Allergies… and living in the sticks.

We’ve moved. For the last 2 weeks, we’ve been living in a house in the sticks. The house itself is not very big for a 3 bedroomed house, but the garden is massive and it has an outdoor shed converted into a study, which is cute.

Whilst we no doubt appreciated the increase in the space of our living quarters, all of us caught some kind of flu/coughing bug soon after moving here. The house looked clean but that is really deceptive. We all had horrible hayfever symptoms which complicated things and dragged out for 2 whole weeks (of which me and my son and eldest daughter are still recovering from).

I remember last week, walking into one of the sheds in the garden (there are three), and immediately coughing and coughing once I entered the dusty, cobwebbed interior. I had to go out quick as I could.

We went out for a meal one day and I noticed my coughing subsided. Then we came back home and I was continuously hacking up all the time, even through the night. Sitting up half the night hacking out dry tickly coughs uncontrollably is very unpleasant, but it wasn’t the first time I had this sort of coughing episode – the last time being nearly 5 years ago when my son was not yet a year old. It was such a bad lingering 3 week cough back then -you bet I always remembered it after. Well this time round, it was just as bad, except it was for a week only and I felt more concerned about having it, because when I’m coughing like this, I cannot talk much at all… in fact my voice was lost for a week and was a hoarsey deep croak. I was tired and lethargic because of lack of sleep and I cannot homeschool at all. I’ve had to declare “Homeschool Holidays” to my kids for all of this time. Well, that was an unplanned holiday I guess, but since we had already completed most of our year’s work, it’d be okay to stop now for a break and resume some time during the Summer vacation period for schooled kids. That’s the beauty of homeschooling.

I’ve had to consider medical solutions to my problem. I was, at one point, coughing at every inhale because my throat was insanely tickly. Visiting the GP was too much of a a hassle as they were so strict on procedures. Apparently the NHS allows you to see GPs you are not registered with, as an Emergency, only if you are on holiday and you have to show them proof of it. Otherwise you just have to go through the usual rigmarole of registering – over here, they want to see a recent utilities or council tax bill with your name on it (to prove you are really resident here in this part of the UK) and they want to see a photographic form of ID like a passport. Not only that, I was told that even if I followed procedure, I still won’t be able to see a doctor the same day. I had to try my luck by calling the clinic when it opens in the early morning to see if they could give me a slot during the day. If not, I’ll have to try my luck again the next day or I can choose to book an appointment in advance, which will mean I may not be seen until a week later.

I’ve never had to go through all that just to register myself with a GP before, and I’ve registered myself at over 7 different GP practices across the country over the last decade as a result of moving around for my husband’s career. Maybe things have changed since like, the last time I registered myself with a GP… but I decided that I’ve got to be really desperate for medical attention to go through all that.

I did my own homework online and found out that codeine is very effective for stubborn uncontrollable dry coughs like mine. Codeine acts on a part of our brain that is responsible for coughing. So I ordered a bottle of Palmo Bailly cough mixture online. It arrived about 2 days later – 2 days too late in my opinion… but it was quite miraculous. It literally worked the moment I brought the glass of this stuff to my lips and smelt the pungent fumes. It silenced every propensity to cough from the very first moment it touched my lips until… well, until half an hour to an hour later, unfortunately. So it is a quick fix, but didn’t last long enough. I suppose it may be because the amount of codeine in this is a lot lesser than other codeine cough meds that used to be easily available (but are now all restricted as prescription drugs due to possible abuse).

But I took it faithfully and within 2 days, my cough had subsided to a manageable once-an-hourly cough or clearing of the throat. I will certainly keep this stuff around for coughs in future now that I’ve discovered it’s efficacy. And I really can’t see how I can get addicted to it. It tastes and smells so vile, which must be from the chloroform in the mixture, as it reminds me of the smell of chlorine. Yep, you heard it. They put chloroform in the stuff… I tried researching why, and apparently chloroform is used during the chemical process for extracting the codeine. Codeine, as you may already know, is very weak morphine, an opioid.

My nose also was bunged up a lot of the time, due to the coughing. The coughing fits (which were bad enough to make me retch) would cause my eyes to water and my nose to bung up with snot straight away. I thought this made recovery even more difficult, as all that extra mucus generated in my nose from the coughing will just end up as post nasal drip, which I believe was already partly responsible for the persistent cough and the irritated throat. So I researched online and found this nasal decongestant spray called Otrivine which had good reviews. I bought it on Amazon, arrived the next day (I love my Amazon Prime subscription). And it does work like magic. Literally within seconds of squirting Otrivine up my nostrils, they started opening up and remained clear and dry for about 8 hours, before they start getting bunged up again and I’d need another squirt of the stuff to clear my nose again.

So… a whole week of trying out meds on my own. I realised it wasn’t too bad because I stumbled upon some real gems for coughs and nasal congestion. I learned some things too but I wouldn’t want to wish it on anyone or myself again.

I noticed that because I tend to cough more when I’m in the house rather than out, that perhaps the house was still too dusty even though it looked clean. I hoovered down the carpeted areas twice and was shocked to find a lot of black sandy dust particles and what looked like pet hairs (maybe belonging to a dog or cat… about 3 inch long ones… I guess the previous occupant of this house must have kept some pets, like our neighbours all do). We then gave the carpets a good clean with our carpet washing machine, and took down all the curtains, machine washed them. I wasn’t coughing as much anymore. In fact I actually managed to catch a few hours of sleep without coughing after that. Then I realised that I must have some kind of dust allergy or even a pet allergy.

I remember once visiting someone’s house. Her house was always in a mess with clutter everywhere, no table surface was ever available for eating or working on unless one shifts over a ton of stuff from the table surface. that time was particularly bad, as apparently she had a stressful week so I guess she didn’t clean. And the stairs and corners had small clumps of hair here and there. All human hair, as this person had no furry pets, but for the hair to accumulate to the point of gathering into clumps around the edges and corners of the rooms and stairwell… it was no wonder I had hayfever within one day of living there. The intense sneezing, sniffling, the watering eyes, etc. I was practically begging for antihistamines from her, as I didn’t think of taking some for myself before going to her house to stay – I’ve always carried a pack of antihistamine tablets with me everywhere I go, since learning that lesson.

But yeah just thinking about all of this made me realise I must have some sort of dust allergy at the very least. I don’t even notice that in the flat I lived in for 7 years before moving to this house, because I always vacuumed my flat twice a week as it was fully carpeted throughout except for the kitchen and bathroom and I liked the feeling of walking on clean carpets.

It did make me feel a bit sad that maybe it would be best we didn’t adopt a cat or a dog. We had originally wanted to, because now we’ve got a house and will be living in houses for the foreseeable future as my husband will probably never land a job in a big city again and we will always be living in semi rural places at least… and in these parts, flats… even ugly flats, can be really difficult if not impossible to find. Because house prices are quite low, and the population density is so low, there is no need to build flats and cram lots of people into one single land area. But living in these places mean we’re always surrounded by other people’s pets too. Our neighbours on both sides have a total of at least 4 dogs and 10 cats between them. There are ducks waddling about on the roads in the village. There is no duck pond however. How strange.

My kids love animals and want furry pets. My husband is a star though. He got so concerned for my coughing, he was the one who initiated the intense cleaning of the carpets and curtains these past two days. I couldn’t have done it on my own as I would have still been busy coughing my lungs out and trying my best to take things slowly and rest more and only do the cleaning when I’m better.

Anyway my husband now is dead set on never getting a pet dog or cat. He told the kids we won’t be getting them because it risked mummy’s health. In a way it was touching (because my husband too loves animals and grew up with lots of animals at home) but also sad for me because when I was growing up, I wanted a pet dog so much but my animal-hating mum flat out refused. I just never had the chance to have a pet because I was never staying in a house with a big enough garden of my own to have such pets.

We could still have pets, but it would have to stay outdoors at all times. I think rodents, chickens or birds would be nice too. I could also try and get myself allergy tested for cats and dogs. Funny how I’ve learnt so much in just 2 weeks of living in the sticks. Some other things I’ve learnt so far …

A) I find I get stared at a lot more for being an ethnic minority here. It’s not really hostile staring, but more like they’ve never seen someone like this around here before. Plus I normally have my kids with me, and they stare at my kids and my family too, because they’ve never seen mixed race kids much around here. I have to say though that my kids have had positive interactions with their peers here in Sunday School and Boys and Girls Brigade. On the other hand, I feel like I am something of an unofficial ambassador for my race… whatever that is to them. Whatever I say or do may reflect a lot to them about what people like me say or do. It is a weird feeling but I don’t blame people for it.

B) The locals here speak a sort of north London accent… the sort I’d hear in Watford or Harrow… well, I used to live there for some time, so of course I’d know. This is something I didn’t expect… because this place is quite far from Watford for a start. I never thought there would be so little variation in accent from Watford up to this neck of the woods. Good thing about this is that the accent is very easy for us to understand. It is unlike the Northern accents which I often struggled with. My kids tell me they find the accents here easy to understand as well. It’s a very neutral sort of accent.

C) Everybody drives around here. Everybody. Most our neighbours have 2 cars per household, and if they have kids who are high school graduates, they have more than 2 cars parked outside their houses. There is a bus service and there’s a bus once or twice an hour, but the journey from our village to the nearest big towns take an hour by bus each – whereas if you drove, the time it takes to get to these bigger towns is like half the time taken by the bus, so round about half an hour. Major difference, and makes you not feel like taking the bus, no? I used to be a regular public transport user, but when I came here and saw what it’s like, I just thought… forget it. If I need to go “to town”, I’d ask my husband to give us a lift instead. And I would just rely on internet shopping a LOT more to buy my stuff. Thank God for the internet! I guess you can also say, we’ve become more homely. Oh yes, no parks around here. It is quite poorly-resourced compared to a big city, but on the other hand, this place is good for outdoor living. We are literally living in the middle of huge agricultural swathes of land. There are no motorways here. Just A roads, B roads and dirt tracks.

D) Average salaries here are lower than in bigger cities, yet the people here live a generally higher standard of life. This area produces a lot of the fruit and veg that goes on to be sold in the big supermarkets, and we are lucky that our little village has a long-standing tradition of a weekly “market” where produce is sold at a fraction (up to half) of the price of their equivalent in supermarkets but are so fresh and good. Not to mention large. For instance, some of the strawberries they sell here in the village’s weekly market are as big as apples. And they are always really sweet and juicy. Not like the supermarket ones which often can be quite sour. You can get a lot of “house” for your money here, and an outdoor lifestyle, and the crime rate here is so low that if there is one murder, it’d make the front page news. So all in all it seems that people here have a higher standard of living.


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