Thursday, 29 April 2010

Not enough sleep

Salmon and leek tartlets
I'm tempted to write something course-related and academic, because let's face it I haven't been doing much else of note to write about. But what to choose? It's been a bit of a slog, cramming facts into my head that don't add up to much of a story, and a string of facts on a blog isn't very appealing to read.

The last few days have included a run through material about cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, nutritional aspects of diseases of the pancreas and liver, inflammatory bowel diseases (notably Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), coeliac disease and 'lifestyle diseases' (coronary heart disease, heart failure, hypertension and obesity). All very interesting, but nothing much jumps out at me as being bloggable. Maybe the fact that a liquid-only diet (containing all essential nutrients) taken under supervision for 4 weeks can induce remission during a flare-up of Crohn's disease?

Yesterday was set aside for working on the last piece of coursework for the time being, which is a presentation in a group of four (next week) and an individual essay about the combination of St John's Wort and Prozac. I had only allocated myself a day for the whole thing, including meeting my group and deciding how to do the presentation. I didn't quite manage it all yesterday, but I woke up early this morning and finished my essay.

This assignment is part of the Clinical Pharmacology module, in which we learn about all sorts of drugs relating to conditions that have a dietary component. The coursework subjects were allocated at random to the class. It's a pity that ours doesn't really touch on issues that relate to dietetics. Of course depression and its treatment will feature among dietetic patients, but there are no food-related issues in the treatment of depression either with Prozac or St John's Wort, other than depressed people probably having a reduced appetite and less interest in food.

Having started much too early this morning, I took some time out to do some therapeutic cooking. You can see the results at the top of this post - salmon and leek tartlets. Now I'm supposed to get going with revising Nutrition in the Community, which doesn't get me excited even on a good day. I think it will be wise to have a nap and start afresh this afternoon.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Surprising News!

Hello, Lola II here. Great news - Hollywood has been in touch and bought the film rights to A Day at the Funfair !! (a Mr M production)

Sunday, 25 April 2010


View of the river Leam from the pump room gardens footbridge
It is very difficult to be motivated about revision. It demands a discipline that I find difficult to summon up, and is a battle between two halves of my brain. At the moment, this side is winning:
"This is boring. You don't really care about how nutrition affects fertility, do you? You could see if anyone has emailed you in the last 10 minutes. Or see if there's a new blog post to read. Is there any news about the volcanic ash? What about some music? Better write down that household thing you just remembered. Is it time for a cup of tea? Oh good, the phone's ringing."
As the pressure mounts and the exams loom, the other side starts to dominate:
"No, don't get up, you need to finish this topic before you can go into the kitchen. No you'd better not just have a snack, just a drink, it's lunchtime in an hour. Go and sit down again. Why not unplug the internet completely, then there won't be any email or blog distractions? You can have a bounce on the trampoline when you've finished these notes."
The weather outside has been glorious for the past few days, and I've managed to get outside for about half an hour a day to enjoy it. Even though it's still three weeks to the start of the exams, one of those weeks is taken up with attending lectures, and fourteen days to prepare for five exams and complete one more bit of coursework just doesn't seem enough.

At the same time I'm gradually accumulating a memorised list of foods, portion sizes, energy and protein content. So far I've committed about 30 foods to memory, with another 20 or so to go. It's a strange activity, but I think it will pay off in the long run, not just in the test we are being given at the start of May.

And here's a taste of other home news. Booking our Eurostar tickets for the trip to Bruges went slightly wrong when the website lied to me and took my payment twice - no response so far from their 'Customer Service'. The dishwasher has been declared 'not economic to repair', and the towel radiator that our cowboy plumbers installed is leaking at both valves. I have to fill in a Criminal Records Bureau disclosure form for my research project, and a 24-page application for next year's NHS Bursary which pays my tuition fees at university. For the next five weeks, it's about endurance and stamina.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

We're everywhere!

Hello, Lola II here. Here are some shots from my recent long weekend in Valencia.


lola's locks

Okay, so maybe this is a bit of a cheat...

The magnetic lady!And who's this??

La Mujer Magnetica!

Lola, The Magnetic Lady!!!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Overdoing it

Dark figures on the dancefloor
The planned six-day revision week with weekends on Tuesdays has already been blown away by an evening out on Friday night, when a badminton friend suggested we go to The Assembly for their regular 60s/70s/80s dance night.

This wonderful local music venue has been restored to resemble its original 1920's art deco look, and reopened in 2008 after being a bingo hall for some years. It's a brilliant place and we've been to gigs there a couple of times, but now the quality of the place has been recognised with a national award for best live music venue in the country. It beat off such competition as the O2 arena and the Shepherd's Bush Empire. which are very well-known establishments in much more affluent and well-populated communities, i.e. London.

The doors didn't open until 9 p.m. so we knew it was going to be a late night, but hadn't counted on the quality of the show. Unlike your usual Christmas or wedding disco, these guys knew what they were doing, and we danced our feet off (literally - Mr A could hardly walk home). We really enjoyed ourselves, and I found myself wondering if we couldn't do it on a more regular basis. At only £5 to get in it's very reasonable, and better exercise than my badminton. Drink prices are extortionate of course, but we can do without the alcohol.

The main disadvantage is the after-effects - we didn't get to bed until 2 a.m and I pretty much missed Saturday. I got up late, then had to make a trip into town to investigate the possibilities for mending the dishwasher, which has stopped filling with water. [Every so often I think about investigating the possibilities for fixing the oven, which still works in conventional oven mode, but doesn't heat up in fan oven mode. One day...] Once I had been to the dishwasher shop, and got a bit of food in, and cooked up some soup for the freezer, I had to go to bed again.

Our opportunity to re-live the experience came just two days later: on Sunday our favourite ex-landlord, Smurf, held his 40th birthday party at the Assembly. We weren't sure whether to go - after all, we're just people that lived next door to his old place of work, not real friends. But we did go, along with plenty of other neighbours. After Friday's night's excesses we definitely planned just to stay for an hour, and definitely get home before 10 p.m. Definitely.

To start with, Mr A and I sat awkwardly in a corner, pointing out people to one another with comments like "That tall man who drinks at the Cricketers, is that his wife?" and "He was here on Friday - do you know his name?" We weren't sure if this was more like a birthday party in a big venue so we should talk to strangers and introduce ourselves, or if it was more like a gig put on by an acquaintance, in which case we should just smile and talk to people we know.

Then there were bands - the first was 'Easy Money', a double act who used to play at the Cricketers on Sunday afternoons, plus guest drummer. The second was barman Gaz's band, previously 'Akeal', now renamed 'International Jetset' for better mass appeal. Then there was a 'one night only' get-together of disbanded group 'Broken Dolls', whose tour manager used to be Smurf. After that there was general music for dancing, although the majority of guests disappeared to the bar and the smoking area. I'd say that my second glass of wine was the main reason that we found ourselves out on the otherwise deserted dance floor.

We definitely got home before midnight. I'm pretty sure we did.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Small movie for Lola II

Cedar in Jephson Gardens
My first Tuesday weekend was very productive, and included some useful work in the garden cleaning out ivy, a bit of weeding and sweeping up. I've been fitting in a short walk every day, and today got started on another couple of bits of coursework.

The first involves memorising a list of ingredients and cooked dishes, for which I have to remember the portion size and the protein, carbohydrate and energy content. So far I've got all the ingredient portion sizes memorised, the protein's nearly there and I'm working on the carbs. I'll get round to the dishes once those are in my head.

The other coursework is for a presentation and essay about Prozac and St John's Wort for the Clinical Pharmacology module. I've spent this afternoon staring into space, and making this small film for Lola II, so you can infer that Pharmacology is not that interesting.

I don't have anything else to say at all. Mr A is slightly unhappy because the tooth that was giving him trouble has been removed, and while this solves all the root canal and pain problems, he doesn't like the idea of having one tooth fewer than the day before. And he's cross that he didn't take action sooner, which might have saved the tooth. But he's fine really.

So that's it for now.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Tuesday is the new weekend

I have done nothing since returning from family taxi duty except work, although I am trying to fit in a little walking every day. I had an appointment with the nurse one day, a delightful trip to the vegetable shop, a walk out along the river and back along the canal with Mr A when the weather was lovely, and the car had to go to have its headlight fixed today, so I walked home after dropping it off and then out again to pick it up. Horrid VW, they charge so much for parts, and don't sell the lens that's actually broken, it has to be the whole headlamp unit. And the garage stung me for an extra £12 for bulbs which they said they couldn't get out of the old unit. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth, I have to say.

Today I think I have finished Mr Samuels, who is an old git with heart problems, central obesity and probably type 2 diabetes. Spending four days on this bit of coursework brings with it an unhealthy loathing for the patient in question, especially since he is imaginary, so he won't answer any questions. But I think he's done now. Time to get on to the next assignment.

Except that I've decided to make Tuesday my new weekend. It isn't a great idea to work six days per week, but it's got to be done for the next six weeks. If I'm going to have a day off I might as well make it when nobody else does, so it will be quiet if I go out somewhere nice. It's also a Tuesday so that I can have a lie in after badminton on Monday night without feeling guilty.

There's really nothing else to report, and most likely nothing much happening until June. Mr A and I are planning a short break in Bruges when the exams are over, but that seems impossibly far off from my position at the desk today. In a couple of years' time, when I don't have exams in May, I'll be able to enjoy the spring weather outside, and the glorious yellow of our forsythia, which is blooming unnoticed in the garden.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

I am an Angel

X-ray of the shoulder
Poor mumsy: on the last day of her holiday in the States, she managed to fall over and hurt her shoulder seriously enough to warrant a trip to the Emergency Room and a postponement of her journey home. All is well - a fracture of the humerus was diagnosed, she has a sling to support the arm, but every now and then a sudden movement will bring on a wave of pain that stops her dead in her tracks.

We had a little scuffle over how she would get home - Lola II volunteered to take time off work or suggested a taxi, dad said he would meet her and they would go home on the underground, but I bravely fought them off and travelled down to Heathrow to pick her up and drive her home. It's not a competition, but mum definitely loves me the most.

Alf at workThat's quite a lot of excitement for one day, but there is more. Mr A is slightly panicky, finishing an Open University maths assignment that is due in tomorrow. Alf arrived this morning to install and paint the door he has built for us. Just in time, too - as I was unlocking the old door so it could be replaced, one of the locks fell off completely. Mr A's van needs some work done so it will pass its MOT test, and one of the headlight lenses on my car has been cracked for quite a while, and is now broken (we suspect with the help of some vandal). It's booked in to be replaced on Monday.

Meanwhile I'm in London, and with both parents asleep I have the run of the house. I may make chicken soup. Lola II is due to visit later on, but I not only brought mum back from the airport, I also adjusted the clocks in mum and dad's car to read the correct time, AND changed the readout back to mph after dad had accidentally changed it to kph and couldn't change it back. Not that it's a competition or anything.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Weekend featuring Meccano

Raspberries, cream and meringue
Lola II's visit has passed in a whirlwind of activity, featuring high levels of food intake, botanical excitement and DVD-watching. She and Mr M arrived on Saturday, bringing gifts of flowers, wine, chocolate, pyjamas and an enormous raspberry pavlova. It has taken four of us more than two days to eat the pavlova, and the portion sizes were staggering. Delicious, though.

Lola II also brought the Meccano that dad acquired over 60 years ago, which I enjoyed playing with more than 30 years ago. All four of us spent some time on Saturday night constructing our choice of model. Mr A was preoccupied with studying (he has a deadline tomorrow), so his truck remained unfinished, but Lola II made a 'girocopter', I constructed a fairground roundabout, and Mr M created a 'swing boat'. You would have been able to see the results in a hilarious video, but for some reason Blogger didn't like it. So just these pictures, then:

Roundabout, girocopter and line of toys waiting for rides
On Sunday we explored the world of horticulture. Lola II's new house has small front and back gardens, and Mr M is keen to populate this urban jungle with some lovely plants. Over the last four months of heavy duty unrelenting school work, I have killed most of my indoor plant friends, including several leaves of the aspidistra, which I thought would survive anything up to and including a nuclear holocaust. Unfortunately, the garden centre we chose didn't stock indoor plants, but Lola II and Mr M came away with a haul of outdoor goodies, while I sat in the car because loitering outside in the wind was much too cold.

There was more plant-based excitement after lunch, with a walk guided by a leaflet containing fifteen walks highlighting the Trees of the Jephson Gardens. We did walk 1, particularly admiring the Caucasian Wingnut, the Paper-bark Maple, the Cedar of Lebanon and the Monterey Pine. Then we had a hot chocolate. The other fourteen walks will have to wait for future visitors to Lola Towers.

What else? Well, I provided noodle soup on Saturday night, we watched Dinner Rush, Mr A did a great roast lamb on Sunday with Yorkshire Puddings by yours truly, we watched Big Night, and on Monday we watched an episode of Jeeves and Wooster and had a small lunch in the pub. I estimated Mr M's carbohydrate intake at each opportunity, and gradually became more accurate through the weekend, which is very handy for my course.

These few days off have been very refreshing, to the extent that I'm almost ready to go back to work. Just a few jobs today, and I think it will be coursework for the rest of the week, and then revision: just under six weeks to my first exam.

Zebedee and Brian enjoying the Meccano roundabout ride

Friday, 2 April 2010

Day trip to Oxford

I had a mini-holiday this week, because now that term has ended I can afford to take a little time off for myself.

Tall building behind Oxford station signThe main reason for the trip was to go to the Oxford University Press Bookshop. As a member of the Biosciences Panel for OUP, I have accrued some book credits by doing tasks such as reviewing books, commenting on potential designs for book covers and circulating notices at the university. I'm not entirely sure how much I have to spend, but it could be £150. Unfortunately, none of my key textbooks is published by OUP, and browsing the online catalogue is fairly unsatisfactory - I want to pick up a book, browse a few pages, see how it reads. Hence the trip to Oxford, which is only 40 minutes away by train.

Apart from the bookshop, my advance research centred around where I would eat lunch. Our very favourite tiny Japanese restaurant in Oxford was closed for Easter! I seriously considered putting off the trip until it re-opened, but I thought it would probably disrupt my revision if I waited until later in the month. My other advance research was around what might be on at the cinema - not that we don't have cinemas here in Leamington, but I rightly thought I might get tired of shopping very quickly indeed, and I didn't feel like taking in any culture after the brain-strain of such a hard term at university. In the event, neither lunch nor cinema turned out as planned.

The first stop I made on arrival was a handy Oriental supermarket, very near the station. I can't resist. Impulse purchase this time: four different sorts of seaweed snacks.

Front view of OUP bookshopMoving on to the bookshop, I spent a happy hour or more browsing the stock, and now I have a list of possibilities for my book credits. This left me with only a little time before the cinema - not enough to have a leisurely lunch - so I decided to have a snack and eat properly later, after the film. Unfortunately, I hadn't taken account of school holidays, and the cinema was besieged with under-10s. I balked at the thought of having my seat back kicked for 90 minutes, but after my snack, I wasn't ready for the leisurely lunch I'd planned. So I bought a chocolate éclair as a treat dessert and tried to go shopping instead.

Shop escalatorWhat can I say? I failed. I really don't like shopping. I almost bought a coat - it was reduced in price because of a split seam (which I could have repaired without any difficulty), and it probably fitted OK. I just lost confidence at the last minute and couldn't go through with it. After that I sat in the department store café with a cup of tea, reading the magazines I'd brought to read on the train, and texting Lola II about how I can't do clothes shopping without remedial shopping support, and whether she wants a haircut in Leamington when she visits.

Yes, the great news is that Lola II will be visiting for a couple of days, which guarantees some good times, extensive use of catchphrases, and heavy focus on good food.

Anyway, that pretty much brought my day trip to an end, and I walked back to the station with my Japanese snacks and a mixed sense of freedom at not having to do any work for a day, and despair at my inability to buy a coat, again. It doesn't help that I need to lose a good deal of weight to fit back into the clothes that I have - the thought of replacing my wardrobe with larger sizes fills me with horror. So perhaps it was a good thing that the leisurely lunch was replaced with a snack, even if it did come with a chocolate éclair.

Sign at Leamington Spa railway station