Wednesday, 30 June 2010

You're nearer to God in a garden...

Down to wonderful Winthrop Park today for a spot of nature therapy in the sense-tingling garden. Heavenly! See yesterday's blog entry for why this garden is like no other.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Publish and be blessed?

Photo: Volunteers at Winthrop Park Nature Therapy Garden after the presentation of the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service by the Princess Royal in September 2009. That's me in the back row somewhere behind somebody's hat! My poem to thank Princess Anne was presented to her in a scroll by one of the Park's directors' grandchildren. Her Royal Highness said it was the first time she'd ever received a poem as a gift. Probably the last, but my head is still on my shoulders and I haven't ended up in the Tower (yet!).

I'm currently working on a book of short stories, poems and humorous monologues to raise funds for Winthrop Park, Wickersley, the charity of which I'm officially Poet in Residence. Last year I did readings and comic stuff for several visiting groups there over the summer, but this year haven't really been fully fit to walk down there, let alone perform when I get there!

Instead, I've been working on a way to raise funds for them through my writing in a different way. I already have stuff completed specifically aimed at Winthrop as well as some shorts that will fit the bill, though  the actual compiling and editing has a way to go. Little puzzlers like: Word or pdf ? and other technical stuff I end up learning by trial and error most of the time!

Today I came across the LULU "print on demand" publishing site ( through reading about a Doncaster lass who had successfully used them to compile a book to sell for Cancer Research UK. The book becomes available for download at a price you fix and you even get an ISBN number so it's theoretically possible that it can be sold in local bookshops, Amazon etc. The publicity is up to you, but Winthrop have their own website and wide network of links, too.

You can set up a  page at where people can donate straight to the charity without having to go through you. Same sort of idea as the excellent Everyclick search site that I know Winthrop already uses. This Just Giving page can link to your own Lulu "Storefront" webpage which is like your own personal online bookstore from which people can buy the book and get it delivered in print or downloaded as an eBook.

When I was younger - or 'yesteryear' as we usually refer to it! - self publishing (or "vanity publishing") was the ugly cousin of the publishing world, and it was a case of  "Don't go there, girlfriend!" - if we'd actually talked like Gok Wan a couple of decades ago!

Now it's an increasingly popular option with very sophisticated software and what's best of all, in this case, 100% free, tried and tested worldwide. 

Hope I can eventually do the idea justice for Winthrop. They deserve all the support they can get. From a vision and an abandoned sewage works in a field off the beaten track in Wickersley, Rotherham, UK, to an award winning nature therapy park bringing hope and purpose to those with any sort of health challenge. Why not visit if you're in the area? Or visit online at Please remember Carol, David and their growing army of wonderful volunteers in your prayers. There are greater things to come from that little plot of Paradise!

If the LULU thing works out, the sky might well be my limit. Charity book sales for M.E. Research and Diabetes UK? Bring it on!

Friday, 25 June 2010


Here's the third instalment of my unplanned series "Writing wot I wrote about being Diabetic" posted this week. Writing this one started as a distraction activity from writing shorts and pitching to Womags and Competitions, but a few fragments here did lead to a story with a plot, so it was worth it.

This one's a piece of flash fiction under 500 words. Except that this isn't actually fiction. I live this at least once a month or so.
For all you diabetic Type 1s out there - enjoy the familiar feelings here.
For all you readers with a fully functioning pancreas - welcome to my crazy world!

Yes - the lack of paragraphs and punctuation below IS a reflection of the hypo state of mind.

This is what a hypo/low blood sugar REALLY feels like.

The blood glucose monitor reads 2.2.
No symptoms but I’m flying. Suddenly everything is cinnamon and dimity and I’m giggling till my two green eyes merge into one and start looking at the rocks and the rhythms between the surface of the salt waves and the myrtle green mist skimmed by rattling chocolate buttons and frogmarching steeples with clock faces I can’t make out. My mother is here. I can nearly see her and if I really concentrate I’m certain I can walk straight over the concertina chopsticks lining the path but they keep on moving to the centre and fanning out like a cartwheel of lemon juice and tripping me up. Did you know the days of the week are like a clothes line? It’s so obvious now. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are all on a level, with Tuesday and Thursday drooping between them, fixed in place by invisible pegs that ring low like a Rioja glass pinged by a fingernail with chipped purple varnish. The weekends join the other days together like an ornate but functional belt buckle. I’m sweating and trembling. I feel like I ought to strip off all my clothes but I wouldn’t trust myself to know where to stop and my flesh, all yellow and honeycomb inside would slip from my bones like a buzzing net negligee and what would the neighbours say? That makes me laugh more and I’m wheezing and hooting and stuffing the dry cushions into my mouth but you can still hear me because you’re saying so with a very serious expression and I laugh even harder and my forehead seems to have something arch going on with the carpet. I can’t move my eyes or my lips. Someone must have moved them just beyond my bodyspace and I’m thrashing about making sand angels on the floor and everything is gritty like the white noise when the radio is off the station and my synapses keep fizzing with static till the budgie makes the cage bounce as it nods its head faster and faster. There’s gurning and gargoyles or is that just me? I’m not getting any feedback and woolly seething serendipity is blocking the pores in my eardrums, stopping me coming up for air. It’s making no linear logic but I can see straight to the heart of truth like an arrow tip through a sappy apple. Somebody’s ravishing my lips apart. The sugar tastes like apricot petrol and burning rubber but at last I’m surfacing.
The monitor reads 4.1.
        I ache to go back where it all made sense.

Thursday, 24 June 2010


While penning yesterday's blog poem on the way back from hospital, I decided to dig out this poem I wrote in August 2009 to up awareness of the strides that have been made in diabetes care through the work of DAFNE (DOSE ADJUSTMENT FOR NORMAL EATING) health care teams. DAFNE courses all over the country are now teaching us cynical old sugar dodgers how to count carbohydrate intake even more accurately than was possible in the past to achieve tighter control and maybe save lives in the process.

This poem was sent to the Rotherham Advertiser, a local newspaper in South Yorkshire, as my attempt to help raise awareness of how effective these courses can be, and how under-subscribed many are through poor perceptions of the outcomes, funding issues etc. Somebody said the Advertiser had published it, but as I only buy it if I hear something interesting's in, I must have missed it!!! I also performed it when I addressed the local Diabetes UK group who meet at the hospital (thought that was a good health day, even though I had to lie down in a darkened room for a week afterwards - lol!). Local health care staff in the surgery and at the Diabetes Centre also said they enjoyed reading their copies and dutifully pinned it up in the Diabetes Education Centre (for later use as a dartboard, perhaps?). If it can convince just one more Type 1 diabetic to give such courses a try, my work here is done!


Now, don’t we just love to whinge and moan at things we think are lax?
Like traffic chaos in Bramley, or councils that waste our tax?
Folks love to have a rant and rave, so rightly, at things that bother ‘em,
But I couldn’t wait to celebrate some unsung heroes in Rotherham!

You might not have seen them or noticed; they say they’re just doing their bit,
But down at our local hospital, there’s a team who with heroes should sit.
As you pass near the hospital entrance, there’s one block that contains a sensation
For right there inside you’ll find Rotherham’s pride, staff in Diabetes Education.

They give life-changing one-to-one sessions, they don’t patronise or ignore.
They’re professional and downright amazing! Just doing their job? They do more!
They run courses to help with “carb counting” and adjusting your insulin so
You can keep blood glucose more level. Not convinced? Well, I’m one who should know!

For 25 years as a Type 1, on insulin four times a day,
I’d become quite an NHS cynic, thought I was the expert, not they!
Thought I’d learnt all the stuff by experience that a middle aged know-all can learn,
Lived all over the world with my needles, diabetic with know-how to burn!

But stricken by other conditions that had forced me to grind to a halt,
I slapped on four stone when disabled by factors not wholly my fault.
The insulin that had long served me, when working and walking like mad,
Now locked me in fat, like a beached whale and that was the worst time my body had had!

But these lasses were patient and personal, and helped with devising a plan,
To adjust my regime- how daft did that seem? But I gritted my teeth and began.
Their follow up showed not just caring, but skill, understanding and grace,
And here I am just four months later, with everything now back in place.

I’m back to the weight I began with, before M.E. turned me to jelly,
Six stone melted off through their wisdom, and the inches dropped back off my belly!
Still better, my blood sugar levels, which had swung like a swing-boat on speed,
Are now more like a real “normal” person’s, which all of us strive for and need.

So thanks to the team for their brilliance, to Nicky and Sree and the rest,
And if you too have diabetes, please go put their care to the test.
Give the centre a ring if you’re worried diabetes is costing you much,
Let them help to support and advise you; take their courses, like D.A.F.N.E.* or such.

I’ve had hospital docs and appointments, a lifetime of so-called care,
But nothing I’ve ever encountered had prepared me for what I found there –
The team changed my life with their wisdom, and where there’s a will, there’s a way;
So what’s there to lose, diabetics? Can they change your life too? Yes! They may!

-Rev Joyce Barrass, Wickersley

* D.A.F.N.E. stands for “Dose Adjustment for Normal Eating”, one of the courses run by the Diabetes Education Team on Rotherham 307910

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


I'm come back from the hospital,
They've seen the back of me.
They've poked where my injections go
And analyzed my wee.

They've read through my results book
Where I write down glucose highs,
They've pinged my knees with hammers,
Shone their torches in both eyes.

They say I'm doing wonderfully,
And pat me on the head;
Now my control is tight as tight,
There's something else instead.

Now, when my sugar plummets,
I've never had much sign
To know I'm going "hypo"
Till my reading's 1.9.*

By then I'm giggling like a drunk
And talking utter tosh;
They want my warning signals back,
But that will never wash!

My insulin's reducing,
To get my bloods to rise
That's working on the theory
That it acts as a disguise

To the craziest of symptoms
When you're hypo half the time.
But for me it's just ridiculous
Right down from the sublime.

"Hypo unawareness"
Is this thing they're trying to cure,
So I'll know I'm going hypo
When the symptoms show for sure.

I told them when I started
Back in 1984,
They had me running round the wards
And in and out the door

To show me what a hypo was,
And how it makes you feel;
In the end they had to bring me back-
My pancreas is unreal!

So watch this space, as ever;
I'll be doing as I'm told.
I'll be a model patient,
Keep my records, good as gold.

But how can you get warnings back,
Warnings you've never had?
You'd love me, when my sugar's low,
I'm twice as flipping mad!

* this reading is in in mmol/L - for American readers that converts to the shockingly low BG reading of 34.2mg/dL, at which point most "normal" diabetics are already comatose! LOL!

Monday, 21 June 2010

Update on the little Woodpigeon squab

If you read my last bloggery at the weekend, you might be wondering what happened to the little Woodpigeon who was attacked by an adult Woodie and seemed to react so little to everything going on around him.

Well, to update you, the little chap was sitting in the middle of the lawn later that evening at about 9pm, out in the open where any predator could grab him. Suddenly the big grey tomcat from a few doors away appeared at the far end of the garden and began to fixate on him and home in step by step. It lunged at the little pigeon and seemed to jump over him as the hapless squab flapped its wings but did not seem hurt or much bothered. 

The cat saw me in the conservatory and made no further attempts on the baby pigeon's life, as far as I could observe. Eventually the cat moved off the way it had come, stalking round the pigeon without giving it a second glance. The pigeon continued to sit huddled in the same position before shuffling off just before 10pm into the undergrowth (euphemism for the parts where my garden is rather beyond my strength and finances at the moment to keep weed-free!). At least he would be sheltered there, I hoped. But I haven't seen him since, and I suspect he may have succumbed to some other predator since his miraculous delivery from pouncing puss. 

I hope you had a gentle end or a blessed deliverance, little one.

I sat on until the light had completely dwindled to dusk, hearing the sounds of the approaching night and watching a hedgehog exploring and having a drink of the water I put out for the birds and creatures on the pebbles under my lilac bush.

So the longest day has come and gone. Bless the Lord who creates and sustains such a fragile, fantastic kingdom, and entrusts it to our hearts to protect and enjoy.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Squabs and squabbles

Just been observing some extraordinary behaviour that I have read about but only witnessed for the first time this evening. A Woodpigeon squab, a baby pigeon who hasn't fully fledged yet, has been in the garden on and off for the last couple of days, looking rather dazed and subdued. He can feed himself, but pecks at grain and seed on the ground in such a desultory way and seems to spend most of his time sitting with eyes closed or half open, head sunk deep into his neck and slumped inert. Not long ago, I looked up to see an adult Woodpigeon jumping on top of this baby, viciously pecking at the top of his skull, kicking at him and batting him with both wings and claws. I opened the conservatory door and the adult flew away, but the baby pigeon was stunned and unsteady and stayed around. You can see from the picture the slight damage inflicted on his crown by the adult and there were feathers plucked out on the ground.

I have googled and found other mentions of this behaviour but as yet no explanation. Does the adult know something is wrong with this little one and that he will not survive the scrutiny of passing Sparrowhawks and other predators? Is the adult trying to "toughen him up" to make more effort towards his own survival? Is the adult his parent or a rival? I'd love to know the answers, but know that any human effort to intervene might well be attempting to "play God" in a situation I do not understand. Watch this space. As of tonight, the squab was feeding again, albeit with movements that suggest he is not completely thriving yet, in the presence of an adult Woodie who ignored him completely this time and flew off, leaving him in peace to shelter for the night under my berberis near the pergola.

Another behaviour that has been going on for the last month or so is the constant unrelenting harassment of my resident pair of Magpies by my two Collared Doves, who look as if butter wouldn't melt in their dainty mouths! Every time one of the Magpies appears, it is chased all over the garden and then away into the surrounding trees by one or both of the Doves. They simply won't let it lie! The Magpies never seem to retaliate (in spite of their reputation). They try all they can simply to outfly or outsmart the Doves, splitting up so while the Collared Dove chases one through the undergrowth trying to land on its back or head, the other can feed for a few snatched moments undisturbed. No doubt at all, the Dove has her reasons, maybe to keep the Magpies at bay from taking her own chicks. Attack is the best form of defence, and all that! The Collared Dove has thrived since it was first introduced to our shores in the late 1950s. Its numbers and dominance are always on the up and up, defying trends of decline in many other of our garden species. So the Magpie may not be able to look forward to a quiet life on this side of the Parousia!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Game(bird) for a laugh

At lunchtime today, a cock Pheasant (Phasianius colchicus) wandered onto my back lawn in rainy Rotherham. He's one of my less frequent visitors but always very welcome. For once, I managed to grab my spotting scope and digital camera to snap him before he left. He hung around until late afternoon, but photo opportunities were few as he searched under bushes for all the tasty morsels hidden there, rather than hogging centre stage with the families of Blackbirds, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Goldfinches, Dunnocks, Robins and the other regulars who are enjoying the delights of the Spring around my garden.

I'm vegetarian most of the time, but this slice of Pheasant for lunch was wonderful! He finally whirred away over the hedges towards the woods and the open fields beyond. Now the sun's just come out again, the evening's soft and mild and full of the thrilling warble of the Song Thrush, the rival lullaby coos of Woodpigeon and Collared Dove and the zitherdi-zitherdi-zitherdi-zitherdi-dee of the Goldcrest somewhere close.I'm blessed as always to see, hear, smell and savour such marvels of the natural world as these.