There is a brief window, usually the three to five minutes after waking up, when I feel good. I feel like I have enough energy to make it through the day. I feel like I’ll be able to accomplish something. Finally. And then it hits: nope, not today.

Everyday a dense fog descends. My brain stops working. I have great difficulty remembering why I went to the kitchen, why I’m in a particular shop. My body just doesn’t want to move – my atrophying thighs feel like they’ll give way after a walk to the sitting room.

My feet hurt, the soles, so painful every morning, or if I’ve been sitting on the floor for a while and try to stand up.

My hair is tied up, constantly, lest Chicklet gets another handful of it in his chubby little fingers. There is no point in wearing makeup: my skin is so dry, scaly and wrinkly it actually makes me look worse.

Clothes are a nightmare. Truly a nightmare. Half a kilo a week weight gain. A little translation: that’s more per week than I was putting on at eight months pregnant, only I shan’t be having a little bundle of chicklet delight arriving in a month or so.

Occasionally there are deep, dark waves of horrible feelings that make me extremely glad for my little Chicklet, or perhaps I’d have bungee jumped – without the rope – from the Eiffel Tower months ago (taking the lift up, of course, no energy for stairs).*

Mid-night wake ups because my hands are so dry they wake me up. After a smothering of cream, I can sleep again.

A love-hate relationship has developed with Coca Cola. If I want to be able to a) gather my thoughts b) seem like I’m sort of on form and c) make it any distance from the apartment, I need some caffeine and sugar. That’s the love. Putting on half a kilo per week (and I’m doing that without the help of too much coke), that’s the hate.

And the fog, the fog, the fog. Why am I writing this? Why did I start telling you that story? Why did I want the pen I now have in my hand?

The bone-aching tiredness every day, mid afternoon. So tired, every cell in my body is fatigued, yet I can’t sleep. I don’t want to sleep: it’s the middle of the afternoon.

A funny feeling. Faint. Jittery. Extremely weak. My heart, it turns out, is under so much pressure, it starts to beat erratically.

I had no idea until last month that all these were symptoms of one thing. In Cairo I thought I was dehydrated and I thought I was lazy. Then I thought I was pregnant, so I was supposed to be tired, not be able to think properly, have swollen hands and feet. I thought everybody who gave birth was exhausted, everybody with a baby was tired, even if they slept through the night. I thought that clumps and clumps of hair in my hands, golf ball sized hairballs on my pillow in the mornings for weeks and weeks on end was what everybody has post-partum. I thought I was weak. I thought I had to ‘push through it’, so I pushed and kept pushing.

I pushed so hard that I ended up on the edge, luckily only the edge, of a very serious problem.

Turns out, I have Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease of the thyroid. My body kills off the thyroid hormone that the thyroid produces.

I’m not dying. It’s not Cancer with the big ‘C’. It’s not motor neuron disease. It’s not a horrible, nasty thing that means I’m going to meet a horrible end.

And I’m truly, truly grateful for that, more than I know how to fully express.

That doesn’t mean that it’s ‘just’ a thyroid problem and “Oh well, at least it can be easily treated”. Both things that almost everybody I’ve told has replied and that I too would probably have said if someone told me they had a thyroid problem.

My life should go back to ‘normal’. I should have energy once again to do four hours in the gym and then dance for four hours after riding for an hour in the morning and working an eight hour day, even if darling Chicklet doesn’t allow such extravagances of time.


The tablets that I have to take every morning for the rest of my life should make me feel better. Fingers crossed they do – all my hopes are pinned on these little white pellets. But right now, although the lab results are changing for the good, the wait to feel better is on.

It’s not ‘just’ a thyroid problem to me, right now. It’s something affecting every cell of my body and every aspect of my life. As Mr S agreed to my tears this morning, “This isn’t a life”.

I’m desperate, itching, to get out in the world and do things, even if that just means taking Chicklet swimming and “making the most of Paris” while we’re here, but for now, I’m going to go back to one of the things I can do: painting a bedside table.

*Don’t worry, not only do I not have energy for the Eiffel’s stairs, I don’t have the energy to get there, so there’s absolutely no chance of any pseudo-bungying taking place. I also enjoy painting bedside tables far too much to try to end it all!

Image is Hashimoto’s Disease at 4x Magnification from Nikon’s MicroscopyU website – probably the coolest thing about all this! 


A bit of steel

There she is, there she is!

Last year I was chatting with a Parisian friend who told me that the “loves the Eiffel Tower”. I looked a bit puzzled. I didn’t really believe that she could “love” it, but she was adament.

Now, despite watching tourists in their hundreds, every day, pour into the Champs de Mars to photograph themselves with their fingers “pinching” the tower, or jumping in front of her or some other such apparently essential holiday snap, I thought my friend was a bit odd.

Somewhere, somehow, as winter slowly gave way to a bright and sunny spring, spring into a rainy summer, when I walked past the steel skeleton in the early morning, at high noon or waited with visitors to watch the flickering bulbs, she grew on me. I love that she’s a different colour at the top than at the bottom. I adore checking her out against a steely grey sky and in brilliant sunshine. I wait with excitement in the dark for her bulbs to twinkle, I find it funny when her head disappears in the mist.

So that’s it folks: TG loves Paris.

Words I’m a bit scared to utter, because I’m sure that that will set the wheels in motion for another move…

People watching in Paris

pink socks top

I love to watch people. How they walk, how they move, what they’re wearing and where they’re from have always fascinated me. Usually I just drink it all in and enjoy, rather like watching a film. Occasionally though, somebody surprises me (like intergalactic Grandma) and I’m shaken out of my reverie. This takes quite some doing as I have been consciously people watching for at least fifteen years, everywhere I’ve been.

I’m not sure if this man was a scout leader, something that only ocurred to me when I got the photo onto a bigger screen and saw the inverted triangle on his t-shirt and payed more attention to his hat.

Think about it though, what do you expect him to be wearing below the knees?

Think hard. Harder.

Here you go:

pink socks

Now I BET you weren’t thinking of pink knee-high socks and orange shoes!

Intergalactic fashion in Paris

spaceage granny - top

Paris is not a fashion-forward city. Stylish, chic, classic, yes, but there are not enough risk-takers in the attire department to make it a trend-driver. This does not seem to differ whether people are in the older or younger generations: everybody dresses like their peers.

So look at the photo above. It’s taken in mid-July at around noon. Our Parisian lady moved deceptively quickly past my lunch companion and I. In a pillarbox red coat* and black berret, she already stood out – red is not a typical colour to see on a Parisian, especially a coat and more especially on a lady who is probably a grandmother, as they usually (read: always) opt for black or beige.

Sometimes all this sameness can get a bit boring.

A French Grandma with intergalactic boots


So imagine our squeals of delight when we spotted her utterly fabulous intergalactic boots!


*I haven’t altered these pictures, they were taken with the iPhone in a hurry so a bit blurred, but the coat really was that bright!

A big, fat chicken

Ssssh! You don’t know I’m here.

I’m in hiding.

Somebody put a notice up in our apartment building recently announcing a “building party and bbq”. Excellent idea.

Are those things that are just announced? Perhaps there’s a core of people who all know each other and they decided and the rest of us are expected to attend.

Expected, because how on earth do you hide in your apartment pretending you’re not there? It’s not as if letting the phone ring will cut it – the party-goers can see the lights on!

I can’t enter or leave the building because the entrance hall and garden courtyard is the party location!

And why is it that I’m so terribly anti-social? First there’s the food: I can’t eat it (have you tried to have meat well-cooked in France? Pregnant women are also not allowed salad in France. Not much else to eat at a bbq!). Second there’s the wine: I can’t drink it. Third there’s the language: I can’t speak it well enough to socialise with people I don’t know but kind of have to see everyday. If I were to never meet them again, I wouldn’t mind, but that’s not exactly the case with neighbours. Which brings me to my fourth point: I don’t actually want to socialise with the horrifically noisy neighbours from the apartment below. It’s hard to avoid it because I have no real idea what they look like. If the father decided to shout in the aggressive, military manner he does every single evening to his four year old twin sons (who I’ve also never met), I would know who he was. If the mother decided to scream, as she does every second afternoon, I’d know immediately she’s someone to avoid. The chances of them showing their ‘home’ faces are rather slim – which is fine, I hear them often enough!

Finally, point number five: Mr S is away tonight for work.

I’m a big, fat chicken and don’t want to face everybody in my faltering French (did I mention that one of our neighbours regularly corrects the grammar on announcements and notices put in the elevator?) alone.

Fake it

It’s a strange thing wearing skirts again after 9 years of almost never wearing them. I find myself constantly patting my thigh just to make sure there is still fabric covering my modesty. My favourite dress has concealed pockets at hip level, so I can (I think!) surreptitiously make sure it stays in place in case the wind blows. So far, there haven’t been any accidents, I’m just overly concerned.

Getting out of trousers also brings with it the legs issue: they are on display. Parisiennes seem single-handedly to keep the bronzing market in business. Not deep tacky tans (oh la la! Heaven forbid!), but gentle kissed-by-the-sun-like-I-have-spent-the-summer-in-the-sun-swimming-and-drinking-cool-rosé tans – in April. You know, the sort of tan that makes you look good.

I caught my friends’ very polite eight year old daughter staring at my legs with furrowed brows.

“Is everything ok?” I asked

“Um, yes. I was just wondering..are you wearing tights?”

“No, not today, it’s too hot.” I said.

“Oh, I didn’t think so, but I was just wondering..why are your legs soooo white?”

Aah, bless…

Right, time to make an appointment at the fake tan centre!

Wrinkled Grouse

I’ve been studying my quickly forming wrinkles increasingly frequently lately. To Bo or not to Tox? Is it a modern day necessary evil, or just downright ridiculous? I feel the answer will be formed the day a wrinkle can’t be removed by contorting my face…

In the meantime, an alternative strategy has made itself apparent: nice cashiers.

As I went to pay for entrance to a museum, the cashier asked, “Are you under 27?”

The correct answer, I soon discovered, is “Yes, of course!” said with the casual, bored arrogance of a 16 year old.

The wrong answer is something along the lines of , “Umm..[look left, look right]..uh..[grin like a Cheshire cat]..yes?”

Entrance fee paid: full price.

But the possibility of being under 27? Priceless!

Paris in the Spring

It’s a cliche that had my eyes rolling to the heavens years before I even had an inkling that I’d one day live in Paris. Some friends thought that Paris in the spring equated a romantic experience for as long as you were there. Cue more eye rolling (whether actually done or not, I don’t know, but the urge was certainly strong!). I would argue that romance could be found in many different places and touching down for a long weekend in a city could not possibly mean that romance would flourish – and by extension, dissipate upon departure.

I still think that.

But..and it’s a big but, Paris IS delightful in the spring. Even more so when you’ve suffered the grey, black, beige and perhaps, just perhaps navy, Parisian uniforms of winter, coupled with the grinding grey skies. Paris in winter is not recommended (Christmas shopping break excepted).

Green buds start appearing on naked trees, birds begin to arrive and mornings are accompanied by birdsong. More than that, the sun makes this museum city come alive and vibrancy pokes holes through its unwavering facade of stuffiness.

I may not want to stay here indefinitely, but I have to say that I do love living in Paris in the spring.

MBC's Noor – a ray of light

It took me a couple of days of watching Noor to figure out what was going on, not only in plot but with the actors’ mouths.

Noor is a new TV show in Arabic on one of the free satellite stations originating from Dubai. This particular station, MBC4, usually shows English language programs: Rachel Ray, Oprah and Dr Phil are staples – we’re not exactly talking high brow entertainment!

Nevertheless, and perhaps because of this, I like this show. Of course, it could also be because it is extremely odd to watch Arabic being spoken by so many people with blue, green and light eyes. The Arabic is Lebanese, the people beautiful and the landscapes stunning. After a few days of assuming it was filmed in Lebanon by actors mouthing strange words, I have just figured out it is a Turkish TV series dubbed!

The real reason for my new addiction though? The leading man has one of my favourite, and seldom heard names: Mohanad (yes, that’s an N in the middle) and I’m not sure I could ever get bored of hearing it.

And they speak slowly enough, with enough pauses, for me to actually understand!

NB I have stopped comments to this post. I have absolutely no contact with MBC nor the makers of Noor in Turkish or Arabic. I merely wrote a personal account. Please pass any comments you my have about the programme onto the channel directly.

You know you've been in Cairo a long time when (31-40):

1. You don’t worry if someone overtakes you on the inside lane.

2. You have no qualms about overtaking on the inside lane.

3. You only buy summer shoes that are dust proof or can be easily cleaned.

4. You have no qualms about walking around streets in the West with the same numeric value of relevant currency as you do here, until you notice the shop assistant’s eyebrows raising when she sees $1000 in your wallet when you pay for a coffee.

You know that when you go to the movies for the 6pm showing you don’t need to turn up before 7pm as that’s when the trailers start.

6. Having watched too much MBC, you dream about Jeremy Paxman.

7. You notice how expensive everything is getting.

8. You start forgetting which words are spelled with a ‘B’ and which with a ‘P’.

9. You notice how crude lyrics to Western popular music are, especially in comparison to those of Arabic pop.

10. Amr Diab starts being sexy.