Something has dripped through the genes and behaviour in my family, that could well explain, factors that contributed to the early death of my paternal grandfather and my youngest son; George.
I have known six of my relatives well; my father and mother, my father’s mother and my three sons.
I will ignore my mother and grandmother, as both lived to their eighties, which is probably good by any standards.
I shall also ignore my eldest son, as I am not in contact with him.
I believe that my coeliac disease, which must be inherited, came from my father and both my late wife and myself believed that if any of our three children were coeliac, it would have been George. But neither my father or George were ever properly tested.
As a child, I was sickly and I was always being taken to the doctor and I had endless tonics and potions.
It only gradually improved when I got to about ten or so and why it did has never been successfully explained. But I can remember being off-school for large parts of the Spring term several times.
I can remember a couple of times in summers, when I was about eight or so, suddenly giving up playing with friends and going home to watch television or play with my Meccano. I think I just found it too hot or perhaps my eyes didn’t like the sun.
In some ways, I was just following my father’s behaviour, which generally involved tinkering with his car in the garage or working in his print works. He would occasionally sit in the sun to smoke his pipe, but I never ever saw him strip off on a beach say.
From about seven, he always took me to work at the weekend and I enjoyed myself doing real jobs, like setting type, collating paper and pulling proofs.
If it left me with any psychological traits, it was that hard work is good for you!
But it kept me out of the sun.
I got married to C at twenty-one and within four years we had three sons. In some ways this got me out in the sun more and perhaps in my late twenties, when we were living in the Barbican, I started to experience better health. I was probably getting more sun, as in those days, I tended to cycle across to Great Portland Street regularly. But C used to drag me out in the sun.
Over the next thirty years or so, my health often tended to deteriorate in the winter, but I think it is true to say, it improved marginally, when the boys grew up, as we started to take more holidays in the sun.
Then in 1997, when I was fifty, I had a particularly bad winter and a very elderly locum decided I needed a blood test to see if I lacked anything. It was the first time my blood had been tested and I was found to be totally lacking in vitamin B12.
I struggled on, with nurses injecting me with B12 every month or so, until my GP sent me to Addenbrooke’s. After another set of blood tests, they said, I was probably coeliac and this was confirmed by endoscopy.
I certainly felt a lot better on a gluten-free diet.
I was also now able to walk and work in the sun and sunbathe without getting burnt. Although, avoiding the sun was still burned into my behaviour, so I often retreated under an umbrella.
Another change was that whereas before going gluten-free I was always bitten and C never was, after going gluten-free, the reverse was true.
I only remember one bad winter from that period and that was when C had breast cancer in 2003-2004, which I think was a sunless winter. We didn’t have our long winter holiday in the sun and I paid the consequence with plantar faciitis, which some reports claim is linked to vitamin D deficiency.
After she died, my problems to a certain extent returned and my GP actually suggested I wasn’t getting enough sun. So in all weathers, I drove around in my Lotus Elan with the top down, to make sure that I got the sun.
I felt a lot better.
If I look at George, he also had my father’s and my behaviour of avoiding the sun. As he smoked heavily, whilst he wrote his music in the dark, was it any wonder he got the pancreatic cancer that killed him?
The curse on my family is of course coeliac disease, which before diagnosis, seems to make us avoid the sun. My father and George certainly did and I would have done before diagnosis without C’s constant persuasion. Now though as I showed in An Excursion To Lokrum, I have no problems in the sun and rarely use any sun screen.
We’ve had some miserably weather over the last few months in London and I come to the conclusion, that I just haven’t got enough vitamin D.
I’ve also only recently found out, that gluten-free foods are not fortified, as regular ones are. So I don’t get any vitamin D through my food.
Croatia is not as easy as Poland, as that country and some others in Eastern Europe, who were under Soviet domination, developed skills to cook without flour, as it was expensive.
Croatian cooking seems to use a lot of flour and breadcrumbs, but then Serbia was and probably still is a massive produce of wheat.
But I found no problems in either Split or Dubrovnik, armed as I was with a gluten free restaurant card in Croatian. These are some pictures of the food I ate.
I even found some gluten-free beer from Aberdeen in a vegetarian restaurant called Nishta.
When it comes to local transport and walking maps, it’s a case of the bigger the better.
This was in the tram information centre in Munich Hauptbahnhof.
Every main station should have a local transport information centre and the largest map possible.
At the station, I also took this picture.
I was going for supper and I needed to get a tram 16 to St. Emmeram, which would drop me in the area of one of the best gluten-free pizzadromes in Europe; Pizzesco.
So what could go wrong?
There was a demonstration in the area and the trams stopped running, leaving me in a part of MunichI didn’t know!
Although, Pizzesco was very crowded and I had to wait, I eventually got my delicious pizza and a bottle of gluten-free beer.
Coming back to my hotel, I eventually found a tram outside the Deutsche Museum.
This was an uneventful journey in a comfortable train, but the weather seemed even worse, so there was no serious photo opportunities.
At Ljubljana, I changed a few notes into Euros and got a taxi in the rain.
It might have been a memorable journey through beautiful countryside, but with the rain and the dark, I couldn’t tell!
By Ljubljana, I was hungry and as my comfortable hotel had no choice of food I fancied, I walked a few hundred metres in the rain to the city centre and bought some chips and an orange juice from McDonalds.
I don’t think that the journey from Split to Ljubljana had been successful, but then it isn’t supposed to rain in the Balkans, when I’m on holiday!
On Thursday last week, I went to Bristol with the aim of perhaps doing a bit of a wander around some of the local railways in the area.
I know the centre of Bristol quite well and I’ve visited the usual attractions and walked along the Avon. After a previous visit, I wrote Walking Around Bristol. I’ve have also visited the SS Great Britain a couple of times, but it is not an attraction, that you can walk past and enjoy, like say HMS Belfast or the Cutty Sark in London. After a previous visit, I wrote The Disappointing SS Great Britain.
I had thought, that I might go to Severn Beach, as I’d read that the trip is one of the most scenic of railways.
But trains were only every two hours and I’d just missed one. How visitor-friendly is that? Anybody going on the off-chance would love to be stuck at Bristol Temple Meads station for two hours.
Services like those to Severn Beach should be at least twice an hour and preferably four times to attract passengers to the route.
I couldn’t even buy any gluten-free food, as the only place to buy anything was WH Smith. The nearest Marks was in the Centre. As there are no shops at Paddington at the moment due to rebuilding, I was starting to get hungry.
It’s also quite a boring and long walk between Bristol Temple Meads station and the City Centre. So I wondered if there was a local bus that could be used to get to Cabot Circus, where I might have some lunch. But there was no information, that I could find.
So, I did what my family always does at times like this. I did a runner! In this case to Bath!
Bristol may be getting new electric trains all the way to London, but they need to think seriously about providing a more welcoming experience for visitors.
I certainly wouldn’t recommend to anybody going to Bristol by train for a day out! Portsmouth, Liverpool, Cardiff and even Birmingham are so much better.
If Bristol was in Europe or had a bit more ambition, which I’ve always felt the city lacks, it would have a tram system.
This Google Map shows the City Centre.
Bristol Temple Meads station is in the middle at the bottom. Only one other station is shown on the map and that is Lawrence Hill station in the North-Eastern corner of the map. Wikipedia describes the station as having minimal facilities. This extract from Wikipedia, describes the services at the station.
As of the December 2013 timetable, Monday to Friday, three trains every two hours run along the Severn Beach Line from Bristol Temple Meads to Avonmouth via Clifton Down, with one extended to St Andrew’s Road and Severn Beach. Most services start at Bristol, but one evening service to Avonmouth begins at Weston-super-Mare. On Saturdays only two trains per hour each direction call. Sunday sees an hourly service to and from Bristol, with only two services extending to Severn Beach, except during the May–September timetable period when all services are extended. The first and last Sunday trains towards Bristol are extended to Taunton via Weston-super-Mare, and there are similar workings in the other direction.
No wonder, the station only has minimal facilities, that level of service will struggle to attract the proverbial one man and his dog.
If as I believe there should be at least a two trains per hour service on local lines, then if the Severn Beach Line and the service to Avonmouth had this frequency, then there would be four trains per hour service across the eastern side of the city centre.
Bristol is trying to organise MetroWest, but compared to say Cardiff, Liverpool and other large cities, it has a distinct lack of rail lines and stations in or near the City Centre.
Talk is of a start in 2019, but I doubt, anything will start until the late 2020s, at the earliest.
In 2014 I wrote Is Bristol Left Behind? After my visit on Thursday, I can’t help feeling that the City is the most disappointing one in England.
On Tuesday, there was this article on the BBC, which was entitled Vitamin D ‘heals damaged hearts’. This was said.
Vitamin D supplements may help people with diseased hearts, a study suggests.
A trial on 163 heart failure patients found supplements of the vitamin, which is made in the skin when exposed to sunlight, improved their hearts’ ability to pump blood around the body.
The Leeds Teaching Hospitals team, who presented at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, described the results as “stunning”.
I have been discussing this with two of Europe’s top cardiologists and we’ve come to the conclusion, that I don’t get enough vitamin D.
And would you believe low vitamin D can cause; bad nails, conjunctivitis and plantar fasciitis.
I have all three!
One cardiologist pointed out that gluten-free bread and breakfast cereals aren’t fortified with vitamin D, like normal ones are.
No-one; coeliac, doctor or dietician, had ever told me that before!
So I get my vitamin D from the sun!
But as the devil has switched it off this winter, no wonder I’m in poor health!
That woman doesn’t like me!
On the other hand, I’m a London Mongrel of German Jewish and French Huguenot roots, with quarters of stubborn Devonian and solid Northants yeoman stock thrown in. A large proportion of my ancestors are also real East Enders and of course my father was a genuine Cockney.
So I hope I can give her a fight!
Incidentally, this winter, I’ve never found so many other people suffering from plantar fasciitis, so are we all suffering from a lack of sun and therefore vitamin D. Two of the sufferers were people, who had indoor jobs, that involved a lot of standing and walking.
Intriguingly, the only other time, I had bad plantar fasciitis was the winter of 2004/2005. I’m still looking for data on that winter’s weather, but this article on the BBC from 2006 says this.
Deaths in England and Wales fell to 25,700 last winter, a decline of 19% on the previous year.
Office for National Statistics data shows the rate, which hit 31,640 in 2004/2005, is back to similar levels as the previous four years.
Statisticians look at deaths between December and March, and compare them to those during the rest of the year.
I shall not be surprised if 2015/16 has been a bad winter for the deaths of the elderly.
For myself, I’ve started taking a vitalimn D supplement as I have been advised.
I’d sit in the sun, if that woman would let it out!
You might ask, why I don’t go to the sun for a week, as I can certainly afford it.
But when you don’t like taking holidays in the sun on your own and can’t walk long distances to explore interesting sites because of the plantar fasciitis, your stumped!
I was looking for some gluten-free teryaki sauce and found these pages in The Londonist.
- Where To Buy Gluten Free Food And Ingredients In London
- London’s Best Restaurants For Gluten Free Dining
- London Pubs That Serve Gluten Free Beer
I shall be exploring.
This recipe is another from Lindsey Bareham in The Times.
Lindsey called this an incredibly lazy twist on kedgeree. I have tried to make it even lazier.
- I started with a single Marks and Spencer’s smoked haddock. Just two pounds and no bones or skin.
- I hard-boiled an extra egg for the fridge
- I used an onion instead of shallots.
- I didn’t have any fresh chives or coriander
I rather liked it for a New Year’s Eve supper.
I was looking to buy a sandwich for my lunch tomorrow in Marks and Spencer in Islington and couldn’t see any bright green packets.
The reason was there were only two and several of these Christmasy sandwiches.
I’ve seen gluten-free Christmas puddings and mince pies, but I’ve never seen a seasonal gluten-free sandwich before!
Perhaps things are getting better!
It would appear that Waitrose are no longer stocking Celia gluten-free lager.
As I can’t live without them, I went to the Celia web site and searched for an alternative supplier near me.
It certainly is a well-stocked organic shop.