ADRIENNE'S HIV BLOG – Hivine's Weblog

HIVINE is written by HIV positive women but still with a sense of humour

Archive for October, 2008

Pegging Out

    Isn’t it funny how certain people and certain things can affect your life and send you haring off in a completely different direction; for example, if it wasn’t for the fact that I was HIV positive, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this blog, which has been in existence now for almost a year and although I know in the great scheme of things it can’t really make that much of a difference, as much as I would like it to, every little helps and I hope in its often bizarre and eccentric way, it is helping to raise awareness about HIV and reduce stigma for all of the other invisible women out there, who for one reason or another are denied a voice.

    Internet surfers often find their way to this site by accident by typing something into the search engine that is not necessarily HIV related and arrive at hivine completely by chance, which if you think about it and although it is usually an unconscious gesture on my part, is a great way of getting the message across, above all when you consider that even though the statistics of the newly diagnosed continue to rise, especially amongst women and in particular right here the north west, very little is said about it in the media. Let’s see if this World Aids Day it is any different.

    Some of the recurrent search engine terms that lead unsuspecting surfers to the ever open hivine door are; spider; get out of bed, bottom enhancer and rather bizarrely the Benidorm bark. The most popular search engine term however continues to be related to knitting, although I feel this might have something to do with the photo kindly donated by a Scottish friend of mine of his magnificent knitted underpants, complete with hand stitched diamond crotch. I have only had one slight problem with surfers of a more pervy nature and that was the time I wrote about having my willow tree trimmed. I won’t specify what type of willow it was in case the same thing happens again, but I am sure you can use your imagination.

    Anyway, even if I’ve accomplished nothing else with this blog, at least there are an army of arachnophobics, people of a lazy disposition with enhanced bottoms who don’t want to get out of bed, Benidorm barkers and hand knitted willy warmer wearers, who are now better informed about HIV, alongside of course the Knitting Nancy brigade wielding their knitted dishcloths and hopefully, soon, if my cousin has anything to do with it, peg bags.

    The knitting blog in question was in fact originally inspired by my lovely cousin of ‘Viv Lives’ fame, who with her stalwart knitting endeavours to get through the awful ordeal of her battle with cancer, was the inspiration for my ‘Knitting Nancy’ piece, which continues to direct random surfers, knitters and possibly even nits to the site and still receives the most hits, so in this way she has also contributed to raising awareness about HIV to the masses and therefore I have sent her an official letter signed by the Queen of the of hivonia (i.e. my good self) that she might well be in line for some kind of award.

    Even though thankfully my cousin has lived and survived her ordeal (check out latest ‘Radioactivists -Viv Lives 6′ on links) she has still continued to knit and the other day when I was feeling a bit down because of my recent blip, a brown paper parcel arrived on my mat.
    “Who can be sending me a parcel?” I muttered my thoughts out loud to myself, as sadly I haven’t got anyone else to mutter them too, apart from my son, who wouldn’t be seen dead at that time in the morning and to be honest, it’s better a case of letting sleeping dogs lie – as in bed, as like any male he can be a bit grumpy on arising.
    “I haven’t ordered anything recently from a catalogue have I?” I questioned my short term memory, “And my birthday is now long gone, so who can it be from?”

    I had a little feel and a crafty poke (as the actress allegedly did to the bishop) and lifted it up to my ear for a rattle. Then I put it down on the kitchen table and walked over to put the kettle on in order to prolong the joyous anticipation of opening it. However, always the impatient type, I couldn’t wait for the kettle to boil and rushed back to the table and tore off the brown paper to reveal a package within, wrapped in silver paper and tied with a silver ribbon.

    I carefully undid the bow and inside the package was a beautifully knitted black clutch bag with a bright red ribbon sewn on one side. I got quite choked when I saw the proud red ribbon and was touched by the time and obvious effort that had gone into the construction and design of the clutch bag.

    But wait a minute, I peeped inside the dark interior, there was something else inside the bag – a neat line of old fashioned wooden pegs, sometimes known as dolly pegs, attached to a piece of card. There was also a letter from my cousin Viv explaining the history of my very own custom designed peg bag (so that’s what it was) and describing in her inimitable graphic style the joys of pegging out the washing to dry on the line in the fresh air and how she and her mother before her, always took great pleasure in arranging the washing by size and coordinated colours.

    I have to say I was very impressed by her newly acquired skills as an artisan and craftswoman, especially the beautifully crafted wooden pegs which must have taken her ages to whittle – although I’d never had her down as a secret whittler. It’s strange what the prospect of a terminal illness can lead you to take up as a hobby – look at me for example with this blog. I think, however, my peg bag will remain as a collector’s rather than a utility item and stay a work of art, along the lines of Damien Hurst and Tracy Emin of unmade bed fame. In view of that I am encouraging Viv to try for a one woman exhibition of her works, as in this current financial crisis the only thing investors are putting their money in these days is art, therefore Saatchi & Saatchi might well be interested in taking on a new young/old, British/Welsh, artist/ peg bag knitter.

    If they aren’t, they jolly well should be, because the general public (at least the visitors to hivine) seem to have an ongoing interest in anything knitted, such as dishcloths, underpants, willy warmers and the like, so why not clutch or peg bags – or even crotch bags if the interest in willy warmers is anything to go by? After all, women need to keep their willies warm too, unless they are suffering from that burny itchy thing called thrush of course, or cystitis. I have therefore asked her, in the interest of art, as well as cystitus, to incorporate in her ‘Viv Lives’ slot, a regular update of her current peg bag progress and works in process.

    To be honest, between me and you, I am not quite sure what to do about my peg bag. It’s far too nice to keep pegs in and is, I’m ashamed to say, my very first peg bag, aside from a plastic basket from the hundred peseta shop in Ibiza, where the weather at least afforded one the pleasure of pegging out – and also where I very nearly did!

    On the few times when its not raining in Blackburn and I get the chance to hang my washing out to dry, I also take great pleasure in arranging the colours and sizes, which perhaps says something about us as a family, as in artistic, creative and possible sufferers of OCD. But it seems as a family we are not alone with our fixation about how we hang out our washing, as in the process of my research I came across this article on the ‘Good Housekeeping’ website under the heading, “Knickers on the Line – Do You Let It All Hang Out?”, which generated an ongoing debate amongst the country’s washerwomen.

    “It’s not that I am a peeping tom or anything,” says one lady, who by her voyeurish tendencies to spy on her neighbours clothesline obviously is, “But I have noticed that my female neighbours never hang their bras and knickers out to dry on the line. I generally do, but I am wondering whether I am committing a faux pas?”

    She was obviously not the only voyeur lurking on Britain’s housing estates, because this set off a whole train of discussion.

    “My knickers are usually from M&S or Debenhams,” writes someone who is obviously not Twiggy and doesn’t have much of a sex life if her choice of knickers are anything to go by, “Nothing eye-catching and I generally pop them in the centre of my rotary clothes line. My neighbours must either pop theirs into the tumble dryer or hang them to dry inside.” This woman engages in far too much popping for my liking –popping in, popping out. “However,” she continues, “she and others are quite happy to hang out their husband’s Y-fronts and boxers and children’s’ undies, but you never see any of their undergarments. Is it me or is it bad form to let it all hang out?”

    Why does she want to see her neighbour’s knickers – her neighbour’s husband’s boxers or Y- fronts possibly, especially if with her obsession with popping he is popping out of them. Honestly, I’m quite shocked by what appears to be taking place on these seemingly innocuous housing estates. It’s like something out of “Desperate Housewives.”

    “Same here Rumbletum,” joins in another housewife, whose kids apparently call her knickers, ‘Mum’s applecatchers’. “I am a bit self-conscious about them,” she admits, (no wonder if she uses them to store her cox’s pippins), “But I notice I don’t mind any sexier items being more on display!”

    I was right, wasn’t I, there’s far more than meets the eye going on on these housing estates and this one’s obviously an exhibitionist. Talk about desperate housewives, it’s worse than the things that go on in Wisteria Lane.

    “I think I know what you mean Glifada,” agrees another desperate housewife, “I don’t hang anything on my little washing line, which is at the side by the utility door, (spare us the boring details please) I may use it from time to time for the floor covers, after my husband has done some messy work then I put them on the line till I’m ready to put them into the washing machine. But getting back to the neighbours…….mine puts her ‘smalls’ out with the gusset facing our direction…!!!!!! – and her t-towels are a little bit towards her back door slightly out of view. I would love to ask her to do it the other way round.!!!”

    What a lot of exclamation, as opposed to ‘skid’ marks, but maybe that’s what she’s implying about her neighbour – and why are t-towels more pleasing to her eye than gussets? That says a lot about her and her personal habits, not to mention her fruit basket. If it was that other woman who stores her apples in her knickers, she wouldn’t mind, she could keep her golden russets or maybe it should be golden gussets fresher for longer. I don’t know, this lot are all as bad as each other if you ask me, as the next washerwoman is in total agreement.

    “I couldn’t have put it better myself jambutty.”

    Jambutty?- how do they come up with all these daft names?

    “I hang mine (and everyone else’s in the family) out, and it’s never crossed my mind not to. What’s more, I even hang them in order of size and colour!”

    Ah, at last, a woman after my own heart.

    “My knickers go out but not the bras,” declares a more decisive washerwoman, “Not because I’m embarrassed, but my mum always said that sunshine can cause the elastic to perish more quickly. And my knick-knacks go on the inside of the rotary whirligig – modesty prevails – not that anyone can see them, unless they stand on something to look over the fence that is!”

    Have we become a nation of voyeurs or what – and who calls their underwear knick knacks – knick knack paddy whack give a dog a bone, I’ll refrain from the obvious play on the word ‘bone’ (as in rude) connection here.

    Another woman with less interest in her or anyone else’s knick knacks or whether her gussets swing politically to the left or the right and more concerns about green issues, raises the discussion up a notch, or a crotch, by talking about trying to reduce her carbon footproint whilst being legally prevented from hanging her washing outside. This according to ‘Good Housekeeping’ is an issue that faces thousands of washerwomen living in the UK, although I have to say, not as far as I know in Blackburn, where they couldn’t give a toss about what or whether you hang your knick knacks out on your line, as long as your nets are clean.

    “I live in a housing estate,” states one enraged reader, “where all the properties are legally bound to stick to something called the rentcharge deed, which includes the ludicrous provision that no one will hang out washing outside. The rentcharge deed was drawn up in the late eighties and I guess they just weren’t alive to environmental issues then! Do you have any info on the average carbon emmissions of tumble dryers per year, for instance by comparing it to herds of cows farting and might you know whether this prohibition on hanging washing out would mean that properties on our estate would be less likely to be rated highly for HIP purposes?

    What have hips got to do with it?

    “As you can imagine, I think the prohibition is completley daft and am very keen to get it overturned. The idea that someone could be taken to court for reducing their carbon footprint in this totally harmless way is just absurd! But I know that some people on the estate will take a lot of persuading, so I’d be extremely grateful for any ammo you can give me.”

    Watch out for this particular desperate washerwoman, I hope you don’t live on the same estate as her if her method of persuasion is to get her shot gun out.

    The Environment Agency estimates that £88m is spent on powering tumble dryers alone in the UK every year. And that if every family in the UK hung out one load of laundry per week it would save around 515,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, that’s the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road for a year. Every use of a tumble dryer generates enough carbon dioxide to fill 150 party balloons.

    So that’s it then, no more children’s parties, at least on that estate, unless it is near a farm and they can utilise the fourteen cows.

    This isn’t only going on in England by the way, it’s also happening in the USA where they have something called the Right-to-Dry campaign. For those desperate housewives who live in a flat and aren’t allowed to hang their husbands (as they tend to do on Wisteria Lane) washing out to dry, or send them to the cleaners financially, or even have a balcony to hang them over, or in the worst case Wisteria lane type scenario push them off, they offer the following eco-friendly solutions, particularly in relation to ex-husbands, such as an overhead drying rack (sounds like a good idea to me) or dryer balls. Athough I’d better be careful incorporating the term ‘dryer balls’ into this blog, as it might attract the pervy surfers back.

    Apparently in America they have a regular “National Hanging Out Day,” which they say is not about hanging out with friends, or hanging their husbands, although I can appreciate that some desperate housewives might feel like it at times. It’s a day aimed at demonstrating how effective using a clothesline can be in cutting back our contribution to global warming. And as for us, the determined washerwomen of Great Britain, no doubt we will stand up as ever against adversity, like our mother’s before us in the Second World War, who dug and determinedly hung out (in my mother’s case at Tony’s ballroom) and in the words of the once popular wartime song, which she probably danced rather than hung out her washing to – ‘We’ll hang out our washing on the seigfried line – have you any washing mother dear.’

    I don’t know what all the fuss is about really. The answer seems quite clear to me, if you want to shrink your carbon footprint use a higher setting on your washer, which is guarenteed to shrink anything, even trainers, although I suppose this would defeat the object slightly – but hey, us washerwomen and deperate housewives can’t be held accountable for everything to do with global warming, can we – and if you are a desperate washerman, or a desperate house-husband and want to avoid dryer balls, the solution is quite simple, just make sure you live near a field of fourteen cows.

Up against the wall

Did some filming today for Glaxo Smith Kline, the big pharmaceutical company who manufacture our meds. Arrived later than anticipated at Body Positive due to a hold up on the motorway, so didn’t have time to put my mother puckering lipstick on. This is not me swearing, although I must admit I felt like it at the time, it is the name for the new lip gloss I’d bought the day before especially for the occasion, from Boots the chemists no less, who are perhaps not familiar with the expression that goes along with the brand name of – up against the wall. I also purchased some blue eye dew drops for the, what now seems to be permanent fixture of my yellow eyes.

According to the bumf on the label, sexy mother pucker lip gloss is especially good for the ageing face, because as we get older lip tissue shrinks and flattens out with age.

“Mother Pucker is no ordinary lip gloss,” the label proclaims , “Due to it’s scientifically proven super fill microspheres that plump up the lips so that they explode in volume up to10x when they come into contact with water.”

All well and good I would imagine if I was about to swim the channel or my boat was about to sink and I didn’t have a lifebelt, but what would happen when I had a simple drink of water or a nice cup of tea? Would my lips suddenly inflate to ten times their normal size, in which case it would be more a case of PG lips than PG tips.

“Sexy mother puckers new super fill,” the label professes, “can fool your lips into looking and feeling fuller.’

Of course, I wasn’t daft and neither were my lips, I’d given it a test run the day before so I didn’t arrive for the filming looking like Lesley Ash of ‘trout pout fame,’ but to be honest, it hadn’t fooled my lips into anything. My purse possibly, into paying for it, but my lips remained stubbornly poutless. The only difference was, I think I got some on my tongue by mistake which exacerbated my slight lisp. It’s not that I have a very pronounced lisp, aside from sometimes my s’s sounding like f’s, especially on the telephone.

“Could you repeat your surname again madam?”
“Thank you Mrs Feed.”
“I said Seed.”
“Theed ?”
“No f for thugar and its mith not mithiss, oh never mind, why don’t you just pith off.”

There are different kinds of lisps apparently and I am not quite sure what kind of lisp I possess – or potheth. I don’t think it’s what’s known as a Lateral lisp as according to a lisping website, a lateral or a side ways lisp can sound a bit ‘wet’ or ‘spitty’, which would be no good at all with my mother puckering lip gloss on, as it would be inflating every time I said anything with an ‘s’ in it. Good job Kate Winslet wasn’t wearing any in ‘Titanic’ when she engaged in that disgusting spitting competition with that filthy commoner Jack. Then again, maybe she was and that’s what kept her afloat, as it does also say on the label, ‘For lips that sail.’

Lisping may well come in handy then at times, but who would want lips than can sail, unless you are a lone yachtswoman becalmed on the high seas and you don’t have any wind in your sails, or anywhere else for that matter – and even if you do, there are things you can take for that, which you can also purchase from Boots the chemist.

Lisping it seems, can also be inspirational, as in the case of the legendary rock band, ‘The Cure’, when as the story goes, they were racking their brains for an innovative name for the band when a loan salesman happened to knock on the door and say, “May I offer you thumb perthonal loan advithe, thir?” and one of the band members allegedly replied: “What kind of loans are you offering?” to which the salesman’s reply was, “Thecure.”

Anyway, like the Titanic the filming went down well, although unlike Kate Winslet and that dirty Jack fellow, we didn’t get paid for our troubles. It never fails to amaze, not to mention annoy me, how people living with HIV are used time and time again for research purposes and raising awareness, but the only people who get paid or benefit financially are the researchers. Some of the questions really got me thinking though, such as how does the medication affect your quality of life and what aspects of your treatment are most important to you. The answer to the latter part of the question in relation to the meds was a clear cut case of can’t live with them, can’t live without them – and as for quality of life, well, to put it bluntly, there isn’t any.

By the time the film crew had packed up their big furry microphones and cameras and headed off to catch the train back to London, I just about made it for lunch, but was late taking my meds. The traffic back was horrendous and by the time I got home I was so knackered I fell asleep on sofa and didn’t wake up until after midnight. Because I had to fast for a hospital appointment the next day, it was by then too late to eat anything. So maybe that’s why what happened, happened. But in truth, I had been feeling off for few days, really weary and listless, so when the nurse was taking my bloods, the next thing I knew, or didn’t know to be precise, I had passed out.

As I came round from wherever I’d been and the world slowly started to swirl back into focus, the first thing I saw were my bright red shoes on the end of my spread eagled legs, which appeared to be glowing like Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz. From far, far away, from some distant land, I could hear someone singing in a high wavery voice, la la la la la la la, which could have been somewhere over the rainbow or my lovely health worker singing her strange tapping song whilst employing her EFT skills.
“I’m so sorry,” I apologized profusely, tears springing from my eyes and rolling down my clammy cheeks.
“No need to apologize,” said my health worker, ordering the nurse to clean the blood up off the floor. This made me swoon all over again and I had to be escorted bodily to a room to lie on a bed whilst my notes and last results were found and it appeared I was having a bit of what’s known in the HIV trade as a blip, probably caused said my health worker by my new meds and Billy Rubin.

Who’s Billy Rubin I wanted to know, who in my semi conscious state sounded like a Jewish scrap monger or the boy nobody wanted to sit next to at junior school, or maybe he was a friend of Billy Elliot. Whoever he was, what did he want with me? Didn’t I have enough problems as it was?

Talk about having a bit of a blip – a bit of flip out more like. But there was one thing very clear, there was no way I was going to be kept in that hospital overnight, so I quickly tried to rally myself round.
“There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home,” I repeated, clicking the heels of my red shoes together three times like Dorothy.
“Are you sure you are alright?” asked one of the nurses, probably wondering if she should contact the psychiatric ward and get me sectioned.
“Yes, I’m positive,” I replied and the weight of those words suddenly hit me like a thunderbolt causing very hot tears to erupt all over again, due to the realisation (which sometimes I forget, or at least want to forget) that yes, I am positive and I always will be and therefore blips such as these will continue to happen. The other undeniable fact that hit me was because of HIV I can no longer do the things I used to be able to do. This realisation, like the meds, is a hard pill to swallow, but I clicked my red shoes together (which incidentally I will never wear again) more forcefully this time and hotfooted the yellow brick road out of there.

Talking of red shoes, the Wizard of Oz and the eternal quest to find things like hearts, tin openers and emotions, on the Sky website they had a list of the ten steps you should take in order to find the ‘yellow brick road’ to happiness. The first step was to eat yourself happy, because you are what you eat, in which case at the moment I am a chip butty, albeit not a particularly happy (nor obviously healthy) one. The second step was to have lots of sex, which of course these days is a definite no no for me, but for the ultimate in happy sex they advocate it’s best not to use a condom, although only if you know it’s safe and you’re not worried about pregnancy. Which begs the question, how do you ever really know when it’s safe? Married people apparently are the happiest of all because they have 30 per cent more sex than single folk and probably don’t use condoms, putting them I have to say in great danger if either of the partnership is unfaithful at any time. Anyway, the ‘more sex’ statistic does not necessarily apply to most of the married couples I am familiar with, but what do I know. You would have to ask an economist. Economists have worked out that a lasting marriage equates to the happiness you’d feel if you earned an extra £50,000 a year. How on earth do they arrive at these figures? Do you think Madonna and Guy in their up and coming divorce will take that into the equation – although who gives a toss about them, certainly not me.

Step three, following Madonna’s fine example was to go to the gym, although it hasn’t done much for her happiness or her bulging biceps, at least as far as her marriage and her bulging bank account is concerned. Some doctors have even called for exercise to be offered on prescription to depressed people because it releases their endorphins. I don’t know, all these endorphins which people are keeping in captivity against their will – no wonder they are flipping out, if you’ll excuse the pun, it serves them right. Exercise, they also state, can be a very sociable activity. Well, I beg to differ; I have never felt so alone as I did peddling my exercise bike up a non existent mountain path whilst in reality staring out of the gym window at the outside wall, or on my jogging machine, jogging alone on the road to nowhere.

Step four was to have a good old belly laugh. Well, that’s more like it. I can relate to that. Laughing is really good for you, they say, because it releases even more endorphins, which can only be a good thing as due to people keeping them in captivity, they were on the verge of becoming an endangered species. Research shows that people today laugh three times less than they did in the 1950s. How do they know that? Is it those economists again? What with the current credit crunch and economic gloom, wouldn’t they be better employed keeping their eyes on the footsie instead of coming up with statistics about tickling them. They would be better off becoming footsie fans instead, although in my opinion, there are far too many already and the footsie in both senses of the word has become a national obsession.

Laughing, they say, even when you don’t find anything particularly funny, can be just as good for your happiness levels as rolling around when you hear a good joke. Try it, they suggest, although you might feel a bit silly at first. But if you prefer rolling around on a mat as opposed to the bare floorboards, there’s actually a type of yoga, called Laughter Yoga, which trains people how to laugh themselves to happiness. On their website, the lady in question describes herself as a ‘Laughologist’ and also offers Laughter Facilitation Training, where she trains others to spread laughter and happiness upon the planet, which is obviously part of the campaign to save the endorphins. She is also apparently an entertaining speaker and has given talks for Gerrards Cross Ladies Golf Club (big deal) and The Inner Wheel of Godalming, which I at first thought was some kind of weird religious sect, along with the AGM of Sacro cranial practitioners, who she’s also given a talk to.

“Lets’ do it laughing,” she proclaims, although she doesn’t say exactly what.

A typical laughter session would begin with breaking some ice, although I can’t see what’s so funny about that, you might just as well go and defrost your freezer. You may find yourself talking gibberish, she says, and even singing a song in laughology language and chanting ho, ho, ho, ha, ha, ha. You may notice, she warns us, that you might start smiling for no reason over the following days. Well, I’m not surprised.

There are no age or physical restrictions apparently to participating in a laughter session unless you have had recent surgery, a heart by-pass or are on long term medication. So that rules people living with HIV out then, although you can do it in prison.
“Laughter really is a drug – but there are very pleasant after effects!” states one satisfied HMP inmate.

If you are not incarcerated at Her Majesty’s pleasure, you can laugh your way to happiness on a weekend retreat in Wales, where after you have tried the Seven Steps to Happiness, you will emerge a new you! Why does she keep insisting there are seven steps to happiness, when Sky definitely says it’s ten? Perhaps she knows a short cut. But before you try to reserve a place, sorry she appologizes, but it’s fully booked. However, she suggests, why not try a laughter holiday in sunny Dahab on the red sea instead.

Why not indeed. After reading people who’ve tried these holidays or sessions comments, I might just sign up for one myself.

“The highlight for me,” states one satisfied customer from Wimbledon, “was looking in on a laughter therapy session with twenty people strutting around the room impersonating chickens.”

Maybe she should sign up for one of the uplifting laughter holidays (as in necks possibly) in Turkey.

“Since I did the course, I do the Ho, Ho, Ho, Ha, Ha, Ha and it sets me off again” says a woman from Workshop (as in laughter presumably) in North Wales.

“Ho Ho Hope we can do this again,” say the stylists of a hairdressing salon, also in Wimbledon.

Step five to finding happiness, according to Sky, was to keep an animal (a chicken or a turkey perhaps – or at least a chicken or a turkey impersonator?) around the house. A study by the University of Minnesota found that having a cat is such a calming influence that it cuts the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke by almost half. In another study it was found that dog owners tend to have lower cholesterol, plus, having a loyal pet such as a dog or cat, or even a chicken or turkey, but only if its loyal of course, makes you feel loved and needed.

Step six was to find God. A study which was presented to the Royal Economic Society, earlier this year (it’s those pesky economists again) showed that religious people are better able to cope with major life traumas, like divorce. Not, I would have thought if you are a catholic.

Step seven was to get your glad rags on, but I’m surprised those money conscious economists didn’t say anything about all the handbags that your granddad also had to sweat to buy, or even Rod Stewart for that matter. Ever wondered why Goths and emos look so miserable they ask? Not really, but apparently it’s because they wear black all the time. Instead, they advise, we should all wear bright colours. A psychological study, probably carried out by those nosy economists again, who probably also work for Primark, has shown that people who wear bright colours elicit positive emotions in other people, while those who dress in dark colours have the opposite effect. People who dress in bright colours, they also sagely advise, are also far less likely to be run over!

If you want to feel happy according to the principles of the ancient Chinese system Feng Shui, you should choose clothes in shades of red, orange and yellow. Although, I say, if you really want to avoid getting run over, you should choose red, orange and green instead, then you could be mistaken for a set of traffic lights.

Step eight was to get some winter sun. Seasonal affective disorder otherwise known as SAD or according to step seven Sadrags (sounds like one of the Dingles out of Emmerdale) is now a well-recognised condition, caused by lack of light on winter days. So, if you want to feel happy, it’s important to expose yourself in broad daylight as much as you can. But be careful where you do it and whatever you do, don’t wear a raincoat at the same time.

Step nine was to make lots of friends, and I can relate to this, because the way I see it, no one will notice aside from you if you don’t have any, whether you are happy or not. Having a close circle of friends they declare protects us against the ill effects of stress and it’s even been suggested that it can ward off germs. Not too close, I would have thought, especially where my particular set of friends are concerned, who are more often than not riddled with them.

Happiness researchers claim friendship has a much bigger effect on happiness than what you earn. One economist, Professor Oswald at Warwick University, devised a formula to work out how much extra cash we would need to make up for not having friends. The answer is £50,000.

Step ten, the final step, was to become a Hairdresser, preferably from Wimbledon if the laughter therapy sessions are anything to go by, although I would prefer to forget the rest and just go for the £50,000 pounds, in which case I’d be laughing all the way to the bank.

Over the Hill


Me and the fabulous Rhythm Chiefs

Me my nephew Danny and John Mayall

I spent my 59th birthday in the Dam compliments of my lovely sister who treated me to a ‘girly’ weekend in the infamous city renowned for its sex shops, coffee shops and chip shops, where allegedly they make the best chips in the world. I can personally vouch for this as at my ripe old age and in my condition, chips are more likely to be on my agenda than sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, unless you change the latter to sex drugs and lemon sole – and even then you can knock off the sex and the drugs, but whatever you do leave the chips.

I love Holland, the people are so friendly and laid back and talking of being laid back, after several hours of window shopping, albeit not in the red light district where as anyone who is familiar with Amsterdam will know they prefer a different kind of window dressing which is more akin to window undressing, we were absolutely knackered. So when we chanced upon a shop window displaying a row of what looked like airlines seats advertising, very cheap foot massage, my sister’s eyes lit up.

“You must be coming in,” beckoned the ferocious looking Japanese girl with goofy teeth chewing on a huge wad of bubble gum.
“Must we?” I said, starting to back away, but my sister dragged me back by my coat sleeve. “Just what we need for our zesty pothias (that’s hot feet in Greek) she said, “I’ll treat you.”

We warily reclined side by side on the airline seats, kicked off our boots and presented our white toes, exposed in all their sickly looking glory under the glare of the neon lights to the two other goofy Japanese girls squatting at our feet, who disdainfully and quite roughly I have to say, plonked them directly in wooden buckets lined with slimy plastic of luke warm water. Determined to enjoy my treat, I closed my eyes in anticipation of a relaxing and calming experience, but hang on a minute, there was something wrong. Where was the holistic music, the pan pipes or strains of the mystic orient? The only sounds of the orient were the loud pop of bubble gum merged with the drunken revelry of the passing stag and hen parties on the busy street outside.

Then, instead of massaging our weary feet, as eagerly anticipated, the two ninja turtles suddenly leapt behind the airline seats and started pummelling our temples, whilst rabbitting loudly through their buck teeth to each other in Japanese. This wasn’t what I had been expecting at all. Hope she’s washed her hands after dealing with all those horny feet all day, I was thinking, or worse all those horny men; you never knew in this sex obsessed city. I sneaked a crafty look at my sis as bony fingers manhandled my sinuses, which have never been the same since and even bonier knuckles kneaded my wrinkles as though she was rolling pastry. If that wasn’t bad enough and I have to say I have never had my nose massaged before and it is not an experience I would wish to repeat, the chopping of karate hands then began on top of my head. At once stage it was so painful I swear she was hitting me on the head with a mallet.

At some point whilst my eyes had been closed a very fat man had slunk into the airline chair next to me and I heard him remark to his particular ninja turtle (there seemed to be a whole bevy or bale of them to use the correct collective name for a group of turtles) that he was still feeling the pain from yesterday. I knew exactly what he was talking about, but maybe he was into pain, which I definitely wasn’t. He was later led off into a back room, so perhaps we had ventured into the red light district by mistake, who knows, the boundary in Amsterdam between ‘sex and the city’ is decidedly blurred and even more so for me as my vision seemed to have been somewhat disturbed after being repeatedly hit on the head with the mallet. Whilst my sister coughed up the forty euros for the so called treat, I had a sneaky look behind the airline seat for the said mallet, but ninja turtle must have sneakily kicked it under the seat or hidden it somewhere on her person.

The red light district is enough to open anyone’s eyes however with all those loose women standing around in windows like ‘one o Lewis’s’, as my mum used to say, in stockings and suspenders, flaunting their wares – as in under. Not my mum in stockings and suspenders I hasten to add, who even if she had worn them, which they had to in her day before the invention of tights, wouldn’t say anything. And even if she had worn them she wouldn’t have sat showing them off to the neighbours in the parlour window. Who would want to sit in a window all day in their bra and knickers? There’s none of that kind of thing goes on in Blackburn, I’m pleased to say. Just imagine having to sit in your M&S knickers sandwiched between the butty bar and the pound shop, or if your local M&S had live models cavorting around in the window, like they do on their adverts. All they would need is to have Twiggy and her mates wielding a few whips and items of bondage then they could rename the chain (incorporating the chain as an item of bondage of course) to S&M instead. This is your S&M…….

The next day, we took the train from Amsterdam Central and travelled all the way up to Leeuwarden in Friesland as we were going to watch my nephew and his band the fabulous ‘Rhythm Chiefs’ who were billed as support group for my long time idol John Mayall and the Blues Breakers. His album “Bare Wires,” had been top of my play list when I was an Art student and I could still remember all the words – “These are bare wires of my life, since they were cut, down the middle by yooooo….etc.”

Friesland is right at the very top of Holland and is where the famous black and white Friesian cows originated. The province is also famous for its speed skaters, I read in the travel guide and is the focus of the Eleven cities skating tour where speed plays a major role and where for the poor stressed participants it is simply a question of getting their heads down and riding hard. Such events allow little or no time to visit the places of interest along the route, reads the tour guide, or take a siesta on the sea dyke.

A siesta on a dyke – who would be daft enough to want to sleep on a dyke? Although I suppose that option could be on offer in the red light district.

There is no need however to ride your bike all the way back to Amsterdam if you are in need of a nap, as the Friesland tourist office has developed a more relaxed cycling tour for all those who would prefer to stop and enjoy the sights, admire the varied landscape, or have a siesta, or even abandon your bike and drive one. Although I don’t know what they mean by varied landscape as it’s as flat as the proverbial pancake.

On route they suggest you could visit the statue of the last ‘King of all Friesians’, Pier Gerlof Donia, the fighter of good causes known for his legendary strength and invention of a famous shibboleth. I wonder if he was a distant relation to Bob, or anything to do with Barratts? My sis was certainly enjoying her shibboleth fountain I had brought her especially from England, along with a monster pack of salt and vinegar chipsticks, which she was not disposed of to share.

In the warmer months, according to the tour guide, many Friesians practice wadlopen, the traditional art of wading across the Wadden Sea at low tide, which is probably where the expression going for a waddle, or as we now know it, paddle comes from. Another Friesian practice is fierljeppen, a sport with some similarities to pole vaulting and counselling, in that a jump consists of an intense sprint to the pole, then climbing to the top while trying to control the pole’s forward and lateral movements over a body of water and finishing with a graceful landing on a sand bed opposite to the starting point. This, alongside the potato theory is a little quoted Rogerian paradigm and obviously where the inspiration for the self help book, “Feel the fierljeppen and do it anyway,” sprang from.

According to the travel guide, the English language, although it hardly sounds like it to me, is closely related to the Friesian language. There is a saying which goes; “As milk is to cheese, are English and Fries.”
Do they mean chips or are fries short for frieslanders?
Another version of this saying reads in Friesian: “Bûter, brea, en griene tsiis; wa’t dat net sizze kin, is gjin oprjochte Fries”. Does that sound in any way related to English to you? Translated it means, “Butter, bread, and green cheese, whoever can’t say that is no upright Fries”. They say that the English are obsessed with chips but I think the Dutch obviously are too.

According to legend, the aforementioned Friesian freedom fighter Pier Gerlofs Donia and alleged relation of our very own Bob as in Geldorf, forced his captives to repeat this shibboleth to distinguish Friesians from the Germans.

So that’s what they mean by a shibbolith, its got nothing at all to do with fountains or licourice and more to do with chips. Just to make sure, I got my sis to look it up in wikepedia on her blackberry or blueberry whatever its called. Shibboleths have been used by different subcultures throughout the world, for example in America during the Battle of the Bulge (which by the size of the average American bottom they are still fighting) soldiers used their knowledge of baseball to determine if others were fellow Americans or German infiltrators in American uniforms.

During World War II, some United States soldiers in the Pacific used the word “lollapalooza” as a shibboleth as Japanese people often pronounce the letter L as R. Japanese spies would approach checkpoints posing as American or Filipino military personnel where a shibboleth such as “lollapalooza” would be used by the sentry, who, if the first two syllables come back as rorra, would open fire without waiting to hear the remainder. Poor Cilla Black wouldn’t have lasted long, would she. If I’d only been aware about shibboliths before I went for my foot massage, I would have known that my Japanese ninja turtle was an infiltrator and torturer by the simple fact that she pronounced very as velly. Well, it’s all double dutch to me and Lollapolooza and shibboleth still sound more like something you would buy in a sweet shop.

The thought dawned on me as we were making our seemingly endless way on the train how weird it must be to live in a totally flat place, a landscape without any creases like an ironed sheet. There were no hills on the distant horizon, not even a slight inclination or a hillock. The people of friesland, if they’d never travelled or seen photos of distant lands, or didn’t have a sky dish or a computer, wouldn’t have the faintest idea what a hillock was, would they? A conversation in a local Friesian pub or coffee shop therefore might go something like this.
Dirk, “What is a hillock Hans?”
Hans, “I think it must be English swear word for peasant.”

They wouldn’t have a clue what Julie Andrews was singing about in the ‘Sound of Music,’ when she warbled on about the hills or hillocks being alive. Neither would John Mayall be able to sing his old classic at the gig, ‘Life is just a slow train crawling up a hill,’ because the Friesians wouldn’t understand what he was going on about. They’d be able to identify with his ‘Bares Wires’ album however, as we were certainly passing a lot of those, as in pylons. We also passed a lot of black and white cows, but very few sheep I was curious to note and not a sign of a goat, although goats do tend to live on hills don’t they, in the form of hillbillies, although I fail to understand why they call them Beverly’s.

John Mayall was great  and The Rhythm Chiefs  were fantastic  and they brought the house down. Anyone who likes the blues should check out their website as they really are something else and are justifiably becoming very famous in Holland and soon to be in the rest of the world.

As we made our way back to Amsterdam on the train I was struck once again by the mononity of the flat landscape. Of course in England we are used to hills, especially in Scotland and Wales and we often make films and documentaries or write songs about them. There was that film with Hugh Grant for example, “The Englishman who went up a hill and came down a mountain,” which is about a Welsh village that is offended when English cartographers tell them that their mountain is only a hill. The villagers set out to change that, by raising their hill above the required 1,000 feet to qualify for the mountain label. But I suppose it could get quite boring living in Wales at times and building your own hills could be a useful hobby or way to pass the time. Maybe they could give a few hill building lessons to the Dutch? I would have thought the Welsh had enough hills and mountains to be honest, but then again, I suppose they have to keep them up so to speak in order to justify what has become the Welsh anthem, “They’ll be a welcome in the hillsides.” There was also that famous song by Donovan if you are old enough to remember, “First there was a mountain then there was no mountain then there was.” Mind you, it was written in the sixties and from the obvious confusion sounds like it might have been written in a Dutch coffee shop.

There are various specific names used to describe particular types of hill, peculiar to certain regions, These include: A Drumlin – an elongated whale-shaped hill or something you can find at the side of motorways and comes in a bucket, as in Kentucky fried Drumlin. A Butte – a northern sandwich you can have with bacon on it or an isolated hill with steep sides and a small flat top. A Tor, short for a member of a political party or a rock formation or band, found on a hilltop; And last but not least the Pingo – a mound of earth-covered ice found in the Artic or Antartica, frequented presumably by pingowins.

There is a theory that tall people live in flat countrys and that’s why they have long legs and short people live on mounains so they won’t topple over. The Dutch certainly live up to that theory as you will know if you’ve ever tried to buy a raincoat in Holland without it sweeping the floor, or mount a Dutch bike – and I do not mean that in the derogatory English sense of the word bike, as in a woman who sleeps around.

It suddenly struck me that Friesians wouldn’t be familiar with the expression, over the hill, either. Usually being over the hill refers to anyone over the age of 40. If you are over the hill, but still like playing team games and especially if you live in America, Cleveland OHH are looking for a few good hockey players. Their advert reads; Tired of the “Hack-Me Whack-Me” North America Hockey? Are you between the ages of 30 and 55? Want a good workout? One and a half hours for $20, (that’s right- 20 BIG ONES) and have fun with a good bunch of guys in a “no-hack” league?

Sounds good to me, although I fear at 59, I am just out of their age range, more’s the pity.

“We have ex Lumberjacks, California Golden Seals, ex Buffalo Sabres and numerous (older) guys from the Lethbride Broncos, Brandon Wheat Kings, Medicine Hat Tigers, Sudbury Wolves, London Knights, Bellingham Bulls and Peterborough Petes, just to name a few.”

What about Burlington Berties? Maybe I could sign up to those.

If like me you are over the hill, but still like a saucy read at bedtime, what about ordering yourself a copy of, “Over the Hill and Between the Sheets: Sex, Love and Lust in Middle Age,” A Treasury of geriatric erotica. It got a great review on the net.

“At Last! Winterdale Publishing’s Treasury of Geriatric Erotica is available for exclusive Internet purchasing. That’s right; the famous limited edition erotic book series that took the central Florida retirement community by storm is now available WORLD-WIDE! You can pick from any of the following scintillating titles!
“Granny Trannies” post-op elder action.
“Winnebago swingers” riding the free way of lust,
“Alzheimer’s Jezebel” she mates – and she forgets.

Is that a bit like she moves and charabangs by Ricky Martin?

During my further research into hills and hillocks as opposed to pills and pillocks, I came upon this little known album by Wayne Raney, who I didn’t realise as well as being a famous footballer was also a country and western singer.
His CD, “Songs of the Hills,” features such tender melodies as –
“Why don’t you haul off and love me”
“Pardon my whiskers”
“I love my little yo yo”

I wonder if Colleen knows about her new husbands hidden talents. Perhaps he wrote I love my little yo yo especially for her.

There are, as far as I can see, very few benefits to being over the hill, but there are some, for example –

“As you grow old, you lose interest in sex, your friends drift away and your children often ignore you. There are other advantages of course, but these are the outstanding ones.”

And on that happy note……… I’m off to listen to my “Rhythm Chiefs” CD, which is called “Ships of Wonder” and is available to purchase on the band’s website –


We had the Poz-Fem conference in Bristol this weekend, where once again I was able to benefit from the enjoyable and empowering experience of spending two days with the other twenty five brave and inspirational positive women who made up our group.

For other positive women and those who are unaware of our existence, Poz Fem UK is the only national network of women living with HIV. We are a network of regional coordinators who are linked to regional groups around England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

You can find out more about us and what we do by clicking on the Poz Fem link on the blog roll, where you can also download the report and vision paper produced by the group, which documents concerns and recommendations raised by members of Poz Fem UK on the basis of our personnel experiences and illustrates these with quotes from Poz Fem UK meetings, as well as ICW and Positively Women’s publications. We hope this report will serve as a useful advocacy tool for HIV positive women around the UK.

This report and vision paper was recently presented to Cherie Blair and at the risk of blowing my own trumpet, although as an activist I feel I am duty bound to blow it where and when I can (hopefully I don’t blow it in other ways, although it has been known!) and she made a very complimentary comment about the art work on the cover – which just happens to be one of my paintings.