Monthly Archives: March 2016

Annual vaccinations for your pet?

When my beloved Sheehan was about 5 years old, I moved to the countryside.

Now, I had always lived on the edge of the countryside and spent much of my time playing/hiking in the hills and walking by reservoirs and rivers.  I knew the countryside code and stuck to it.

Up until then, Sheehan and Spike had always had their annual vaccinations and ate the best “complete” dog and cat food that I could afford for them.

One day, Sheehan developed a massive dry, flaky, white scab on her back and on the site of the scab, lost her hair, so I took her to see an old country vet.  He told me to feed her raw mince and brown bread for a fortnight, he suggested that I might crack a raw egg in as well once or twice.  He was very much against “complete” food because in its natural state, a dog wouldn’t eat a perfectly balanced diet.  I told him about the fact that she ate grass on a daily basis but was never sick with it and he suggested that I give her “veggie ends” because in the wild, if she hunted a grazing beast, she would get all of the vitamins, minerals and fibre of the grass when she ripped out and ate its belly.   He also told me to give her starve days every once in a while to clear her gut, after all, a wild dog/wolf doesn’t get to eat every day.

I was discussing this with an old “dog man” – sadly not a new species but a chap who works dogs – and he told me that he only has his dogs vaccinated for the first couple of years.

I took their advice and changed the way that I fed Sheehan and neither she nor Spike were vaccinated again.

I don’t actually know if annual boosters work like a flu jab where you get a bit of last year’s strain; I also don’t know if they are given live vaccines and there’s a lot of conflicting information out there but I do know that apart from breast cancer at 10 (benign tumours), Sheehan was a happy, healthy girl for almost 17 years.  A Border Collie’s lifespan is 10 – 14 years with an average age of death at 12 years.  Even in her last weeks, she was still walking 5 miles a day.  Don’t get me wrong, when she was in her prime, I walked 10 miles a day and she would do about 30 because she was running back and forth as I walked, whereas in her last year, the 5 miles were broken into 3 walks and there was no running about but I know a lot of young, healthy (?), fit (??) dogs that don’t do that.  Spike lived to be 21 and developed Chronic Kidney Disease in his last couple of years but that was controlled with medication and diet.

If the vaccinations are live, then surely our dogs, cats and bunnies build immunity that doesn’t need to be topped up.

I have recently learned about the Titre/Titer Test (pronounced TIGHT-er) where a blood sample is taken and can be tested for antibodies to things like parvovirus, distemper and rabies.  It is my understanding that the vaccination for parvovirus should last for 7 years and distemper for 5 – 7 years but the vets that will actually do the test will recommend annual testing (it’s more expensive that vaccination – make what you will of that) and many people choose to est every 3 years.

I have also learned a lot about the health problems that cats can develop from eating grains but it is surprising how many cat food products out there still contain rice, wheat and maize.

Finding food without grain for Snowdrop, our new kitten, has been challenging; even the free sample of Royal Canin Paediatric biccies contained grain but Arden Grange (cheaper via Amazon subscribe and save with our other animal feed to make up the 15% discount) has only protein and potato so we’re onto a winner with that one.  Wet food is more challenging for her as she seems to have a bit of an allergy to chicken – it gives her a very poorly tummy – and Mr PinQ discovered that even a food labelled as “salmon” was made from salmon, pollock and CHICKEN so we might be making her wet food ourselves.


One thing that I do know for sure is that I won’t be having the babies vaccinated annually.

They will get their primary vaccinations and then I will have to decide whether to test or top-up every 5-7 years.  I will also continue to feed and exercise them as I have learned over the years



The Easter Rising

Mr PinQ and I enjoy learning new things, perhaps more so when we are learning about our (or one another’s) heritage and although we were both born in England, we see ourselves not as English or British but in fact, Irish and Polish.

We love this Country and have both worked in service of its Defence and both now work in Third Sector organisations that support, empower and educate its Young People; but we were raised in Irish and Polish homes, by our Irish and Polish parents and grandparents, learning about our Irish and Polish heritages, eating Irish and Polish food.  We love immersing ourselves in one another’s cultures as much as our shared love of Ilkley Moor, the West Coast of Scotland, the Pennines and so on.

As a result, we have spent many happy hours wandering around the places where we grew up and the countries of our roots, sharing memories and local history as well as beautiful scenery and architecture.

Our too short holiday to Poland 4 years ago was a real eye-opener for Mr PinQ.  As someone with a keen interest in law and politics and over 24 years of military service behind him, he had a deeper knowledge and understanding of the atrocities of WWII than most; but our visit to Auschwitz-Berkenau made its impression.

I had realised that I didn’t want to return.  Standing there, holding my much beloved Grandma as she sobbed was a memory that I didn’t want to revisit, let alone share with the man that I had just married; the pain was still too raw, even 7 years on.  That said, I also knew that it wouldn’t be right to take him all the way to Kraków, just a short train ride away from Oświęcim, and not take him, so we went.

There is something about being there that you cannot get from pictures, books, films or documentaries.  It gets into your soul.

Last night, it was my turn.

As many of you will already know, we don’t have a television but if we do fancy watching something, we can pop a DVD in the laptop or find something of interest on BBC iPlayer or similar online viewing platform.

Mr PinQ has read a great deal about the Troubles over the years and will sometimes tell me about it or we will watch a documentary or film on the subject but I was somewhat shocked by what I learned last night.

After a tiring day, we sat down to watch Brendan O’Carroll (better known as Mrs Brown) deliver a balanced, informative, sometimes witty and extremely touching documentary about his family’s involvement in the Easter Rising.  Particularly moving was Brendan’s hope that the Sherwood Foresters were being remembered somewhere as he stood by the Éire monument at Mount Street bridge where less than 20 of the Volunteers managed to kill or wound over 200 of the British Troops.

Mount Street Monument.jpg

This was a part of the Irish history that I had no real knowledge of and looking back, am very surprised about because I remember that when I started GCSE History, we were given a choice about what we wanted to learn and we chose the recent history category which essentially covered 1914 to 1945.  Given that the 1916 uprising was a pivotal moment even in English history, how was it missed from the curriculum?

Following the surrender of the Leaders of the Volunteers, they were imprisoned, court-martialed and then executed by a firing squad.

These brave men simply wanted their country back, nothing more.

Almost 1500 Volunteers and many innocent Irish people were then imprisoned in England and Wales with the innocent leaving those prisons not only sympathetic to the cause, but active members.  The actions of the British in fact won support for a cause that had not previously been given that much credence by the people of Ireland.

I’m not going to try to give you a full historical account because I wouldn’t be able to do it justice but what struck me was this:

Can someone please tell me how the British could not only denounce but also go to war with Germany, Hitler and the Nazis, whilst essentially doing to Ireland what the Germans were doing to Poland?

Oh that’s easy!  The Irish were the underclass.

Sound familiar?

Maybe that’s why it wasn’t on the curriculum.


Pregnancy: the good, the bad, the not so pretty & the slightly weird

The Good:

1. The Baby Centre

When we’d decided to have children, I confided in a dear friend who happens to work for The Baby Centre UK and she pointed me in their direction and sent me useful links from time to time.  It’s a wonderful resource for good, common sense advice for every possible topic and stage of pregnancy, right up to your child starting school.

2. Finally finding out that I was pregnant!  When we got married four and a half years ago, we made the decision to let nature take its course.  We weren’t actively “trying” but in all honesty, with my hours, his shifts and my stress levels, chances were pretty slim.

3. Seeing my husband’s face when he realised that, “You are going to be a Daddy” wasn’t referring to the fostering application that we’d submitted.

4. Seeing your baby for the first time on the 12 week scan.

12 week crop

5. Getting the letter that says that your baby is at low risk of having Down’s, Edwards’ and Patau’s Syndromes.

6. Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time at your second appointment with the midwife.

7. Being able to share your news with the people that you love.

8. Starting baby’s “bottom drawer”.

9. Feeling baby move, from the little flutters to the little kicks and dance routines. The best bit of this is that you can really share baby with your husband because up until now, she’s been more of an intellectual concept for him.

10. Seeing baby move during the 20 week scan (she was waving her little fingers in this pic) and, if it’s possible on the day and you want to know, finding out if baby is pink flavour or blue flavour (no gender stereotypes here, just helpful for Nanna-Bear and the Fairy Godmothers who are knitting).

20160222-Maggie_20 wks

11. Realising that your kitten is responding to your baby so you won’t have one wake you at Midnight, 02:00 and 04:00 and the other wake you at 01:00, 03:00 and 05:00.  She cuddles up to my belly for sleeps when baby is asleep and runs around like a loon when baby is dancing!


12. Being able to love having a belly!  Mine appeared from nowhere at about 20 weeks and now it’s huge but it is probably the only time in your life that you can enjoy having a massive belly.

13. Free prescriptions and dental care – you’ve got to love the NHS!

14. The feeling that you get when you put on your first pair of maternity trousers *ahhhhh*.

The jeans were too big but just recently, the waistband has started to cut into your belly; your leggings and joggers sit under your belly (or roll down) and baby doesn’t like the cold and the only things that have been really comfy are your ice-skating leggings and pyjama bottoms, neither of which is appropriate for work, shopping and other activities!

15. Having a truly wonderful Osteopath.

16. The cessation of menstruation!  As someone who loved being on Depo-Provera because of shift work and horrendous period pains, it is such a relief to be without one’s “curse”.

17. Discovering the “Baby Wish List” function on Amazon when people have been asking you to provide a list.  It’s like a wedding list, you get exactly what you need and/or want, delivered to your door!

18. Realising that in x weeks, you are going to be holding the tiny human that you both made.

The Bad


1. My lovely Midwife baffled me a little.  Maybe because I’m an old first time mum or maybe because she has so many mums who have had more than one baby, I’m not sure but she occasionally says something and I’m clueless.  The first time she said: “Right, it’s time to check baby now” and looked a bit surprised that I didn’t realise that I needed to take my jeans down to my knicker line and lie on the bed.  Mr PinQ was talking to our neighbour about this (soon to have her second baby) and she recommended that we sign up for ante-natal classes with the NCT.

I went online and nearly fell over when I saw the prices.  Money is tight since my redundancy and even if we fall into the cheapest price band, £10:30 an hour is way more than we can afford.  There are enough mothers in our lives who would undoubtedly share their experiences and common sense advice freely and with love.

We then planned to attend a sale of pre-loved baby things that was organised by the NCT. One of the organisers (our neighbour) and the venue gave us the times for the event as 10:00 till 14:00 and we planned our day around it.  We arrived at 12:20 and were shocked to see the sign segregating Members and Non-Members and then even more shocked to see a note at the bottom of the sandwich board declaring, “NO BUGGIES”.   Seriously?  We know the venue, we are members, they ask that you don’t leave buggies by the door as they could prevent easy egress in the event of a fire but they do allow buggies in.  If that wasn’t enough, they were charging £1 per person entry fee because they clearly don’t make enough money with their astronomical costs for classes/workshops.  The final insult was the NCT representative that “welcomed” us at the door.

Abruptly: “Are you here for the sale” Looking me up and down like I was filth
Glancing at my obvious baby belly a little incredulously, “Yes”
Abruptly: “It finishes at 12:30”
“Oh!  Two independent sources: the venue and one of the NCT organisers (our neighbour) told us that it was ten till two” peering hopefully over her shoulder at the full stalls with mums stood attentively in the hopes of making a little money from the things that their babies had grown out of.
Abruptly: “No, it definitely finishes at 12:30” and ushered us out of the door, stopping short of actually pushing us.

I warm smile with: “I’m sorry for any confusion/misunderstanding but the sale is only on until 12:30” would have been the right way to represent her organisation.  I wouldn’t really expect a: “It finishes at 12:30 but you’ve got 10 minutes for a quick look” although I’m quite sure that the chance to make a few extra £s would have been appreciated by the mums doing the actual selling.

I’m so glad that I have The Baby Centre, a great Midwife and lots of lovely friends – if I had to rely on the NCT I’d be in a mess!

2. Being told that the £60 per hour job is yours during interview and then having that swiftly retracted when you tell the interviewer that you are pregnant.

It had been advertised as a 3-6 month contract and I applied when I was 5 weeks.  The company then changed the job spec and delayed the interviews by a few of months.
Realising that it sounded like a longer contract, I asked how long he envisioned it continuing and when he said a year, I knew that I had to tell him.

To be fair, he did say that my telling him said an awful lot about my integrity and that in a couple of years, he would be looking to grow the team so I should keep in touch but I was pretty gutted and I know deep down that my lack of continuation training and current experience & knowledge will be an issue in a couple of years.

3. Being lectured to and patronised.

4. Discovering that someone you love dearly has lost their baby when you were only about four weeks apart.

The Not So Pretty:

1. The sickness.  A step up from “normal” morning sickness, Hyperemisis Gradivarium is not fun!  Eighteen weeks of being violently sick 4-8 times a day, evil dehydration headaches, learning what it feels like to choke on your own vomit and just the total wipe-out that it brings is horrendous.

With the tough fitness regime just prior to pregnancy, followed by the 1st 8lb weight loss in weeks 6 – 12 and ongoing sickness since, I am half expecting to come out of this pregnancy thinner than when I went in!

At 23 weeks, the sickness is largely down to once a day most of the time with just a few bad days at 4/5 times a day.

Now that baby is now starting to hear and have been trying to sing to her but my vocal cords are wrecked because of the sickness – I hope they get better!

2. Belching.  It’s embarrassing!  I have never belched so much in all my life.  Imagine drinking a can of fizzy pop in a one-er… Well, the resulting belch is my constant companion.  I get that baby has squished up all of my innards so things are bound to be a bit peculiar but she is so rude with all the belching and burping – because believe me when I say that it is ALL her.

3. Realising that you can no longer power through a 17 mile+ bike ride when 7 miles wipes you out for a day.  On the plus side, I am still happily cycling, Tai Chi-ing and doing gentle ballet warm-ups before skating; I’ve just had to learn my new limitations, so: no jumps on the ice, no running, stop when I’m tired even if it is a only fraction of my normal time/mileage and take it easy – gentle exercise is good for baby too!

4. Tiredness.  Not just when exercising but day-to-day.  I’m not sleeping as much or as well and with the sickness draining my energy too, I find that I am getting tired really easily.  An afternoon nap helps when I can get one.

5. Maternity bras.  At 5 weeks, I went from a FF to an H cup – because I really needed bigger boobs!  My fabulous Freya sports bras and pretty lacy ones had to be put into storage and maternity bras purchased.  Several that arrived are underwired – if I could wear underwired, I wouldn’t be buying goddamn maternity bras!  The wires are the cause of much pain now that I am pregnant.  Instead, I now have these massive boobs that are not properly supported in something that looks like a piece of kit for a Russian shot-putter.


6. The constant feeling of having a cold, caused by the swelling of your mucous membranes.  This also brings with it a whole new level of snoring that drives your hubby to sleep in the guest bedroom.  Well, one of us has to sleep!

7. The changes to your senses of taste and smell.  Nothing tastes right any more and you are enjoying food less and less but the impact on the sense of smell is far worse.

Having spent several years trying different antiperspirants that your beloved can use that won’t affect your psoriasis and eczema whilst effectively preventing him from smelling like a men’s locker room and that actually smells nice; you suddenly find it unbearably cloying and nauseating and find yourself sitting and shivering because you’ve had to open all of the windows to air the house following his morning shower.

8. Not being able to do everything that you used to.  Bending to tie your laces is uncomfortable.  You can’t lift that heavy box out of the way.  Some housework tasks are proving difficult.  You can’t empty the litter tray and aren’t sure about the safety of even handling all of the animals.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to find a comfortable position to sit/sleep in.

9. Your brain doesn’t seem to be quite as high-functioning as it was.

Don’t get me wrong, whilst I was always reasonably bright and very good at thinking on my feet, I have always been a bit dizzy/dippy but I have achieved new levels of dizziness that astound even me.  Is baby eating my brain?

10. Loose ligaments.  One of the dogs that we babysit from time-to-time is not very good on the lead and pulls dreadfully so it is getting to a point where I am struggling to walk him because he pulls even my good shoulder out of the socket a little.

This is actually a good candidate for the evolution or design argument.  You see, if we were designed, the ligament loosening would be targeted to the pelvic area where it is actually going to be needed when it is time to give birth and wouldn’t affect the whole body, offering you up more readily to injury at a time when you need to be strongest.

I am grateful not to have experienced the spreading of the feet though, another size up wouldn’t work with my height.

The Slightly Weird:

1. People asking to touch your belly.  To be fair, that is preferable to them just touching it but still…





Getting back on track

Since being made redundant, it has been difficult getting my routine right.

The first obstacle was the soul-destroying and time-consuming hours of job seeking and applying for positions that I knew the recruiters wouldn’t look twice at me for as demanded by the Job Centre when I signed on in order to make sure that my stamp (National Insurance) continued to be paid.

Just as I was regaining control of my life, had started working part time and we were a good way through the application process to become foster parents, I discovered that I am pregnant and found myself being violently ill 7/8 times a day, extremely fatigued and on an emotional roller-coaster caused by my raging hormones.

Consequently, my plans for my studies, the house and the garden were all thrown out of the window.   This was particularly difficult to deal with because I have always been extremely well-organised.  I’ve had to be.  In order to build rabbit hutches adn chicken coops, keep on top of the housework, do the gardening, make time for me, make time for us, have time for leisure and pleasure and make time for friends on top of working more than full-time; I have always made the most of my time and energy.

Of course not being able to do anything for so much of the time meant that even on days when I was feeling almost human, the tasks around me were so overwhelming that I didn’t get any of them done.  I’m lucky though because although I have been feeling somewhat isolated and as if my life was spiralling out of control, this hasn’t led to a major depressive episode.

I am feeling a lot better now and only tend to be sick once a day most of the time and have even started to make progress with some of the tasks in the house.

Unfortunately, I am dangerously close to the completion deadline for the whole of the first module of my BA (Hons) in Creative Arts  with 2 assignments left to do and at the start of this week, had to complete 4 assignments for my Nutrition and Health qualification.  I realise that the latter is not as important as the degree, partly because I started it because of our ambitions to become foster parents which has been put on hold for a year or so and partly because it is a Level 2 qualification and as such, doesn’t have much impact on my future career prospects.  That said, I decided to focus on that one first for several reasons: firstly, I had 4 assignments to complete as opposed to the 2 outstanding on my degree – one of which is almost finished; secondly, I knew that if I knuckled down, I could probably manage an assignment every 2-3 days, whereas the degree work would take a few weeks; and lastly because the sense of achievement that I would get from completing (and hopefully passing!) the course would spur me on with the degree.

I really enjoyed studying for my Foundation Diploma in Art, Design and Media a few years ago, despite my experience with the internal verifier at the end.  I had a great tutor who was extremely supportive and I loved the structure of the course, within which I was able to experiment and find my voice.  The degree has so far been very difficult because I have felt that the tutor has not bothered to read the written work that I have submitted – perhaps because it isn’t mandatory but I write it in support of my work and to give him an insight into how and why I have produced the body of work that I have for each assignment – so I really need to feel some sense of achievement from completing the level 2 course to spur me on!

April, May & June will see me focussing on the house in preparation for baby’s arrival in July.  I have no plan of action at present and don’t intend to worry about it until after I’ve finished my studies.  After that, it ill all be about baby and the next module of my degree which will thankfully bring a new tutor.

I submitted the third of the four assignments for my level 2 in Nutrition and Health this afternoon so I just have to wait for the feedback on that before I crack on with the last one – happy days.