Thursday, August 11, 2011

Arthritis and Me

I am very slow to get going this morning after another very unsettled night. I had half a sleeping tablet and actually fell asleep while watching a wildlife programme we had recorded earlier. I awoke to find myself alone, the TV switched off, the light dimmed and myself covered over with a blanket (thanks to my nearest and dearest).

My first thought upon rousing from this slumber was that I had enjoyed a nice long sleep and it was probably approaching a time when people would be getting up to start their day. This thought was so far from the truth as I found out when I glanced over to the time display on the DVD recorder which informed me that it was not yet even midnight. I must admit to feeling somewhat disappointed at this revelation.

The night was set to continue as one of those that I experience so often now, a repeating cycle of drifting off to sleep only to be awakened a short time after. The arthritis is the enemy in my battle to sleep, sending forth soldiers of vengeance each time it discovers that I have laxed and let my defences down.

I feel loathed to move and so rearrange myself on the reclining chair on which I have fallen asleep and soon I have drifted again into that (drug induced) state. But not for long, the daggers in my back have woken me again.

I decide to go upstairs to bed and see how well I can fare on the memory foam mattress, the very expensive memory foam mattress, that has not been the success I had hoped for when we bought it. I lie at full stretch on my back and instantly feel the dull aching of my lower back and hips and so begins the struggle to find a position where all my inner bits are lined up in a way that does not agitate the nerves at the point where they branch out from my spinal column. This is not easy, and I am mindful not to make so much disturbance as to awaken my other half who appears to be soundly asleep.

The cycle of sleeping and waking continues but I am determined not to give in and constantly move and turn into whatever position seems necessary to gain each further moment of sleep.

At 5.00am I wake up and the pain is at a higher level now in my hips and back. From years of experience I know that this due to the very act of lying in bed and so it is time to get up, I am desperate too, for my pain killers. I wear an analgesic patch which leaches a continuous supply of pain relieving drugs into my system, but that in itself is not effective enough to kill the pain. So I take my first dose of Tramadol and Paracetamol, this will hopefully ease things off to some degree within an hour.

I make myself comfortable on the sofa, have a cup of tea and catch up with the news on Teletext and I have drifted off again, this time I am sure it is for a full hour, Wow.

Sometime later I stand in the bathroom having had a wash and brushed my teeth, I realise I feel good, no pain, maybe this is going to be a good day after all. I move away from the sink and that invisible hand starts to squeeze the bones at the base of my spine, sending tendrils of pain across my lower back, invading my hips, shooting down the nerves that extend the length of my legs to even irritate the sides of my big toes.

And so the day begins!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Flying Ants a Feast for the Birds

Last week we witnessed a phenomenon that occurs here in the UK during late July and early August. It provides a feast for the birds and can be quite spectacular. I refer to the Flight of the Flying Ants.

Flying Ants
The high humidity we experienced for a few days was the trigger needed to begin mass swarming of the ants as these tiny insects monitor the day length, humidity and temperature to pick just one day a year to mate.

The natural instinct of the ant is to spread and form new colonies and with this aim the queens fly high into the air before mating with the males. Another marvel of nature and evolution is at work here because only the strongest and fittest males will manage to keep up with the females. The offspring of different colonies will come together thus blending the genes of the species and ensuring its survival.

I have read that the ants all co-ordinate leaving their nests on the same day once a year, but I find this statement to be very misleading. I do agree that a whole colony and indeed many neighbouring colonies will co-ordinate their flight to occur on the same day. However this flying of the ants will be witnessed on many days on which the conditions prove to be suitable.

Feast for the Birds
The first sign that alerted me to this event taking place on Monday of last week, if my memory serves me correctly, was the antics of the local Starling population. They were darting into the air from the conifer, pausing briefly in mid air, performing a pirouette, then returning to their place on the tree branch. It was marvellous entertainment, a bird brained ballet at its finest. Starlings young and old alike were taking full advantage of this natural feast.

I then saw as I looked up and down the neighbouring gardens that the sky was filled with birds. Starlings and House Sparrows were busily collecting the winged morsels everywhere and House Martins swooped endlessly in an effort to catch as many as they could. The flying feast comes at a time when the House Martins need to eat as much as they can, they are building up fat reserves in readiness for the long migration to Africa which they will shortly be undertaking.

But the biggest jaw dropping spectacle, were the Gulls. There were literary hundreds of them, ranging from those flying low down above the rooftops to the countless number that spiralled skywards, rising up and up in ever decreasing circles until barely visible, just mere specs against the backdrop of the sky.

And we live nowhere near to the sea.