RSS Feed
  1. The land of make believe

    January 22, 2017 by Amy

    We’ve been watching Legend this evening. The pixie one, not the apocalyptic one, or the gangster one.

    Bit dark, isn’t it?

    Not really a kids film, but not really an adult’s film either.

    Cracking prosthetics though, and genuinely frightening moments.


  2. A right old pickle

    January 21, 2017 by Amy

    I made a silly little mistake this afternoon and it took away the rest of my day.

    I’m currently following a gluten and lactose free diet as instructed by the hospital in the hope that this would stop the attacks I had throughout last year. Having started the diet at the beginning of December, true enough, I’ve not really had any attacks. Mind you, I can naturally go months without an attack, so this doesn’t necessarily prove anything.

    Until today. Maybe.

    While the official line is no gluten or lactose, the things to look out for are wheat, barley and milk. The world of food is much easier to navigate these days thanks to the law changing on what needs to be displayed on packets. Any allergens, i.e. stuff that might cause an allergic reaction to those who have intolerance, must be bold, like the example over there. This makes it immensely easy to work out what I can or can’t have. This bread, yes. That bread, no. These sweets, yes. That chocolate, no. There are few exceptions where the entire genre of food can be completely written off; there are normally some yes and some no.

    When I was first instructed to go on this diet, in an effort to understand it more, I systematically went through our kitchen applying little “Amy” labels to the things that were within the diet, i.e. safe to eat. Piccalilli was ‘in’. Branston was ‘out’. That bit is important, see? Alex is on a ham phase at the moment. He keeps buying bit wodges of it, sticking it in the slow cooker with two cans of Coke and some honey or maple syrup, and it’s glorious. I digress.

    For lunch, we all had cheese and crackers with a bit of ham and pickle. Alex and the smallest Hansford had theirs with Branston, I had my Lactofree cheese on Nairn crackers, a splodge of Piccalilli and some of that amazing ham. The smallest Hansford decided she didn’t fancy the rest of her ham, so, me being in mum mode and distracted by the playback of our panto dvd, I unthinkingly cleared her plate. I used the ham to wipe the plate clean of the pickle. The pickle. Damnit, the Branston pickle. And I didn’t think a jot about it. Until the attack.

    About 10/15 minutes after enjoying that gorgeous ham, the pain started in the normal place – just behind the ribcage on the lower right. I thought it might have been a bit of indigestion – attacks have become alien lately, thankfully, so I didn’t recognise it straight away. If I’d had, I would have got into a safe position, allowed my body to shutdown and deal with it, then would have recovered for the evening. Being glamoured by the dvd however, I sat through increasing waves of pain before finally giving in an hour later and making my way upstairs to bed. The attack continued with a medium force, so I attacked the attack with a strong painkiller force.  Not enough to stunt the pain at all, but enough to knock me out. An hour’s sleep later and I awoke to the pain echoing away, so more rest until it finally dissipated around 8pm. I know already that I’ll need to spend tomorrow resting – my organs will be swollen and bumping together when I move, so my body will be in recovery mode. I’ve learned from experience that pottering around doing little tasks here and there gives my body no time to recover, so tomorrow literally will be sitting still and not exerting myself.

    So, for a moment’s distraction, for not recognising oddly familiar symptoms, I lost this evening and I’ve lost tomorrow, or at least had to repurpose it.

    The silver lining?

    I ate something that happened to contain gluten, and I had a radical reaction within 15 minutes. Does this prove that I’m intolerant to gluten? Maybe. Which means I’m a step closer to getting myself out of this pickle.

  3. Ooh baby it’s a wild world

    January 20, 2017 by Amy

    I missed my daily deadline last night due to a very welcome visit from my lovely friend Emma. Before I knew it, I was halfway through a bottle of champagne and, when paired with a naked kebab*, I was pretty much half cut no longer able to coherently blog. So instead, we thoroughly enjoyed what I now know to be Spy In The Wild.

    The key USP with this programme is that they have managed to capture very natural (and fascinating) behaviour from the animals by combining cameras and animatronics. Robot meerkats, sloths and orangutans have breen created and discretely placed in the wild where they interact with the ‘real’ animals, filming their behaviour and interacting with them. In one scene, the robo-orangutan saws a piece of wood in half; the real orangutan then copies its behaviour, even showing off and sawing whilst lieing down. It really is brilliant to watch!

    Newsround did a little piece on it too.

    It really is brilliant watching. Our cat Echo agreed too – she was quite intent on catching herself a meerkat. Spoilers: she didn’t.

    Spy In The Wild is on BBC 1 on Thursdays at 8pm. You can also watch it here on iPlayer.

    * A kebab without pitta bread

  4. Flagged Up

    January 18, 2017 by Amy

    In early December, my colleagues and I were sent on a three day First Aid At Work course run by St John’s Ambulance. It was really, really, really good. I last went on the course back in 2009 which was mainly a woman in a tweed suit talking at us in a warm, dimly lit room for three days where I tried not to fall asleep. This was a whole word away – funny, interactive, loads of hands on stuff, practical applications, scenarios – really good.

    If you are considering going on a first aid course at any level, I highly recommend the St John’s Ambulance team – they have loads on locations all over the UK and are, as I mentioned, really good.

    As a result, I bought two first aid packs – one for each car – and am also the First Aider for my area at work now as well as the Fire Warden. My workplace have a good handle on health and safety generally, so they’ve given me a bumper first aid pack to be kept in my desk and have monthly meetings for all First Aiders (big site, big FA team) to keep us all up to date. Realistically, the most I’ll be doing will be applying plasters and occasionally dealing with minor burns (we do a lot of cooking but I’ve never had any incidents). But it’d good to know stuff, right?

    Imagine my excitement when the Health & Safety Manager walked in to my office this afternoon brandishing my very own First Aider flag. Genuinely! I think it’s brilliant – I’m chuffed that I get to have it on my desk, and I think it’s a great idea that it’s so easy to quite literally flag down a First Aider when you need one.

    Let’s hope no-one needs me!

    Loving my First Aider flag

  5. If I only had a brain/heart

    January 17, 2017 by Amy

    Towards the end of the run of “Aladdin & The Lost Christmas”, John asked me an important question. Would I, Amy Hansford, officially co-direct the following year’s panto with him?

    A simple question, you might think. But not so. It took some thought.

    My instant thought was ‘yes, of course, yes! I want to direct and be a part of the best little panto in Milton Keynes!’. But I’ve learned over the past year that I have to interview both my heart AND my head when making decisions. So I took some time to think.

    Heart: This is so cool! I’m honoured! I’ve loved doing a bit of directing this year and I want to do more!
    Head: Hold up – this isn’t just saying yes to next year. This is committing further than that. You can’t just jump in, do a bit, then walk away.
    Heart: I know, but I love panto! And I love being in a position to help make it even better!
    Head: Granted. So you’re okay with the extra commitment?
    Heart: …?
    Head: This isn’t just being at every rehearsal. This is joining the production team for the show, making decisions, judgements.
    Heart: Yeah, I want that. I like being able to steer stuff!
    Head: Being on the audition panel.
    Heart: That’s cool!
    Head: Is it? Having to tell some people yes and some people no?
    Heart: Um… not that bit.FIGHT!
    Head: No. Still okay with it?
    Heart: … Yeah. Yeah, I can do that.
    Head: Okay, so what about keeping the cast happy?
    Heart: It’s pantoland, everyone’s happy!
    Head: Not always – you need to listen to everyone. Sometimes you’ll need to make a decision that’s right for the show, but it might put noses out of joint. It’s a tightrope. You’re doing a million things in the background and in your head, people only see what’s happening on the surface.
    Heart: You’re making this less fun.
    Head: I’m being practical.
    Heart: But what about the fun? And spending time with my friends, and being part of something meaningful? And being instrumental in something that is an actual part of the Christmas tradition for families?
    Head: About that – do you really want that pressure?
    Heart: Of having fun?
    Head: Of not ruining Christmas. Of taking on arguably the most successful ‘amateur’ pantomime in Britain.
    Heart: What?
    Head: Sells out in advance, raises large amounts for charity, keeps ticket prices low to ensure everyone has access to family entertainment, keeps subs low to ensure everyone has access to being in panto, amazing costumes and sets and lights and sound, bespoke music…
    Heart: Alright alright alright. Yes, I want all those good things. And yes, I will take on all the bad things.
    Head: What about the year after?
    Head: What. About. The.
    Heart: I heard you. Yes. The year after. And the year after that. I’ll take it. All of it.

    And so I said yes.

    Onwards to Oz…

  6. Princess Jasmine

    January 16, 2017 by Amy

    Back in July 2016, I auditioned for and successfully got the role of The Spirit Of The Ring in Dreams ‘n’ Wishes‘s pantomime “Aladdin & the Lost Christmas.” I wasn’t 100% well at the time but was pretty sure I’d be okay.

    I wasn’t okay.

    About 6 weeks into rehearsals (and approximately three days after the great big huge photoshoot for said panto) I had to admit to myself that I just wasn’t well enough to do the show. It was unfair on me to keep pushing myself, unfair on the production team to have them keep crossing their fingers for an improvement, unfair on the cast to have to keep acting to an empty space… the show deserved a full time, devoted Spirit. It later got one in the form of the absolutely divinely wonderful Leanne Lyndsey White, who continues to amaze me and I would do anything for her.

    Been there, got the t-shirt.Not wanting to lose out on seeing the panto family, I moved to the role of Assistant Director; ordinarily, this would be taking notes, reminding people of positions, prompting, etc. Me being me, I moved over the line into actual directing as I liked to do so. John (director) didn’t seem to mind this, so I carried on and it seemed to work quite well. Our daughter’s rehearsals were going well – she was one of the ‘Littlies’ this year and so got to be a dancing panda and reindeer, plus sing a bit on stage, so I was in proud mum mode. Alex was going to be doing backstage on the shows that Lara was in, this having all been set up when I was still in the show of course, so it continued to be a family event for us.

    I went on to the lactose and gluten free diet as instructed by the nutritionist (see previous post) and my health dramatically improved. I felt fine – better than I had done for a really long time.

    Time shifted, the show grew slicker and I grew prouder, tinged with a little bit of sadness that I would be missing out on being a physical part of it come showtime.

    And into the get in week.
    Mon/Tue get in
    Wed Tech rehearsal
    Thu Dress rehearsal
    Fri Dress rehearsal
    Sat Two shows, then fourteen more.

    I had a call from John at 4.20pm on the Tuesday. He’d had a call too. Our beautiful, talented Princess Jasmine had regrettably had to pull out of the show. And so it was on me to be Princess Jasmine.

    Princess. The most un-Amylike role in any pantomime is the Princess role. The graceful part with the chocolate box song. With the hair, and the face, and the slender figure, and the… just not me. I’m the idiot that runs around like a loon, throwing herself into custard pies, faking slapstick injuries, the one with the silly hair and rouged nose, cracking jokes and whipping the audience up. Seriously? Me? Is there no-one else? But how? I just… I… the show… the costumes… it…

    So I did it.

    Check out those shoulder pads!With my brilliant daughter willing me to learn the lines, and the songs, and the dances, I spent 5 hours cramming. Having directed for the past six weeks definitely helped – I knew where I needed to be on stage, who to talk to, roughly how the harmonies sounded. I recorded all my scenes on Garageband and played them over and over and over and over. In the car, at home, on my lunch break. I ran through the dance routines over and over, imagining where the rest of the cast were in my living room.

    I went to work the next day in a dreamlike state having fried my brain the night prior. I calmly explained to my manager that yes, I was looking forward to the show, and actually I was going to be in it now, and I might be a bit distracted today as my head is full of lib, and sorry. Kind words came in from the cast and our wonderful Jasmine via Messenger. Straight on to the theatre for the tech rehearsal. I had my director hat on so didn’t have much time to think about being Jasmine. An opportunity for a night of cramming gone, familiarity with the staging won. On to the dress rehearsal on the Thursday night. Somehow, just somehow, the costumes fitted. Me. The size 14. Something to do with empire lines. My ‘Elsa’ shoes went with every outfit. Me, the woman with such little jewellery, happened to have a different necklace for each outfit, perfect for the overall look (and yes, I did wear my Jasmine cosplay’s necklace for one of them). Somehow, the words came out right, and instant relationships between my new character and the others seemed to gel. I flubbed my way through dancing in the finale, realising after the first 8 bars that I knew the dance from over on stage right as the Spirit Of The Ring, but had no idea what the Princess did in the centre of the stage. For that night, a lot of singing to the audience and marveling at all the lovely people dancing around me. And we did the same again on the Friday night.

    And then we were on.

    And it was brilliant.

    And for the first, and probably the last time, I got to be a panto princess.

    And we all lived happily ever after.

    And as for next year? Well, there’s news about that too…

  7. Update for a new year

    January 15, 2017 by Amy

    Yeeeeeeeaaaaah, I know I’ve not been a reliable blogger. Alex is attempting to blog *something* every day, which sounds like a good idea, so I’m going to give that a go too.

    For now, a quick update on the old Attacks front;

    I DID get that scan I was chasing the doctors for. I still have the same two polyps in my gallbladder, same size. They’re not doing anything. I feel bad that one is unnamed. So suggestions for Phillip’s roommate are welcomed.

    For now, at least

    Lactose free and gluten free

    I’m pleased that I didn’t push for surgery. As it stands, it doesn’t look like it would have helped and, if anything, would have left me with less internally to deal with all the shenanigans.

    I have, however, finally had that appointment with a nutritionist at the hospital. Early December, he put me on a Gluten and Lactose free diet for six weeks. While I’ve not had any attacks during that time, I could quite easily be going through one of those natural attack breaks, so there’s not sufficient evidence to say that this is the answer. Mind you, a week in and I felt like I had a lot more energy; the result of ditching a big carb load. Being Gluten free is actually really easy – most restaurants cater for you and there are gluten free alternatives for all baked goods and pastas (although I’m still searching for Cannelloni). It’s being Lactose free that’s the stinker. Milk is the thing to avoid, so imagine everything that contains milk, yoghurt or cheese and that’s it. Yes, Dominoes do a Gluten Free pizza base, but it’s really no fun without cheese.

    About a week after my last post, I dropped out of playing The Spirit Of The Ring in panto. I was absolutely gutted. So you can imagine how shocked I was when, three days before curtain up, I found myself playing Princess Jasmine. More on that tomorrow.

  8. Polyps Schmolyps

    October 5, 2016 by Amy

    It turns out that the doctor hasn’t quite got around to referring me for that scan yet. I know this because I spoke to a different doctor today, following my attack and… I’m going to need to backtrack, aren’t I?

    Having enjoyed a few weeks of low/medium level attacks, I was hit with an absolute humdinger on Monday (3rd). We’d just been out to Yo Sushi for dinner, we were walking towards the car and I could feel it kicking off. Cue a Buscopan. Now that would normally settle it*. But not this time – the pain crescendoed all the way home until I was in such pain that I couldn’t walk. Alex managed to get me into the living room, and it took another half hour to get me on to the sofa. The pain was terrible, horrible, and in waves so you’d fool yourself into thinking you were through the worst of it then BAM – another wave, greater than before. Cocodamol didn’t touch it. It finally calmed down to a low level attack by around 9.30pm, and this continued through to the morning. In comparison to the main attack, this was far easier to deal with!

    cornflakesOn to the following morning, the after effects were as before; my organs, having been thrown around, were swollen and easily upset. Movement, i.e. walking, is too jolty and causes more pain. The swelling puts pressure on my lungs so I become short of breath. Tuesday was for recovery. I did nothing, aside from eat Crunchy Nut Cornflakes (my go to ‘I’m ill’ food) and watch American Horror Story.

    Wednesday and the symptoms are the same. I visited my local health centre. Our family doctor wasn’t there for whatever reason, so I saw a different doctor. He was very kind and prescribed me stronger painkillers should it happen again. He was also helpful to explain things that have happened between now and the last doctors visit;

    • The gastroscopy I’d had was just for testing for Anaemia and Gluten Intolerance. Not really anything to do with the attacks.
    • The scan/investigation/referral to the hospital gastro team which the consultant recommended after the denial of anaemia? That’s not happened.
    • If I were his patient, he would refer me for surgery.


    I was busy trying to be terribly polite and British and so didn’t really stop to ask questions so that he could keep to schedule and see the gallbladderintronext patient. Yes, I know I’m an idiot. But once I arrived back home (after a half hour wait for my prescription – these tablets must be huge) I started thinking – why had my lovely doctor not referred me? Had she straight out forgotten or did she not feel it necessary to follow up on the recommendation, and if not, why not? Where are the results from my biopsy? Am I intolerant of something? Is this why a cup of tea gives me a tummy ache? And most importantly, let’s talk about that last point above.

    Surgery. In some ways, I am really pleased that there is someone at the practice who recognises that these attacks are debilitating and that action needs to be taken to allow me to resume normal everyday life. On the other hand, I’m a bit concerned that a doctor who has never met me, just from my notes recommends a referral for surgery. What is it in my notes that makes him think that? What would the surgery be for? Looking around, putting something in, removing something…?

    In the meantime, I am left to consider all the things that I should be doing but currently cannot. The weeding. The washing. The putting away. I’m going to get some chicken out of the chest freezer in the garage in a minute and I know that it’s going to hurt and I know that I’m going to be knackered after. Which is ridiculous, because I’m 35 and quite frankly my body really shouldn’t be giving me this much gyp. I was able to run my daughter’s bath yesterday but then had to have a sit down because I don’t have the strength to lift her in/out. I’m once again unable to go to work. This would be fine if I could do anything other than sit and surf the internet. I can learn my lines for panto, but right now I’m concerned I might not make it onto the stage**. You may have gathered – I’m not a good patient.

    I plan on calling the medical centre to speak to my doctor tomorrow. I hope to get some decisive action out of her.

    Aside from that, I’ve finished the cereal plus all the American Horror Story on Netflix and I am quite frankly bereft. If you have any keen ideas on how to fill my time, do let me know.

    *It takes around 15 minutes for most medication to work. A low or medium level attack takes around 15 minutes to run its course. On this basis, the Buscopan might actually be entirely ineffectual.
    **As in I might end up having an attack on the morning of a matinee and someone lovely being sent on with a script instead, not death. I’m not quite that melodramatic.

  9. The Polyp Strikes Back

    September 3, 2016 by Amy

    I’m going to have to stop using the word ‘polyp’ – I’m not convinced that Philip is responsible for all that’s happened. Let’s backtrack a bit…

    So, after the big attack, I was working from home for three weeks, shuffling around and trying to catch my breath. Since then, I’ve had maybe one or two attacks a week, little minor ones that are solved with a Buscopan and an Ibuprofen, Co-codamol for the bigger attacks. I’ve also had more migraines, which are really pretty unpleasant. However, things have moved on a notch thanks to a visit to my local gastroenterologist!

    tummyHe was very straight talking, by which I mean it felt like a comedic interrogation. He informed me that if either of my polyps (Phil has a little brother) reach 10mm my gallbladder will be removed. I imagined I might just wake up one morning and it have magically disappeared without my noticing.

    According to my very official letter, ‘the symptoms may suggest sphincter {edit: snigger} of Oddi dysfunction (biliary type)’. The sphincter of Oddi. Sounds like a Doctor Who alien. Anyway, I digress… This condition is where the sphincter fails to opens to let out surplus bile, so it builds up and causes ouchiness. So I’ve been referred to the hospital for a scan and investigation to see if that’s what it really is.

    But there’s more! After around 15 years of being diagnosed with it, the consultant doesn’t believe I’m anaemic and wants further tests done. Not blood tests – an OGD, which stands for oesophago-gastro-duodenoscopy, which means sticking a camera down your nose or throat and looking around your stomach and intestines. I’ve been reliably informed by my friend Leah that if you eat jelly beforehand, you can see it on the screen, so that may happen. As part of this, they’ll also be taking a biopsy from my stomach and small intestine to check for atrophic gastritis – really inflamed stomach where it’s been like that for a while. Sedation is involved, which means tripping out, so hey – there’s that!

    I find the whole thing fascinating, which is why I’m documenting it on here. And I think it’s only fair as some of you have become fans of Philip the Polyp. So, on to the next gastro adventure!



  10. Return of the Polyp

    June 25, 2016 by Amy

    When you have a baby, your world revolves around it. It’s your world of experience, so it’s often all you have to talk about.
    When you are an investment banker, and your life is consumed 24 hours by the job, it’s your world of experience, so it’s often all you have to talk about.

    I am ill. My world is revolving around me being ill. It’s my current world of experience, so it’s all I have to talk about. I’m sure it’s driving my husband mad, so I’m going to talk about it here instead so that I can talk about other important issues with him, like where the biscuits are and the hilarious thing that Nanny Plum said.

    It all started years back with chest pains, most recently reported on last April during the great reveal of Philip the Polyp. Fast forward to last Friday and the chest pains returned. In hindsight I shouldn’t really have driven home from work, but I did, and I collapsed once I got in. Thankfully my awesome husband Alex was there to put me to bed. I went to the walk in clinic late night once things had calmed down to a dull throb and was told I’d taken the right medication. Biliary Colic was banded around and sounded pretty accurate to what I’d experienced, but nothing concrete other than a recommendation to see the doctor on Monday, which I promised I’d do.

    I didn’t get as far as Monday – by Sunday night I’d had a migraine and was in A&E – I’m not used to migraines. I ended up on a drip due to dehydration. No biggie, just replenishing the supply. Again I was told, doctors in the morning, please.

    So, on to Monday and my first appointment with the new family doctor at our new doctors surgery. She is brilliant. Bloods were taken to test for liver function and thyroid function, and a full organ scan requested. I feel listened to and looked after.

    I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – I love the NHS.

    A week on and there’s no change for me – I’m breathless and I have a constant ache, punctuated with shocking pains every now and then. Work have been amazingly supportive and are letting me work from home, with a longer term plan being discussed this Monday.

    As such, I am forced into the position of doing something I hate – resting. Oh, I’m terrible at resting. I get so bored and feel so unproductive. But folding the washing leaves me exhausted, so there’s little option. I’m ducking out of and writing off social engagements – I was meant to be walking in a parade today; nope. I am meant to be filming an audition next weekend; nope. I am hosting a Games Night on Tuesday; n… well, Alex will host it, I will take it easy and head up to bed when I get tired.

    Anyway, I’m using my poor old blog as a place to document what’s going on. Hopefully there’ll be an update soon, for everyone’s sake…