Social media hiatus

Social media hiatus
It is hard. HARD. Have I mentioned it's hard? I've been on hiatus for a couple of weeks now and I'm already cheating, by exploring a new community on Mastodon. I've also been answering far too many questions on Quora and commenting on The Guardian. Anyone would think I need human communication for my sense of wellbeing, or something. 
Well, I do of course. Everyone does. The longer answer as to why I'm on hiatus is officially all the Brexit trauma, Trump news and middle east news, in my face not just daily but hourly, minutely even. I have always been a political animal, and this level of detailed and useful information, from a collection of useful and well informed journalists built up over years meant not only was I in a state of intense engagement at all times, but I, was overwhelmed with the perceived need to read every article: To be again, utterly horrified, for the seventh time today. And to send on said horror to friends because they need to know about this horror! It's important! 
Will the news carry on without me? 
Does my level of stress and anxiety resolve said traumas? 
Does it increase my sense of helplessness to read such news constantly? Plus, an add on bonus: does spending endless hours reading articles about said traumas actively reduce the amount of time I have to do anything, including anything constructive about said traumas. Ahem. 
The short answer is obviously addiction. The false feeling of intimacy inferred by seeing casual statements from people you know and care about but haven't bothered actually catching up with for years is unhealthy. The perception that you should keep chipping in to the pool or your sense of self worth will be battered is unhealthy. The idea that your identity is attached to the outward advertisement of your own ethics is patently ridiculous but the addiction, the constant drag down, the renewal... it creeps up on you in, a news emergency and then it never leaves. I must log on or I won't see what everyone is saying! And that, from someone with a private account who doesn't follow famous people. 
But it is hard, I'm warning you. Do it though. I've already had an actual conversation with an actual friend, a long sms conversation with a friend and exchanged long emails with a third. Meaningful interactions, you see.
Ironically, I should start building up my 'brand profile' soon-ish, as someone not only training to be an Alexander Technique teacher, but someone with a mission to try to explain to nerdy type herberts just how important looking after your physical self is. I have plans, and there are things I must do, such as cultivating a Facebook page, getting my own Alexander website going, etc. I have lots of thoughts daily as to the kind of things I'd like to explain; short animations to explain physical movements... it'll be some work but it will be fun. And for someone battling with the idea of privacy for a multitude of reasons, it will be a challenge.
I was going to say something about the importance of owning your words, on your own blogs and platforms and how we've even forgotten how to do that, in our social media and Medium world. But then, I've written a blog post ain't I, so job done. 

I've begun a change

You know that feeling that dogs you for years - that maybe you'd be happier doing something else, that perhaps the amount of anxiety and stress you're carrying around with you every day isn't just unhealthy for you, but for your family too... that perhaps that feeling extends to everyone but a collective decision to simply struggle with it and carry on is probably not the best thing?

For various reasons, most of then consequential, I reached a stage where I realised that the weight of anxiety I have been carrying around could not continue. I had a particularly bad couple of months, in which things really hit Peak Stress and I've decided that rather than have a brief break, then jump back in to the fray of deliberately putting myself in to anxiety inducing positions, I am very deliberately hitting the reset button. 

There's a lot to explain, and I'm finding writing this down that I have been so out of the habit of putting things publicly that I'm feeling a bit shy of writing a huge long piece explaining everything all at once. So over the course of this week I'll try and get everything down. In some ways it's quite simple: I'm now training to be an Alexander Technique teacher. But short and tight as that statement is, it definitely needs explaining and contextualising (in order to answer the reply "I'm sorry, what?!"). I also need to flag that I will also be working part time in the interwebs for the foreseeable, partly through ££ but also because it's... irresistible, isn't it. And it's the thing What I Do. 

So stay tuned for more explanation and thinking and I hope, a few posts a week about my experiences in classes, which are at the moment fascinating and new enough to rant on about for ages, in a way that I am hoping will be interesting - give that we've all got anatomy and bone structure - that is to say, at least a reasonable percentage of those of us reading this blog post will be, for the time being, human - so my discoveries as I learn may be useful ;)

Meanwhile the world turns. Yemen starves, Syrian children are killed, Trump... oh bloody hell, Trump... it's fair to say that some of my ongoing anxiety problems come from being engaged with political human activity on a global level and feeling more frightened for our immediate future than I was, say, a year and a half ago. When I woke at 5am after a brief sleep, the morning after the Brexit referendum about 3 seconds after looking at my phone I burst in to tears. I am pursuing an Irish passport and the kids will have Irish citizenship, My daughter's doing very well at German but the Brexit vote in the UK was just one aspect of the terrible right turn that seems to be overcoming so many countries in 'the west'. In countries where the education system has let its citizens down, in particular, it feels like, there is an increase in fear, an increase in xenophobia and an increase in visible, confident racism and violence which not only makes my stomach turn, but fills me with foreboding. I want no part of it. I disown it.

So, I have no doubt there will be more political stress-talk but as importantly, and perhaps, more optimistically, the story of everything changing.

More, after this word from our sponsor...

And now, a treat: Chocolate nut butter

This is not a polemic, or an industry ponder. Instead, it is just a lovely thing. My friend Anno wanted this recipe and I cannot believe that no one has put it on t'internet, so I will do so now.


Necessary sidebar:

The recipe is from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book, "River Cottage: Light and Easy". We've bought a few of Hugh's books, including his polemic style tomes on meat and fish (don't look at me for the meat one). You can chart his age and changes by how his hair looks on the front pages. What I like about his style is that he de-clutters, and things do have a tendency to be non-fussy, but fresh and delicious. His veg only book I found (and I'm speaking as a vegetarian, here so I do eat a hell of a lot of vegetables) is the least used, potentially because in fact it relied upon milk, cheese and eggs a bit too much to do the hard work. "Light and Easy" meanwhile eschews most of those ingredients and it's bloody great. Lots of super-delicious tastes, and no wheat either. The soup section's a bit 'raw food' faddy but we've already tried a good few things out from other sections - my current favourite being roasted sprouts and Puy lentils. Fantastic. Oh, and the Italian gram flour pancakes! A revelation. So incredibly easy and delicious. And and and... many more. Buy it today!

So without further ado, and with no permission from River Cottage, but my fervent wish that everyone make this instead of buying that crap from the shops, even if Mel Geidroyc used to do the ads:


Chocolate Nut Butter: the recipe

You can get away with doing zero cooking for this.  

  • 100g blanched hazels or almonds, ready toasted if you like
  • 50g runny honey (if you can buy a squeezy bottle, perfect)
  • 25g odourless coconut oil (don't be freaked out if you've never used it, you can get this in supermarkets - looks a bit like white hydrogenated 'vegetable lard', but comes in a tub (and isn't hydrogenated)
  • 1.5 tablespoons kick ass cocoa powder (I'll leave it up to you if you heap them)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A pinch of seasalt if you want
  • 1.5 tablespoons water

If you haven't bought pre-roasted, take your blanched hazels and put them in a preheated oven to 180 degrees and toast lightly for 5-10 minutes and cool them completely. The heat affects the oils in them so better to not grind them up hot (I know this, they go all pasty and weird.

Hugh says whack it all in a food processor, and scrape it down the sides a bit so it all blends. I meanwhile only have a blender with a herb/coffee grinder attachment, so I measure all the ingredients together in a single bowl with the exception of the hazels, which I grind, then stir the whole thing together with gusto, using a teaspoon. Once it's come together, put it in a clean jamjar (with lid) and store it in the fridge. It'll keep for a week. There will be none left in a week. Make some for your office's kitchen and it will be gone in a day.

Note that in "Light and Easy" the recipe uses double these amounts exactly. However, if you're purchasing roasted hazels, they tend to come in handy 100g packs, and you also then don't feel slightly overwhelmed by having to eat the whole jar in a week. Half a jar seems much more civilised. Last week was the first time I had done this - ripped open a 100g roasted nut pack, got the other ingredients in a bowl, whizzed the nuts - I doubt if the whole thing took me more that 5 minutes. 5 minutes away from swooning. It is very strong chocolate-y and with a classic Italian toasty hazels smell - it's unsurprisingly pretty filling too, so does really well as an at least semi-healthy snack on some decent (sourdough, natch) bread. Seriously, I can't actually talk this up enough, it's bloody delicious.

The kids demand I make it weekly. I will comply (until I've shown them how to make it).

My experience with a basic 5/2 'diet'

After a long absence, I'm writing this down because (whisper it), this seems to be working, seems to be workable, and is a fairly interesting experience, where it feels like a degree of permanence could be achievable.  So hopefully this might be useful to someone who is thinking about dieting in as low an impact way as possible.


Time for Basil Exposition:

I hate diets. The diet industry is a scummy, appalling disgrace founded on making women hate themselves if they eat: pushing people away from healthy calories and in to the arms of gross, guilt ridden crap that is always helpfully held close to the tills in food shops. "Dieting" is full of tales of failure, paranoia and a sad attempt to replace deeply unhealthy sugary crap food with ersatz 'sweetener' versions, held together by guar gum infested gloop, desperately trying to persuade you that the content has the same mouthfeel as fatty cream, thus keeping you in a terrible cycle of craving sugary crap... Fat *is* a feminist issue and vested interests will keep you buying diet powders, and pills, because they *know* you will fail. You will go back to eating the crap, feel shame and guilt for doing so and neck back more of their unholy shite. It's how they make their money. Fuck them.

...and so on. I really, really don't like diets. I did a starvation diet once, when I was 16, and wanted to fit in to a size 12 dress. I had come down from size 16 a couple of depression weighted years before, and wanted people to look at my body, rather than a deformity I had at the time. It worked! I felt like shit for weeks beforehand! I ate nothing but a baked potato a day for about 3 weeks, and did no exercise, naturally. 

That was the last time I dieted. While I was a student, I was pretty slim, basically through being young and being too poor to eat. Then I discovered exercise - not team based, competitive school PE misery but competing against yourself: feeling your leg muscles pulling and stretching in delicious agony - I discovered cycling, and it felt so good, I also did 100 leg lifts every evening, and lifted cheap weights from Argos. I was in my twenties, pretty skint, not eating much and fit as a fucking fiddle. I loved it.

Then I got a full on desk job on t'internet, and over time, despite cycling, the thickening did start. I didn't really mind because I was fit, had a beloved and everything felt good. When I had the kids, I didn't cycle, (for I do think relatively reasonable reasons of not wanting to crash whilst they were gestating) and it took the weight to start hefting on in spades for me to get back to biking. 20 miles a day; starting to do charity long runs - deliciously fit. Thighs like tree trunks. Ate whatever I liked given that frankly, I needed the carbs.

Then I was dragged under a lorry. 


I haven't really been able to do sustained exercise with the exception of walking in the last three years. I do press ups against a wall, and I did, last year, try to go for doing lots of core muscle conditioning on the soft surface of the bed but too many residual problems made that impossible. I am not happy. And I was until mid-January rather large. So, mid-January, I had my weight taken for hospital type reasons, and realised that just about the only thing I had any control over in order to reduce my current level of pain was to lose weight. Without extensive exercise. Bollocks.

So here we are. It is now the end of February. I have been 5/2'ing for 6 weeks. 


Why did I choose to 5/2 over and above any other diet?

As I've said, I don't like diets. I also actually eat rather healthily and have done for a long time: I'm a fish eating vegetarian, who has a zero sugar breakfast with a mix of shredded wheat, oats and seeds/nuts with skimmed goats milk and sheep's yogurt (because I'm a middle class ponce, obviously) every day. For lunch every day, because it's easier than having to think about it, I have a leaf heavy salad with sprouted seeds, about half a carrot, 3 small tomatoes, chunks of cucumber and radish, spring onion, a tiny drizzle of olive oil & balsamic, just to get a bit of taste, and a hunk of protein. No bread or noodles, I find I don't need them. 

So why on earth would I change that? The answer is that I wouldn't. Shouldn't. It's hardly worth counting up the calories, frankly. My evening meals are very veg and pulse heavy. In some senses, I was left pondering how on earth I was putting on so much weight. I mean sure, I like a bit of dark chocolate, and I do drink wine but... well, ok, I do eat chocolate and I do drink wine. A bit. But, the basic problem I have is that I am not in my twenties. Without regular exercise, and I do not mean walking down the road for a while, my metabolic rate has hit the floor. If one can think of the 'body fitness' as a balance: with a low metabolic rate, one's calorie input must by necessity, reduce. Do anaerobic exercise: metabolic rate goes up. That's it. It's very simple. Right now, I'm looking at a metabolic rate that appears to resemble a collection of half-dead slime moulds. And there's no real forseeable time in the next 6 months when I'll be able to suddenly snap back to the equivalent of 20 miles of cycling a day. As for running... heartbreakingly, I think that's out for good. It's hateful.

The only possible answer then is to eat less. Global evidence of paranoid and obsessive calorie counting is not great, and eating some kind of pathetic mess of a meal whilst my family eat something delicious and healthy but over the predefined number of calories was definitely not an option. Setting unrealistic expectations in terms of how much one is going to lose, over which timeframe has never worked for me, and I suspect, many millions of other failed, frustrated people. Is it better to attempt something which is more of a lifestyle change - in the true sense of the word 'diet', than a Diet?

I chose the 5/2 after an extensive search on t'internet for negatives. I didn't want to know the positives. I wanted to know whether you end up with bad breath, no energy, fainting, muscle cramps, vitamin deficiency... and the answer is that whilst the jury is out, part of the reason it is is that they can't really find anything bad to say about it. Huh. A friend of mine has been doing it, quite assiduously, whilst also going from being a non-runner to a half-marathoner. She's doing really well, over the course of the last year and a half, has two kids and a family life. I'm not really seeing any down sides here...It also works for vegetarian types, unlike the more extreme zero carb options.


Run down on how I've been doing it

1) No calorie counting. None. 

2) No weighing. Only going by which clothes I'm fitting in to.

3) No goals. This was started as an experiment, with the idea of a permanent lifestyle change for the sake of my broken physiology. A goal for the wrong reasons means the possibility of slippage.

Those are the basic premises. Now here is the functional implementation:

Fast Days: Monday and Thursday. By my reckoning, Monday's already a crap day. Me making it marginally more frustrating won't actually make it feel any worse! There may be something wrong with that logic. Thursday was chosen such that I didn't have to do any fasting over the weekend and therefore disrupt family meals, and also, yay! Curries on Fridays! There's no way you're going to take my legume based curry away from me. Not. A. Chance. Or my end-of-the-week glass/es of wine.

Eating on Fast Days: 

  1. Breakfast - unchanged. 
  2. Lunch: content unchanged, pushed to as late as possible (2pm-ish)
  3. Zero snacks.
  4. Lots of Green tea (the tea happens every day anyway so no big change there)
  5. No tea / supper 

Er, that's it really. Nothing too complicated. You can remind yourself of my quite healthy breakfast and lunch by reading higher up.


So how's it been going?

Well, cautiously, I think it's going ok. I'm doing a mindfulness meditation course at the moment so I find the periods of actually feeling hungry quite interesting, rather than horrible. Frankly, going in to 'normal' days, I do feel hungry. That is where the discipline really needs to kick in. Not hoovering snacks to make up for that slight gnaw in the belly. However, the other knock on effect is that I think, though I have no evidence for this, that my stomach has shrunk a bit. I don't seem to want to eat as much food. Even on normal days. The desire not to undo all the hard work has also meant I am cutting down a little on those avoidable but delicious carbs. Yes, I am still having dark chocolate but the frequency seems to have slipped to 'occasionally'. I even didn't have my usual Wednesday night few glasses of rosé last week and I don't think I will tonight. But, if I do, I'm not going to beat myself up about it.

Here's the other thing too. I think this can be a permanent change. I can't see any reason why I would want to go back to the other system (ie: eating whatever I want, when I want). Even if I can eventually get to go to a gym, it is useful, philosophically, to feel hungry. Feel what it is to not have eaten. It certainly makes things cheaper, and I would hope, once we're out of a currently skint phase, I will be able to give some money monthly to the local Food Bank and homeless hostel. It feels like a good quid pro quo. 

I can't pretend that I do not have in the back of my mind the general evidence around fasting and better body function over a longer lifespan, but in my particular instance, if I can take the weight load off my back and hip, that will make my enjoyment of what life there is immeasurably better than it is right now. Add in the gym (I'm told Tai Chi is the way to go for my particular disfunctional self) and... who knows. 

How much have I lost? Well, given that I have not weighed myself I don't know, but this week I got in to a pair of trousers I haven't been able to wear for about 2 years. Trousers I bought from Marks at xmas which were a bit tight are now a bit too loose around the waist. They don't fall down, not quite yet. My new-old tighter trousers are a little tight right now but I will enjoy the sensation of them getting looser. Over time. There is no pressure here. 

Just for you, I will weigh myself at some point. Easter? I would like there to be a nice change. The kind of change that makes me say "Really? Blimey!". It makes me annoyed that one celebrates losing weight as if in and of itself it is good, and better, where for me, being super-fit, enjoying my body and eating a healthy diet but-and-also-cake-thank-you was my happy place. But you know - realism strikes. That balance has to be achieved. No exercise = low to dead metabolism. When you have no choice, you eat less. That's it.


Update some 2 and a bit years later: Do you know, I am still doing it? It's an amazing discipline. I'd forgotten that I've got a really wide rib cage and hips, meaning that my clothes size is settling, and can't go any lower despite a generalised slimness. I've found that the hard far accumulated in the belly region is taking a long time to shift. A looong time. Partly because I refuse to go on a nuts diet (that's not the point) and partly simply because it took years of hard eating to get there! I have a nice 'pouch' of skin left over from my pregnancy collagen stretching but that doesn't worry me, and I go to the gym too now. I enjoy some delicious dark chocolate occasionally on my normal days; I've cut down the amount I drink which has also had a large effect. The point is: I'm very healthy, I haven't starved and have continued to up-health my life and downsize my body calmly and gently whilst not doing myself any harm. I cannot forsee a time when I stop doing 5/2, and can only keep recommending doing a calorie-free, stress-free version, as described above. Good luck! I tell you what else too - it really helps my digestion. I think the body seems to thrive on having breaks from eating. I have no medical, only personal evidence but it certainly feels that way.

Talking about cycle safety in London

This last couple of weeks in London have been horrific. 5 people killed, and of course who knows how many injured. Year on year figures show that whilst deaths themselves have not gone over last year's levels yet, include serious injury, and figures are up 18%.
So Andrew Gilligan is quoted in as saying that cycle safety gear (and I'm paraphrasing here, but...) makes almost no difference and people potentially shouldn't bother.
....and breathe out. Now. There are a whole bunch of different debates all conflated in to one in this line of thinking.
1) He's talking about personal experience, not hard data
2) Copenhagen and Amsterdam always end up getting dragged in to these debates, particularly when it comes to cycle helmets but listen, everyone you have to sweep those two places out of your minds when discussing because guess what - segregated bike lanes! You could wear clown suits and it would make no discernible difference to safety data in these exemplary, cycle friendly cities. Our debate revolves around a medieval city with tiny roads, a bloody great river which funnels all the traffic over it into only partially adapted major arterial roads thronging with lorries
3) Wearing a helmet is extremely important in reducing brain injuries in serious injury crashes (or below). The stats on this are very difficult to find but you can state some truisms fairly solidly: Firstly, when one is killed, one's helmet is going to be almost entirely ineffective given that deaths occur with body injuries - being dragged under vehicles, etc, so it is entirely right to suggest that helmets in no way prevent death or accidents themselves but it is also true to say that a helmet prevents concussion and in any injury where one's head is either itself in collision with eg: a truck mirror or similar, or indeed, the payment, having been pushed off your bike, then the helmet will do what it's designed to do. Reduce serious brain injury.
Those things in particular being true of helmets means to me that there is no debate. You are fundamentally an idiot if you don't wear a  helmet. That does not mean you should be forced to wear one, however, but I suppose the argument against freedom of choice would be to flag car safety belts or something.
Anyway. To move on, one of the best things the LCC has done in recent times is hammer home the segregated cycling message. with segregated lanes, then suddenly injury rates plummet and as I say, you could cycle in the nuddy if you wanted to, in basic safety.
The important thing here is to try really hard to peel these conflated debates back to bare bones and find the truth in them, rather than the kneejerk reactions. My own kneejerk reaction to Andrew Gilligan is "Don't be such an arse, in what way is that statement helping, exactly?" given that nothing in what he said was actively useful.
Anyway, in case this gets Googled up, fundamentally the most important safety advice I would give to anyone is, take responsibility for everything you can, and that means buy whatever you want to, helmet, reflector, etc wise, obey the rules of the road and whatever do do, hang back behind lorries, even if it pisses off the boy racers behind you but also, practically, do this: get yourself a helmet cam. Please do this. Not only will it provide evidence if some bastard does drag you under (which I didn't have, hence the prosecution was dropped) but also, powerful anecdotal evidence suggests that, sod not wearing a helmet and people unconsciously potentially going round you a little bit wider - this is a flag that says 'Don't mess with me'. Drivers *consciously* recognising that you have what amounts to a defensive weapon means they actively seek to avoid you. If you will spend £70 on a hip, groovy cycling jacket then there is no excuse. No excuse at all.
(Hopefully this is a return to reasonably regular blog posts from me. trying to utilise Evernote, may the baby lord Jesus bless its servers, to kick off my thoughts when I have them instead of musing, then forgetting and not having the time).


I wrote a thing for the folk at work

I work at the moment for The Money Advice Service. It's a worthy enterprise, and we're trying to bring the whole thing in to the 21st century - it's fun, and it's hard, and if we get it right, the people who really need it will get a lot of help. Which has to be a Yay.

Alot of the folk who work there don't come from a digital background. Those who do are immeasurably grateful that the brilliant enterprise that is GDS exists at the same time, as an agent for change because we get to point a big finger at the government (the government! My God! How did that ever happen :) and say look! If we emulate these people then we're doing ok, and it's all official n'stuff, so it must be good.

So I thought I'd write them a little note about why the ongoing discussion with regard to the appalling tragedy of the death of Aaron Swartz is important. Why what he was part of is important, putting it in the context of the UK. I personalised it, so that it didn't feel remote, and so there are aspects of it that may look like I'm aggrandizing a little. Apologies if that's the case. I was so proud to be part of things when I was younger and part of me is terribly frustrated that I'm not really now, apart from paying my ORG subs and writing to my MP when necessary. I hope I can gradually change the emphasis back, but I admit, it is more difficult to be directly involved if you're not a coder. What I mostly do right now is offer my support, and love, where it's needed.

Anyway. Got to get back to work, so I'm just putting it up here, in order to specifically award a hugely respectful round of applause to Mike Bracken. It's so important, at a time like this, that we stand up and be counted in whatever way we can. He has just done so in a way that I hope he will remember, and be as proud of personally as we are of him. (We were anyway, tbh)

It's not just about Mike though, it's about everyone, everywhere who is trying to change things. Do not ever do what Aaron did. People love you, and honour you, and will always be there for you. I will! Mail me! If I don't know you then I want to :)

...and remember that having a reason to change things, and make things better for everyone, gives you a superpower.


Hi guys,

 Something to read when you’ve got a mo, over a cup of tea.

 Something rather remarkable was published in the GDS blog last night. Several friends who are part of the movement to free information, open up govt and use the internet  for the ‘power of good’ knew Aaron Swartz, whose name you may have read in the news in the last week, very well. His death is not only a tragedy for his family and friends, who loved him dearly, but is also a horribly visible reminder that the kind of work that geeks have been doing, ripping away the walls of misguided privacy around much tax paid information is very close to the edge of legal. Indeed, many years ago, I was to be found typing up a list of MP’s fax numbers against a tidied list of their names to in some small way help in to the world – I’m 100% sure that someone, somewhere would have legally objected to that on privacy grounds! But without those baby steps, we wouldn’t be where we are now. Without Faxyourmp, MySociety would not exist, and GDS would not currently be revolutionising govt online services.

 But behind Faxyourmp was something called “Stand”, which found a bunch of fighty nerds and geeks standing together to do everything possible to stop the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill (we didn’t manage it but at least we had a go, and realised in the process that we had given ourselves permission to ‘Do Something’ when we needed to). (Editor's note: this is not, by the way, suggesting that all of the same people were somehow involved all the way along the line. GDS is not, definitely not, filled with a bunch of 'fighty nerds'.)

 In recent years, frankly I haven’t contributed much at all to changing things – family and work has got in the way but those involved in particular with MySociety and ORG are continuing to do hugely important work. And any one of them could have been Aaron Swartz, facing years in the nick for liberating information, which has really hit home to all of us. In trying to modernise what is private, what is public and trying to empower everyone in the process, but the legal system has yet to really grasp these concepts, and has the possibility of lumping in people like Aaron with edjits who want to hack systems for blackmail and personal gain.

 There is also something important here about the risk that fundamentally idealistic people have in being crunched up against the hard edge of the law. Where pragmatic people compromise, people like Aaron Swartz found the idea of plea bargaining an obscenity, and his personal integrity made it difficult for him to plead guilty to a ‘crime’ which was frankly, a nonsense.

 Anyway. Mike Bracken and some other friends collaborated on a piece commemorating the idealism and hard work of Aaron, and also remembering another wonderful guy called Chris Lightfoot, who for reasons only known to him, killed himself several years ago now but whose creative understanding of the power of free data helped lead MySociety and therefore by extension, GDS, to where they are now.

 Whilst all this may seem a bit ‘geek/nerd/so what’, the power of what people are doing for the public good here is extraordinary – and that same energy is being spread worldwide, helping in communities where access to information and personal independence and empowerment is even more restricted. Mike is so right to want to celebrate this, and mourn, publicly. So the message here is be the best person you can be – and that includes being a high profile representative of digital govt, publishing something like this:

Being part the second of the full account of the injuries of Ms C Hurley

Slightly long interruption there. Where were we...

I'm going to cover the bits that aren't my lower left leg, given that... well, it's the big finale but apart from that, if I talk about the 'blue' bits, it will help to explain the remedies that helped me to, vor example, not lose my left foot. 

Top right thigh:


What this represents is three different plastic surgeon induced post-injury er... injuries? Not really injuries but not that my body would notice the difference. Collatoral damage. The two horizontal sections are skin graft sites. The one on the top of my thigh is still very sore all over (remember we're now nearly three months after the crash); the one on the side of my thigh over on my right hand side is still sore at the top.

Both of these were covered after the 'big' operation with large sized 'Mefix' which is kind of like the material you get around the edge of sensitive skin plasters (except it reacted with my skin, which was nice). After ten days (eleven, in my case) the mefix could be lifted off, given that the new skin should have grown underneath. Which is did. Mostly. Ask me if it hurts seeing chunks of your very tentative skin growth being ripped off on a massive plaster. Go on.

One of the oddest things about these assaults on my body was how much they "gunged out", as I put it at the time. The lack of skin produced an onslaught of lymph and goo (not blood), pouring from the open wounds in hospital, leading to my poor, numb and bruised thigh being wrapped in dressings designed to soak up 'exudate' (ie: gunge), yet still waking every morning to find the right side of the bed soaked through. To sum up the short-term situation: yeeeeuch. So these, each are about 2.5 inches across, and five or 6 inches long.

What do you mean, what's that long blue line? Ah well, you see. This is the bit that has continued to be numb for three months (and counting). This is the bit where they took out a 'working blood vessel'. This is the bit where they took a patch of skin and sewed in to my other leg... not to mention a large chunk of flesh. The line of rounded off by a perfectly round punctuation mark. A full stop, just above the knee, where a tube sucked gunge from underneath the scar, where it couldn't, presumably, 'exude'.

Bottom right calf:

Lower down, below the knee on the right leg there were a bunch of bruises which, in retrospect help to put bruises in to perspective. Extremely colourful and vivid, nevertheless these dispersed within a couple of days, it seems to me now. It just goes to show you. It's the deep, nasty invisible bruises you've got to worry about. Not these surface rainbow coloured affairs.

Bottom left calf:

Ok! What we have here is in three distinct sections:

1) Straight graft

2) The beach

3) The flap

4) The long side

There are some sub areas, such as 'the pit', but we may come to those. I'm going to talk you down the leg from the knee. You will remember that I have a hematoma on the inside right of my left thigh. Well it's not just that - the knee is entirely numb on the right hand side too, and has hidden, odd swelling that makes everything feel tight and stiff. In essence, the lorry when it clipped me off the bike, took my left leg and as it hit the breaks, dragged it along the road, before coming to a stop on top of it. The bruising and damage extended up to almost the very top of the left thigh on the inside but up at that level there were merely huge yellow and dark red bruises. As discussed above, these disappeared fairly quickly, leaving swelling, the skin laceration above the knee, the hematoma, the swollen knee and as we go below the knee, we reach I presume the skin and flesh the lorry lay on top of. 

Part 1 - The straight graft starts as the knee stops, punctuated with a small red comma of lost skin just above it, as if an orbiting moon of the 50p sized scar above the knee. As you can see from the image, the missing skin (and onward) is pretty much the covering to the Gastrocnemius muscle. the very top of the calf, where the skin covers the bone, escaped the de-frocking of the surgeon's knife. So, first: a section about 2.5 cm's wide and maybe 3, and 3-and-a-bit, leading to 4 inches in height has a skin graft on. Only the skin was lost here - no flesh. The recovery of this area is amazing -you would not know it was a graft. The only difference is that it looks like an area that has been very bruised. 

Part 2. The beach. There is a thick curve around the edge of the first graft area, after which a section of comparable size looks like nothing less than a light purple lunar landscape. Graft, placed in top of bare muscle. I lost all my flesh on the side of the leg from this point on. I have a fairly big problem with this area. Well. I have a practical problem with this, which is that when I moisturise the skin (which I do, daily), some of the lotion gathers in the deep crevasses, and it is impossible to get it out, or moisurise it in. My second poblem is... fuck, it looks ugly. I mean really damn strange. It's not like this stuff is unobtrusive, either. 

Why is it called 'the Beach', you ask? The skin growth granulated strongly, in to many nobule things called 'Fibroplasts'. these are basically overgrowth of collagen, amongst other lesser bits of your (basically) 'underskin'. The bit that needs to be there so that your thin and wispy but super important epidermis can grow on top.  Consequently, there are many, many nobbly bits.

Part 3. The flap. Now, do you remember the long blue line? What you have to remember is, the skin and flesh is missing along the inner side of my left leg from about two thirds of the way up. Graft covers the muscle initially but as the leg moves dow toward the ankle, things get a little more hairy. It's not just the flesh that's gone. The vein that goes from the foot back up the leg is damaged and failing. If that fails, the foot fails. not only that but as my poor husband will attest, the bones in my ankle are exposed to the air. Bones don't tend to like that sort of thing.

So what they did was this. First of all, a lozenge shaped piece of my right thigh skin is cut out. It's really huge! They also stretched it a bit on the leg before sewing it on but basically we're talking about a piece 2.5 inches wide and 6 inches on one side, 5 on the other, sew on... well, three sides sewn on... well, two and a half sides sewn on (you can only stretch skin so far) to my leg above my ankle. What does it look like? Somewhat like a home-mended soft toy. I am left with a permanent reminder of Woody and his home sewn arm in Toy Story 2. the half a side that wasn't sewn was left to its own devices, and the triangular portionn that was missing (basically) gradually skinned over. I called that 'The archipelago'. The archipelago really didn't want to heal, for ages. 

Moving around from the archipelago was 'The Cliff'. this was the fourth side of the flap. The bit they didn't sew. The bit, in short, which consisted of a large, raw section of my thigh, with no skin on, a fair approxumation of which is drawn above. I could actually see the layer of subcutaneous fat underneath the skin (reassuringly thin ;) before the flesh started. It looked like a fresh chopped roast, wrapped in its own skin, ready for the oven. It was awful. Fascinating, but beyond imagining. I will not be able to describe the taboo nature of this well enough. You are looking at the inside of your leg. On the outside. Everything in your body screams that it is wrong. I have been thinking about that, in conjunction with thoughts about 'Crash' by JG Ballard and want to write a muse in a few days.

The last nicknamed piece is 'The pit'. This is at the bottom of the right hand side of the cliff (from my position). It is a tip-of-the-thumb sized dip, which whilst it was raw I wouldn't have dared touch, but now, I can stick my little finger in to moisturise it. Its where all the gunge and 'exudate' would collect. As well as blood. Even though I was standing up sometimes at least, nevertheless I would find it full. Also full of piles of cheesy dead skin cells. A delight!

Referring to the image above, what's the story with the chopped bit then? That's... er... kind of. Chopped? When it was all entirely raw, it looked as if someone had taken a machete to my leg. In reality, the difference was hugely exaggerated due to the flap at the bottom sticking out so far, but it still looks depressingly weird. How could it not.

Lastly, the bottom section in fact runs along the length of the injury from the flap upward. It received no grafts and the difference is clear. It is still dark red and blotchy; it has areas of thickened skin which feels tight. It's a little odd, but there's no indication it won't gradually get paler over time.

More granular detail to come, plus, nearly time for an actual photograph! I would have had it a week or so ago, but an annoying blistery bit came up on the beach which then burst. Lovely. Nothing nasty, just a red and open bit. As soon as it heals we can contemplate going swimming! just how much of an ordeal will that be? God knows.