Our house looks like it’s been burgled. It’s not standard family mess this time, no. There’s an empty TV bracket on the wall opposite the sofa and empty picture hooks above the fireplace. It’s gloomy, unloved and stark, it’s not a good look! Well, we haven’t been burgled but there’s a bit of a tale here.

Smoking TV

The easier one to explain is the empty TV bracket. One quiet evening last week an acrid burning smell came from the TV. We quickly switched it off and googled it. No, we didn’t grab a fire blanket or even an air freshener, we hit the interweb. Such is modern life.

Within minutes we had established that our TV had been subject to a Sony recall six years ago. We rang Sony, they promised action within 24 hours, and only a mere six days later (a-hem) the set was picked up and whisked away for a grand audience with an Approved Sony Engineer. The collection guy said it would take “AAAAAges!” We have a shiny receipt in its place. It’s not much to look at on an evening.

Leeds Picture Library

The empty picture hooks are the former home of a fine work of art which we really loved.  It was loaned to us for a year from the Leeds Picture Library at Leeds Art Gallery. We never paid much attention to the name of the artist and I never took a note of it, but the picture grabbed us and we didn’t want to change it during our year of membership. The landscape brought the outside in and brightened our sitting area.


Leeds Library Painting


The problem with the painting was the fact we became so attached to it, and we knew we couldn’t keep it. Membership of the library was about £50 per year. We could have renewed our loan of this painting but the fact we couldn’t own it was starting to really grate on us. We couldn’t find another large painting that we liked in the library because there was a bit too much of abstract art and that’s not our style. Another problem was the glass in the library picture frames which was normal glass and not anti-glare, this posed a problem with our light fitting which reflected in it really badly.

Buy art

So my search for a new painting has begun. I want a lovely landscape by a local artist and I want an original. I want to see brush strokes and light reflecting off texture. OK, you think it’s an expensive dream but I’ve been inspired by the fabulous story of Tim Sayer, an art collector who breaks the stereotype of art collectors. He’s no millionaire with a yacht and six houses. He’s closer to my strata of society because on a humble BBC salary he collected thousands of original artworks for his own enjoyment. He’s now donating the whole collection to the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield. But for me the interesting part of the story is how he afforded it. He said he either asked for a discount or he paid in instalments, sometimes both. (He also doesn’t have children but I won’t sell mine to pay for a painting, despite the temptation).

With a little research I found that the Arts Council have an interest-free loan scheme called “Own Art”. Some galleries are very good at promoting this scheme. And the artists themselves do not price unreasonably. You don’t just pay for skill and beauty, you pay for reputation. The more exhibitions in grander galleries that an artist has shown in, the more their paintings are worth.


Open Studios

I’m starting my picture search by getting to know the work of artists through the annual event North Yorkshire Open Studios. Every few years, over two weekends in the spring, it’s possible to visit artists in their own studios, meet them and see their work and their ongoing projects. Entry is free. You’ll be surprised to find how thick on the ground professional artists are. We found half a dozen only two streets away from our home! Not all are painters. Last time we also visited paper cutters, ceramic sculptors, wire sculptors, wood turners and stained glass artists. The next NYOS event will be June 2017 but I’m planning on finding other galleries to visit before then.


The search is on! What’s the story behind the pictures on your wall? Let me know in the comments.

couch to 5k ouch nhs running app 5km
NHS couch to 5k appPicture credit

I’ve got a sore foot. Again. The pain has been coming and going for a year, it’s unpredictable. Twelve months ago my big toe joint became painful and swollen. This mystified two G.Ps and I was sent for an x-ray to see if I had broken it (you’d think I’d remember doing that!). There was no break and no arthritis either, so I went on the waiting list to see a podiatrist. In the meantime my foot improved a bit and I was able to start walking my daughter to school again, but oh my, the pain of using the clutch pedal in the car was awful. Crawling through traffic jams could really make me dizzy with pain.

Diagnosing my foot pain

I waited five months to see a podiatrist on the NHS and when I got there the diagnosis was interesting. (Here comes the science bit!) The pain and swelling is caused by my toe joints bending and stretching in the wrong place as I walk. This happens because I have fairly hypermobile joints. I was born this way, quite flexible overall. It seems to be bad luck that my feet have got so bad at the ripe old age of forty-mumble.

The podiatrist gave me orthopaedic insoles and advised me to take ibuprofen and buy very expensive stiff shoes. Sadly that did not include any Jimmy Choo’s or Louboutin’s but I found a pair of acceptable black trainers on the podiatrist’s list and bought them – only for my husband to have a momentary paddy over the cost. All this treatment and shopping did not produce a miracle of healing.  Still, a few months later things improved. The pain lifted and for several weeks life seemed almost normal. It was only when I tried to keep up with the walking speed of other adults that I realised that I was still in trouble; my stride had shortened and I was stiff.

Getting off the couch

Then I made a strange discovery: It hurts less to run than to walk. How ironic! It turns out that there is less rotation on the toe joints in running motion, than in walking. As you run, your foot takes off from the ground before it has fully flexed, so there is less bending action on the toe joint. Well, I have never been a runner. I would normally say that if you see me running, you should run too because something must be chasing me! But now I had to give it a try. It was January and time for new years’ resolutions so I downloaded the NHS Couch to 5k running app onto my phone and began.

couch to 5k, nhs, running app

Image credit

This wasn’t as simple as it sounds. I did try running some years ago and my heart began to pound, I got hot and sweaty and breathless and very tired. My whole body seemed to be telling me this was a bad idea; I couldn’t understand why anyone would think this was acceptable! To top it off I came out in a ferocious itchy rash. Running in public with one hand up my t-shirt scratching was not a good look. I gave up.  I turned to google and discovered there are several reasons why I may have got a rash, some minor, some requiring hospitalization. I brazenly ignored the prospect of urgent medical attention and hoped it was internet flimflam. I decided that if I carried on getting itchy when running I would try antihistamines before throwing in the towel.

I started my Couch to 5k in the house. I cleared a path from the front door to the back window and did the first podcast and scratched shamelessly in private as my rash duly developed. I proudly told my husband of my achievement that evening to which he growled “the floorboards aren’t designed for that you know”.

Two days later I braved the garden path. There’s a nice big hedge in once place sheltering me from the neighbours and once the run got me all itchy again I could shove my hands down my trousers and scratch my thighs without causing an offensive local incident.  Then two days later I did the third podcast and at this point the whole rash thing really started to ease off. In fact that was the last time it happened. I was amazed! I would have taken up running years ago if I had known the itching would just stop.


Fun running

I began to really enjoy myself: The music playing in my ears as I wooshed along, the feeling of achievement, the skill with which I avoided meeting anyone I know on my local streets, the extra calories which the app My Fitness Pal told me I could scoff. It was brilliant. I got to week 5 of the 3-times-a-week plan, with a few breaks due to the weather. Then disaster struck. On Tuesday morning a pain began to shoot through the side of my right foot and I could only limp. I hope it eases off soon but after two days there is little improvement and I would really, really like a walking stick.

I’m in limbo with my lower limbs. I never really know if I should plan to walk somewhere or drive in case pain comes on and I get stuck. I’m on the waiting list for some injections but I don’t know yet what that will achieve. So as things stand, I mainly sit. Haha. Wish me luck, I’ll let you know if I ever get all the way to running 5k.

The story continues here