Making chutney on crutches

Sunday, the day started badly. Before I tackled my next challenge, I decided to take my breakfast tea into the sitting room  to catch up with the news on the radio. As I had been doing for the last week, I had made my tea in my lidded, plastic, container. For some reason, I didn’t check thoroughly enough that both lids (pouring hole too) were closed tightly. After a couple of tentative crutch-steps, I felt a hot feeling around my crotch. Yes, you guessed, the container had tipped onto its side and the hot tea was emptying out into my cotton bag!  Eeeek!

I managed to untangle myself from the bag and put it on the counter where it spewed out all the liquid, flooding the work top. I needed to react quickly, but this is really difficult when you’re on crutches!

As you quickly learn, wet tiles can be lethal if you’re on crutches because, despite the rubber stoppers on the bottom of them, they can skid from under you. So I dumped the bag in the washing up bowl, grabbed a tea towel to mop up the work surface and a towel for the floor. Then the bag and towels had to join the other sundries in the washing machine to be washed. Would be lost without my little peg bag, which was invaluable to transport necessities backwards and forwards from kitchen to sitting room and back.

(This morning it came to me, out of the  blue, that if the bag around my neck was hanging at an angle with one bottom corner pointing down to the ground then any container would sit happily in the corner, leaning against the angled side rather than tipping over onto the bottom of the bag if the bag was hung around my neck straight.)

After all of that excitement, I had to get on with the chutney. So, as I didn’t want to perch on one leg while I was chopping tomatoes, apples and onions I transported, chopping board, breadknife and everything except for the onions in a variety of plastic bags to the dining room table. Bit paranoid about carrying my French cook’s knife in my little bag, while on crutches, so chopped up the onions in the kitchen.

Red tomato chutney

2 lbs (900g) red tomatoes, chopped
1 lb (450g) cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 lb  (450g) onions chopped
8 oz  (225g) brown sugar
8 oz (225g) sultanas
1/2 pint (280ml) vinegar
1 tsp (5ml) mustard powder
2 tsps (10ml) ground coriander
1 tsp (5ml) ground ginger
1 red chilli seeded and chopped (or 1 tsp chilli flakes)
Salt and pepper

Mix the tomatoes, apples, sultanas and onions in a large saucepan. Stir in all the remaining ingredients, adding a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Mix all the ingredients in a preserving

Bring slowly to the boil then reduce the heat.

Turn down the heat and cover the pan

Turn down the heat and cover the pan

Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for an hour and a half, or until thickened. Sterilize your jam jars in the oven.

Sterilize your jars in a warm ovenYou will need  a ladle, funnel, waxed discs, cellophane covers, elastic bands and labels.

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When you start potting up, it really makes life much easier if you have a jam/chutney funnel, otherwise it can become very messy, which I initially found out to my cost!

A funnel makes filling the jars far less messy

 

Once potted up, place the coated side of a little disc on the top of the chutney, pushing out any air bubbles to ensure 100% contact with the chutney.

Ensure that the waxed discs have no air bubbles under them

Ensure that the waxed discs have no air bubbles under them

While the chutney is still hot, moisten one side of a cellophane disc and secure it, wet side down, on the top of the jar with an elastic band. The heat rising from the chutney will dry the cellophane and it will tighten across the top of the jar.

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Finish off by securing with the jar’s metal lid. The lid helps to stop the chutney drying out, thus extending its shelf life. If you  don’t have a metal lid to fit, cover with a double topping of baking parchment or greaseproof paper. Covered in this way, the chutney top will dry out more quickly than when covered with a metal lid. But I’m talking about after being on the shelf for longer than 6 months. Hopefully your chutney will be eaten up long before that!

Phew, that was quite a challenge, but I felt so much better having done something constructive rather than sitting around all day with my leg up, eating chocolates!

Later on I left the house for the first time for over a week as I was invited over to supper with some friends, who came to pick me up. I had a really lovely evening, great food and great company and even a little tipple!

When dropped off, I hopped over to see Max in his stable for the first time in nine days, with a pocketful of minty goodies. Did he whinny  to welcome me? Softly nicker into my ear? No, he totally ignored me and was more interested in nuzzling my friend’s face! It was quite obvious he was paying me back for not going out to give him his ‘goodnight carrots’ for over a week. What a snub. Little monkey.

Next challenge? Changing the bed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bad news

We arrived at the Fracture Clinic on Tuesday at 8.45 am in good time for my appointment at 9.30.

After the nurse took off the temporary plaster cast, I told the doctor examining me what I had told the doctor at casualty in the wee small hours of Saturday morning. I have this bad pain in my  calf (which by now, was far worse than it had been on Saturday).

He didn’t hesitate and referred me immediately to the, now what was it called, VNT clinic I think.  After some time waiting, then answering lots of questions, they sent me down for an ultra sound.

We had a long wait there, because of course, I had no appointment. While sitting there chatting to Mel, I suddenly felt faint, so I stuck my head between my legs (was sitting in a wheelchair). The kind receptionist noticed and called a nurse who came to see me and took my blood pressure which had plummeted…. Then there was another nurse, and I was wheeled around into Ultra sound, hoicked, a little ungainly, onto a trolley, head lower than my body and oxygen. Never had that before. Ooh, very exciting!

After a little while, my blood pressure came up and I felt better. What was that all about? I wondered. Perhaps the shock of it all.

Many thanks to the doctor who referred me to have an ultrasound as it showed that I had a blood clot in my calf, as I had glibly suggested to the A&E doctor three days earlier!

Then back to VNT dept., or whatever it was called, for bloods to be taken to check that I had normal  liver and kidney function, as I would need anticoagulants to disperse the clot and to stop another one forming in the next weeks of inactivity.

Then back to wait in the fractures’ clinic, for what seemed like ages. Finally, I saw the doctor who said that I wouldn’t be going back into a plaster, but would be fitted for a boot, which would allow me to put my heel to the floor. This would make life much easier.

Then back to the, what was it called, the VNT clinic to see a video, which I didn’t see (!), on DVTs and anticoagulants, and to be talked through the different medicines available and to be given a lovely, lovely, ham sandwich and ginger biscuits (which Mel ate). I had my first tablet too. Have to take two a day for 21 days and then one a day for 21 days. (Didn’t op for Wolferin or Heparin as they both involved injections!)

We left the hospital at 3.45 p.m after quite an adventurous day, having met many, lovely, kind nurses and doctors. Thank you NHS, I certainly have no complaints!

Losing the plaster and getting the ‘moon boot’ on Tuesday made life much easier. It’s bliss, so much easier, but I still haven’t ventured outside. Haven’t seen or touched Max, my horse, for a week. Am missing him terribly, but don’t want to put too much stress on parts of my body that are unaccustomed to it, too soon. Slowly, slowly I think is the best.

Another reason for not going outside, especially at the moment, as it is wet and slippery, is how do I clean the bottom of my moon boot? As I sleep in it, I don’t want, obviously,  to get my sheets dirty (nor my lovely ‘new’ sitting room carpet). The doctor did say that I could take my boot off, but didn’t say under what circumstances. As I live alone, I feel very vulnerable and don’t want to bash my ankle bone – on the outside – as that is where it’s fractured. Another thing on which to ponder…

Happily, each day the pain is less (thank goodness that pain in my calf has all but gone – does that mean that the clot has dispersed, I wonder?) and I am getting around easier. Yippee, no painkillers today. I always hate taking them as I feel that if you don’t feel the pain, you can overdo things.

I’ll solve it, slowly, slowly. There’s no rush, I’ve another five weeks at least, to take things easy. Bliss really all that time to relax!

“You’ll get so bored”, somebody said, but I don’t think so. So many books/newspapers to read; visitors to chat with; people to catch up with on Twitter; rug-making to get on with; house to keep clean (ha ha, I  never, normally, do housework); TV to watch; radio  to listen to; crosswords to do; Candy Crush to finish and hopefully, after a few weeks, haynets to fill and horse feeds to mix up. Then the dog needs a brush, de-fleaing, food to prepare, washing to do, etc. etc.

I really have to thank my neighbours who have happily taken little Alfie for walks with their dogs, collected the post and shut up the hens, and Nicky who has stoically taken over caring for Max, letting out and feeding the hens, de-dog-poop-ing the garden, taking my wheelie bin down to the end of the drive  and a zillion other things. Thanks too, to my dear friends, especially Myf, who have kept me supplied with chocolates, cakes, flowers, provisions and best wishes. Where would we be without them? Thanks everybody for all your kindness and help,’ tis much appreciated!

Rising to the challenge!

Never let it be said that I shy away from a challenge. In fact, I would say that I thrive on them.

So, living for the next six weeks on crutches is my next challenge. Well, certainly getting up the step onto the landing, last Saturday morning after only three hours sleep, caused me a bit of a problem. Yes, I did have my five minute lesson on how to walk on crutches, but those who have been unfortunate enough to spend some time on the flippin’ things know only too well that walking in straight lines is the easiest bit! Getting up a step is a different kettle of fish. I didn’t get it right and crashed down on the wooden floor on my back.. Ouch! Then, of course you have to  work out how to get up. Not like getting up from a fall when skiing, when you just put your poles behind you and push yourself up…. can’t do that with your crutches, as you only have one foot to put weight on! Ho hum.

I soon learned to use the wall when going up, or down, a step. Just lean against a wall, with your weight bearing leg next to the step, then with one crutch up the step and the other one where you are standing, just push down on your crutches lifting yourself up, but still leaning against the wall. You can then put your good foot down on the next level up. Easy when you know how. There is a technique for everything, it’s just finding how to do it without breaking any more limbs!

Because of nightly trips to the loo (mustn’t get dehydrated, so have to keep liquids topped up during the day!) I felt that the best course of action would be to get a bed down into my dining room so that I wouldn’t have an assault course to negotiate during my nightly perambulations.

Responding quickly to my SOS phone call, my ex arrived immediately and set about turning my dining room into a bedroom, just the job! Thanks Mel.

After he had gone, it  occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to carry a cup of tea into the sitting room, nor a plate of food to the table. Oh dear, was I destined to the kitchen stool on which I would have to drink tea and eat my meals for the next six weeks? After musing on the subject for a while, I realised I needed a bag to carry food, drink, whatever into the other rooms, from the kitchen.

Not having a small rucksack, the only bag I could come up with was the peg bag! An old cotton bag left over from the sixties (hippy days). I can hang this around my neck when going anywhere in the cottage: going upstairs (on my bottom) to get clean clothes; bringing drinks, or food in a plastic box, into the sitting room. Great, that’s settled. I carry my tea in a very old Addis plastic container with a lid and pouring hole, but because that leaked onto the other contents in my bag, I’ve now purchased a super-duper travel mug, with had great Amazon reviews saying that it was leak proof. So I sincerely hope that the reviewers are to be trusted!

My galley kitchen

My galley kitchen

I’m really lucky because my cottage kitchen is like a galley and I can hop up and down holding onto work surfaces either side without using the crutches. Always good to remember though, to park your crutches against the work surface behind you so that when you hop off to get something you don’t have to negotiate passing them, with the risk that you get tangled up and crash to the floor! Similarly, my bathroom is easy to get around, bidet, bath, loo and wash basin. The latter is in a vanity unit so I can lean against it while carrying out my ablutions!

By Sunday evening my left hip joint, wrists, and, strangely, my stomach muscles, were all aching badly due to the unaccustomed strain on them.So as not to waste valuable energy and put more strain on your body by hopping backwards and forwards from sitting room to kitchen to bathroom, (crutches are rather tiring), it is best to plan in advance where you are going and what you need. It’s no good getting up and hopping to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, only to find that you have left your bag on the floor by your armchair! Take everything you need in your bag to cut down on your journeys and save time and energy.

I was hoping that I would be fitted with a boot, not another plaster caste, when I kept my appointment at the fractures’ clinic on Tuesday which I’m sure would be easier to cope with!

The twist of fate !

My disappearance from social media since I retired at the end of April, has to be put down to many challenges, and projects, interspersed by a series of horse-related accidents that have befallen me since then.

The core of my retirement time has been taken up with riding four, sometimes, five days a week. Poor little Max didn’t know what hit him! Still, they were only gentle hacks around the country lanes for a few hours. These would take up half a day, once he had been turned out in his field, after which I could carry on with working to get my cottage, land and buildings, back to their former glory.

Hacking through the undergrowth behind the stables (with my pruning saw, not my horse, tee hee hee), comprising nettles and overgrown elderberries, that hadn’t seen the light of day for at least six years, I discovered, to my horror, that the wooden back walls were suffering badly due to rot and woodworm.

I would have loved to have replaced the planks myself, but my woodwork skills, I’m afraid, are non-existant. However, I’m a dab hand with a paint brush so, after purchasing new boards and giving them a couple of coats of creosote, John, a neighbour, removed and replaced the offending boards. I have done my bit by giving the two stables a couple of coats of the preservative. My, didn’t the wood drink it up! It took three times as many containers of the stuff to finish the job than I had bargained for!

I’ve also creosoted the barn doors that, under close inspection, were found to be on their last legs. (I had thought this 23 years ago when I moved in!) So something needs to be done there, watch this space, as they say.

Am dead chuffed because I’ve filled lots of holes in the barn walls with mortar, prior to painting them black. I chose not to use black tar varnish, which would have been used in days of yore, but went with Sandtex black masonary paint instead. It’s not shiney, and I feel that it’s kinder on the eye.

I have completed two and a half walls and it’s looking, although I say it myself, very smart. Barrie, another kind neighbour is sorting out the south facing end wall, which needs some radical surgery and a lime rendering. (To sort out the mistakes that a previous local builder, had made some eight years ago, at no small cost.)

Home paddock is looking brilliant, with 85% less buttercups after my purge on them this Spring.

A few weeks after Max had tripped me up, with me landing flat on my back in front of him on the road, he bucked me off in a stubble field. Luckily somebody in a local farmhouse was on hand to call 999, as I didn’t know where I was!  I spent the next hour in an ambulance!  It was my first time in an ambulance and in the care of  paramedics who were lovely. Fortunately, I was wearing my back protector, and, despite having been catapulted out of the saddle and landing with a crash on my back on the hard ground I suffered no more than mild whiplash !

This couldn’t be said for horse-related accident number three. Last Wednesday, we had been out for a lovely gentle ride (needless to say not on any stubble fields!) when, like every ride for the preceding 7 years the time came to dismount (get off, to the uninitiated). Easy peasey. Feet out of the stirrups, lean forward swinging your right leg over the horse’s rump….As I was at the point of no return, i.e. swinging my leg over his rump, for a reason only known to him, he decided to take a step away from my movement, leaving his front left leg behind. At this point I had started my  descent…. and my  right foot, instead of landing squarely on the ground, came down on his foot and the force of landing crookedly twisted my ankle over. Such excruciating pain! Ouch!!

With difficulty I hopped him into his stable and untacked him and let him out in the paddock and hopped into the house. I continued in this hoppity vein (with the help of my late mum’s walking stick) for the next two days (with more help from a friend, Nicky, who looked after Max for me).

Tried the frozen pea trick (well frozen mange tous actually) to bring the swelling down. Fortunately I had some Volterol and painkillers, which made it all much more comfortable, but my foot and ankle swelled and became bluer each day that passed.

I had phoned 111 the NHS helpline on Thursday, which I thought was defunct, but the nurse was lovely, and very helpful saying that it sounded like a bad sprain. However, if my foot went numb, or I had more pain or pins and needles then I was to call an ambulance.

I didn’t want to drive the 13 miles to the A&E as I worried about my insurance should  I have an accident, driving with a dodgey ankle. Also if I got to the hospital, and my ankle was found to be broken, how would I get my car home? Didn’t like to divert an ambulance away from a serious case, just to help me. Didn’t like to trouble a neighbour to drive me into the city. What a dilemma! So I just continued hopping around.

Poor Alfie, my new addition to the family, was having to make do with just a hoppy walk down the drive and dashing around after his tennis ball.

On Friday evening, after a long Skype call with my brother in Sweden, I decided to call 111 again as I was getting really bad pains up the back of my leg. The outcome was an ambulance arriving at ten minutes to midnight to take me to A&E. My goodness twice in an ambulance in my lifetime and both within 3 weeks! How crazy is that?

After a three and a half hour wait, I was seen by a doctor and taken to radiology. After a short while, I was wheeled around to the ‘plaster room’. “So,” I said to the guy in there, I suppose I’ve broken my ankle, and I’ve been hobbling about on it for three days, oh dear!”

They supplied me with a snazzy pair of hospital jim jam bottoms; plastered my leg; gave me a rush course on how to walk on crutches and released me into the wide world. Well, into a taxi that took me home, arriving at 6.15 a.m Saturday morning.

Can we go out for a walk now mum?

Can we go out for a walk now mum?

Next post will relate the trials and tribulations of a 65 year old, on crutches, for the first time and a few tips for those who find themselves in the same position.