It has been almost a year since I last posted. There are reasons, in fact, last year finished in a way I would never expect it to – as explained here.

If I was to hazard a guess when things started to be a bit different than usual (as of course I was in denial as described) it would probably be around May-June-July time before we headed to Australia.

So all the things I wanted to write about on here that we visited in Australia were kind of shelved because I was so very tired. Plus some things I wanted to do I was too tired to go to.

BUT! We did get to Rottnest Island and we saw Quokkas. I fell off my hired bike (which is weird in itself, I never fall off bikes apart from that other time when I did) and just felt tired a lot.

We went up north and stopped by The Pinnacles on the way back which were amazing to see.

Did I have the energy to type anything up? Nope. Because by the time we realised something was badly wrong I was having the operation and resting up and time had flown by. Photos are just as good I think.

I’ve noticed my typing is different after the operation, I’m a bit more blunt. I’m getting used to it. I’m not being rude, it’s just how things now seem to be. I also can’t type as well any more – lots of typos, and as someone who always typed fast and didn’t get many errors it’s a bit weird for me. Nothing I’m beating myself up about, just another side effect of all this stuff.

This isn’t about my head here, I’m just making sure 2023 has a post up – and here it is.

Let’s talk about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

Some things never go away, and sometimes that’s a good thing. I lived to tell the story and as time progresses things come to mind which make me wonder if it was all a part of the same thing. So let’s revisit that time we had a carbon monoxide leak.

It was 2015 going into 2016. I was feeling tired all the time; understandable, it had been a busy year and I was probably doing too much as usual, everything at once, so ended up feeling quite burnt out. So that’s PTA, Rainbows, knitting, swimming, football and more – then there’s work and school and the juggling between the two. So I felt tired? Welcome to the club Jo. It was no big deal, we were all tired.

There was nothing which seemed odd and okay, I was forgetful. This much I do remember. I remember being told things verbally and not retaining that information. But I’m old. Probably just the old menopausal brain fog, eh? There’s a perfectly reasonable reason for everything when you find it. Nothing to worry about.

Then of course there’s the Christmas crash. No work for two weeks and just stopping – and it all catches up with you. Family time, having fun, being really tired as you’ve had a busy year. All the normal things everyone goes through.

But it wasn’t that was it. It was probably something else. But I’ve no idea, no indicator when it started.

By early January I was feeling groggy most mornings. I’d wake up with a dull head, a dizzy head, I’d get out of the house and I’d make my way to the station and feel like I was staggering all over the path, couldn’t walk in a straight line.

Ah but I obviously overdid it leading up to Christmas, maybe I’ve not had enough time off to feel normal again. Maybe this is parenthood? We just feel this way all the time and get on with it? Don’t moan, just try stronger coffee, it’ll pass, it’s a virus. If it goes on for too long I’ll go to the doctor, although the last time I went to the doctor they said “it’s a virus, it’ll pass, we can’t do anything about it” so maybe it’s not worth wasting their time. So let’s just leave it, put up and shut up.

I took a day off sick in early 2016. I felt rubbish, I had a day in bed all nice and cosy and warm and tried to rest and sleep it off. Not that being off sick means you stay in bed all day – you have to head to school for pickup and all those things because your child can’t walk themselves home at age six.

It didn’t really help, I still felt odd the next day. Okay, let’s just power on through it. Get on the train, get to work, get a nice strong coffee and another one to really wake me up and then somewhere around the magical 11.30am mark a wave of normality hits you.

The only thing I can describe it as is the moment the headache from the hangover goes. That sudden wave of normality again.

But it’s not a hangover – I only have a couple of glasses of wine on a Friday and Saturday night; that’s not the kind of volume which makes you feel unwell like this. It’s just a virus. A strange virus.

Slowly January turns to February, to March and I’m still feeling unwell. H has an invite to a birthday party – we’re all sat on our bed, H wanted to come and snuggle with us, she’s sat on top of the duvet when all of a sudden she opens her mouth and vomits all over it. This isn’t like her at all – she doesn’t get sick very often. Particularly not like this. “Maybe it’s an ear infection?” I suggest so we try olive oil drops which do little or no good, the dizziness stays.

Everything is so completely, utterly normal. We live our lives. As a family, we go out to places, though I’m really forgetful from time to time – a typical menopause symptom of course.

We dream of moving out of our house, but we have great neighbours and moving means new neighbours – but we’re not fans of our house. The landlady doesn’t really want to spend money on things like new curtains or carpets and we had lived there a few years by this point. We have an awful heating system – it blows hot air into the upstairs landing and into the kitchen and front room. It’s a proper old fashioned heating system – and it wouldn’t surprise me if we were the last house with that sort of heating in the area.

You switch it on, you wait about five minutes and then the noise of a fan starts, and heating comes out of the vents. Our bedrooms are often cold because of the heat distribution so we often keep the doors open in the hope they’ll catch some warmth from the vents on the landing or if we’re feeling extravagant we’ll pop an electric heater on. The landlady increased our rent by over £230 the previous year so money is a little tighter than normal.

So, there’s absolutely nothing going on in our very ordinary lives other than I feel rubbish every morning and there’s no reason why, but I’m too busy to find out why because I’ll be told the virus will go when it’s ready, so why bother?

Of course, if you know the story, you know what happens next. We had our Gas Safety Check – in April. It was due in the January. The engineer went into the loft and came down pretty swiftly. The heater was condemned, switched off and we were instructed never to switch it on again. When I asked the engineer “What’s the worst case scenario here?” (meaning, how long would we be without hot water or heating) and he replied “death” I didn’t really understand what he meant.

When your gas boiler is switched off for safety reasons, Leaky Flue Safety Warning Gas Boiler, Gas Safety Week 2017 Carbon Monoxide poisoning,

But now I do. Now I understand what happened. Those types of heaters go up into the loft. There’s a pipe, the flue which pumps out all the bad fumes into the air outside. Ours had rusted and had broken away. Those fumes were pumping into the loft. The loft hatch? Right outside my bedroom door.

Almost every night I take myself off to bed early, and Shaun stays downstairs watching tv with the heating on, as you would. So the heating is on, I’m in bed, the fumes are being pumped… I mean, it really doesn’t bear thinking what could have happened.

We are extremely lucky.

What could have made a difference here? A few things.

  1. Recognising the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Most of them are easily mistaken for something else.
  2. Having an annual Gas Safety Check. I don’t know why ours didn’t happen when it should have.
  3. Having Carbon Monoxide detectors in all the right places in your house. It never occurred to me that the fumes were being pumped into the loft and outside from there – so all our detectors were downstairs.

We never took the time to study and understand our heating system – well, why would you? But actually, it could save a life – knowing where to put a carbon monoxide detector is important. Everyone will think about the kitchen and near the boiler – but it never occurred to us we should have one upstairs as well.

Needless to say, we’ve moved, we know what is what in this house. We part-own our house so all Gas Safety Checks are organised by us – and I keep on top of when they’re due thanks to the alerts you can sign up for at gassaferegister.co.uk

I will never stop talking about what happened as it’s so important to spread the word. You don’t think it would be you – none of us do. However, it so easily can be.

Earth and Wheat – Bread Waste Made For Me

Earth and Wheat take bread waste and deliver it to your door the following day. The bread is often fresher than what you would buy in shops. Much like wonky fruit and vegetables, someone somewhere has decided what was manufactured wasn’t good enough to be sold. I like imperfect crumpets, and feel they have a better home in my tum than going to waste.

Which, when you think about it, is ridiculous really. I love a crumpet, oh I do. So having a slightly imperfect crumpet, actually a huge great whopping bag of the things doesn’t matter. Do I really need the perfect crumpet for breakfast? Or can I make do with a simple, plain old crumpet which will do me fine? The latter applies, obviously.

For £6.99 a time I get a box full of wonky bread products. Up to now, this has been crumpets, naan breads, wraps, pancakes, pitta bread and more that I can’t remember. Crucially – these are things I would buy anyway. I’m saving a bit of money by buying slightly less than perfect and I’m also helping with food waste.

Oh, and I should also mention, quote taken direct from the Earth and Wheat FAQ‘s “To help do our part for social sustainability, we are proud to be donating at least one meal’s worth of bread, for every box you order, to UK food charities / food banks to combat food poverty in the UK.To help do our part for social sustainability, we are proud to be donating at least one meal’s worth of bread, for every box you order, to UK food charities / food banks to combat food poverty in the UK.”

I have an Earth and Wheat box delivered every two weeks; this works out about right for the three of us, especially with two of us having lunches at home at the moment.

Here we are, over a year into the pandemic. I’ve worked from home since March 2020, and not being in the office feels normal for me. I’ve grown to enjoy the quiet and my own space. Of course, things are changing, potentially winding down. As that changes, so does life being at home all the time. I still have regular deliveries from Smol, Splosh, Who Gives a Crap and now Earth and Wheat.

I have a special link too – you can get £1 off, and I do too. Click here to sign up!

I bought the Earth and Wheat box without anyone telling me about them. I decided I ought to start trying to blog again and tell you all about them, because that’s what I’m okay at. So here we are.

Comprehension Ninja Workbook by Andrew Jennings.

Comprehension Ninja Workbook by Andrew Jennings, published by Bloomsbury, Age 10-11

The Comprehension Ninja Workbook is designed to help children understand the basics of English Comprehension. We received a copy to review, read on to find out what we thought.

The Comprehension Ninja Workbook series cover various ages – from 5-6 right up to 10-11. Each book contains seven bespoke non-fiction texts which follow the UK National Curriculum. There’s plenty of comprehension practice in there as well.

H is in year 6, seeing out her last few weeks of Junior School before Secondary School in September. We’ve been at home since March, and while she’ll be heading back into school for the last four weeks of term, there are a lot of children who aren’t – and I’d recommend you get a copy of this book. Priced at just £4.99 this costs slightly less than similar books too.

We have the age 10-11 book. Topics covered include the Battle of Hastings, Barack Obama, Ancient Mayan Civilisation and Climate Change. There are seven topics in total and lots of questions to work through.

The questions range from labelling; matching; fill in the gap; multiple choice; true or false; find and copy; sequencing; underline or highlight.

The pages are clearly laid out, and each section has a clear explanation of what is needed.

If you need extra support for your child during these lockdown times, I would recommend the Comprehension Ninja Workbook – they’re easy to follow and challenging too.

I like the subjects too; H has learned about the Mayans at school and is interested in Barack Obama and Climate Change. From reading the Obama section she has retained lots of new information about him – always a good way to recommend a learning book if your child is actually learning too!

The answers to each part are at the end of the book – I would have preferred a pull out section in the middle, but it isn’t the end of the world.

I’ve always felt that if you’re learning about something that interests you and it’s presented well then it’s more likely to be something you remember.

Having been away from school for twelve weeks, having the additional practice with the Comprehension Ninja Workbook is a good thing. It will ensure she’s ready for Secondary School in September too.

The Comprehension Ninja Workbook comes from Bloomsbury Press. Each book has a RRP of £4.99.

Comprehension Ninja Workbook by Andrew Jennings blog tour

Visiting RHS Wisley in Lockdown Times

RHS Wisley is just a 25 minute drive for us so somewhere we can visit easily. Of course, these aren’t normal times right now – they’re strange, confusing, uncertain times. We’re still in lockdown, so there are restrictions in place as the reopening begins. This is about Wisley in lockdown.

Wisley in lockdown, looking at Wisley from the hill,

Wisley in lockdown doesn’t actually feel much different to normal. You have your staggered entry time, and then you’re free to roam around the grounds as much as you want.

There are queues and markers so you know where to stand and how far two metres are, and it has been a well planned and thought out reopening. Considering we took out membership right before lockdown, I’m glad we can now visit and make the most of it.

Food-wise, we went on a sunny day so found short queues at the stand that sold sausages, bacon and falafel burgers, but long ones for ice cream. Fortunately, there is a third stand outside by the Wisley Garden Centre which sells ice cream tubs which did the trick.

Wisley in lockdown, orchids, Wisley

I did wonder how weird it might be seeing Wisley in Lockdown; Staff wear protective clothing and gloves, everything is kept clean. Queueing for things with space between yourself and the next person is all part of the norm these days.

You book your entry time online, and have an hour to turn up. We parked easily – it looked pretty full – and walked to the far left hand side to enter the grounds away from the shop. You now enter the shop via the front of Wisley, by the Garden Centre.

Once inside, there’s space and plenty of room to continue to be socially distant from the rest of the world. There are trees that can be climbed, routes that can be walked around, you can do a spot of people watching if you really fancy it, and all the flowers are in bloom.

Salvia, Wisley in lockdown

H decided that the salvia plants lining the walkway into Wisley were a bit too bright, but I quite like it – I fancy some for our front garden, but I’ve been overruled. For now….

The rose garden was also in full bloom. H insisted we buy some black roses, I pointed out the best she would get is a deep, dark red. We won that battle.

Wisley in lockdown, white roses

I’ve always wanted to have jasmine in the garden. Three houses ago they had a jasmine wall, and I’ve always longed for their smell in my garden – I used to love catching it as I walked outside. Now I have a plant and just need to get it somewhere in the garden….

In summary, Wisley in lockdown is just the same as you would expect. There’s room to keep your distance and still enjoy wandering around. Book a slot now over at RHS Wisley.

Wisley in lockdown

We’re visiting Kew next weekend for Father’s Day – thanks to Shaun having Corporate Membership with his work!

Wisley in lockdown, foxgloves

Pictures taken on my Moto G8 phone; I was testing out the Macro option to see how well it did compared to my camera.

RHS Membership

Back in March, when the Government weren’t being very clear about where everything was leading, we decided to pop out to RHS Wisley. While we were there we took out a membership – the perfect spot to go when you need a bit of social distancing as there’s plenty of space, should it happen.

We had a lovely time wandering around – it had been a few years since we had last been, and knowing we could go back whenever we wanted and it was only a short drive away was an added bonus.

We knew there would be a warm spell coming, so knew we’d make the most of the membership.


A week later we were all put into lockdown. At least, it seemed like that. So our lovely membership might not be used for some of the best months of the year, unfortunately.

Wisley, Metal Head

So we’re getting monthly gardening magazines and hoping that this will all pass soon so we can make the most of our membership at some point.

I wish the Government had been a bit clearer from the start. Grr.

I crave the clean air of Wisley more than I ever thought I could.

We’ll be back soon…

Three Things

We’re on imminent lockdown here in London. There are three things we won’t run out of which I’ve previously mentioned on here..

Smol. Laundry capsules that arrive in the post automatically every few weeks. They arrive when I need them, you just need one or two capsules in your wash. They don’t have referral codes, so head over to them, they do trial size packs and when you can’t get to the shop and need to wash things maybe you’ll be glad you have some in your cupboard.

smol laundry capsules

Splosh. Cleaning all around the house. Just over a month ago I accidentally ordered too many hand wash refills. A month later and we’re getting through them a lot quicker than we previously had for obvious reasons. You keep the plastic container, top it up with warm water to the mark on the bottle, then add from the Splosh refill packet. Job done. Splosh refill packet is empty, post it back to them where it gets recycled. We use Splosh for handwash, shower gel, bathroom spray, kitchen spray, glass cleaner, laundry powder (because it smells SO good), toilet cleaner and washing up liquid. There is a lot of choice and you can take out subscriptions now, getting an automatic redelivery at the time of your choosing.
I do have a Splosh referral code – WDECMRLM96 – you save 15% and I get £3 off my next order.

Splosh cleaning products, Washing up liquid, toilet cleaner, bathroom cleaner and kitchen cleaner

Who Gives a Crap. Currently not taking on new subscriptions but supplying existing ones when their next delivery is due. When I started doing subscriptions of various things, toilet rolls was quite near the top of the list. I don’t know why – I mean, it’s not like it wasn’t something easy to buy. I do like that each roll is wrapped in paper rather than plastic, and once you’ve cut out the WGAC parts the patterns come in quite handy for crafts at Brownies too. Oh, and money goes towards toilets being built in countries that need them, so it’s loo roll with a conscience.
For £40 every few months I get an enormous box full of toilet rolls which lasts for 5-6 months (I go for the bamboo ones these days). Smooth! Here’s a link to my referral code – https://www.talkable.com/x/bVzSyO

Who Gives a Crap 48 rolls delivery in a box, pretty wrapped toilet paper

If I was able to book my usual weekly slot with Ocado then things would be just fine. Up until recently I’ve quite enjoyed quiet weekends at home not doing much, not getting outdoors. Of course the weather has now changed and I’m desperate to get outside.

So these things aren’t going to change the world. But they can arrive at your front door with little or no bother. I like things coming to me rather than me having to get them. Every little bit helps, and let’s face it, we need clean homes, clothes and hands right now.

Why Being Perimenopausal is Really Irritating

I’m comfortably in that very late 40s perimenopausal stage of life, with all the things that are bundled up with it. It’s not fun.

You’re fast asleep, happy in the land of nod when suddenly you are dripping with sweat. You have to wake up, open the windows and get to the toilet to run some cold water on your hands. Anything to make it feel better. You go back to bed and immediately it is too hot. So you kick off the covers and lie on top. But then you’re too cold. So you go back under the covers and you’re too hot.

Repeat to fade for the next four hours…

Or how about during the day? You’re boiling, a little desk fan to keep you cool which mostly works. However, every now and then something gets to you. Something very little but before you know it your face is bright red, your upper body is on fire. Your face a delightful shade of beetroot and it won’t go away.

Welcome to hot flashes. They come when you least expect them and are quite the inconvenience. You’ll almost certainly start experiencing them when you’re perimenopausal.

So many businesses are making moisture wicking pyjamas which help. Alas the kind of money most of them cost, it’s too much to try it out to know it works. However, I’ve spotted M&S have a range which seem reasonably priced. Uniqlo do their Airism range too which look like they might be helpful during the day.

I’ve also heard taking black cohosh or sage can help perimenopausal symptoms like hot flashes. I’ve ordered some from Amazon (affiliate link) which I’m hoping will work.

A poor night’s sleep leads to a bad day in the office trying to remember what you’re doing – oh the brain fog. The obvious solution here would be a nice strong coffee, BUT; you should really avoid too much caffeine if you’re experiencing hot flashes.

I’ve cut most caffeine out of my life and mostly drink decaf now. Our local cafe CyCo in Coulsdon do an amazing decaf which tastes as good as the real thing. Keeping hydrated is the most important thing for me. I drink plenty of water throughout the day.

I’ve also read a good Vitamin E supplement can help, although that’s on the pricey side. I’m keeping with the black cohosh for now.

The perimenopause is the stage of life when you get these symptoms (and a bazillion more), but your periods haven’t stopped. When you’ve had no periods for a year you’re classed as in menopause.

Harry Potter Goodies at Paladone

We were invited to review a selection of Harry Potter goodies at Paladone. Now, when you have a Potter-mad daughter you want to make sure that what you choose is sensible but fun. I decided I should choose gifts based on the kind of things she goes for when she spots a Harry Potter section in stores; namely, writing things, sorting hat related things and general cool things.

Harry Potter goodies at Paladone start with the basics; a simple writing set which looks a bit like your letter to Hogwarts. We had seen this recently and thought about buying it for H but the price had put us off. At Paladone it was a lot cheaper for exactly the same thing. Sometimes it helps to shop around to save a few pennies.

You get twenty sheets of paper, ten envelopes and ten stickers in each pack.

Harry Potter Letter Writing Set

When it arrived H’s first words were “Oh my GOD! COOL!” so now we’re encouraging her to write her friends letters like she promised. After all, doesn’t every ten year old child want to get a letter from Hogwarts; just in case it’s an invite?

Harry Potter Hogwarts Colour change coaster showing all stages of colour change.

I had never seen our next choice anywhere before, and liked the fun element of it – four colour change coasters. You pop your warm mug on the coaster and it changes to one of the houses. So my little Hufflepuff happily plonked a cup on hers and waited excitedly to see which house she had chosen. Slytherin. Whoops. It didn’t go so well – though she soon sussed that as there were just four coasters each one had a different house on it. Depending on how seriously your child might take it, this is one to consider – she’s taking it back to show family and find out which house they’re in for half term. Now she’s over her Slytherin shock she’s enjoying them again, and has also made sure she warms each one a little bit before choosing hers.

Paladone itself has lots of different themes of things to buy. What I liked about the Harry Potter goodies was that there is a lot of choice; often things that you may not have seen in shops before. We’ve been to plenty of shops too…

Harry Potter Potion no 86 colour light in green

Now H is ten her bedroom is moving from that of a young girl into one of a tween/young lady. We still have our beloved Miffy pictures on the walls; slowly the rest of the space has Harry Potter merchandise on it. When I spotted the Potion Bottle light I knew it would fit in with her room; and make a great night light too. Her room gets pretty dark at night, though you do need a bit of light to avoid the Lego on the floor. The Potion Bottle light does the trick. It comes with a cable but no plug, though any USB plug will work. We have it positioned on her bookcase where the room has a nice low glow but not too much to stop her sleeping.

At Paladone there are gifts to suit all price ranges, from pocket money to the more pricey.

We were gifted £30 worth of Harry Potter goodies at Paladone and spent that money easily. The prices were good and there was a lot of choice. Out of stock items are clearly marked as well. All in all, we have one very delighted ten year old with a load of new Harry Potter goodies – it’s a win-win for everyone!

That Time We Bought a Tent.

So we got back from a week in Dorset, having stayed in a holiday cottage and a gypsy caravan (cramped, small, creaky). We decided to stop at Go Outdoors on the way home – and it became That Time We Bought a Tent.

That time we bought a tent, we headed to Go Outdoors in Poole. One of our Brownie leaders had done similarly recently, and confirmed that you can join the Go Outdoors membership scheme AND get the most from your Girlguiding discount. So I spent a lot of time browsing.

Go Outdoors has a few branches dotted around the country, so Poole was our destination. Smelly, tired and in need of a good shower and toilet, that was us. I think we looked the part, like we had already been camping. We definitely smelt it! Go Outdoors had exactly what we needed.

Tents on display. Big ones, small ones, wide ones, ones that looked too big. Ones that were definitely way too small. This was the city of tents, the place you can go inside and see whether the tent is for you. Fortunately in my super-tired state of mind they also included the price if you’re a member there (£5 a year, 10% discount on everything). So all I had to do was include my Girlguiding 15%.

We had a lot of extras already like sleeping bags and blow up mattresses, our additional costs were camping essentials like a gas stove and cutlery.

Zenobia 6 tent without the porch, pitched in back garden for idea of size. Bought a tent.

We opted for the Hi-Gear Zenobia Eclipse 6 as it had really good reviews. Plus it has lots of space. While we always try to pack light we never quite do, so space to spread things out was important. Every review mentioned the tent hasn’t leaked either which is a bonus with our unpredictable weather.

My favourite feature was the bedrooms having a blackout element. I get woken up by light coming into my sleeping area, so anything that blocks it is a good thing. Shaun’s was having lots of pockets inside the tent to put things like our toothbrushes (which we then forgot where they were as there are a LOT of pockets!). H just loved having a tent and her own room.

Inside the Zenobia 6 tent during daylight from the bedroom (blackout) area. Gives an idea of space and also the darkness. Bought a tent.

There’s also the logic in putting a tent up. You put the poles in and pin it appropriately and that’s that, right? Which seemed to work for this tent. It probably took us around half an hour to get the tent up, with additional time to set up each bedroom. Someone pointed out to us they never bother removing those bits as they’re all packed together anyway.

A six man tent seemed a lot though. As we had blow up mattresses already, we soon found out that two of those alongside each other took up most of the space. Actually our tent was really a four man tent (for us). Roll mats will definitely make it suitable for six people.

Zenobia Eclipse 6 tent with porch on campsite. Bought a tent.

The final part of our tent was the separate porch. We couldn’t work out if it was important or not, but at £99 with the GG discount to be applied it felt like it wasn’t breaking the bank. As our first proper camping trip would show, it was definitely a good purchase. Cooking in the rain while being sheltered is a good thing – and we weren’t the only ones. Everyone does it. A porch is definitely the right thing to get.

The porch didn’t reach the floor so we removed the front door and used it as an outside space rather than an extension of the tent.

Cooking on a gas stove in the porch area of the Zenobia 6 Eclipse tent. Bought a tent

As we were on our way home from holiday, the car was full. There was no way it would fit in our little Skoda Fabia, so we decided to go to the nearest Go Outdoors the following day in Tonbridge. It takes up almost all the boot space with the porch and additional carpet – but it’s worth it. So much so, that night H and I camped outside (it’s noisy in London, I didn’t enjoy it); then we all went off camping in Sussex/Kent the following day!

So that’s our ‘That time we bought a tent’ story. It just happened, but I think we had reached the end of our tether spending around £100 for so-called ‘glamping’ options. Now we can take our own tent, less stuff, spend £20 a night instead and we only have ourselves to blame if anything goes wrong!

I think it ticks something off the bucket list too.