Hello dear readers
How are you all? How are you feeling? A little freaked out and anxious? I think you can allow yourself to be worried as we’re living in unprecedented times. But first, I’ve been writing this post as a draft for several weeks now. And when I began this I’m sorry to say it was entirely about my own particular set of circumstances and state of health, with which, naturally, I’d become a tad obsessed over the past two months or so. Yet now, how can any of us be unaware that we are all, everyone one of us, living in challenging and dangerous times.
So, first of all, thank you so much for your words of encouragement and good wishes. I loved reading them and they were a great support while I was unwell. To sum up my situation. I already know that, in an instant, your health can tumble out of control and all the good living and healthy food, exercise and good intentions plus the strong genes you thought you had can disappear in a flash.
I saw my consultant cardiologist a couple of weeks ago and the verdict is that I had an inflammation of my heart muscle (a myocarditis) from that secondary more fluey infection I got after my Xmas cold. But also, he thought my blood pressure was on the borderline of being too high. It was not, btw, Atrial Fibrillation (AF). My heart arrhythmia is ventricular (the lower half of the heart). The official diagnosis is that I had ventricular ectopy with bigeminy and trigemini. So I am to continue a beta blocker for a few months more to get me back to normal everyday living and I should at some point recover completely.
But everyday, normal living? What is that? For weeks I was a captive in my own flat, unable to function beyond tottering out of bed, showering and sitting on the settee without moving because any effort whatsoever brought on a feeling of collapse. But thank goodness we live where we do! I can look out of my window right now and see the hustle and bustle of the city, the people, the buses and the blue, blue sky. And once I started a beta blocker I went out ’round the block’ and began dropping in to some of the small independent and uncrowded shops that are part of the village community that is my part of Brighton. I even have two charity shops just 5 minutes away from my flat! The thing is though, two Fridays ago the consultant encouraged me to try all my ‘normal activities again. That was good advice then because I was so near to becoming agoraphobic, and actually I do admit to losing a huge chunk of my confidence. I mean, the heart is so central to one’s being and when it doesn’t let you even chop a cabbage, you do feel, where is this going? But now? I don’t think so. So I still haven’t been on a bus, gone into the centre of Brighton, gone to the hairdressers (oh my word, my hair is going to get long) or the beautician or participated in my regular Pilates classes. Because, people, I am just going to continue with what has been my life since Christmas, as in, I shall be practicing the art of social distancing. Indeed yesterday the UK government said that people over 70 will be advised to do just that for months.
The coronavirus is with us now and won’t die away completely in the warmer weather. And perhaps we can’t quite believe that we do have to change our ways and adapt to this awful state of affairs. So here’s some thoughts I have on this.
It’s amazing how quickly one adapts to self-isolation. Before Christmas I was as active as anybody could be, and then nothing. But my body told me to do nothing so that’s what I did. I mean of course, I was really unwell. And now? I’m easily exhausted but I could be out there in the centre of Brighton doing my thing, meeting people for coffee, going to Pilates and rummaging through charity shops, but I was taking it slowly, I don’t have a lot of energy and, of course, I won’t now.
So how to adapt to this state of affairs? I was asked this question only yesterday by a friend nearly my age who lives on her own. How to live over these few months? I didn’t immediately know but I have thought about this ever since she asked. And I’m going to say, one way is to live more in your head. To explain. Through those two months of heart disturbance I never went out but I didn’t feel isolated because I was constantly on social media. Now some of you might recoil and say I would never… but maybe this is the time to find out more? It is one way to cope. So here’s how I use social media.
You’ve heard it is a bad place. Actually you make your own personal social media space a lovely, safe, kind and funny space. It is your space, you are a nice person, your social media space is therefore going to be a nice place. So Facebook. My Facebook space is not used for Frugalfashionshopper, instead it is a personal space for people I have physically met and known for years. I love my Facebook friends of which I really only ‘see’ about 10 of them regularly. But I am constantly in contact with people who live in France and the States, and I speak to them daily through my posts. I am never alone with Facebook. And as well as being very political, in this space, I am also repost lots of amusing stuff, and am therefore always on the lookout for laugh-out-loud things to pass on to my friends. It’s a fun way to pass the time 🙂
Then there’s Twitter. I also love Twitter. You’ve heard it’s a really bad place. No, you follow people you admire and you get rid of anyone you don’t like. I follow journalists, mainly political journalists, and some celebs, like the Reverend Richard Coles, and a few, very few fashionistas. I have actually made friends on Twitter, because people get to know you from the way you tweet. Very early on I met one of them in person, that was Tricia Cusden of Look Fabulous Forever fame. And last summer I met another friend I made on Twitter in person. But others I haven’t met I feel an affinity with and they with me. You’re never alone with Twitter. A final word is that it is a place for writers, I think. There’s a lot of witty and amusing stuff out there on Twitter, but for those nervous of starting on Twitter, for at least a year I just followed people and looked at their tweets, there’s no need to actually tweet.
Instagram, though, is the pits!! Because of some very dubious followers – all of them men or bots. But you can make it your own. I have walled off my account. It’s private. I haven’t posted for ages but I still look as my Instagram space is full of wonderful, lovely women who I admire – more power to them. I delete most requests to follow me, btw. And I don’t take Instagram seriously in any way. But I like looking at the pix.
And don’t forget emails. They are my letters to friends, so I admit I write long emails, but I see them as a good way to communicate with people. Not everyone likes a long email. I have had it said, gosh, I didn’t know how to reply. But I just see an email as a way to talk to people. I don’t btw, like a phone call. I find those intrusive. I have a couple of friends (older than me) who actually see it as more polite to talk. Not me, for me it’s polite to write! But everyone is different – we must live and learn together, and talk to each other in the way that is most comfortable.
So, another thing is to get into a routine. In the early days I couldn’t even write. Gosh, that meant I was very unwell. But once I regained my energy and reduced the arrhythmia (with the beta blocker) I spent/spend the morning on admin, emails, social media and a little writing. Btw, always when at the laptop, or whatever, get up and walk around at least twice in every hour.
Yes, do some exercises during the day, every day. I have re-introduced a gentle warm-up routine. I will move onto press-ups, eventually, slowly does it. Then get out of the house! This is not self-isolation, this is self-distancing. So I walk out of my flat to the parade of uncrowded small independent shops, and then down to the sea-front.
Reading. In the early days of my illness I didn’t even have the energy to read so instead, I watched a lot of daytime television – some programmes were quite addictive. I never ever watched daytime TV, but Homes Under the Hammer anyone? I can’t have enough of that!!! I rushed out to buy the latest Hilary Mantel, The Mirror and the Light but still can’t summon up the concentration. Instead I have given myself over to thriller/detective stories – I especially recommend Peter May’s the China thriller series.
I have used online food shopping far more than ever. I’ve been getting groceries online since I was 60 so that’s 13 years and counting. I mean why wouldn’t you get your heavy shopping delivered to your door? It is so convenient at any time. OK, before this situation came along I would buy meat separately from a butcher. But now? I got a huge order in last Friday – of everything. So I haven’t encountered any empty shelves (I mean loo paper – what are people doing) because I don’t go into food shops. Although 5 minutes away from where I live there is a wonderful deli with superb vegetables if I run out of anything in the next few days. On the day of delivery I thought Sainsbury’s had been wonderful as I got most of what I ordered. But two days later when I went to book my next order there wasn’t a single delivery slot for Sainsbury’s food for 3 whole weeks. After searching around I found a delivery slot by joining Asda – needs must, people.
Actually, a couple of days on from that, my conclusion is that deliveries of food in the UK from supermarkets have collapsed – so watch this space. My view is that if there was such a thing as joined-up thinking, everyone who is going to lose their jobs in the retail, catering and hospitality industry (my heart goes out to them) should be re-directed to food delivery; especially for those older people who don’t know how to, or couldn’t order because they are not online. This is a crisis. Let’s do some out-of-the-box thinking on this.
When I was really unwell I discovered the joys of online clothes shopping! And the best place to look in the UK I think, is Warehouse, which has some great cut-price sales items. You’ll see a couple of items I’ve bought from Warehouse soon. But here’s a shot of a hat bought locally in a shop 5 minutes from where I live.
I’ve also ordered other products on online like vitamins, dental care, books, hair care. You name it, I’ve bought online and had it delivered to my door. But I feel for the small shops and independent stores that may not survive if we go into lockdown. Where is this going to end with news that the pandemic may continue into the Spring of next year? This is why we are anxious – this is unknown territory.
I am a political person so it wouldn’t be new for me to criticise politicians but I was not happy with the government’s somewhat laid back attitude at the end of last week and our leader’s phrase, ‘some of your loved ones are going to die’. Excuse me, why aren’t you fighting for every life in the land, and testing everyone. You won’t know the patterns of contagion. Good grief, this goes again science and the evidence you need to fight it. If South Korea can test, so can we. And we all matter, including those who are in the vulnerable age group (my age group) and have some health issues (me again). But let’s be positive. I encourage you to drop in to the Age Well Project blog, which has many links to research based articles and advice to eat well and healthily. We all need to take extra care of ourselves and our body.
I’ve lain many a night sleepless in the dark, wondering first whether I’ll survive the heart arrhythmias and now the coronavirus. I fear not just for myself but my children, but was almost relieved to hear that the youngest person to die in the UK so far was 59 (RIP, I’m so sorry) but my children should be OK.
We’ve updated our wills, set up Powers of Attorney and signed an End-of-Life Directive. We’ve also written a letter to our children to be attached to the wills giving them some direction re: our respective funerals. I think I told you this before, but I don’t want any formal ceremony, instead I want (if they can manage it) a swishing party with people paying £5 (which will go to charity) and then they help themselves to all my lovely clothes, hats and jewellery. Any clothes left over will go to the charity. They don’t have to stick with this, but if they’re wondering what to do, there are some ideas that might help.
And when the sun shines don’t we all feel better! Here’s a couple of pix of me sitting in the sun on the seafront. Oh I do love to be beside the seaside!!
And another staring out to sea pretending I’m on a cruise
Without any fuss, the Saga cruise line has allowed customers to cancel future cruises and get their deposit back. Good for them. We had a cruise booked in August – this is not the year to go on a cruise!
That’s all for now, my dears. Thank you for reading this. I shall post, at the most, once a fortnight as I still lack energy.
Be safe, be warm, be well.
With love, Penny, the Frugalfashionshopper