It's my life, but not as I knew it!

The Fred Rogers’ quote “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping'” has been used often to try to help with recent global events. I know I have spoken to Biscuit and Cracker about this, in an attempt to stop them being so scared by the news images which have tragically become part of our everyday lives.

Rest assured, those helpers are always there; whether that’s our amazing emergency services, individual helpers who go over and above to help others or whole communities coming together to provide support/shelter/etc. Those helpers are there after terrorist incidents, natural disasters or events like the Grenfell House fire. They are both visible and working behind the scenes (let’s not forget our 999 call handlers who got Police to the London Bridge area in order to neutralise the terrorists within 8 minutes of the call to them). But can we all be helpers?

Of course we can. I don’t mean that we should all metaphorically don capes and throw ourselves in to potentially dangerous situations, but knowing that we can all help in our own way. We can be kind to people. We can treat them with respect. Rob and I are raising Biscuit and Cracker to be tolerant, to listen to other people’s views and to respect them (VERY different from agreeing with them btw), by understanding that if it doesn’t directly impact on you then your opinion is limited and by being kind. This means remembering that words have a huge impact, that your actions/inactions can hurt people, and that empathy is one of the most vitally important skills you can ever use.

I am always honest with Biscuit and Cracker with what’s going on in the world (it’s their world too after all). They are aware of who Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Jeremy Hunt are and what their views are (if you’re wondering; “he’s a silly man who doesn’t like people who have different colour skin than him”, “he’s mean as he doesn’t think boys and boys and girls and girls should get married” and “he’s a stinky poo-poo head because he doesn’t think paramedics and nurses are important and do a brilliant job” respectively). I admit I struggled watching the DUP politicians (with their anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice stance) being given such airtime on TV and such power in Westminster. I respect that they have different views to me, but I severely dislike their damning words regarding things which are so personal and their judgments on people (nothing wrong with the saying “if you’ve got nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”). There’s no kindness in what they say.

One final thought, before my random ramblings come to an end (thank you for putting up with a slightly different post from Biscuit and Cracker today); be kind to yourself. Sometimes we find it easier to be kind to others, but we shouldn’t leave ourselves out of that.

Look after yourselves and I hope to see you again soon.









I have been lucky enough to go to Afternoon Tea at The Savoy a number of times. Trust me it’s the perfect place to celebrate a colleague leaving, someone having a baby, someone getting married, end of exam season (you get the picture, we like afternoon tea)! So when we booked to take Biscuit and Cracker for their first experience of it, I couldn’t have been more excited.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Judith Kerr book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, The Savoy Hotel right here in London is offering their first children’s afternoon tea based on Sophie and Tiger (for further information, click here). It features treats such as Sophie’s Sandwiches, striped Tiger Scones and Treats With The Tiger; ALL of which can be made gluten free.

Firstly, when we arrived the gorgeous, specially made crockery (available to purchase here) was set up in Biscuit and Cracker’s spaces. I’m not going to lie, I was a little jealous- the adult crockery is beautiful but it didn’t have Tiger on it! They were also presented with The Tiger Who Came to Tea Party Book and colouring pencils, which kept our two occupied and happy.

Then came the food. The server and chef were really knowledgeable about Coeliac (we had informed them on booking) and it was confirmed who in our party were gluten-free. They kept the food completely separate and, whenever we had questions about the food or contamination, the assistant manager was more than happy to assist. There was nothing on the menu which Cracker had, that Biscuit didn’t get a gf version of. On the adult side, there was two pastries which I got that Rob didn’t but he got different things to make up for it.

I have never yet left The Savoy hungry, and today was no exception! The food was outstanding, as always, and there was plenty of it. Also, the staff make a lot of effort giving out tiger ears and bow-ties and taking “magic” Polaroid pictures to commemorate the event.

I feel we may have set the bar for Afternoon Tea ridiculously high for Biscuit and Cracker… but you only get to experience it for the first time once and that should be somewhere special, right?

It has been a long while since I last wrote a blogpost, and a lot has happened since then so I wanted to give blogging another go- particularly with my relatively newfound love of baking and cooking giving my lots of blog-spiration.

Here goes… my blog used to primarily be about raising twins in Central London; the things we found helpful, the things we did and how we were doing. I think there will still be a bit of that (Biscuit and Cracker are now 6) but there will also be baking and cooking and gluten-freeness (finds, challenges, recipes).

This time last year our home was filled with delicious, gluten-containing foods and ingredients. Fast forward to today and both Biscuit and my hubby, R, are confirmed Coeliacs. In order to prevent cross contamination (see more information from Coeliac UK here), our entire home is now completely, 100% gluten-free.

When Biscuit was first diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, we met with her gastro (tummy) doctor. Dr K. told me that Coeliac Disease is unique in the fact that no medication is required and that by simply changing her diet she will be free of her painful and potentially debilitating symptoms, and she will no longer be at increased risk of the complications that can be caused by her eating gluten (see Coeliac UK’s list here). In summary; through absolutely no fault of her own, she must eat a completely gluten-free diet in order to stay healthy. We were lucky, our GP prescribed Biscuit gluten-free food. The prescription doesn’t cover everything (someone of Biscuit’s age gets 11 units a month and someone of R’s age gets 18 units) but it helps. 1 unit does not equal 1 item, see Glutafin’s table indicating how many units for each individual item here
And then came yesterday morning’s news that the NHS Clinical Commissioners chief executive has said that the NHS must reduce spending on prescription items that offer “little or no clinical value” (see BBC News link here). Gluten-free food is being categorised as such and they are talking about potentially banning GPs from prescribing it. Nb: I am talking about gluten-free food for Coeliacs not for those who choose to eat a gluten-free diet (just a friendly reminder at this point that Coeliac is an auto-immune disease, not a lifestyle choice; please read more on my previous post).
I’m sure you can imagine what Biscuit and R’s diagnoses have done to our shopping lists and household expenditure… Well, imagine no longer! I have put together a ‘then and now’ shopping list, including prices. BTW we live in Central London. There are no large supermarkets near us. We rely on small shops and online shopping (but not Asda… they don’t deliver inside the congestion charge zone…).
lasts us 1 week
lasts us 1-2 days
2 for £5
 ready made
 ready made
1 box
1 box
Breakfast Biscuits
1 box
1 box
Brioche Rolls
8 rolls
4 rolls
Self raising flour
R and I both work full-time. We are, therefore, in a more privileged position than many others who are having to scrimp and save to buy food that doesn’t make them ill, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t had a significant negative impact on us financially.  As happened in our family, you are more likely to have Coeliac Disease if you have a close relative with the condition already. This means people are having to buy gluten-free products for more than one person, even if they don’t do what we did and impose a gluten-free diet on everyone in the house.
I hope this post goes a little way to show true value and importance of gluten-free food on prescription. Gluten-free food may sound like an obvious choice to drop from a prescription list in order to save the NHS money (having worked for the NHS for the last 11 years I promise I do understand how important this is), but gluten-free food is medication to people with Coeliac Disease.  

I love Christmas, I love food and I love baking and, although this blog is not primarily about me, these are things I have spent more than an ordinate amount of time thinking about in recent weeks.

The Christmas ads are out; cosy, happy ads showing us all the delicious family foods we could spend our holidays tucking in to. Normally I watch these salivating and planning which foods to buy and which foods I would want to try making. This year I am watching them with different eyes; eyes which are starting to understand the magnitude of someone not being able to eat what most other people can. 

As of October this year, Biscuit was diagnosed as having Coeliac Disease. This was after years of being convinced that she wasn’t absorbing her food properly, months of toileting troubles (leading to embarrassment and a dip in her confidence) and goodness knows how long of discomfort, cramps and tummy pain for my beautiful little red-haired girl. 

For those of you who are not ‘in the know’ about Coeliac, here is my little run-down; Coeliac disease is an auto-immune condition, meaning that the immune system mistakenly see substances inside of gluten (the protein in wheat, barley and rye) as a threat and attacks them. This leads to damage of the villi (finger like projections in the small intestine) which affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food ingested. It is not an allergy or an intolerance. 
When Biscuit eats gluten she gets very constipated, with a bloated and uncomfortable tummy. She also feels very tired a lot. There are lots of symptoms (it’s worth checking out Coeliac U.K. for a list of symptoms) to watch out for, as some of them can seem quite non-specific. That’s why it can sometimes take a long time for a diagnosis to be made. It is important that a diagnosis is made as potential long-term complications of untreated Coeliac disease include osteoporosis, anaemia, vitamin deficiencies and it can lead to certain types of cancer.

The treatment of Coeliac disease is the following of a strict gluten-free diet. This is done with the supervision, support and advice of a dietician. 

So this is where we currently are. We have decontaminated the entire kitchen (cleaned it for top to bottom, sterilised the chopping boards and got a new toaster), got rid of all food containing gluten and refilled the cupboards after visiting all the free-from sections in our local shops. I have spent time with the school inclusion officer (and provided her the Coeliac U.K. school pack) to help the catering company support Biscuit to eat gluten-free school lunches). I have become militant at checking labels! 

It has been a tricky year for us, and I have neglected this blog but we are back and we will be showing you all the gluten-free goodness (and not-so-goodness) we have managed to find during our Coeliac journey. 

Thank you for listening 

2016 so far has not been kind to us. In the past 5 weeks we have visited 2 hospitals and 2 GP practices on 7 separate occasions; my mum has broken her femur (thigh bone), Cracker has had 2 anaphylactic reactions (to, as yet, an unknown cause) and is currently battling a 40oc fever (again of unknown origin) and Biscuit has been struggling with more viral-induced wheeze. 

The majority of these illnesses, and the subsequent doctor visits, have taken place in the evening or at the weekend. As parents we know that our children are more likely to need a medical assessment on a Friday evening, after a full 45 hour week at work, or on a Sunday of a Bank Holiday weekend. NB: if Jeremy Hunt doesn’t believe that doctors work at these unsocial times, let me tell you that they do. I have yet to walk in to an A&E department and been unable to see staff there. These unsocial visits have an impact on who looks after the other twinkle, work, family get-togethers, catching-up with uni friends (sorry girls) and, trust me on this one, family weddings. I know if you’re not living it, it is hard to believe how many things get cancelled or missed due to your little ones being unwell. I know where I’d rather be just as much as  I know where I’ve got to be.

Then there’s the stress of it. I have been nursing for 10 years now, but nothing prepares you for when it’s your baby sick and needing help. Rob always says that, in fact, it is worse for me as I have knowledge of the worst-case scenarios. I’m sure that the stress alone is enough to make parents sick, but you have to keep going for the child who is poorly (as well as the children who aren’t, but still need you). It doesn’t make you want to do anything bar relaxing at home (obviously whilst listening intently to the monitor for the slightest cough or sniffle)

I wish I could make Biscuit and Cracker 100% healthy, but until they get a bit bigger and hopefully a lot stronger we are going to have to deal with just how inconvenient ill health is. I only hope that our friends and family are patient enough to still be around when that happens….! 


As you all start preparing for your weekends, please let me tell you our story. 
This time last Friday my beautiful little man suffered his first anaphylactic reaction of the weekend. He was first assessed and treated by amazing paramedics (including one who managed to get a cannula in to a 3 year old’s veins whilst in the back of an ambulance speeding down Tottenham Court Road), then taken straight through to resuscitation before going to paediatric A&E and then spending the night on the paediatric ward. The same thing happened to us again after discharge on the Saturday. 

Our nightmare weekend started on Friday evening and ended on Sunday lunchtime; trust me when I tell you how unsocial these hours felt to me, let alone to the people working their shifts. During this time we were treated (because, yes, they looked after me just as much as him) by paramedics, consultants, registrars, junior doctors, nurses and student nurses, not to mention the porters, domestics and countless other people involved in hospital care. We experienced expert care, amazing treatment, and outstanding compassion. 

I have worked for the NHS for the last ten years (as well as 3 years previous as a student) and I know how hard we work. I know what is it like to be there at someone’s first breath and to hold someone’s hand at their last. I know what it is like to miss Christmases and birthdays (and countless family dinners). I have done 12 1/2 hour shifts with no time to eat, drink or pee. 

So Jeremy Hunt, I dare you to look at the story of how the NHS saved my son’s life (at a weekend) and the story of my working life and say that the doctors are “greedy”, that the paramedics are “ambulance drivers” and the student nurses don’t deserve a bursary. In fact, I challenge you to look me in the eye and tell me that the NHS is not worth fighting for.

#JuniorContract #NotFair #NotSafe #BursaryOrBust