It’s been a while – the times they are a changing

What a start to the year. My daughter delivered us a second grandchild in early February. Since our abortive attempt to sell the house back in the summer (post-BREXIT poll), we have had a lot of work done on the house. We’ve decided to take a break for a couple of months to get our second wind, then start round 2.

The winter weather hasn’t been particularly condusive to going out for rides (I learnt my lesson last year when I came off on black ice – very painful). Now the weather is improving, I have been able to get out and test my new toys for this year, a helmet cam and mic – essential with the quality/attitude of road users here in the UK. I had a very enjoyable outing to a biker cafe in Hampshire, called Loomies – here’s a short video for anyone that’s interested – Ride down to Loomies

Nothing really to report on the Coeliac front. The availability of products (at a price) in the mainstream supermarkets continues and since legislation in the UK Parliament, eating out is a lot easier. I do wish that restaurants wouldn’t drop a 3 inch thick ring-binder in front of me for ME to check what I can eat. The more forward thinking restaurants either flag options on their menu, or even better have a completely separate menu – YAY.

Hope you’re having a good start to the year. Thanks for reading

Well into Year 2 PI

No not the mathematical PI, the PI here means Post-IBM (sorry!). I parted company with IBM UK on January 6th 2015. Its been an interesting 20 months. When I left, I was still very focused on continuing to work. I did a small amount of work as an independent, but actually came to the conclusion i enjoyed NOT working more. So I guess I have moved from semi-retired to COMPLETELY retired.

One of the non-technology options I did a lot of research on was setting up a Gluten Free shop in my local town. I spent a lot of time researching what the major supermarkets offer to see where a niche could be. As it turns out, the supermarkets have broadened their ranges greatly, leaving little space for a small independent shop. Add to that the initial set up costs and it rapidly became non-viable.

I did (earlier this year) pass my motorbike tests and gained my licence. I subsequently  bought a new bike and have been having a lot of fun – earlier in the year I made a ‘road-trip’ to visit a friend on the Dingle Peninsula in SouthWest Ireland, which was fabulous and documented in an earlier post.

I became a grandparent last year and early next year will become a grandparent x 2!  Its a strange feeling.

BREXIT seems to have scuppered our plans to downsize, so we have parked the idea for now and are upgrading our existing house. I did vote to stay, but have to say that given the way the EU seems to be going, I think BREXIT may be the right choice. Nuff said.

So, Summer is definitely over, at least in my part of the UK. Christmas is 3 months away. Where has the year gone? Thanks for reading this short update.

Portugal in september

She who must be obeyed and myself are currently enjoying some autumnal sun in the algarve. It’s our first time on an adults – only holiday and I have to say it feels a bit weird. With a small number of exceptions, we are probably among the younger group. No families, kids tantrums, no bombing in the pool, no laughter. It’s all very ‘adult’. The holiday company we came with seem to be really pushing their customers to go all inclusive (we are half board, mainly because we like to get out and sample the offerings from the locale). We have spoken to couples who haven’t left the hotel yet and this strikes me as exactly what the hotel owners want. They certainly don’t want you venturing out and spending your money supporting the local businesses.

As I sit on this sunbed, a few things occur to me. Little things mean a lot. An example, without exception, every hotel I have ever stayed in, be it business or pleasure have provided complimentary tea/coffee in the rooms. A nice touch. Not this  hotel. You only get complimentary tea/coffee if you are all inclusive. Pah. We’ll buy ours at the local supermarket.

The hotel is beautiful and they do have the check – in process very nicely done ( glass of cava while you fill in the form?). Rooms are huge and very modern.  Each evening meal is themed, tonight’s offering will be traditional portugese. We chose not to attend last night’s fish themed extravaganza.

Sorry this had to be done….

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My opinion of all inclusive is that it’s a false economy. It certainly makes it easier for the hotel to contain/control their clientele, but for us, it never works. We travel to experience foreign cultures.

Being a Coeliac – certainly Life Changing – but NOT the end of the world!

As occasional readers will know, I was diagnosed with Coeliacs disease after a year of ill-health almost 2 years ago now. The diagnosis was, as the consultant told me at the time, ‘Life Changing’. I wont bore you with a definition of Coeliacs disease, just use your favourite search engine and look for Coeliacs (UK spelling) or Celiacs (US). Suffice to say the body reacts adversely in various ways to Gluten, none of it good. Being genetic, its a bit of a mystery why it only became more aggressive in later life for me(57). I suspect a virus I caught triggered the increase.

Once diagnosed, my consultant sorted out a session with a dietcian and pointed me at Coeliacs UK (The UK Charity), which is a great source of information and support to newly-diagnosed Coeliacs. I (and my wife) had a very steep learning curve. Gluten seems to be in just about everything (including some medicines – beware!). The first shopping trip after diagnosis took ages (every label had to be checked). I also discovered that as a diagnosed Coeliac in the UK I was (and am) entitled to get an amount of Gluten Free staples on prescription – hint for the UK – consider getting a pre-paid NHS prescription card – can save you a fortune. Unfortunately the NHS are cutting back on this. But on the bright side their is increasing availability in the high street to offset this (and while more expensive than Gluten-laden options, still cheaper than a prescription item).

We also discovered the need for separate toasters, butter/margerine/chopping boards etc to avoid cross-contamination. In that first year, we attended the AGM of Coeliacs UK – extremely useful to be able to gain insight from fellow sufferers and also knowledgable experts and also the Allergy and FreeFrom show, which again was very useful – in the first year.

To be honest, aside from the weekly shop hassle, once we had the kitchen sorted, the biggest challenge was eating out. Shopping has been made much easier this year by the regulations introduced by the UK Government that all foods have to have allergy information on the packaging and in terms of eating out, restaurants are now much more aware, with many chains having Gluten  Free specific menus.

I had my first overseas Gluten Free holiday last year (2014) and viewed it with some trepidation. We went to a Greek Island, Cephalonia. Before we went I looked on the web for any information related to a Greek Coeliac organisation. Luckily there was one and they had created a document, containing the requirements of a coeliac in Greek, which was invaluable when eating out. In truth, it wasnt anywhere near as fraught as I thought it would be and we even discovered a bakery that baked gluten free bread and rolls. I must confess that I did take some Bread, Pizza Bases and Pasta with me on holiday, just in case. But we found that even the smallest supermarket had come Gluten Free products available and clearly marked (just as well as my ability to read Greek is non-existent).

I DID have a completely unexpected side-effect of becoming Gluten Free. I had suffered with Asthma since my teens. I am very pleased to say that it has disappeared. My overall general level of health is greatly improved.

My daughter has had a variety of issues with her stomach since she was about 7 or 8 (she is now 19). When I was diagnosed, we had her checked and it turns out she has it too! If there is one member of the family with it there could be others.. worth checking.

We are pretty much a Gluten Free household now (although I haven’t been able to persuade my wife to eat Gluten Free Bread!), which makes things much easier. I do still get caught out occasionally – hint check the ingredients even on products that you know are Gluten Free – they can (and DO) change the recipes.

I’m finding being a member of Coeliac UK less useful now as I gain knowledge. Likewise for public exhibitions like the Allergy and FreeFrom show. The general level of awareness has improved massively in the last couple of years. Its becoming easier to be a Coeliac every day.

At the end of the day, being a Coeliac has its challenges, but all very controllable. Its just an issue with FOOD – it could be much worse.

Thanks for reading.

Its been a while .. just what have I been up to?

Its been a while since I posted… since I left my previous employer, life seems to have been very busy. I honestly don’t know how I found the time to work! Things are ticking along from a Gluten-Free/Coeliac perspective. I am still trying to find a real, physical space that I could use to open a shop in, but the costs are prohibitive at the moment. Oh and I have offered my services to Coeliac UK as a governor – waiting to hear what the next steps on that will be. BTW.. if anyone out there knows of an eatable recipe for GF Dumplings I’d love to hear from you! All my attempts have failed miserably so far.

Learning to ride a motorbike. Well the good news is that I passed the theory test. The weather was against me back in February, so its on the agenda to be revisited in April, when hopefully the weather will be kinder. I still plan to be on the road as a fully licenced ‘Biker’ by late summer.

My trip ‘Up North’ is all booked up for me to do the Lyke Wake Walk the day before MidSummers Day (Scary thought eh as we are in early March!).

Finally I am still working on getting my consulting business going – lots of potential.. but its all just potential at the moment.

Have a great week.

Thanks for reading,.

X marks the spot….

Ok, so here’s the picture to support the title 🙂 This was taken around 7am (I think).

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Haven’t been here much lately – since I left my erstwhile employer of getting on for 16 years (IBM) I’ve been a tad busy one way and another. Mysteriously, my wife has a HUGE list of jobs that have suddenly become urgent, plus I have been spending a lot of time thinking about what I want to do in the next phase of my ‘career’. Ok, I’ve boiled it down to 3 things..

  1. Keep my technical hands in by doing the occasional piece of freelance technology consultancy… lots to do here with creating a company, setting up accounts etc, Different and something I have never done before.
  2. FINALLY learn to ride a motorbike. Like many when I was young I spent time flying around a field on a bike that was most likely a deathtrap but we didnt care… (thats in the schedule for February).
  3. Something completely outside my comfort zone. I am exploring the possibility of opening a shop to focus on selling Gluten Free produce. (The Norfolk Gluten Free Company have been amazingly helpful.. if you live in or near Norwich and need to buy GF products you should look them up http://norfolkglutenfree.co.uk/ ).

I now feel fit enough to tackle the Lyke Wake Walk again(see a previous post), so thats in the schedule for mid-summer and then as next years birthday  is a major milestone – I am planning on doing a hike to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya.

Lots to look foward to (and corresponding posts for anyone that wants to follow). Thanks for reading.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. What a year it was – thanks to all the readers, followers and commenters.. if you thought 2014 was fun.. all the indications are in the Armitage Household that 2015 is going to be one HECK of a year.. I hope you can stick with me… Happy New Year

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 670 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 11 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.