one last attempt…


I’ve never been one for a gentle amble when I could stride out, or to ask for help even when, deep down, I knew I should, but a few nights ago it was brought home to me, in no uncertain terms, that this has to change.

In dreadful pain – my leg ulcer feels as if it’s struck the lower end of my sciatic nerve trunk, in the outer reaches of the posterior tibial nerve network, and the pain is monstrous, beyond anything I’ve experienced before, even last year – and getting ready for bed, always a fraught time, the pain effectively shut down anything in the way of coherent thought, and I found myself rushing to the bedroom, and back to the living room and I can’t even recall why.** Result, my lungs slammed shut with all the finality of a sepulchre door. Since my recent admission to hospital, this has become very much more of a problem, and somewhat less severe bouts of pulmonary oedema a frequent occurrence.

**A round trip of, ooh, all of 12 yards!

I know, by now, how to deal with this. Get my spacer, gather my inhalers, and megadose. In this instance it meant 6 squirts of each, inhaling it the best way I could – not easy when breathing in is almost impossible. Got it done eventually, and things slowly returned, if not to normal, then to survivable (though I have little doubt that sooner or later, that’s not going to happen and, for an hour or so last night I thought that time had arrived). This is a situation which I need to explain to my GP – again – using very short, easy to understand, words, as he clearly does not understand just how seriously ill I am, though I’m sure he would if, over the past year, he’d come out to see me when my nurses told him it was urgent that he do so

Even now, a day and a half later, I’m still not back to what I consider normal. I might never be. I have to accept that and make changes in my life that – hopefully – actually allow me to have a life. For a start, I have to slow way down, and accept that I should – hell, must – accept help from others when it’s offered (though one potential source has apparently dried up). I also have to accept – and I have more difficulty with this than anything else – that I’m getting old. In 10 days I’ll be 70 – a birthday no-one, especially my doctors, ever thought I’d see

Some changes have already been made.

I have a giant fridge-freezer in the living room (the only space in the kitchen is right by a radiator, which is wholly unsuitable, so I’ve put a broken, standard, fridge-freezer – f-f from now on – there, used as a cupboard). I also have a small fridge in the kitchen, and that, too, has been used as a cupboard until now. And I have a working standard f-f in the bedroom with very little but a few bags of flour in it.

The small fridge in the kitchen has been put back into service (I’m surprised it actually works as it came with the flat 30 years ago), and the f-f in the bedroom has been moved to make access easier, and put back into general use.

The giant f-f has been pillaged, and a lot of the stuff I routinely use in the kitchen, including some fresh veg, has been moved into the small fridge (fresh veg in long-term storage – it stays fresh for months – remains in the giant f-f). Some dairy products have also been moved into the kitchen fridge.

In the bedroom f-f, the fridge section holds my cottage cheese supply (I eat the stuff in bed, so that makes sense), plus a huge Kilner jar of pickled beetroot. The giant f-f has glass shelves, which worry me. I know they’re toughened but they’re still glass and will still, at some point, break. The shelves in the old f-f in the bedroom are wire, and I feel happier with the beetroot in there. Plus I can snaffle some to go with my cottage cheese.

All things considered, this works out far better than having it all in the giant f-f, especially when I feel able to cook as, now, everything is within arm’s length – I no longer have to fetch stuff from and return it to the giant f-f. OK, it’s only a few yards, but as I’m learning to my cost, that can be a few yards too far.

In addition, cooked food – casseroles, soups, in the main, which previously lived in the giant f-f (and trust me, the 4 litres of bean-loaded lamb, fruits, and Harissa casserole that I’m about to make, in a pot that’s already heavy when it’s empty, is very worrying on a thin glass shelf) – now lives in the kitchen fridge with its wire shelves. Which also means I don’t have to carry it to and from the giant f-f.

So, ergonomically, the food storage side of things is now much improved, with the need to fetch and carry substantially reduced, and the actual storage of heavy items made safer. Obviously, putting the small fridge back into commission will bump up my electricity bill, but I can afford it. As I’ve said before, the one advantage to being housebound is that I don’t go anywhere to spend money. I did go out to lunch with a friend occasionally, but that seems to have fizzled as she’s developed a habit of disappearing, sometimes for months.

The reduction of cutlery and crockery (as per this post), is working out well, and the reorganisation of my workspace and cooking space could hardly be bettered. My Breville Hot Cup boiling water dispenser has proven invaluable

Staying with the ergonomic theme for a moment, I’ve ordered myself a new chair.


The model designation is “Martha” as, for some reason, it’s considered feminine (the alternative colours are lilac and sky blue so, presumably, “tasteless” is in there too!). There’s a “masculine” version, called “Carrington”


which has a plain back and Queen Anne legs, but I prefer the buttoned back and simpler style of the other.

Of course, the couch will have to go, and getting rid of that will leave me room for a small dining table:-


Self-assembly, like so many things these days (but at least it’s wood, not chipboard), but I’ve been too ill to put it together, as well as having nowhere to put it. By using my clockwork bed as a workbench I can raise it to a comfortable working height to assemble it, and with the couch gone I’ll now have room for it.

But that’s 12 days away. Right now I’m off to the kitchen to make a lamb casserole with Harissa, dried apricots (I’m out of dates), cherries, both sour and sweet, black olives and soya beans instead of the usual chickpeas (out of those too). Recipe here for anyone interested who hasn’t already seen it.

Tip: You can use lamb leg steaks if you have a decent butcher. If, like me, you have to rely on a supermarket, where they have no  knife skills whatsoever, you’re better off doing what I do, buying half a leg of lamb and cutting it up yourself. Slice it across first,  trim off most of the fat, and then dice it. Always assuming your knife skills are better, of course. Not only do you get better quality meat, you also get the fat for rendering down – gives you a very tasty foundation for the rest of the dish. And it takes no longer as you can carry on with the prep while it’s rendering.

You can buy it bone-in,** in which case brown the bone while you render the fat, in the same pot, and add it to the casserole for extra flavour (scrape out any marrow and add that too). At the moment I’m feeling pretty poor, so I opted for bone-out. In cutting off the fat you will, inevitably, sacrifice a little meat. But I do mean a little – it should be no more than the merest smear of pink on the white fat

**Look at the half-leg and you’ll see the bone is very close to the skin on one side – that’s the side to go in from. If you don’t have a boning knife, use a very sharp utility knife – that’ll get the job done.

And by sharp I mean that your knives should slip thought the leg muscle as easily as they do through the softest liver. A sharp knife is your friend – a dull knife will balk and be more likely to cut you. Never be afraid of your knives – I know people who are afraid of mine – they’re just tools, there to do your bidding. That’s all they are. In the 60 years I’ve been cooking, I reckon I’ve cut myself no more than half a dozen times. I’ve done more damage with a “safety” razor or even a potato peeler than with a chefs’ knife.

And, on that note, I really am off to the kitchen.

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