Ankles, Knees, Brain and Healthline

July 31, 2016 at 4:07 pm | Posted in arthrits, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 6 Comments
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First of all thank you to Healthline for selecting my blog as one of the best arthritis blogs of 2016, and congrats to my online (and in Carla‘s case actually met in person) friends who also achieved one. Good to see so many old friends listed, as well as Carla, Wren,  Cathy, Andrew, Amanda, Kelly and ‘Warm Socks’ also feature, and there are other blogs on there that I’m not familiar with and should take the time to get to know!

Now on to the body parts! My last post, a couple of weeks ago, stated that my knee was messing around again. Well I suspect there’s a little bit more permanent damage done each time I have a flare, and that knee has a lot of flares, but now it’s not not bad at all. Most of the time I’m having no problem – so long as I don’t walk into the printer table and bruise  the precise spot that I flare in, as I did last week!

Then last weekend my ankle suddenly went ‘weird’. I can’t think of a better way to describe it. It hurt in the night and when i got up in the morning it was really painful. There was a big swelling but not really over the ankle, rather at the front of the leg above the foot, but absolutely no heat. I used my Physicool ice bandage anyway and that helped. It stayed painful and difficult to walk on for two or three days and then it was magically better. I really don’t know what that was about or if it was RA or not – I just hope it doesn’t come back.

As to the brain, such as it is, it has been subjected to a lot of migraines lately, and although I have tablets that, if I take them in time, get rid of the head pain, I’m still left feeling unwell. Work is insanely busy at the moment, which is contributing to stress which in turn is probably contributing to migraines – a bit of a vicious circle as if I have to take time off for migraines then work gets even more hectic!

However, yesterday, for the first time in a couple of weeks, I actually felt well, normal and full of energy – hence finally getting round to post! I’m not QUITE so full of energy today but not bad. I think getting outside in the sunshine made a big difference! We went for a nice long walk along the seafront at Cromer on Friday evening and then yesterday morning I did some gardening and washed my car with hubby (for which read watched and occasionally waved a shammy over the car while hubby did the hard work) – thank you dear!

I’m just hoping this energy boost will last me through the next hectic week – because next Saturday I’m going to need to work or I’ll never fit everything in!

Two steps forward, one step back…

July 12, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 10 Comments
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Well, yes, the knee flare was completely over … for a few days. I was just getting back into the swing of things, gradually building back up the length of my lunchtime walks from a few hundred yards to half a mile, to three-quarters of a mile … thinking I’d soon be back to the mile-and half … and then I woke up in the middle of last Friday night thinking ‘Ouch!’ I’m telling myself it’s not really flaring this time … I haven’t decided yet whether I’m lying to myself.

I certainly don’t want another dose of prednisolone just yet… if they’d even give me one, which I doubt. Having said I never have side effects, Carla happened to mention that sleeplessness and irritability are major side effects of pred, and guess what… I had a really sleepless and irritable week while I was on it – I just failed to attribute it to the pred. Now it all makes sense. And OMG, the night sweats!! I had no idea that was a side effect and I get hot flushes anyway so I just thought, ‘Coo, bad hot flushes, much worse than usual!’ I was slightly worried that this was more than hot flushes as the ‘sweats’ part was a whole lot more dramatic …again, I hadn’t realised this is a common side effect of the pred.

Now I’m still ALL for the steroids – the side effects, now I realise  that’s what they were, were horrible, but the flare was much, much worse. The side effects I personally experienced were definitely the lesser of two evils and the pred let me carry on with my life and work, which I couldn’t have done without it. However, having said that, it does make the thought of another does quite unappealing if it can be avoided.

This time round the knee’s not hot, it’s not especially swollen and it’s not actually madly painful … it’s stiff but bendable, so really quite different to the definite flare I recently experienced.

Remember those knee-strengthening exercises I was doing, so that if I flared again I would have strength in the surrounding muscles and hopefully come out of it faster? No? Well you wouldn’t because I forgot to post about them. Unfortunately I have also forgotten to do them for the last few months, which is a pity really because I suspect that’s what the problem is now. As a horribly unfit person, having a bit over a week practically off my feet  means I do need to build up those muscles etc. again and I think the minor pain and stiffness I’m experiencing is probably all about that.

So, spend goodness knows how long fighting for a doc appointment, to be told, if I’m lucky, that they’ll refer me to physio, which will take six weeks minimum, by which time I hope I’ll have recovered anyway, or just carry on and hope? I’m going for the latter at the moment. Wish me luck!

Knee flare over!

July 6, 2016 at 8:56 pm | Posted in arthrits, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 9 Comments
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Hurrah – I finished my week’s worth of prednisolone last night and I’m glad to say the knee is better! Oh … and the helpline phoned me back … on Monday … so five days after I phoned them. Yeah, like I said, they really are NOT for emergencies! I didn’t actually get to speak to her as she phoned on the home number even though I’d requested they try me at work. ‘If you didn’t manage to speak to the doctor or need some advice, do call us back.’ I did see the doctor and didn’t need advice, so I haven’t called back.

I’m still getting a bit of pain in that knee on and off, but then I usually do; I’ve got full ‘bendability’ in it and most of the time it’s not hurting, so I’m quite content … although I do feel as though I’ve just run a marathon, having been cheering on Andy Murray as I watched him (on the telly) fighting his way to the semifinals at Wimbledon!

The frustrations of not having a relationship with your doctor

June 29, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 7 Comments
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Thanks to the state of the NHS today (which, if you read this blog often you will know I harp on about endlessly) it is simply not possible to have a relationship with your GP these days (unless you’re incredibly lucky or live on some tiny island that actually has its own GP or something!) My GP practice has around 10 GPs plus locums. It’s pot luck who you get to speak to when you call and they phone you back, and then if they decide you should be seen you won’t see the person you spoke to that morning.

It also seems that they don’t have much of a relationship with the hospital and seem to have some sort of mythic belief in the power of the rheumatology helpline, as I’ve also mentioned before.

The myth

The patient calls the GP because they have an RA flare. This is a shocking waste of the GP’s time because these lucky, .lucky patients have an RA helpline that they can call and that will solve all their problems. They can speak to a lovely nurse* straight away and the nurse will wave her magic wand, waggle her magic pixie ears and solve the patient’s problem.

* Actually that’s the only true bit – the one we have at the moment IS a lovely nurse!

The facts

The lovely nurse, or even a secretary or receptionist, never EVER answers the helpline. It is an answerphone. That’s the way it’s set up. It’s not an answerphone on odd occasions when they’re exceptionally busy, it’s ALWAYS an answerphone. The message on the helpline says something like: ‘If you’re calling about a non-RA related problem, please call your GP. If you’re calling to change an appointment, please call reception. If you’re calling about an urgent need, please call your GP. If you’re calling to buy fish, please contact your fish monger. If you’re calling to moan about Brexit, please contact your MP. If you’re calling because you’re a moron, voted ‘Leave’ and can’t work out what a helpline is for, please call someone else and bother them. Now, if you really, really want to leave a message, we suppose you can. Give us your hospital number and name and telephone number and we’ll try to call you back in 24 hours – but no promises mind.’

I don’t know about you (actually I probably do, if you have RA) but I consider a flare pretty urgent.

While in an ideal world I would sit back on a couch, watch the telly and let my servants feed me grapes while I rested my knee and waited to see if it would clear up on its own, I do actually have a life (and no servants, and hubby is great but also has a life, and the cat just ain’t interested in helping), so I can’t just sit about and rest it. On that basis I can’t wait potentially 48 hours or more for the helpline to phone, and the nurse say, ‘Call your GP and get some prednisolone’ because then I can’t call the GP until Monday  as 48 hours is Friday morning and by the time I’ve heard back from the helpline the GP has run out of appointments. By that time I will have been flaring for over a week!

What Polly did Next

So … I went to the appointment grudgingly granted me by the grumpy GP. (Ooh, nice alteration that penguin!) Fortunately it’s with a much more pleasant locum GP than the one I spoke to on the phone. Unfortunately of course she doesn’t know me from Adam (or strictly speaking, as a doctor, she can probably spot I’m not Adam from the wobbly bits, so I should say she doesn’t know me from Eve). This means that she doesn’t know if I’m a moron or not, and therefore has to assume I am, as we always have to cater for the lowest common denominator.

‘How can I help you?’

‘I’m having an RA flare in my knees, as usually particularly in my left knee. It’s stiff, not very flexible and painful at times.’

‘Have you called the helpline, because really -‘


‘Oh, and what did they say?’

‘I said I’d called them, not that I’d spoken to them!’ I then explained, gently, ’cause she was a locum and therefore wouldn’t necessarily know any better, the realities of the helpline. (I didn’t mention Brexit or fish mongers.)

‘Hmm, you had a blood test only yesterday and your bloods were hardly elevated at all.’

‘They never are.’ The mere fact that my bloods are even a smidge elevated is a pretty strong indication of a flare with me. Sometimes I flare and there’es no indication whatsoever in the bloods. Now this is where a doctor relationship would come in handy. If she’d actually known me, known that I’ve had RA for nearly ten years, known that I’ve had umpteen flares in my left knee, known that blood tests are not a helpful indicator with me, known that I have a brain, we could have skipped the pointless bits, more of which are coming up.

‘Ah, well let’s have a look.’ Prod, poke.


‘Did that hurt when I pressed there?’

‘No, I just thought I’d make screamy gurgling noises for fun.’ (Nope, I didn’t really say that either, I just said yes.)

‘Can you bend it?’

‘This much.’ Demonstrated a very slight bend.

‘Ah. Have you tried pain killers… like paracetamol?’

I’m afraid I just looked at her and laughed, finally managing to choke out a ‘yes’, followed by ‘interspersed with ibuprofen.’ She looked amazed that I’d been able to think of painkillers all by myself.

‘Well I’ll prescribe a course of steroids. Now if they don’t work, we’ll have to consider other possibilities like osteoarthritis, as they should work for RA.’

‘Well, they’ve worked every other time I’ve had them, so touch wood that they will this time too.’

‘Oh … right.’ Look of mild astonishment, either that I’d had them before (it’s in the notes dear) or that I actually knew that I’d had them before, who knows.

So I thanked her very nicely, ’cause I’m a well brung-up penguin … and I might run into her again, and off I went to the chemist to get my steroids.

Again, after nearly ten years of RA, I think I recognise an RA flare when I see one … I really hope I’m not proved wrong and that the steroids do work again this time and it doesn’t turn out to be OA. That would be sooooo embarrassing after this post!

Wow – where did that come from?

June 27, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 3 Comments
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I haven’t posted for a while because I haven’t really had much to post about – health-wise I’ve been good. I’ve been a bit stiff in the mornings for the last few days, but nothing to write home (or indeed blog) about. Then today I woke up stiff and tired, having had a migraine try to start in the night (successfully stopped with drugs!) I really couldn’t wake up for an hour or so this morning – not literally, I got up, had breakfast, went to work, but felt really brain fuggy. (Can’t blame the methotrexate as I take it Monday evenings and it’s Monday morning!)

Then when I got up to go to lunch, or rather tried to, I started to stand up and ended up collapsed back in my chair. No dramatic pain or anything – I was just so all-over stiff that joints weren’t doing what they were supposed to do! So after sitting a minute or two and flexing various bits (luckily on my own in the office so no one to see how weird I looked) I managed to get up and go for a short walk. I’ve been trying to walk about 1.5 miles at lunchtime but today I didn’t make 0.5 miles! The stiffness did mostly ware off but I was left with significant pain in the good ol’ left knee, where I usually get a flare if I’m going to have one. I’m really hoping I’m not!

Perhaps it’s the stress of ‘Brexit’ – the ‘Wow – where did that come from?’ title could also apply to that and it seems that partially to blame (apart from racists, stupid people and perhaps a handful of people with genuine concerns) may be the polls (as opposed to the Poles, which a lot of East Anglia would like to blame, I’m sad to say). The polls kept saying we’d vote to stay, so people decided that it wouldn’t matter if they had a ‘protest vote’. ‘Let’s vote leave, just so the government can see we’re annoyed with them – we’ll end up staying anyway.’ I’ve actually heard people say it, and then there’s this http://article in the Independent. No doubt people like this thought they were being terribly clever and original, but you get enough people doing the same thing (not that original after all guys) and guess what, we end up voting Leave.

Never mind the embarrassment of waggling stiff limbs about randomly in front of people, I feel embarrassed to be English at the moment! (I would say British but the Scots voted to stay!)

Hopefully the stiffness and knee pain will be a short-term issue. Alas, the same cannot be said for the state of Britain!

The Great Gluten Free Experiment

March 18, 2016 at 6:44 pm | Posted in joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 16 Comments
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So, I’ve finally jumped on the band wagon and I’m trying out gluten free. At first I thought, ‘Oh, it’s another fad like the Atkins diet, it’ll soon fade away, just as that did’ – and yes, before I get all the cries of outrage in the comments, I know some people still use it and find it good; I also know much of the ‘science’ behind it was debunked and that, like all fads, there are some people who find it useful but a lot of people just wanted to try out the latest thing, found it didn’t work for them, and it’s quietly disappeared out of the press etc.

I thought the same would happen with gluten free, even though a lot of people whose opinions I respect were trying it out and finding it useful. The tipping point was a couple of extra people I respect really swearing by it and a partial reading of Gut by Giulia Enders, a highly entertaining read (although only in small doses, which is why I’ve not finished it yet) about ‘the body’s most underrated organ’ – yes, it’s more than one organ but we’ll forgive her that as a translation error; the original is in German. She’s a ‘real scientist’ and points out the vital difference between gluten allergy and celiac disease (which are not the same thing, thanks Kate for pointing that out!), which I know I haven’t got, and gluten intolerance, which perhaps I have. She lists the possible symptoms for gluten intolerance: ‘digestive problems’, flatulence, headaches and painful joints. Without going into unnecessary detail, let’s just say I read that and thought ‘box ticked’ about everything there! So I ummed and urred about whether to give it a try and then put lots of unnecessary obstacles in my own way, because I didn’t really want to, and I especially didn’t want to find I actually had gluten intolerance. What?! No more cakes (except brownies of courses – everywhere loves to proudly advertise their gluten free brownies – not  a special effort; the basic brownie recipe has no flour in it!) Also no more bread, crackers, matzo? YIKES!

Then I read what Saint Giulia had to say a bit more carefully. ‘Gluten sensitivity […] is not a sentence to a life of gluten avoidance.’ HURRAH! So I got some excellent advice on what was available from my gluten-free aunt, and gave it a trial run last week. The trial run involved cutting out my beloved daily breakfast bran flakes (yes, I know I’m odd but I actually LOVE bran flakes) and eating as normal apart from that, but noting what foods I normally eat did have gluten in so I could find alternatives and cut them out. (While my aunt’s gluten free breakfast sounded amazing, you’d have to be retired to have time to prepare it!) So breakfast is now simply a gluten-free cereal, nowhere near as tasty as bran flakes IMO but not bad. I hardly ever eat bread anyway although I do enjoy it, so for the gluten free experiment I’m just not eating bread – easy. Same applies to matzo although I normally eat them a tad more often than bread. I’ve replaced noodles with rice noodles (which will take a bit of getting used to on the cooking front – a big, wobbly gelatinous mass for dinner last night. (‘And that was just hubby,’ says hubby!) I’ve replaced our standard (oh God, we’ve gone middle aged and have a standard dinner every week) southern fried chicken, with a non-bread-crumb coated, but just as easy to sling in the oven, chicken thing. Where we used to sometimes have jacket potato with fish cake, which I always thought was a bit of a potato overdose anyway, I will now have jacket potato with tuna; hubby can still have his potato overdose. And finally, pasta bake – happily there is a gluten free pasta made with rice flour – it’s a bit odd but once you throw all the other pasta bake ingredients at it, it’s fine.

So now I’ve been gluten fully gluten free for all of four days – obviously no startling effects yet but I have seen some effects which may or may not be related.

So far no big difference as far as the joint pain goes, and I had a migraine last night so I’m thinking the headaches haven’t dramatically improved yet either (although maybe migraines don’t count as they’re not ordinary headaches), but the stomach-related stuff, again without going into unpleasant detail, is definitely improved. It’s not perfect but there’s a clear improvement. Whether it’s related or not I wouldn’t like to say just yet, but it’s improved.

And another thing that’s improved is not mentioned as a possible symptom of gluten intolerance, although it is listed as a possible intolerance symptom for other things. I’ve suffered from really awful catarrh (post nasal drip) for years and years, and that has dramatically improved too. Coincidence? Perhaps. We’ll have to wait and see.

And the great thing is that if it does make a difference, I don’t have to avoid all those nice gluteny things for ever; I just have to be careful and sparing … and probably stay off those bran flakes!

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.


Really hoping to get a full day’s work in

January 26, 2016 at 3:13 pm | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 3 Comments
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Well the knee is certainly a whole lot better and I’m now tapering off the steroids – I ended up with 11 days on 40 mg and then a taper down to nothing. The bad news is, not surprisingly, it’s not 100% better yet, and so far I haven’t managed a full day’s work since this started. Fortunately (not from a financial standpoint, but otherwise) we’re not that busy right now. I’m not too worried as that’s often the case in January and there are things simmering away that should come in over the next few months, and it does mean that if I just can’t manage a full day then so be it. At least the boss can’t get cross with me! (Having said that, I’m probably my own harshest critic, so I guess I can get cross with me!)

On top of the whole knee thing, yesterday I had what was pretty much certainly a full-blown methotrexate-related stomach upset, so I’m very glad now that I’m going on the injected stuff in a couple of weeks! Feeling OK today, if a little tired, but I was a complete wreck for a while last night – thank heavens for Imodium is all I can say!

Still, even if I don’t last all day today at work, I’m confident that I’ll be doing so by the end of the week, so things are on the up! I hope things are going well for all of you too.

The bit at the end of a flare that I always forget about!

January 22, 2016 at 9:45 am | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | Leave a comment
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Yay – the swelling has pretty much all gone and so has the inflammation – I have pretty much full ‘bendability’ back in my left knee – woohoo … but yes, I’m still being careful! Of course if you have an injury, swelling and inflammation happens for a reason – to take more blood to the area to repair the injury, and to stop you moving it in ways that are going to cause the injury to worsen. Now in RA, given that it’s those helpful wee blood-cells that are actually doing the attacking and causing the injury, it kind of confuses things a bit, but nevertheless the swelling DOES stop you moving the joint in ways that are likely to cause more injury … and when the swelling’s gone, so is that warning and protecting system. And one thing hasn’t gone yet … the pain! Luckily the pain isn’t there all the time for me, which is great – I’m very, VERY glad about that – but it does mean that while I’m sitting at my desk pain-free and want to leap up and get a cup of coffee, it’s rather important to remember not to leap unless I want to end up an embarrassing heap on the floor!

It’s not just chronic disease – it’s just that we have to put up with it more often!

March 24, 2015 at 11:49 am | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me | 1 Comment
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I was chatting in the kitchen at work today with a lass who works in the same building. She had an accident at the weekend and is hobbling around on crutches. As an active, sporty person she’s feeling very frustrated – who wouldn’t be – but I was slightly amused (in a sympathetic way of course) at her frustration with losing her independence. I offered to carry her coffee down the corridor for her and she said no, she’d manage. ‘I hate being a burden’ she said, ‘I’m normally such an independent person and everyone’s being so kind and helpful and I’m having to rely on lifts and things for everything, and of course I’m grateful but  I HATE IT!’ I do so know the feeling – although I’m incredibly lucky with my RA that it comes and goes so must of the time I can remain independent, but when I can’t that continuous feeling of pressure (entirely internal, not from the people around me) to show gratitude, and that feeling of being a burden is just horrible! I don’t think I can explain that feeling to anyone who hasn’t experienced it – but I know many of you reading this will have experienced it too!

Then she said, ‘And everyone’s got an opinion! “Oh, you’ll have to stop doing that now this has happened” and “If you’d been wearing stronger body protection …” and “You shouldn’t have gone out on a day like that” and “If only you’d thought to do this first …”‘ In fact it was one of those unavoidable things – an ‘act of god’ if you like – something spooked her horse and she came off it. It happens. She wears body protection, she was in a lesson and it wasn’t that bad a day or the teacher (and she herself) would have cancelled. But yes, everybody has an opinion!

‘Oh, eat a spoonful of honey a day and your arthritis will disappear’ – ‘Oh, if you lost  weight you’d have no arthritis problems’ – ‘Oh, my mother took a whisky every night and lived till she was 122 without any arthritis symptoms, maybe you should try that’ … Doesn’t that sound familiar? The being a burden thing and the everyone has an opinion thing are two things that I think bloggers on RA and chronic disease blog out rather frequently, but it turns out it’s not just ‘us’.

But at least horse lady will get a full recovery (or I certainly hope so) and no doubt ‘look back on this and laugh’ whereas we folk with chronic disease are a bit more stuck with it! Nevertheless, in true Pollyanna fashion, I’m still grateful (and without that burdensome feeling!) for the fact that my disease is mild and for all the things I can still do … and now I can add to that the fact that I’m very unlikely to be thrown off a spooked horse anytime soon, since I’m very unlikely to be on one!


To flare or not to flare – that is the question

March 17, 2015 at 3:01 pm | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 9 Comments
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I woke up yesterday morning with really bad pain in my hip/lower back, but by lunchtime it had passed off, so I had a lunchtime walk yesterday as usual, and very pleasant it was too, until about half-way round, when I got a very sharp pain in the side of my foot, just behind the little toe. (Same leg as the hip pain.) By the time I got back to work the pain was coming in short, sharp bursts lasting up to about 10 seconds and then was fine in between … but in between wasn’t very long! It was happening at least twice a minute. I took paracetamol and, three hours later, ibuprofen, but to no avail. We had to go shopping that night and I limped around the supermarket and then asked hubby to drive home as I was in too much pain. It wasn’t the worst pain I’d ever experienced but it was BAD. My foot just in that area was bright red and swollen, so that sounds like RA, but the odd coming and going of it doesn’t seem quite right. I THINK it was RA and I’m just a weird patient!

Anyway, of course being Monday last night was m-m-m-methotrexate night. I went to bed still in a LOT of pain, and woke up in the middle of the night thinking, ‘OOOH, my foot hurts’ and then again, some time later in the middle of the night, I think around 3:30, thinking ‘OOOH, my foot DOESN’T HURT!’ And it hasn’t hurt since. I have no idea what’s going on or why, but MAYBE it was lucky that that happened on a Monday and the methotrexate kicked in. I don’t think it’s supposed to work like that though, is it? It’s supposed to be a slow build-up, not a week by week thing. Perhaps it was just a short, sharp flare-ette and just finished then. Perhaps it wasn’t RA at all. They mystery of what is and isn’t RA is certainly … mysterious …

That reminds me of the time a few weeks ago when I was getting sharp pains and bad headaches that felt like they were on the outside of my skull. Not the first time this has happened, you may recall. Oh dear, I thought, I hope this isn’t giant cell arteritis – I think it’s that sort of symptom … and then I realised I was wearing a hair-slide that was being pushed into my head by my transcription headphones! Much relieved that I worked this out by myself and didn’t bother the poor, overworked GP with it!

Anyway, the good news is that the answer seems to be ‘not to flare’ at the moment, but I’m having a day off walks this lunchtime just in case it happens again!

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