This Month’s Health Column Sept 17

Long time no see, little blog, yet I have a host of unfinished posts lurking… never mind. I’m back with some brief news about this month’s health column. That’s the one published this month, not the one I’ve written this month. I work three months ahead on these, so sometimes I need to check what’s out at the moment!

This month’s column is on organ donation because Organ Donation week started on Monday the 4th and because organ donation is so tremendously important.

Want to know a horrible fact that really proves how shallow a race we are?

96% of us would take an organ if needed. Yet only 29% of us are on the Organ Donor Register.

It’s a little hypocritical, don’t you think? And yes, before someone shouts at me, I do know that a (very) small proportion of people can’t be organ donors. But even so.

Imagine, for a moment, getting the call that tells you someone you love has been in an accident and that they need a transplant – or visualize the scene in a doctor’s office as you’re told that you or a loved one has some dreadful condition for which the only permanent cure is a transplant.

Now imagine spending months in a hospital because there aren’t any organs available, while around you, every day, people with usable, healthy organs that could save the life of your child, parent or partner die, destroying and wasting those organs – all because they couldn’t be bothered to register as an organ donor. But of course, unless you were a registered donor yourself, you wouldn’t be in a position to wail and rail against the injustice of it all. The wheel turns…

So, if you’re not an organ donor, I urge you to not just think about it, but take action. In June 2017, when I wrote the article, there were 6342 people on the UK national transplant waiting list. Three people die every day in the UK due to a shortage of donated organs. Signing up many more donors may not eradicate that problem, but it could help.

Here’s a pic of one version of the published article and underneath, some info you might need if this has made you consider registering as a donor. Don’t forget that you can become a live donor too; there’s more info on that on the websites I’ve listed below.














How to Register as An Organ Donor

You can register online at You can also join the Register at your GP surgery or when you apply for a driving licence, European Health Insurance card (EHIC) or a Boots Advantage card.

Wales adopted a soft opt-out policy in 2015, which means that if you do not opt out of organ donor registration, you are presumed to have no objection to being a donor.

How to Donate Organs or Tissues as A Living Donor:

To donate organs,  contact the transplant centres. Numbers are available here

To donate tissues, Contact the National Referral Centre on 0800 432 0559 (Freephone) or Email:

For more information, visit: (Scotland) (Wales)

#Writer Beware: Not All Fame Is Good Fame

From time to time, people contact me to say how much they’ve appreciated one of my health columns. It’s nice to get those emails, social media messages or comments via the website; I like to feel the articles are being read and that they’re helping people. If one of my columns has been published in a local magazine, I sometimes get some rather lovely pleasant face-to-face feedback, too.

However, I was reminded recently that my control over how my humble Word documents are transformed into printed articles in magazines is limited – and that not all fame is good fame…

“They’re talking about your article!!” chirruped a Facebook message from a friend last month. I frowned at her link, which was to a post on the FB page of a local village. What was that image? Why were they laughing about my article? I squinted. Wasn’t that a picture of the short version of my article, printed in a local magazine?

I leaned closer. Why had somebody drawn a circle around th-


World Blood Donor Day Blooper

No. I don’t know how that made it to print, either.

I went straight on the internet to see if I could find digital versions of other print magazines in which it might have appeared.

Phew! Luckily, the article has appeared in other publications with a less embarrassing graphic. People in Birmingham and various parts of Yorkshire have been spared potential blushes, as have many others across the blood donor day 3

Unfortunately, people in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire weren’t so lucky. I would apologise, but honestly, that side of it is nothing to do with me!

The moral of this story? Never write an article with a title that could be turned into something dubious by a graphic designer’s one-letter typo. It’s certainly made me give my titles a second look…


A Summer Full of Health (Articles)

Every writer likes a regular gig and I’m lucky to have a few. My regular health column is written for the Discover magazine group but syndicated all over the place, so I’m never sure where it will turn up – or when!Have a Healthy Holiday 1

This article on the right is from last year, but I notice it’s doing the rounds again this year. This makes no difference to my finances; once it’s gone and I’m paid for it, it’s gone, because that’s the nature of the deal I have. But it’s nice to see it about.

I write the column around 10 weeks in advance, so the articles that have appeared in the July, August and September magazines were all written in the spring.

Brace yourself pic

July’s column was on a topic I’ve written about before, and something I have experience of – orthodontic braces. In November my braces will turn three, and I’m really hoping they don’t make it to four! I’ve had some awful dentistry in the past, and eventually I was faced with either getting the damage fixed at huge expense and still having potential problems and crooked teeth, or having the damaged teeth removed and all the others moved so that the gaps disappear – for just a little more. I knew it could take two years, but three was more than I was bargaining for. It’s been worth it though, and the end is in sight.

However, this article wasn’t about my personal experiences. It looked at the advantages of orthodontics and the available options. The image on the left shows a shortened syndicated version with a truly scary picture (nothing to do with me!).

Why Breast is Still BestAugust’s title was ‘Why Breast is Still Best – But Not Compulsory’, timed to coincide with World Breastfeeding Month. I covered the benefits for both mother and baby – hopefully including a few that some people weren’t aware of – and looked at some of the myths and misunderstandings that discourage new mums from even trying it.

The longer version included a selection of personal experiences and comments that I gathered when surveying friends and friends of friends – it’s good to get a real-life perspective on these things!

sitting 2

Sitting down was the theme this month – but the article wasn’t about how dangerous a lack of regular exercise is (although of course, Exercise Is Good).

It was about the dangers of sitting for prolonged periods, regardless of whether you train for marathons in between those three-hour TV binges – because sadly those marathons mean very little if you spend hours sitting. Strange, unsettling, but true.

I was aware of some of the research, but looking into it more deeply certainly made me think about my work patterns. I go for at least one walk every day and subject myself to some form of torturous, thigh-killing exercise once or twice a week; but it’s very easy to sit at the computer for hours when you’re a writer, and working from home means you have to discipline yourself to take regular breaks and go walkabout. Nobody else says, “Coming for a cuppa?”

But of course, these articles have all begun to fade in my memory because in writing terms, they were over and done with long ago; October and November’s columns are already written, so Psoriasis and Movember are coming soon to a magazine near you.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for my editor to confirm which of my pitches she wants to choose for December’s column. Hmm… that’s a timely reminder that the month is flying by and I need to give her a nudge. December’s column won’t write itself, and it needs to be in Monday week… *scribbles note to self*

If you’re a writer, what have you pitched or published recently? Do tell! 🙂


Bugs, Busting and Bug-Busting

Hah. A January post that’s not about resolutions. Never fear – that one is on its way…


Bugs of all kinds have been a theme in the last few weeks. In December a stomach bug tore through the village, leaving everyone feeling distinctly unfestive. Despite one of my beloved preschoolers throwing up quite spectacularly on my shoes, I thought I’d avoided The Bug (having sprayed everything in a 5 metre radius and disinfected my shoes). But no. It hit me the Sunday night and Monday before Christmas, and I still didn’t feel great on the day – so snacking and boozing were very limited and happened more at New Year.

Since Christmas, my laptop has puffed smoke and made a strange popping noise as a dodgy USB port died, my F key stopped working (fixed by Techie Husband. What would I do without him?), my K key is behaving oddly and the printer has suddenly decided to sleep whenever it wants to, and won’t wake up on anyone else’s terms. Useful, not.

Laptop and Stethoscope
One bug-bear (theme stretch alert) is my need for somewhere proper to write – somewhere that’s not dark, poky or a constant reminder of housework I could be doing, and doesn’t involve being unable to pull back curtains because my desk and its hutch are in the way (i.e. the corner of our bedroom). Somewhere I can have my paraphernalia handy, and not have to pack everything up and move it. Short-term, I think I’ll be moving back to the spare bedroom again (which is tiny, so don’t come and stay, anyone – because once I’m in there with my big desk, you won’t fit.) Long-term, Techie Husband and I have decided the answer is a garage conversion, which will hopefully happen in the summer. I’ll keep you updated with the Great Garage Project, but Step 1 is finding somewhere to house all the garden furniture and equipment it contains, so a shed arrives next weekend. I’ll take pictures but  I can guarantee it won’t look like this… .. more’s the pity.



Well, more busted really. The hand I damaged in the Cheese Sauce of Doom incident hasn’t really improved, much as the GP predicted. Currently debating whether to go and get a second opinion on the ‘nothing to be done, come back when it’s a claw’ diagnosis. It limits writing longhand and, shock horror, peeling potatoes (which was completely impossible at first) is doable but very awkward and slow. The loss of sensitivity in the thumb and poor grip means I drop things more often and have to bend down all the time, so it’s no surprise that my hiatus hernia has been playing up again. These things don’t get me down as much as frustrate me. I just want to GET ON!! 😀


I’m afraid that’s the unglamorous subject of my health column this month, as one of the three annual Bug-Busting Days falls on January 31st. Bug-Busting Day: Say Goodbye to Head Lice may well be in a local magazine near you, so if you have school-age children or work with them, have a read – unfortunately you’re a sitting-duck (but don’t need to be a lice-ridden one, if you follow my tips!).

Bug-busting Day

At the moment this is the only thing  of mine published in print this month, I think. And that’s all I’ve got time for, folks, because self, Techie Husband, Arty Daughter and Constructo Boy are off to a birthday party. Arty Daughter’s best friend (K the Cat)’s mum has a Significant Birthday. For a real step back in time, I’ll end with a photo of K the Cat and Arty Daughter in their Cosplay gear – nearly 4 years ago now, at the Spring London MCM Expo in 2011.

Arty Daughter (right) and K the Cat.
Arty Daughter (right) and K the Cat.

They’ve grown up a lot since then…

Before We Say Goodbye To Christmas…

Before we say goodbye to Christmas, I thought I’d (somewhat belatedly) share one of my favourite projects this year – researching the Christmas Truce of 1914. The resulting article was my most syndicated yet, and appeared in more than 15 different magazines, which I was very chuffed with!

Christmas Truce Harpenden NowI particularly liked this layout used in Harpenden Now magazine, because I thought the image of soldiers used behind the text was very effective. The layout below is from The CM21 Connection, who seem to have bought the full length version rather than the edited one.

Christmas Truce The CM21 Connection






Christmas Truce handy mag
The Handy Mag designers used some charming Christmas imagery to illustrate the article, shown here on the left. I like the snowy background effect.

When researching the article I used many letter excerpts, including some from letters written by Henry Williamson – yes, the same man who went on to write Tarka the Otter, a book that made me cry when I first read it around age ten. If you would like to read letters from this period, I can heartily recommend the amazing Christmas Truce website, “borne out of research conducted by Alan Cleaver and Lesley Park in 1999 for a booklet on the Christmas Truce called ‘Plum Puddings For All'”.  Alan and Lesley became “aware of the vast resource lying dormant in newspaper archives: original personal letters from participants describing what happened and the effect it had on them”. Alan, Lesley and other volunteers have since made it their task to seek out and transcribe these records, and it’s a stunning resource, so do visit.

Several magazines had obviously noticed the emphasis on personal letter excerpts and the mention of carols sung by both sides, and chose to to illustrate Christmas Truce the article with letters or German music scores, as Community Spotlight did (see right). The photos used were very touching too and provide proof that it wasn’t all swept under the carpet; the Christmas Truce events were reported in the UK just days later, with letters and photos appearing in national newspapers. While there was some disapproval in the higher ranks, it wasn’t the national disgrace it’s sometimes made out to have been.

If the experiences of WW1 soldiers interests you then there are dozens of books to read, but some I’ve dipped into recently are The Soldier’s War  and The Quick and the Dead by Richard Van Emden, and also Mud, Blood and Poppycock by Gordon Corrigan. Corrigan’s book raised a few hackles when published due to his determination to bust what he saw as some of the most troublesome and persistent WW1 myths.

If you would like to read my article, you can find it here on page 52 of the digital version of Yes magazine – if you’re interested in vision correction, my article on that is in the same magazine on page 36!

R is for Relevant:

Relevant: Having a bearing on or connection with the matter at hand.

Writers, you’ll be pleased to know that this post is relevant to you. That’s not even a pun.

The first interesting hit I got for relevant – and I emphasise, interesting – was this:

Young, Fresh and Relevant

is a yearly open submission journal with the aim of carving a space for writing within the visual arts. YFR hopes to be accessible for a new generation of young (in their practice rather than age) artists who may never have had their writing published, as well as aiming to attract practitioners who are more familiar with the Art Writing / publishing scene.

The editors say ‘There is currently no open call but email us anyway with texts, images, questions or invitations.’

The journal is available from a select group of libraries and bookshops in London, Glasgow. Ghent, Berlin and Tokyo – addresses are on the home page.

And as I’m behind again – that’s all, folks!