Jam, Jam, Jelly Jam

Not to mention chutney.

I’m bored with being ill, let’s talk about nice things.

It’s that time of year again, preserving and storing the yummy things of summer to be enjoyed in the dark, cold days of winter. Every year I promise myself I will be adventurous and make loads of different things and while I do manage a few novelties, every year the same three staples come out of my kitchen, bramble jelly, apple butter and apple chutney.

My recipe or rather method, for bramble jelly is on here somewhere. Nothing really changes from year to year,  blackberries are still a wonderful natural and free food and they’re still vicious bastards. Every year I try a new, thicker pair of gloves and every year I end up dripping blood, scratched to ribbons and stained purple in unlikely places.

The only change I have made is I now put them in a plastic box with a sealed lid for a few hours after I’ve picked them. It is remarkable how many creepy crawlies emerge and pin themselves to the lid looking for an escape route and nothing puts you off a clotted cream and bramble jelly scone more than the presence of something leggy embedded in the sweet purple yumminess..

Apple butter and apple chutney are going to be a bit more of a problem this year. Ever since we moved into this house the apple tree in the garden that backs on to us has hung its unpruned branches over our wall and dropped piles and piles of wind falls into our lawn and every year I gather them up, cut out the bruises and the bugs and turn them into apple butter and chutney,

This year the behind neighbours have FELLED my apple tree!!! Okay, it was their tree, it was rotten and it was trying to bring down the wall, but that is not the point, where am I going to get free apples now? I’m trying not to mutter and I’ve started training binoculars on other neighbours gardens. I think I’ve spotted a tree a couple of doors down. so the time may have come to take an offering of cake there…just to be friendly you unbderstand,

There are as many recipes for apple butter on the web as there are apples on a tree. Find one you like and give it a go, its a great resource, it can be eaten on bread like jam, made into a pie or even eaten as it comes with cream or poured over ice cream. I once served it at a posh dinner party with vanilla ice cream and cinnamon shortbread biscuits, I could say it wasn’t a triumph, but I’d be lying.

Apple chutney is also not something I can give you a recipe for, because it varies every time I make it depending on what sugar is in the larder, what vinegar (I avoid malt) and what dried fruit and spices are left over. Cook chopped apple in vinegar and sugar adding what you like, chilli, allspice, cinnamon, cloves…the spicy world in your oyster and your choice of dried fruit. Last year I used white wine vinegar, soft light brown sugar, dried figs and apricots and allspice. You cook it until a wooden spoon dragged across the bottom of the pan leaves a clean line and then pot it. Do NOT be tempted to try it, it will taste harsh and you will want to cry, but if you leave it for a couple of months it will mellow and mature into a gorgeous product that goes wonderfully with cheese, ham and pork.

Don’t waste what the sun and the good earth have provided, preserve it, but always leave some for the birds and the animals who will need it to survive the lean times that are now just around the corner.

 

What the ……!

Although I only got diagnosed a week ago, it is obvious that I’ve had MS for about fifteen years, it is just that in the past few months it has grown into an embuggerance.  This week has been a learning curve and, oh boy, have  I’ve learnt a lot.

Did you know MS is like pregnancy?

Stop gasping and giggling and stay with me… when you are pregnant and it is becoming obvious, friends, acquaintances and complete strangers will comment on your condition and amongst them will be the DOOMSAYER. This person will either themselves have been in labour for a hundred and fifty hours and suffered the agonies of the damned or they will be closely related to someone who has. Naturally this tale of unrelenting torture will inspired the first time mother with wonderful, soothing confidence and ensure she will look forward eagerly to her own labour.

As my child bearing days are far behind me (and BTW, I shoved babies out with no problem at all), I thought I would be free from the DOOMSAYER, but I was so, so wrong. Just as in pregnancy, they will know another person with MS and they have been confined to a wheelchair for years, they are blind, unable to swallow and suffering terribly in equally vile circumstances and for some reason they are always years younger than me! I’m not sure why being younger is such a vital detail, but apparently it is.

Why do this? Why with solemn expressions of deep concern do some feel the need to frighten the living daylights out of the vulnerable and gullible? I’m immune to this rubbish, I’ve done my research and while, as any soldier will tell you no plan survives the first encounter with the enemy, he will also tell you no intellgence work is every wasted. I’m prepared and I know that Mr and Mrs Doomsayer adore embellishing, if they can add extra beads, some glitter and a ribbon, they are as happy as pigs in muck!

The other interesting thing I have found is ignorance. You would have though after “The West Wing” and other programmes, most people would have a nodding acquaintance with the condition, but again, the scales of preconceived ideas have fallen from my eyes, at least one person has patted me gently on the arm and hoped I will be better soon!!!!!  I’m expecting a “get well” card and will be disappointed if it doesn’t come.

On a more positive note, I feel surprisingly well. I put this down to my having stopped fighting. I’ve stopped trying to do thing the way I used to do things and begun to do them the way I can do them. I’ve stopped trying to walk as I used to and slowed to the pace my body likes, surprisingly I can go further slowly than I could when I was trying to be normal. If I’m tired I don’t fight it, I rest and don’t feel so wrecked as a result and if I’m in pain I throw painkillers down my throat like sweeties and don’t give a damn about possible side effects.

Soon I am off for a long MRI and an appointment with the neurologist. I have made a list of questions ( research, research, research) and with the answers I hope I will be armed and ready for the campaign ahead. One thing I do know is that I will carry on writing and quilting for as long as I possibly can. I’ve got a Mrs Lillicrop story on the boil, two books telling me they would like to be written and someone said they will hit me with a heavy object if I don’t write a sequel to “The Tattooed Tribes”, plus I need to produce at least two excellent quilts for exhibition in 2020.

“Second star on the right and straight on until morning” people 🙂

 

 

Hurrah, Hurrah MS

Weird title I know, but bear with me.

The first thing you need to know about me is that I have the self worth of a house brick. The reasons for it are ancient and boring, but my default position on almost everything is “its my fault.”  So when I started to have trouble walking I put it down to spending way to much time at a computer screen….so it was my fault. When I started to get blurred vision, again it was too long looking at a screen, so it was my fault.

I’ve always been a big girl, dieting was a series of yo-yo events (although I have now found one that works and stays working), but I am overweight and as all the doctors and the media tell us, being overweight is the cause of many problems. So my increasing dependence on walking sticks, the pain in my legs, the burning sensations and the inability to raise one of my feet was my weight, my lack of moral fibre made me fat so all of that was my fault!

Then my bladder got to be a problem, but I’ve had two babies and everyone knows natural childbirth can bugger up the water works if you don’t do your pelvic exercises afterwards. Obviously I hadn’t done them enough, so equally obviously all this was, as usual, my fault.

Why, you ask, didn’t you take all this to your doctor? Because they might look at me with pitying contempt, then they would sigh and give me another diet sheet and tell me I needed more physiotherapy despite the amount I’ve done over the years. Obviously I’d not done enough or done it properly and who do we think is at fault for that. I couldn’t face hearing someone with knowledge confirming everything, all the time I stayed away, shoved pain killers down my throat and shut myself in the downstairs cloakroom to cry, the safer I was from the accusatory finger, the sad shaking of the head and the unspoken “what the hell did you expect, you stupid woman!”

At this point I must add a point and a confession…the point is that about fifteen years ago I started having a problem with my right eye…only the right. I had an MRI and was diagnosed with optical neuritis. I lost thirty percent of my field of vision and ended up red/green colour blind in that eye, but that was all…no-one said anything else, no specialist or GP said anything about it, but I googled it and found a reference to it being a possible symptom of multiple sclerosis, but I had no other symptoms, so put it down as “one of those things.” I’m not a believer in the benefits of Dr Google, I think you can put in what you think is wrong with you and a common virus can come up as Ebola and scare the daylights out of you, so I don’t do it. .

Now the confession, despite what I just said, in the last few months I have been putting in what is wrong with me and the same answer has kept coming up

I think I can hear a number of you muttering “oh, for god’s sake!” at this point and, dear reader, you would not be alone, the person screaming “for god’s sake, woman!” the loudest is the wonderful man I’ve been married to for more years than I will admit here, but and its a big but as far as I’m concerned , that little voice inside me which is repeating its mantra of “don’t be silly, you know its not that, its all your fault, if you had sat on a better chair, if you had blinked more, if you had lost weight, if you had done the exercises etc etc

However, his screaming finally got louder than the bloody voice in my head and he got me to the doctor and yesterday we got the result.

I have MS.

I sat in the surgery and couldn’t stop crying, not because I’ve got MS, that is what Terry Pratchett called “an embuggerance”, but because none of it is my fault, NONE of it, there is nothing I have done which caused this and I need feel no guilt. I cry for joy and I think my doctor is going to add this to her “days for my memories” as she said, it isn’t often you tell someone they have MS and they are delighted.

I know for a lot of people this news would be devastating, but I’m not young and my children are long since grown up and are not dependent on me, so it is no more than the afore said embuggerance. I know there will be difficulties , but my husband is looking forward to a blue badge and me being in a wheelchair, so we go in the direction he wants to go and I’m not wandering off somewhere and I have my eye on a snazzy mobility scooter which I will use to plough a path through town.

I have MS, hurrah!