What our Ancestors can teach us about healing

It is odd that today I came across not one, but two examples of the ‘super-‘bug’ MRSA being defeated, or at the least severely dented, by ‘old recipes’ for fighting disease.

The first was a report in NEW SCIENTIST that scientists from the University of Nottingham have worked on a recipe to cure styes, laid out in a 1000 year-old Anglo-Saxon medical recipes book called Bald’s Leechbook . (article here)    DSCF5518

It sounds like the three witches in Macbeth, ‘Take cropleek and garlic, of both equal quantities, pound them well together… take wine and bullocks gall, mix with the leek… let it stand nine days in the brass vessel…’  But this is exactly what the scientists did.. though they made sure everything was sterile, and had controls set up, and had each element set up separately too (to see if only one would work – none did on their own)

The result: ‘The potion was tested on scraps of skin taken from mice infected with Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. This is an antibiotic-resistant version of the bacteria that causes styes, more commonly known as the hospital super-bug MRSA. The potion killed 90 per cent of the bacteria. Vancomycin, the antibiotic generally used for MRSA, killed about the same proportion when it was added to the skin scraps’.

Just imagine how long and how much experimentation had to have taken place in ancient times to come up with this particular mixture of herbs and the vessel to use to make it in, made up so carefully (another ‘try’ with this recipe by a US university in 2005 resulted in  ‘a loathsome, odorous slime‘ that did not work,) and left for that particular length of time to discover it worked, that it cured styes (for that is what the recipe was for – and as styes are caused by Staphylococcus aureus – this is why the scientists were trying it)

This method has been peer tested by Dr Kendra Rumbaugh, of Texas Tech University in the US, who was asked to replicate the findings. She said that the salve performed ‘good if not better’ than traditional antibiotics at tackling the superbug. The findings were presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for General Microbiology in Birmingham which runs from March 30 this year.

IMG_0384The second MRSA attacker I heard about on the radio — my ears pricked up when I heard the goats (we used to keep goats) and they were the source of this other unexpected beater of MRSA.  It is a long story – but the goats had initially been kept to help with their son’s asthma (this is well documented that Goat’s milk is a less antagonistic to bronchial conditions than cows milk.) They also found that it helped clear up his eczema when made into a cream and a soap.

Now, eczema is an auto-immune disease and many auto-immune diseases appear to be triggered in the gut. By making a fermented product from the goat’s milk, called kefir, they found they had something that seemed to help many auto-immune gut related conditions. Kefir is a powerful probiotic that has been made for hundreds of years in Russia, though the name is possibly Turkish (from keif meaning good feeling).

Then, after surgery, the husband contracted MRSA from the hospital. The wound wasn’t healing, worse, the MRSA was attacking the skin and flesh and making the wound larger and worse and, despite treatment, would not go away. Having read of the curative powers of kefir and having seen how it had helped their son with both asthma and eczema, the wife started treating her husband with kefir by getting him to drink it. She also read-up on essential oils and, believe it or not, the bubonic plague and a bunch of perfumiers who didn’t catch it, and created her own blend of essential oils which she used to bathe his skin, after which she used the kefir on his skin too. In two weeks his skin was testing negative for MRSA and soon healed. The blend of essential oils has since been lab-tested to show it is effective against a whole bunch of pathogenic bacteria, and they are currently working with Swansea university on the effects of kefir and the essential oils  (read an article here)

Now these are concoctions that have been ‘known’ about in the western world for hundreds of years – and we are still only just realising how nature works, how our bodies work and how they can work together – or against each other. If this is the state we are in with cures and remedies we already ‘know’ about  – how many more cures are out there in nature, especially in the most bio-diverse regions like the rain-forests that man seems set on destroying? It makes you think!  (Yes, I did quite get into all this while I was writing ‘The Angel Bug’ as one of the main characters was deeply concerned for the rain-forest and its bio-diversity – does it show?

Had you picked up on these stories in the recent media?

What are your thoughts?

Are you fed up with the general election  (UK) ALREADY?

Do share – you know you want to 🙂

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Something to Sing about

I’ve told you that I was going along to see why I couldn’t sing – despite loving to sing. I set off expecting to be asked to hit a few notes, perhaps played on a piano or something for me to repeat, or a trilling ‘lalala’ to copy, perhaps even a rendition of “Doe a deer a female deer, ray a drop of golden sun, me … ” from the sound of music or just a ..me-me-me-me-me…Hmmm?

None of it, well not for a long time.  My dear and lovely friend, (this is why I felt safe even though still vulnerable) made us both a nice cuppa and we sat. ‘Why do you think you cannot sing?’ she asked, without having heard the evidence (ie, me trying to sing.)  ‘When, in fact, did you first think you could not sing?’ I did tell you before that she is of the belief that everyone can sing!  Did I mention she is also a beautiful singer and ex speech-therapist?

Picture credit to Gryffindor
Picture credit to Gryffindor

As it happens the first time I realised I could not sing is etched in my memory. I must have been about nine – as I was in Mrs Snow’s class. I can see the room, the double desks on cast iron frames, the ink-wells set in them. Mrs Snow was choosing people for some sort of special choir. The actual reason is, for me, lost in time. I suspect it was something to do with the church, as our school was a C of E and we trooped next door to the church for various events.

‘All those who would like to be in the choir put your hand up.’ Me, me, me, my hand up and waving. She picked out about a dozen, maybe fifteen, hand-wavers. Pointed at me and said, ‘Not You,’ then also to a contemporary sitting two desks away. This was a lad whose voice I had heard often in our ‘Singing Together’ lessons (A lesson broadcast on the radio and followed in class with special booklets of the songs) as he sat quite close to me and, I thought, sang like a frog.  He was a keen joiner-in though so had his hand up for the choir too, finally a ‘Not you,’ for one other child, over towards the back of the classroom. Everyone else who wanted to sing was chosen.

It was obvious to me then … I knew the lad couldn’t sing .. so I must sing like a frog too.

Sadly that was not the only time I was deterred from singing, my dear OH wonders aloud ‘if I am ill’ if he hears me singing loudly in the kitchen (as he often does – as I love to sing along to the radio) and I was even asked to mime at the end of an Am Dram panto as I was ‘putting the others off in the last big chorus.’

So, after an hour of chat and probing about my memories of singing, which included the times I liked to sing, happier memories of singing and the like, she gets out the words to Good King Wenceslas. ‘Lets have a go at this,’ she says, ‘but as you sing I want you to swing your arms from side to side.’

And so we did. We sang the first verse together.

‘Perfectly in tune,’ she says. ‘Next verse you sing ‘the King’ I’ll sing ‘the page’.

‘Great – perfect. Next verse, together..’

Well I was right in the swing of it now I thought (arms swinging away rhythmically too, to help distract me from thinking too much – I think)  ….. but when we came to the second half of the verse my voice went to pot…… ‘Ah HA!’ she said, ‘You tried to sing that high when it didn’t need it and it went everywhere!’

And so it had.

‘You could be as low as a tenor,’ she said, ‘or at least second Alto.  And if you sang naturally low even as a child you may have not blended in with the high voices of the rest, so that Mrs Snow wouldn’t want a low voice mixed in with the general high voices. You sing low – but not out of tune and not like a frog!’

‘I suspect that you try to sing like others around you, but the melody line is frequently out of your range so your notes go all over the place – which explains why even in later life you have been told not to sing.’

WOW

So, like the Page I follow, placing my feet in the footprints as we  ‘siren’ swooping from high to low and back up high – and higher. Good vocal stretching, silly noises that are not singing but may extend my range. I am to practise.

We are going to have another meeting. None of this is to teach me to sing… but I now know that it is not without hope. If I choose I can find my voice – perhaps have some singing lessons, perhaps join a choir that needs low voices… exciting or what? Certainly something to sing about!

Do you remember ‘Singing Together’?

Have you ever been told not to sing?

Is it possible that it is only a misplaced voice?

Can we really all sing??

What do you think – do share, you know I love to hear from you.

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This is not a real post – just a Litter-rant update

This is not a real post – just a Litter-rant update, honest – the post I was writing and didn’t post will arrive early next week.
DSCF0145
THIS is how much rubbish was collected on our Saturday Litter-pick. THIS MUCH! from just the roadsides round out parish.
So you can see our litter-pick happened but not before yet more hurdles were placed in our way…. as you will know I was railing against the fact that one of the volunteers had to travel a total of 50 miles to borrow the equipment to do this litter-pick with… well .. this is what happened……
We headed off the the Liskeard, Moorswater depot … having checked where it should be… it turned out to be a place so unsigned that we had to ask in two other places before we found it! Even when we drove into the yard it wasn’t clear where to go – the office door having only a sign that said ‘visitors must sign in at reception’ though no sign to say where reception was, whose office this was, or anything. I stuck my head inside and said ‘I’m supposed to be collecting some litter-picking equipment?’ Slight surprise but recollection too, then they went to retrieve it from where-ever.
Boxes were brought… I looked and checked numbers ….. instead of the 25 pickers, 25 hoops, 20 tabards and 50 sacks ALL they had to loan us was 19 litter-pickers, 11 hoops, NO TABARDS and 50 sacks.  It transpired that they DO NOT keep this equipment at Moorswater – it had been delivered to them … and that is all they were sent!
 
Now, what you need to know is that without high-visibility tabards a litter pick should not be able to go ahead, as wearing these is part of the Risk Assessment that has to be complied with to receive the Council’s insurance to cover the event.
I asked for a receipt for the numbers I had actually been given as I did not want a different person telling me I had items missing when I returned them and set off wondering what we could do.
 
Luckily I had half dozen adult tabards and 19 small (child size) tabards that we have had since we first began our litter-pick and we were sent them from the national Keep Britain Tidy group. These are like bright green plastic bags with writing on and holes  for heads and arms. I then spent and hour  ‘converting’ most of these to fit an adult – so at least the litter-pick could go ahead. Everyone was very understanding, (including one gentleman who squeezed into an unconverted child-sized tabard – I wish I had taken a photo!) and we had a record turn-out of thirty helpers. (some helping at a different time to others) AND many thanks to all those valiant people who turned out and a special mention for Daniel who picks up all the bags and brings them back to ‘HQ’ for collection by the council later.
Was it worth it? Well, you be the judge – above is the photo of this year’s haul, thirty full bags of rubbish plus a couple of dumped tyres, some hub-caps and a television stand. Just think what it would look like if this much rubbish were left to lie beside our roads and lanes, with the same again added year on year.
So my rant stands, I think Cornwall Council are not helping to encourage volunteers who are picking up the litter, that the council should be doing, by effectively charging volunteers to borrow the equipment (that’s paid for through council taxes) by making them travel so far to collect and return it. We all know times are tight for councils, but this is wrong-headed. They have had plenty of advertising for their ‘Clean-Cornwall’ but what use is that if they treat volunteers in this manner?
Promise – the next post is far more pleasant  🙂
Did you come on the litter-pick?
Have you been on one in your area?
Do share- you know I love to hear from you – even when it’s only been a rant 🙂
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Council Kicking the Gift-Horse in the Head

You will have read here before of our annual litter-pick – clearing our beautiful Cornish country lanes of the litter debris that accumulates over the year. You will  have seen the HUGE pile of bags filed with this rubbish, numbering twenty or more, plus sundry car tyres, plastic buckets and unidentified parts of something or other … Here’s last year’s collection DSCF7445

This all done through the goodwill of VOLUNTEERS. Volunteers who arrange the day, the allocation of routes,  the borrowing of tools to help in the job, the driving round the routes to collect bags that have become too heavy to carry, the collection of all the bags filled and sundry objects, and, ultimately the collection of all this by the Council.

All fine and dandy … we’ve been doing this for nigh on twenty years. However this year I am very UNHAPPY. The council have decided that the equipment can only be collected from one of four depots around our long county. … expecting us, in this case, to make a total of !!! 50 miles !!!  journey to borrow these items ….  TO HELP THE COUNCIL DO ITS WORK ???

# Their excuse is ‘the cuts’ … Umm excuse me ….. wind back a bit ……

Last year* (and for a number preceding this) we have been able to collect the equipment from the local One-Stop-Shop (once these became established – before then the equipment was delivered to us [yes that was extravagant] and, sensibly, collected when the refuse was collected.)

In this* model the equipment was delivered TO the One Stop Shop by the Council Van – which goes to round to each One-Stop-Shop  ANYWAY.  We could arrange to pick it up on a day during the week preceding out litter-pick – to suit us – and return it the next week. This meant it was picked up and returned when someone was already going into the local town RESULT = NO EXTRA TRANSPORT REQUIRED = less impact on the environment + less expense for the volunteers!

The Council blame ‘CUTS’ ….  HOW can volunteers travelling 50+ miles be better? As I understand it, one other volunteer group has already cancelled their litter-pick… and were it not for the fact that ours has been advertised I doubt this one would go ahead. Will we feel inclined to organise it next year? I doubt it.

The council appears to assume by asking the volunteers to collect and return at distance – that the volunteers have the TIME in their working week to do this, that they have the SPARE MONEY to afford the extra cost, that they care so little about the environment that driving unnecessary miles is fine with them.

“A VOLUNTEER IS WORTH TEN PRESSED MEN”

It isn’t enough that we give up a Saturday afternoon (when we could all find something more pleasurable to be doing) to clear the litter from the highways and byways of our parish – it seems we are now expected to ‘pay’ to do so. This is not to say that we are not grateful for the loan of the equipment, we are, it makes doing ‘the council’s job’ easier for us, encourages more people to get involved, which encourages more people to care for their environment. The enthusiasm with which people work at this task is wonderful – as the saying goes ‘a volunteer is truly worth ten pressed men’

INSULT TO INJURY
Cornwall Council choice of recycling-collection method even causes litter

Litter-picking also means we get to see the types and locations of litter. We can highlight the patterns of offenders, the ‘every-week stop for a snack and a smoke – drop it out the window’ the ‘regular buy a Costa Coffee – drop the empty cup out the window as they finish’ the ‘chuck the cigarette-packet as they drive into the parish’ types. Since the council have changed to a new recycling collection system, where the recycling is collected loose from kerb-side bags, we have also identified another type of litter. Domestic recycling that has ‘jumped’ out of the recycling wagon, or been ‘sucked out’ by the wind as they drive along. 

How do we know? Well, who would fold flat a Quaker-Oats box (to give a specific example) then drive a couple of hundred yards or so to throw it out? Or lids from cans of fruit of similar? Or washed, squashed milk-bottles? This litter is usually a long way from residences; where the lorry gets a bit of speed up. Indeed, litter being ‘sucked out and whirling into the air’ has been observed by one of our group when following a recycling lorry down a long stretch between houses.

Ironic, then, that they are causing more litter AND effectively dissuading people from helping clean it up!

Looking again at that HUGE pile of litter and rubbish and debris we collected last year from the highways and byways of our small Cornish parish … It seems Cornwall Council want that to stay blighting the countryside this year, and the same again added every year! No amount of advertising ‘Clean Cornwall week / fortnight’ will get this picked up without the Volunteers that they are turning against them.

Do you think the council are being blinkered by ‘the cuts!!’

Are they ‘cutting’ off their nose to spite their face?

Are they kicking the gift-horse in the head (to mix my metaphors?)

What do you think we should do next year if they do not change this policy?

Rant over …  normal service may return next week… though it depends what rubbish we find on the litter-pick 🙂

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Famous friend and Fictional place

Have you been watching The Big Painting Challenge on BBC 1? (iplayer link HERE to first episode- runs out in 21 days) I have to say it has inspired me to think about my drawing and painting skills, long left to lie. Except when in meetings… I am an inveterate doodler – and when in meetings will doodle.

Some are of the opinion that doodling is akin to ignoring the meeting altogether. Not so! In fact it has been shown that those who doodle actually are taking in more than those who merely sit and listen. Even if I am chairing the meeting, I usually end up with a doodle or two – usually around the items on the agenda that cause most discussion. DSCF0133

Doodles, it is said, can also be interpreted, sharp angular ones indicating dissent, or difficulties, loose flowing ones indicating calm and non confrontational thought. I really can’t comment on this! Enough about doodles – on to some real Art!

If you have been watching The Big Painting Challenge you will, by now, be a little familiar with the contestants. Next time you watch please notice Anthea.  Anthea Lay exhibits her paintings at the same morning market that I mentioned last week, where I take my books as an opportunity to meet friends and the buying pubic, and has become a friend.

A long while ago I asked Anthea about painting a picture that I could use as a cover for my next book. At that time I had only just started writing but I knew my main protagonist was a woman who was very involved in art, and I felt a cover that was, and looked, like a painting, would be appropriate. Fast forward to this winter and I now know where my protagonist lives (in a fictional village near Kit Hill in the Tamar Valley) and much more about the story, so I commissioned Anthea to create this fictional scene.

To assist with the transition of my idea to her vision I gave her a photograph of a ‘wild’ sky I had taken over Caradon mast, another with Kit Hill in the background, saying the fictional village could be on the ridge by the valley full of trees you could see, a photograph of a converted chapel that I had in my mind’s eye for the home of the main character and a plan of the ‘village’ that I created to make sure my characters move around their landscape properly; and then asked if all the relevant details could be squished onto the right hand side of the painting as this would be the front cover. Tall order!? Not for Anthea!  ‘Landscapes’ are Anthea’s thing and she usually paints only from life but she had fun creating this new, imagined and ‘painterly’ landscape and I am delighted. IMG_1680 CroppedSo lucky to have such talented friends!

The sky is suitably ‘Turner-esque’ and though from a ‘real’ sky looks as if it could only exist in a painting, the salient points in the story-village are identifiable should you wish to do so, the whole countryside effect is perfect.

To be turned into a book cover it, obviously, has to have the title and author’s name across it.. and blurb and other info on the back – to give you all an idea I have just added the words to the front cover part (not done professionally – words will be better and properly spaced on the real thing) The whole painting will be used for the cover – running right through onto the back.

FRONT MOCK-UP  ARLWhat are your reactions to this book-cover idea?

Do you DOODLE?

Do share, you know I love to hear from you!

If you live in SE Cornwall or SW Devon you are lucky to be close enough to see some of Anthea’s work on exhibition and for sale at The Wharf, Tavistock; Compton Engine House cafe, Florence Road, Kelly Bray; Jane’s Florists and Art show room, the Pannier Market, Callington and The Public Rooms, Liskeard as well as the Wednesday morning Callington Country Market aforementioned, don’t miss your chance now that she is not only talented but also ‘famous’!

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