Chronology of an illness

(Presumed Covid but not confirmed through testing)

48, white male, previously super fit, super healthy, excellent diet, no co-morbidities or underlying health issues


w/c 24th February – extremely heavy cold, extraordinary amount of mucus, extreme fatigue, headaches. Never had a cold like this. Worked the full week and then spent weekend of 29th Feb / 1st March in bed recovering, (quite unusual for me). I haven’t really felt well since this week. (NB some doctors I have spoken to assume that this was the start of Covid)

w/c 9th March – continuing to feel unwell, but with new symptoms – really unusual fatigue on exercise, background headache, general feeling of being under the weather. (NB Most doctors I have spoken to assume that 9th March is the beginning of my Covid-like symptoms, so I am counting from here)

15th March – undertook 15K walk with friends. Was feeling unwell enough to consider cancelling the walk. Didn’t cancel, went ahead with walk. Background fatigue, washed out, irritation in throat, slight cough, slight pressure in chest. No fever, no persistent cough. No suspicion of Covid at this stage, based upon NHS111 e-assessment and medical advice from NHS111 website which lists fever, cough and traveling back from Covid zone (Italy / China) as key indicators (which are all NO for me)

w/c 16th March – felt well enough to do some moderate HIIT exercise but unusually fatigued afterwards. Felt unwell a couple of days in this week. Working from home by now.

DAY 15 – 23rd March – national “lockdown begins”. Still feeling unwell, but no real specific symptoms other than fatigue, irritation in throat and slight cough, and low-level headache. Continuing to work from home.

24th March – commented to work colleague about taking a turn for the worse – noted shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain / pressure and nightmares. Concerning, but not at a level to require sick leave.

w/c 30th March – symptoms continue to gradually worsen, very slow descent though.

2nd April – Symptoms severe enough throughout this week to take sick leave today. Shortness of breath, insomnia, bad chest / sternum pain, pressure in chest, headaches, anxiety, inability to concentrate, or speak for long periods without getting breathless. Speak to NHS 111 doctor who advises monitoring the situation. Suspects Covid-19. Instructed to isolate. Now resting in bed.

4th April – Symptoms severe enough to request SATS monitor from friend. Insomnia kicking in, headaches worsen, chest pain, claustrophobia, anxiety, tightening band around chest, shortness of breath / breathlessness. Horrible chills and uncontrollable shaking at night. No fever, no cough. Resting in bed.

5th April – SATs unit received, first readings are encouraging. SpO2 consistently around 97 / 98 resting heart rate around 60 – 70. Symptoms persist. While I feel awful and the symptoms are gradually worsening, knowing that there is enough oxygen in my body is a HUGE relief.

DAY 29: 6th April – Woke out of a suffocating nightmare around 01:00hrs realising I couldn’t actually breathe properly. Decide to call NHS 111 again, and symptoms worsen on call. NHS doctor suspects worsening Covid-19 so ambulance is called due to worsening chest pain and shortness of breath. Paramedic arrives at 02:30hrs and carries out seven-point assessment;

    • ECG OK (NB revealed very benign incomplete right block branch)
    • glucose of 5.9 – OK
    • stethoscope – no indication of lung infection or heart murmurs,
    • SATs 98, – OK
    • Temperature 36.5C, – OK
    • HR within normal range,
    • Blood Pressure 109/77 sitting and 131/78 standing – OK

Paramedic concludes moderate to severe Covid-19 (NB but no actual swab test carried out). Advised a 6 – 8 week recovery likely. Advised to contact NHS111 if symptoms deteriorate (I feel foolish having called out an ambulance, but the paramedic is very reassuring and supportive, and tells me I did the right thing). Symptoms persist throughout following week but day on day improvements noted. Mild night sweats begin, mild insomnia persists, but sleeping improving and overall well-being improves.

15th April – feeling well enough to do a light 10K walk with family. Symptoms lightening a little. Condition improving slowly.

DAY 42: 19th April – still feel unwell, but well enough to do a light 10K bike ride with the family. No repercussions. Chest pain very mild, breathing improved, claustrophobia and anxiety reduced, headaches reduced. Sleeping well. Decide to go back to work

20th April – return to work

21st April – by afternoon, all symptoms have returned at a severe level.

22nd April – take sick leave from work. Chest / Sternum pain sharper, breathing restricted, heavy headache at back of head, insomnia, anxiety, claustrophobia, extreme fatigue, pins and needles and weird joint pain in fingers (new symptoms). SATS and temperature normal – 97 / 98 and 36.5C respectively. Resting in bed. Sleep apnoea is an issue.

DAY 50: 27th April – symptoms persist, breathing becoming harder, still off work, call local GP surgery for advice. Chest pain predominantly on sternum and left side. Request X-Ray, ECG and blood tests. Declined. Prescribed Salbutamol inhaler, ibuprofen (gel rub) and amoxicillin through telephone appointment. Advised again by GP that recovery will likely be 6 – 8 weeks from first wave of severe symptoms (which were assumed to be at the beginning of March). Begin course of Amoxicillin in case of secondary bacterial infection. Take inhaler, little impact, other than making me feel shaky and weird. Resting in bed. Ibuprofen gel rub seems to have little impact. Begin taking Vitamin D (25mcg) for immune system (not suggested by doctor, but a friend who is an A&E doctor). Sleep apnoea like symptom persists. Horrible symptom. Signed off work for May.

28th April – symptoms persist, chest pain easing slightly by end of day, all vitals normal SATs of 97 / 98. Resting in bed.

29th April – symptoms easing a little, chest pain easing off, breathing clearer, irritation in throat and chest relieving, headache reducing. Claustrophobia and anxiety reducing, still suffering extreme fatigue and insomnia. All vitals within acceptable range (SATs 97 – 98, temperature 36.5 – 37). Is Amoxicillin working? (surprised at this as Doctor said this would only work if there was a secondary bacterial infection, which she strongly doubted due to the continued absence of fever)

30th April – night chills and sweats, some awakening in the night, but a decent night sleep for once. Feel washed out today, extreme fatigue, some minor chest pain, although this is improving. Breathing not as clear as yesterday but still better than it has been – claustrophobia and anxiety reducing as a result. Headache reducing. Direction of travel is reasonable, hope this continues. Discussion with GP, feeding back on progress with Amoxicillin. Doctor warned to look out for chest pain that gets worse on breathing (clots / Pulmonary Embolism), worsening cough / fever and breathlessness (plus descent in SATs readings)

01 May – heavy night sweats, but relatively unbroken nights sleep, woke up feeling slightly better. Chest pain reduced, breathing slightly clearer, anxiety and claustrophobia are lessening. Headache has gone (first headache free day since late Feb). Direction of travel is reasonable.

2nd May – relapse overnight, chest pain returned quite severely, shortness of breath acute again. All stats (temp, HR, SpO2) are OK. Requested telephone appointment with doctor. Got a clinic appointment at local Covid clinic (did not know there is one? Why have I not been previously advised of this?). Doctor carried out variety of tests including stethoscope for heart and lungs, heart rate, SATs, BP and other physical checks. All seemed to be OK (although SATs unusually low around 94% – 95%, which is strange given every reading I have taken at home is 96% – 99%). Advice from Doctor is that this is recovering Covid-19 and to readjust recovery expectations from weeks to months. Frustrating, but very pleased that we are talking about recovery now (even though it does not feel like I am recovering).

6th May – significant improvements in symptoms following an incredibly deep sleep (one of the deepest nights sleep I have had in years, like being under anaesthetic)

Day 60: 7th May – continued recovery, send a message to a friend that this sudden reduction in symptoms is “like coming out from underneath a heavy, dusty, suffocating old rug, blinking into glorious fresh air and bright sunlight”

8th May – relapse; burning sensation returns to sternum and lungs, pain in chest, shortness of breath and breathlessness. Extreme fatigue. Pain in chest is predominantly left side, seems to move around, plus weird cramps in chest. New symptoms with stomach cramps, stomach pain. Not had this before. No clear catalyst for relapse. Incredibly frustrating and concerning. I read a fascinating article by Professor Garner from the Liverpool school of Tropical Health (For the past 7 weeks I have been through a roller-coaster) and discover that there are a significant minority of people going through exactly the same experience as me. I find at least two facebook groups with thousands of people sharing their stories. This is weirdly reassuring. 

9th May – symptoms continue. Determined to get some fresh air and exercise, able to walk about 5K with family but feel giddy throughout and very tired.

11th May – symptoms persist. Stomach cramps reducing slightly. Use Voltarol gel rub on chest / sternum to see if there is an impact on chest pain. Insomnia returns at night, difficult to fall asleep, despite feeling exhausted.

Day 65: 12th May – woken up and chest pain has reduced, but breathing is still difficult. Feeling of claustrophobia has lessened. Is this as a result of using Voltarol? Still feel groggy, unwell, tired, claustrophobic. Have tried taking over the counter anti-histamine to see if that helps. Still taking Vitamin D. At a loss for what to do next.

13th May – woke up feeling really awful. Chest pain returned, new symptom of very loud tinnitus, shortness of breath, claustrophobic. Another new symptom appears, a very concerning pain, like lung cramps that get worse on breathing, only very short lived but quite frightening. I contact GP who refers me to GP surgery who refers me to the COVID Clinic who refers me to hospital. Clots / Pulmonary Embolism are the main concern. By 13:00 I am sitting in a hospital ward. The ward I am in is full of people with respiratory problems. I realise I am in relatively good shape. I spend a full half day from 13:00 to 19:00 at the hospital with the following tests and results

  • Full blood (red and white) – all within normal range
  • Renal / Liver function – all normal
  • Troponin – 2 (Good)
  • D-Dimer – 131 (Good)
  • C-Reactive Protein (CRP) – 0.5 (Good)
  • X-Ray – Clear
  • ECG – Good
  • COVID Swab test (nasal and throat) – negative (strange test to conduct this one, given time that has elapsed since onset of symptoms. Would have thought anti-body test would have been more appropriate) 
  • BP – 111/71 (ideal)
  • SATs – 99% (good)
  • Temperature – 36.6C (normal)

The consultant concludes that I have probably had Covid and that I am now in a Post Viral Syndrome phase (like ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). Told to go home, be reassured and rest. Told to expect long haul recovery. She wont be drawn on what this means.

15th May: feeling slightly better today. Called GP to discuss test outcomes. Looking at test results he also concurred with hospital conclusion. He also diagnosed chest pain as severe Costochondritis, apparently a common secondary infection following Covid-19 or other viruses. Never heard of this. Doctor also advised rest, recovery and advised to expect long recovery period.

DAY 69 – 16th May: Woke up today feeling slightly better.

19th May – Shortness of breath persists, decide to do postural drainage, steam inhalation and percussion therapy, morning and evening.

20th May – After a few days of improvement, the insomnia is creeping back again. Waking at 03:00hrs due to shortness of breath and then unable to get back to sleep due to adrenaline surge. Received confirmation in the post of negative Covid-19 test. Was expecting nothing else. 

21st May – Bad relapse, pain in chest is back along with compression feeling. Shortness of breath is back to April levels. Fatigue is bad, unable to do much, other than simple tasks around house.

22nd May – Shortness of breath is much worse, probably the worst it has been, chest pain has eased slightly, but I now feel completely whacked. Attempt a short walk to get some sunshine but it wipes me out. By evening headache and tinnitus are very disruptive and shortness of breath is making me feel anxious and claustrophobic. My heart is pounding fast (80 – 90BPM) and I feel dizzy on standing. SATs are quite low around 94% but also temporarily going down to 90% – 91% which is a concern as this is the first time they have dropped below 95% (could be the new monitor?). Temperature is normal and blood pressure is in the ideal range. By night time I feel a mixture of extreme jet lag, altitude sickness and glandular fever. I am really concerned about what is happening.

23rd May – Sleep the whole night in an almost unconscious state and awake feeling incredibly well. Breathing is clearer, energy has returned, no headache, minor chest pain. Only tinnitus and pins and needles remains. Breathing deteriorates later in the day, but not as bad as yesterday.

24th May – Feeling much better again. Breathing is clearer. Compression and pain in chest is only minor. Still only tinnitus and pins and needles remain. Headaches gone. 

Day 80 – 27th May – Now on fourth day of feeling better. So much more energy, able to complete normal tasks around house, and tolerating short bike rides, short walks and mild to moderate gardening. Able to notice when my body wants me to stop and taking regular rests is helping loads. Have started drinking Lucozade to see if electrolytes help. Still taking Vit E, Cod Liver Oil, Vit D and Evening Primrose supplements. Shortness of breath and chest pain is still there but so much more in the background than previously. Some arthritic pain in the fingers. This could be the last mile. Have received antibody test in the post, but UKs MHRA has just ordered suspension of private testing due to question marks about claims on accuracy and finger prick methodology. Have binned test and will wait for NHS mass roll out.

29th May – Direction of travel is still good. Some insomnia at night, generally waking around 04:00 due to shortness of breath, adrenaline surge kicks in. Sometimes able to fall back to sleep again around 06:30. Pain in chest has returned following light activity in the park yesterday. SATs OK around 94% – 95% (on the new monitor). Still a little light headed on movement and bending over, and tinnitus is at annoying levels. Still shortness of breath persists, struggle to get a decent breath, but without the horrendous chest compression of previous weeks this doesn’t seem quite as terrifying. Some arthritic pain in fingers. Hold a conversation with Occupational Health at work. We agree a phased return to work plan – 4 hours a day for the first week, with Wednesday’s off as a buffer, with gradual hourly increases over the month of June each week. I am a little nervous as I am walking straight back into a change process, and 50% job losses. I know that cognitive as well as physical exertion can cause relapses.

3rd June – really positive progress, 11 full days of minor symptoms. I am taking this as a victory. Minor chest pain, minor shortness of breath, some dizziness, and annoying tinnitus plus fatigue, but all in all really positive. Energy and mood is generally good. New symptoms are appearing on the Corona Carousel – Gastro issues are now coming in. Nausea, bloating, heartburn and stomach cramps. Fairly mild but noticeable on a day to day basis. Insomnia persists, but getting around 4hrs of sleep per night which is just about enough. Some arthritic pain in fingers. Have noticed a few Covid Brain Fog moments at work, but colleagues are thankfully understanding. Did some heavy lifting in the garden today. Nice to be outside and returning to physical labour.

5th June – minor relapse, with return of chest pain and shortness of breath / difficulty breathing. This is not unsurprising given the return to work and heavy lifting carried out on Wednesday 3rd. Nothing too major though, and by the evening I am starting to feel OK again. Relapses appear to be getting spread further apart, and when they do occur, the symptoms are relatively mild. This is all very positive and I am taking this as a victory. Gastro issues are problematic. Have started taking Magnesium and Turmeric drinks to see if this has an impact on symptoms. I cannot find potassium on the shop shelves which is frustrating as this is meant to help with breathing. Had an excellent conversation with a supportive doctor today who has prescribed Zolpidem for the insomnia for 7 days (although I won’t be taking it unless necessary), plus Gaviscon liquid for the gastro issues. He has also booked me in for an antibody test (June 15th) plus loads of follow up bloodwork. Depending on the results of the bloodwork he may also ask for a follow up X-Ray. Spoke to a work colleague who suffered ME/CFS following bouts of malaria and then dengue whilst working in Sierra Leone. His symptoms are scarily similar, including patterns of relapse and post exercise malaise and he has been left with chronic arthritis in his hands and feet. It has taken him three years to recover.

DAY 90, week 14 – 6th June – Woken feeling good today. Annoying gastro issues persists, but Gaviscon seems to be working reasonably well and I have plenty of energy and mood is positive. Quick 15min bike ride this morning, HR reached 120BPM which is relatively high for the distance and speed, but no repercussions yet. Followed this with sourdough bread and pancake baking. Energy remains high. Tinnitus is at annoying levels and arthritic pain in fingers persists. Overall I am pleased with progress. The 30th June goal – a 10K bike ride followed by a pint of beer (which will be my first since 08 March) – is still looking very doable.

Day 95 11th June – pretty decent progress over this week. Have been able to get rid of GI issues through mainlining of Gaviscon Dual Action and Rennies, which is a great relief. Annoying pins and needles and tinnitus remain, as does some insomnia and the usual bedfellows of difficulty breathing and chest pain. These are largely in the background though. Have been able to apply a couple of coats of paint to the shed and had long work days and some physical activity, without much in the way of relapse so very pleased

13th June – woken in the night with chest pain, difficulty breathing, night sweats and general feeling of being unwell, including some pretty severe dizziness. This fits into the pattern of 8 – 10 good days followed by a relapse. Based on previous experience I expect this to resolve by tomorrow evening.

14th June – relapse reducing by evening as predicted. Have been pretty active throughout the day despite feeling very unwell, and by evening I am feeling better again.

Day 100 – week 15 – 16 June; This feels like a major milestone, to reach 100 days. Chest pain and difficulty breathing have been permanent features since the beginning and I am reflecting that this is having an impact on my mental health. Living in fear for so many months may have some repercussions, whether now or further down the line and I will need to look out for that. More positively I was pleased to have blood and antibody tests yesterday and will await the results tomorrow. I am hoping I can take vitamin supplements which will resolve the breathing, pins and needles and tinnitus. Failing that I will push for a CT scan to get more granularity on what is happening in the lungs. Otherwise I have learnt this is just going to be about time. I am hugely grateful that I am in a relatively positive situation. I am back to work, I can do everything I did before (except the HIIT exercise, weights and sports) the OK days outnumber the relapse days, I am back on my bike, I have energy to converse with friends and colleagues. And I don’t know whether this is because I have learnt to live with this or not, but the symptoms no longer dominate my every third thought. The symptoms are there, as a separate part of me, and they just need to be dealt with, but they no longer define or limit me in the way they have done previously. I can see recovery, it will take time, but I am grateful for that.

17th June: Antibody test back negative, bloods all within acceptable range except potassium (3.1 (range of 3.5 – 5) so doctor has suggested eating lots of bananas and oranges to help with that. The antibody result was not surprising, and I was quite ready for it. It’s been harder telling everyone else (thankfully I limited the amount of people I told for this very reason) as testing vagaries related to CV19 are still not well understood. From what I understand there are four potential reasons for this result

  1. I never had CV19 (possible but unlikely)
  2. This was a false negative (some estimates suggest the test is 70% accurate) (possible but unlikely)
  3. My body led with a T-Cell response (some estimates suggest that 90% of CV19 sufferers will respond this way) (most likely)
  4. I had antibodies but they were so weak that they dispersed at the point of testing (possible)

Doctor also prescribed olive oil drops to see if that has an impact on the tinnitus which has become really annoying. Most importantly she also agrees to refer me on for a CT scan and further blood work, including minerals, vitamins and thyroid. This is great, and will represent the final set of tests that I will pursue for the time being. General health pretty good this week.

22nd June: Felt really good all weekend and decided to cycle to the hospital for the CT scan. This involved a pretty steep ascent on the way home. I managed it fine and it felt great to get the heart rate elevated. Unfortunately, I felt this in my lungs for a couple of days after and it triggered a small relapse in the form of chest tightness and difficulty breathing for 24hrs. The relapses are much more manageable when they come.

24th June; Still feeling groggy, not helped by return of insomnia and hot weather, but still well enough to paint an outside wall, the remainder of the shed and do some pretty heavy duty lifting of flagstones and re-turfing. Felt good at the end of the day having done some manual labour and getting the body moving

Day 110 – end of week 16 – 26th June: Tinnitus still with me, but my breathing has improved (although I still have difficulty catching that deep breath) and there is a definite reduction in chest pain so that it is barely noticeable on a day to day basis. Pins and needles only with me when I sit in one position for long periods and even then only in the fingers and hands. Insomnia now every third night. I am back to work full time. The extreme fatigue has gone, I only get tired when the level of exertion that day warrants it. All of this is really positive. Will receive blood test results and CT scan results in the next 7 – 10 days. This will mark the end of my journey with investigative tests. Feeling good, going for a bike ride now.

28th June – lungs have felt raw from the bike ride for two days, fatigue has returned and chest pain is back again. Tinnitus, aching joints and pins and needles are still there. Return of insomnia for the past two nights. It was great to be back on the bike on the Friday, but perhaps it was too much? Am noticing slight brain fog, struggling to find the right words, forgetful. Could be lack of sleep?

31 June – have been doing moderate gardening for a couple of weeks now, with no real payback so decide to undertake a re-turfing, graveling and flagstone laying project that has been pending for months. This requires some heavy lifting. It feels fabulous to spend the day doing this, and the weather is good.

01 July – Severe pain in chest is back and breathing is difficult. All symptoms back with a bang. The previous days manual labour has caused a nasty relapse.

5th July – Insomnia is back for the past three nights, pain in chest is back with a vengeance, predominantly on the left-hand side, but also now noticeable under the rib cage and at the sides. Difficulty breathing is back. I am also feeling extremely fatigued for the past three days and find simple things quite difficult. I feel really unwell, very flu like symptoms, but no fever. Slight improvement in tinnitus come the evening. Perhaps olive oil drops are working? Brain fog is still noticeable.

Day 122 – 8th July – chest pain is reducing slightly, not as bad as previous days but much worse than it has been since mid-May. Insomnia still persists, finding it hard to fall asleep now which has not really been an issue previously (previously it has been waking up around 04:00 and finding it impossible to get back to sleep). Difficulty breathing is still there. Tinnitus is slightly better of an evening, but still persistent in the background. Pins and needles residing a little. Tried doing some light sawing today, to install water butt and connector kit, and this caused me to feel slightly out of breath. Really unusual. Other activities (such as climbing stairs, cooking etc) are all fine, so is this deconditioning after 4 months of inactivity? Pain in back and chest.

Got results back from Doctor today for various tests. All good, including nothing on the CT scan which is a relief (including no PE, no lung clots, no thoracic lymph nodes, normal upper abdomen, no bone lesions, no fibrosis)

  • HBAIC (Diabetes) (34)
  • Vitamin D (86)
  • Folate (10.7)
  • B12 (317)
  • TSH (thyroid) 1.57
  • Kidney Function EGSR (Normal)
  • Calcium (2.25)
  • Sodium (144)
  • Potassium (3.9)
  • Liver function (46)
  • Alkaline Phosphatase (Normal)
  • Albumen Protein (liver) (Normal)
  • Haemoglobin (141)
  • White Blood Cells (5.78)

Have agreed with doctor to undertake another antibody test, and to seek referral for lung function / spirometry test once clinics have this service back up and running. Will also look into referral to new NHS Covid service once up and running at the end of this month. Will also have a follow up conversation in one months-time regarding exploring the connection between exertion and relapse, possible disconnect between increased heart rate and low blood pressure and consider possibility of dysautonomia. Will try Salbutamol inhaler again (previous use made no difference to symptoms). In the meantime, I am going to try and learn to breathe again – doctor has sent through a breathing leaflet.

I feel dreadful and yet medically, on all counts, and in every test I have had done (and there have been a lot), I am fine and healthy. This illness, whatever it is, is like a poltergeist; I can really feel it, and yet it is not there; it is incredibly disruptive and worrisome and yet I cannot see it. And when I tell people about it, there is scepticism in their countenance.

Day 136 – July 22nd

The last fortnight has been up and down emotionally and physically. Some good days and some bad days. I went camping at the weekend. I was extremely nervous before going because of the physical exertion required, the risk of fire-smoke getting into my lungs and the danger of damp, cold and wet air at night. But I felt that on balance I had to get out for my mental health as I have pretty much been in my house for 4 months now and starting to go a bit bonkers. It was a fabulous experience to be out in the fresh air and I came back on the Sunday feeling good and energised. Today though I have woken up feeling down and unwell again. This was not helped by having to take a quick bike ride into town for an acupuncture appointment. Unfortunately, it was the only way to get there. It is a 5K round trip and does involve a steep hill (which I walked up) but I am pretty sure that, with the effort of the camping trip, this has sparked a mini-relapse.

July 26th – Feeling a little better, recovering from the mini-relapse. Well enough to go for a big picnic in the park with school parents and kids. Tiring but enjoyable day. Tinnitus, fatigue, chest pain, difficulty breathing, joint pain in the hands all persist. Insomnia is improving however. Diaphragm release techniques are bringing some relief to the chest tightness / difficulty breathing.

July 28th – first acupuncture session. Interesting, although no real immediate feeling of relief

August 1st – Camping weekend in Wales. Tough week at work followed by a 10hr round road trip. It’s cold and wet on arrival and our airbed collapses in the night with me waking up on the cold hard floor. There can only be one outcome of this trip. The days on the beach are lovely, but the kids demand to play football and it is becoming unbearable to keep turning them down. It is nice to play, and I feel good while playing but I am sure there will be consequences to this.

August 4th – Second acupuncture visit. No immediate relief.

August 5th – in the middle of a mini-relapse caused by the camping trip. Lungs are hot and breathing is compromised. Wake up burning in the night (but no fever) and unable to get back to sleep. I am hoping I improve in time for the next camping trip. Diaphragm release techniques offer relief from the difficulty breathing.

August 10th – Camping trip to North Norfolk. Weather is exceptional and the sea air is fresh and clean and the water warm enough to swim in. I am reluctant initially but decide to bite the bullet. It feels amazing to be in the cold, fresh water and I have a brilliant afternoon with the kids.

August 12th – feeling incredible after a few glorious, sunny and relaxing days on the beach. This is as close to feeling normal as I have come since early March. It is a fantastic feeling. Tinnitus is dissipating, I am sleeping well, waking up refreshed, chest pain is minimal, breathing is strong, joint pain is reduced.

August 14th – Have blood taken for second antibody test (first was negative). Will find out results on 24th August.

August 15h – went on a 7K walk with the family. Felt tired at the end of it but it went well.

August 17th – still riding the mini-break high. Tinnitus has reduced, sleeping really well now, breathing is strong, joint pain is reduced, mild chest pain / compression has reduced. Fatigue is an issue, but this is a “just-returned-from-camping” fatigue, rather than the horrible jet lag / altitude sickness / hangover fatigue of previously. Is this overall improvement related to the acupuncture? Is this just circumstance? Is there anything to be gleaned from fresh sea air, the sea etc? Have been for a 6K bike ride today to pick up some items from the shops. Will be interesting to see the impact in 48hrs time. Six months without exercise and muscle atrophy is becoming an issue for me now. My trousers are falling off my hips and hanging where my butt muscles used to be. Not happy about this.

Looking back at my journey I am feeling pleased as to where I am now. I can do most normal day to day activities now without consequence. I have been able to go camping three times in the past 6 weeks, two trips of which involved me driving at least 10hrs. I am working full weeks since the beginning of June. I am able to go on walks and the difficulty breathing seems to be improving and responds well to diaphragm release techniques prescribed by my acupuncturist. I am looking at this now as a period of consolidation and in the new year I can begin to think about a return to gentle exercise / weights and cardio training.

August 18th – excellent practice pointer in the British Medical Journal on treatment for post acute Covid in primary care settings. Set up a conversation with my doctor to discuss the recommendations, including referral for patients experiencing persistent symptoms.

August 24th – Second antibody test negative. Awaiting results back from T-Cell trials.

Day 180 – September 4th – Overall positive few weeks with a plateauing of symptoms (between 2 and 3, trending toward 3 on the six stages of recovery), but I have just ridden a brief 48hr relapse sparked by a poor diet (what is it with the food in British sea side towns? So much beige!) and getting very cold following sea swimming during a min-break in Kent.

The relapse was light and brief with a return of chest pain, difficulty breathing and extreme fatigue. Feeling better today but noting that with winter coming up, it will be important to stay warm.

I have had my fourth acupuncture session and it seems to be yielding results. Or is my improvement coincidental? I have also tried shiatsu from a friend who is providing sessions pro-bono. Will persist with a few of these to see if they yield results. The first session was very beneficial. At the very least it was, like with the acupuncturist, good to speak to someone who has a different take on wellbeing. Perhaps this is because it is a more holistic approach than Western medicine which is fractured into specialisms and disciplines and frequently does not look at a system level – which is so important for an illness like Covid 19.

On the advice of both practitioners I have ordered some Symprove, liquid live bacteria, for my GI issues and will give that a go. Today I also received notification from my doctor that I have been referred for a consultation with a lung specialist who will conduct lung function tests in October, which I am really happy about. I have also been referred to a local NHS service to support chronic COVID sufferers and have a home visit from a therapist this afternoon. They suspect dysfunctional breathing. This referral is on the back of the BMJ article I shared. Such an excellent tool to have.

Current symptom status: tinnitus (persistent and constant but only mildly annoying) chest compression (mild but lurking), joint pain in hands and fingers (mild and only on significant exertion such as opening a jar), difficulty breathing (mild), brain fog (mild, but concerning nonetheless – struggle for words maybe five or six times a day, frequent but brief forgetfulness in every-day tasks, difficulty in concentrating), fatigue (moderate to severe, trending toward moderate). SATS around 95 – 96 (although the unit I use is calibrated low) and peak flow is consistently 700 which is good. BP is stable 110/70 and within excellent range. RHR is around 65 – 70 during the day and down to 55 – 65 in the evenings. All good and normal.

6 months since onset of symptoms – Day 185 – 9th September

Today is something of a milestone and a pause for reflection. I am definitely getting better. In fact I am better, and have been for a number of weeks now, discounting minor (and very manageable) relapses. I have hit a plateau for about a month. This is super encouraging and suggests I am moving to stage three in Sarah Myhills recovery pattern. It is certainly a massive relief to move out of the draining boom-bust cycle of recovery and relapse.

Looking back, the early days in March, April and May were terrifying, the physical symptoms – particularly the crushing chest compression and difficulty breathing (The Covid Strangle as I have heard it accurately described) were like nothing I have ever faced before, even with some of the medieval tropical diseases I have picked up during my travels. The insomnia and fatigue were also a major challenge. I have been through sleepless months with two babies / toddlers but this was something else – harder, darker and with no positive feedback or reward that you sometimes get with babies.

The mental and emotional side of things have been dark too. There is something existentially challenging about being seriously unwell, and not having a clue from one day to the next what is going on, and what is going to happen next. The firewall around UK medical services in early March and April was petrifying. At times I felt cast alone in a small canoe in a dark and stormy ocean. I remember during one conversation with NHS111 being told to not call back unless I collapse with hypoxia. I still remember laughing bitterly as I hung up.

There is also something unnerving about no longer being able to trust western medicine, which has, for so many years, been able to provide certainty for me on those rare occasions when my body has failed. And there is something frightening about falling prey to a virus that does not discriminate, and that has left experienced doctors and nurses flailing around, helpless and as baffled as the patient.

And the mental gymnastics that have to be performed to keep shifting recovery expectations are exhausting. The narrative I have received from medical professionals has changed so many times – “you will be fine in a couple of weeks”, to “yeah sorry looks like you will be better in four to six weeks” and then “We are hearing that in some cases this can take three to six months to resolve” and more recently the shake of the head and the blank expression “We really don’t know much about this. In other similar illnesses it can take years to recover”.

Would it have been better to have heard this truth right at the beginning? It’s hard to say. The false peaks are as exhausting as the symptoms themselves. The key struggle was simply not knowing if I was actually ever going to feel like myself again. The question that went around and around in my head on those covid-wired insomnia nights was “Is this it? Is this now me?

As referenced in the excellent resource pack from the RICOVR Unit at the Advanced Wellness Research Centre, being unwell is a job in itself and actually really hard work. Long haul covid sufferers do not fit into the usual linear recovery expectations of normal illnesses. It’s really hard to explain the boom-bust cycle to friends, colleagues and family. This is not helped by the calcified government line that this is a mild, flu-like illness. This is toxic and needs to change, and fast.

The impact of all of this can be physically and emotionally devastating. I still wake up frequently in the night, a consequence of the strangled shock of sleep apnoea I experienced back in April and May. I still have to tell my kids that I cannot go play football. I still cannot exercise. I still cannot breathe properly and spend most days in a state of hungover, altitude sickness. I still rely too heavily on my wife to pick up my slack. I am irritable and emotional. There is a joylessness to my existence that as a (previously) annoyingly optimistic personality, worries me. I mourn for the loss of my boundless energy. I have grieved for the limited life I have led over this half a year.

And yet there is so much to be grateful for. Looking back over the last few weeks of summer I have done pretty much everything I would have normally done – camping trips, messing about in the sea, long walks, getting back to football coaching and working in a job I enjoy. I am extremely grateful that I now feel well enough for these things.

The grief that I experienced through losing a central part of myself (the vibrancy, positivity, rude health and boundless energy) to this illness, is gradually subsiding to a new hope; that this plateau is the beginning of the building blocks to a full recovery; that the combination of eastern approaches – the acupuncture, the shiatsu, the work with the osteopath, the humming and breathing techniques – and advances in western medicines understanding of this virus will see much better days ahead.

The burglary analogy related to this virus feels very appropriate. For some people the virus was a violent break-in, where the burglar smashed windows, kicked in walls, trashed furniture and emptied draws. My heart goes out to all these people who still suffer terrifying physiological changes to their vital organs, months after the actual illness.

For myself I was witness to a break-in where the burglar took a few things and rearranged the furniture. It was devastating at the time, but its now time to move on and look to the future.

I can see it and feel it, there are much better days to come. I am stronger than I was. I feel better than I have done. I am feeling lighter, more optimistic. I have always believed that I would fully recover. Now I know I will.


My Boy

The room is dark, barely lit by the low, amber lighting penetrating from the hallway. The blue curtains are drawn tight and outside the rain lashes down in squally gusts,

But inside it is warm and still and silent, and you are lying there serene, precious, everything I ever wanted.

I am looking at you. You are finally sleeping soundly, curled up in a tangle of super hero emblazoned sheets, cuddly toys and books; the usual detritus of a nightly struggle with sleep.

I am looking at you, my eyes tracing the contours of your nose and chin.

Your skin is soft and clear in this beguiling half-light. My boy, such perfection, such beautiful perfection.

The rain hammers on the window. Through the curtains I see the sulphurous blur of the street light outside, wind rattled tree branches mottling the glow.

It is a reminder of the outside world, and it forces itself into my reverie. The darkness and the light.

What future for you my boy? What legacy for you, my beautiful child?

There will be heartbreak and sorrow and fear and pain to come for you. This darkness lurks on the horizon, for it is a certainty of life.

The savagery of humanity. My boy, do not be fooled by the veneer of civility, for beneath the shine there lies snarling fangs.

And my boy, there will be times when you will need to bare your teeth too. When you do, make sure you do so for truth, for love and that your cause is just and proportionate.

I am breathing in your beauty, a strong emotion somewhere between contentment and euphoria breaking over me. This feeling, almost overwhelming at your birth, hasn’t waned.

It is a connection unlike any other; deep, primal, urgent.

I am moving a lock of hair off your forehead. You stir but don’t wake. I nuzzle in and inhale the sweet earthy smell of you.

My boy, we have made it through the day. It is a filthy night, cold and wet outside.

But in here there is the soft cocoon of profound love, as old as the universe itself, holding back the night, bridging the void.

And, for now, pushing the darkness back to its dank edges.


Hiding in the toilets

I am a 6ft man, 44 years old, strong, physically capable. But it’s Saturday morning and I am hiding in the toilets of the Science Museum in London.

This is not usual behaviour for a 44 year old father of two, but trying times call for radical solutions.

I have my head in my hands and I am wondering what on earth I was thinking; why did I think that a family outing to one of London’s busiest attractions during the school holidays was a good idea?

And what the hell was I thinking going above my three pint policy the night before? I know, through years of tried and tested experience, that anything more than three pints results in a hangover the following day.

I screw my eyes up and push my knuckles further into my pounding temples.

What the fuck was I thinking?

Half a day has passed and I can summarise these precious five hours of family time in two words – queuing and shouting. Lots of loud, fruity shouting.

In fact those two words would probably summarise most summer holiday outings with the children these days.

The idea for the trip to the Science Museum cames from a place of well meaning. As a parent I am bombarded by messages from experts and the media telling me to expand my children’s minds, feed their curiosity.

Your children need Sciencing” the experts shout.

Well this morning, there has been no sciencing going on.

My daughter, the eldest, has been a devil child since breakfast, a mood prompted by the fact that we wouldn’t let her wear her Wellington boots to London

But Daddy! Paddington Bear wears wellington boots and he lives in London!” she claims

But darling it’s 26C outside and it hasn’t rained in three weeks. You don’t need boots on!” comes my exasperated response


And so it goes on. All effing morning.

And the youngest, my son is adopting a position of oppositional defiance to everything, since we stopped him from pouring the entire contents of the sugar bowl onto his breakfast Cheerios.

Ah cool, look at this, it’s how electricity is conducted” I say, pointing at a wired up circuit board

It’s boring, I don’t want to be a Sciencer dad!” 

I find this funny. The funniest thing I’ve heard today at least. But my barely stifled laugh at this cute word play makes him even more furious and entrenched.

He refuses to move from the Wonderlab and screams until I consider bribing him with chocolate.

I raise my eyes to the heavens, let out a big sigh and mentally cross “parent of the year” off the award list.

I have learnt two things already this morning. Never go on a family outing to London on a hangover; and the kids really don’t give two shits about Science.

They would rather be at home playing with the dead flies that gather in the corner of the rooms and tormenting the neighbour’s cat. I suppose it’s a kind of science.

The whinging and wailing carries on all morning. “I’m bored. This is boring. This museum is stupid and boring. Daddy, you are stupid and boring”

I try to shrug the personal insults off, the kids are still only young, they don’t really know what they are saying, but these tirades sting a little.

Despite the fact that we have been shovelling thousands of calories into their tiny little faces all morning, the kids start complaining that they are hungry around about 11:30.

Maybe that’s what we all need, I think, some sustenance.

My hangover is still there, niggly, a bastard behind the eyes, but the idea of some comfort food lifts my spirits.

Except that there is a fourteen mile queue for anything vaguely resembling sustenance.

My wife volunteers to walk a few blocks to find a food shop that is a little less crowded, and so the kids and I sit outside the museum and wait.

My children entertain themselves by terrorising the grotty pigeons that congregate in the grey concrete square, the first time they have enjoyed themselves all morning.

I note that this is pretty typical. Behind them lies a building of wonder that holds the secrets to the laws of the universe, but they are happiest running around a piece of concrete chasing flying rats.

I settle back and watch them. I begin to enjoy the fresh air, the space and the fact that the children are finally out of my face and out of my hair for a few minutes.

Maybe this day trip thing can work

My wife returns with some croissants, coffee and various sandwiches and the children come running, laughing and giggling. Things are looking up.

But no sooner has my wife put the bags down and starts searching for hand wash, then the children start grabbing at the bags, and fighting over who gets what. I try to intervene, and I am quick, but I realise I am not quick enough.

My son grabs the croissant bag and like a slippery little eel runs away with it. My daughter follows screaming like a banshee, clutching some sandwiches. My son trips and spills the croissants all over the floor, right into the pigeon poo, grazing his knee badly and letting out a piercing howl.

My daughter, bereft that the croissants are gone, throws the sandwiches at him, the egg and cress exploding as they make contact with concrete and forehead. They too are now gone.

And so, at this point, is my sanity.

I calmly make my excuses, I need the loo I say, but really I don’t. I just need some peace and quiet.

I make my way, slowly, to the toilets, enjoying every child free step. There is another bastard queue this time for the toilets, but I don’t mind, because it is all child free.

Eventually I get in and lock the cubicle door. I am free, for five minutes I am free.

And so this is how it came to be. A grown man, holding his head in his hands and hiding, from his own children, in the public toilets of London’s Science Museum.

I am not proud of this situation, you understand, but sometimes you have just got to do what you gotta do.

And sitting here in the relative still and calmness of the Science Museum toilets, I come to terms with the fact that my children are probably never going to discover cures to illnesses or make life changing scientific breakthroughs.

But if we can all make it through the day still speaking to each other, still alive, still breathing, then that’s something to be proud of.

I laugh to myself, as I reflect how I have had to re-adjust my expectations since becoming a father. Some days we are lucky if we leave the house without 47 arguments.

I also reflect on the fact that I have spent more time hiding from my children in toilets than I have hiding in toilets from anyone else.

I sigh, and stand up. I flush the toilet even though it doesn’t need flushing (after all, I need to be able to justify to the queue outside why I have occupied a stall for close to ten minutes), unlock the door, take a deep breath and steel myself for re-entry back into family life.



Growing Up

The days clatter by, without so much of a pause for breath or space for reflection. The rattle and hum of every day events and the constant manic juggling of priorities leaves little space for anything else.

Which child needs to be where at what time? What should they be wearing? Has he got a temperature? What will they need once they get there? Which mode of transport will we take? Which child have you got today? Does it make sense for me to pick up child A? But wait I have a meeting at that time, and I can’t shift it. Can you pick up child B and take them to X’s house? So who is on dinner then?……

And so it goes. Planning and re-planning. The endless prioritisation. The re-prioritisation. The compromise and servitude and the flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants from one thing to another. It’s precision on a military level.

This is modern day parenting and it is an incessant, white knuckled ride down life’s turbulent waters. A ride that can finish at the end of the day in one of two ways;

if I’m lucky, the day will finish in the cosy confines of a warm and dimly lit bedroom surrounded by books, cuddly toys, soft furnishings and hushed words.

Or it could finish amongst the waifs and strays of society in the strip lighted waiting room of a local A&E, praying to whatever god that will listen that everything is going to be OK.

It is stressful, and manic, and full on, and brilliant, and boring, and amazing and it can really blow your mind. Parenting should be on a Class A list.

But then a space for reflection opens up. A pause in the mania of everyday life.

Maybe it was that afternoon to myself in the park. Maybe it was that stolen hour in the swimming pool.

It is space that has enabled a bit of perspective. It brings a sense that changes have happened, but that I just haven’t noticed them as I spend another day plummeting down a cliff in a tin dustbin.

And as I walk in to the house I see it immediately.

I see a massive space in the hall.

This is a space that used to be occupied by the hulking, shabby frame of the pram.

A space in which the pram used to sit in its very own puddle of water, leaves and dirt, snagging jumpers and pecking knees and shins on every walk past, like a grumpy buzzard desperate for attention.

Now there is space. Lovely, wide open, pram-free space.

The pram. That universal symbol that tells everyone else that the person pushing it has just had their world turned upside down.

And we sold it. We sold the pram. WE SOLD THE PRAM!

And there is something else too.

I look on the table. There are no longer wet wipes there. There’s none upstairs either. The ones at the bottom of my day bag have gone too. The emergency pack in the bathroom are full, bloated gathering dust. Like the last guest at a party.

There used to be packs of wet wipes everywhere, constantly in use, constantly being replenished. Open any given cupboard on any given day and piles of wet wipes would fall out.

There would be no mercy for me if I came back from the supermarket having forgotten the giant value pack of wet wipes.They were new-parent essential kit. Run out at your peril.

Now, nothing. No more wet wipes. Except the emergency pack in the bathroom, gathering dust on the shelf.

And nappies.

Nappies are no longer on our shopping list. How the bloody hell did THAT happen? More importantly, when did that happen?

I remember a time, when both children were in nappies, and it felt like it would never be over. The daily fight to the death over the change mat, the nappies and the wet wipes.

At one stage I thought I was going to die, suffocated by great boxes full of them.

Death by nappy, what a way to go.

And sleep. Oh welcome back beautiful, precious sleep. You were gone for 5 years and I have the permanent eyebags and grey hair to prove it. But when did you return? I missed you so much, but I didn’t even see you come back into my life. I promise to never let you out of my sight again.

No more prams, no more nappies, fewer wet wipes, fewer sleepless nights. We are out of a phase of childhood that will never return.

And I found myself talking over the fence to our neighbour this weekend. She has just had a baby boy. I am listening to everything she is telling me. She has that edgy look of wonder, sleeplessness and panic that all new parents share.

I am nodding in all the right places and making all the right noises. I am listening, not judging, not offering my opinions. I’ve been here myself. The baby is so small that it can still be bathed in the sink. Other people’s opinions are not helpful at this point. The one thing that new parents need is sleep. Not more opinions.

But I am biting my lip. I am trying ever so hard. I am stopping myself from saying something, something I promised myself I would never say to a new parent.

But the urge is so strong, the instinct to say it so powerful.

You should cherish these moments, they grow up so quickly you know

I really want to say it.

And I can hear them all goading me – the space where the pram used to stand, the lone nappy lodged behind the radiator amongst the dust and spiders; the bloated pack of emergency wet wipes in the bathroom. I can hear them all whispering at me, urging me to say it.

But I resist and we part company. I smile to myself because I wanted to say it. They are words of wisdom, delivered from a well-meaning place, after all.

They really DO grow up so quickly.

Sweet Dreams

This was an actual conversation that just took place at bedtime. I was trying to explore bullying and feelings / emotions with my kids. I’ve clearly got some work to do.


Me: (finishing story about the ugly duckling) “why do you think the duckling was sad?”

5yo: “Because everyone was mean and calling him ugly

Me: “Yes. True. Some people might call you ugly one day. How would you react to that?”

5yo: “Punch them!

3yo: “Kill them!

Me: …………….


Staring out to sea

I found this letter I wrote home, the first time I took my daughter on a long haul holiday back in 2010. She was seven months old. As this site is as much about therapy as it is about providing a record of the parenting journey, I figured I should post it


Yesterday I spent most of the day staring out to sea.

I did the same yesterday.

I plan to do the same tomorrow.

It’s not that it is a particularly captivating scene. Nothing much changes. It’s big. It’s blue. And apart from the odd jet-ski ripping past and para-glider coming into land, it remains relatively constant.

So why is it so captivating?

Perhaps it’s the way that the crests of the waves capture the sunlight and send shards of light twinkling all directions?

Perhaps it’s the tantalising fragrance of salt, fresh limes and divine frangipane carried by the trade winds that ventilate the island?

Perhaps it’s the fact that we have secured a spongy raised water bed, right on the beach that is the size of a small room and with as many soft furnishings as an Ikea showroom that allows Asha to roll around to her heart’s content?

Perhaps it’s the fact that there is a nice man who keeps bringing us drinks and food all day long?

I dont know.

All I can say is that for a view that changes only once every half hour or so, this is strangely compelling.

So what of Bali? Well we have hardly seen any of it. There really is no need when you have a swimming pool right outside your front door and a beach about a cricket balls throw away.

Our hut is beautifully arranged, along with 7 others nestling in the tropical undergrowth, around the centrepiece swimming pool. We have an outside shower where you can enjoy a nocturnal cool down under the stars listening to the gentle burr of the Cicada’s and surrounded by the enveloping fragrance of jasmine. 

To one side of the hut there is a massage table under a thatched Pagoda shade, and everywhere else is lush green foliage, hidden statutes, paths and God heads, bright tropical flowers and the constant sound of gongs, wind chimes and trickling, running water.

What we have seen is reminiscent of both Sri Lanka and Zanzibar.

But unlike the former that has been torn apart by conflict and the latter that has been criminally overlooked by corrupt governance, there is something balanced about this island.

From the diversity of cultures, to the gentle ambiance of the people; from the sticky warm fresh fruit served with coffee and a smile first thing in the morning to the gentle flux and flow of everyday life. This just seems to be an island that gives something back.

Unlike the happy mania of Jakarta, the people here seem more considered, down to earth.

Asha is not a celebrity here, in the same way that she was in Jakarta, but people have much more refined views. They still take her, and fuss over her, and tickle her until she smiles her smiles but you can tell people are taking her in when they look at her.

And they have time to see her in a different way here.

One man we met was captivated by her and said she had amazing charisma.

Another, after many minutes of looking at her, compared her to the Hindu Goddess Krishna.

I have been glowing with the inner pride of knowing I have a charismatic God baby ever since.

Like I said, Bali gives something back.

And despite the fact that we have forced Asha across 8 time zones, made her stay up late far too many times, dropped her on her head on a hard marble floor, made her sleep in a room where even the mosquito’s sweat and watched her vibrate for 2 hours after feeding her some chilli fish she is just loving every minute of it.

She continues to squeal, gurgle and grin her way through every day.

She is very happy here.

And as I write this next to the swimming pool fringed with mini Baobab trees with fragrant pink flowers, I know that I feel extremely content here.

And I am sure my wife, who is currently indulging in a one hour body massage, is also feeling it too.

And later today we are going to go and stare at the sea.

Tomorrow we will do the same.

I will let you know if anything has changed.


The Toddler Resistance Movement – A Guide to International Travel

As a member of the Resistance you should know by now that our objective is to create as much fuss, noise and disruption as possible whilst maintaining continuous supply lines of yoghurt, entertainment, snacks and sweets. So follow the guidelines on international travel below and you will be in receipt of a bumper payday of all things good my fellow toddling travellers.

On the way to the airport

  1. Vomiting just as the Ugly Giants are leaving the house is a great way of reminding them who is in control of this family holiday. Extra points will be gained for vomiting on carpet. At the very least it will result in the Ugly Giants cracking the DVD player our early doors, which means hours of Finding Nemo for you, my jet-setting friend.
  2. A couple of well-timed requests for toilet breaks during the car journey is a good way of keeping the pressure on. Refuse to go and then request a toilet break EXACTLY at the point where the Ugly Giants have just passed a service station.
  3. Regardless of the toilet break outcome, go in your pants. ALWAYS go in your pants.

At the airport

  1. Implement the four point plan as follows i) Demand to press the button for the car park ticket. ii) Demand to see the car park ticket. iii) Demand to play with the car park ticket. iv) Lose the car park ticket. The four point plan is just for kicks people.
  2. Refuse to go anywhere in the airport without either a piggyback or a ride on a luggage trolley. You are goddam toddler royalty and walking is for TWATS and LOSERS.

At passport control

  1. Demand passports. Chew passports. Hide passports. Lose passports. Your job here is done.

At the security check

  1. At a high and persistent volume, randomly complain about something i.e. your ears. Demand to have them replaced. This is just for kicks people.
  2. Stick metallic objects in the Ugly Giants pockets. Keep doing this until the scary looking man with the baton has stripped your daddy down to his underwear, and has him bent over the conveyor belt.
  3. When all medicines and liquids are out in the open, mainline the Calpol. You will feel the benefits in 10minutes.
  4. Insist on being last through the X-Ray scanners. Throw a tantrum if you have to. Just be the last through. When you are sure that all the Ugly Giants have gone through, make a break for the bastard car-park. This is not just about snacks, this is also about Freedom, my itinerant friends.

At Duty Free

  1. At a high and persistent volume complain about your shoelaces. Keep the pressure on. The Ugly Giants are weaker under pressure and more prone to cracking open the entertainment and sweets.

On the flight

  1. During boarding it is a good idea to loudly and repeatedly request items of clothing that you know have been left at home. Become inconsolable until the treat jar is cracked open. Boom! Payload!
  2. On the flight, kick the back of the chair in front of you as hard and as frequently as you can. The Ugly Giants love this.
  3. When the seat belt lights come on everyone will sit down. This is a perfect opportunity to get up and go for a stroll. The aisles will be clear of idiots, leaving you to have a gentle and unimpeded walk. Ignore the shouting from the flight crew.
  4. Demand stuff from the painted ladies. They are paid to have more patience than your Ugly Giant. And they have a trolley. A trolley full of salty snacks and fizzy drinks. And they CANT SAY NO! Boom!
  5. Half way through the flight, just as everyone has settled in, run up and down the aisles shouting. This is one way to freak the Ugly Giants. If you can learn to shout the word “BOMB!”, even better.
  6. Stay awake the WHOLE bastard journey. The Ugly Giants will be like putty in your hands by the end.

Before landing

  1. Scream loudly every time the PA breaks into episode 47 of Peppa Pig. Make the pilot adopt a perpetual holding pattern over the Middle East until episode 50 of Peppa Pig is finished. The pilot is your bitch now.
  2. Go for another stroll when the seat belt lights are on. Pull as many levers and press as many buttons as possible. Innocently ask why the engines are on fire. Disrupt and disobey. This is your role, live up to it.
  3. Refuse to hand over the headphones, blanket, in-flight magazine and soft toys. They are YOURS goddamit.
  4. Fall asleep two minutes before landing.

On arrival

  1. React badly to being woken up. This should result in a snack pay-out.
  2. The luggage carousel is your objective now. All roads lead to the luggage carousel. Once at the luggage carousel jump on board. Enjoy the ride! Don’t get off unless there are snacks proffered.
  3. Finally, once through passport control, demand to go back home. Keep this up throughout the duration of your stay. The Ugly Giants love these constant reminders of who is actually in control of this goddam family.


If you are reading this, you are the resistance.

The Toddler Resistance Movement – Guide to the Supermarket

Fellow comrades, listen up. For the Ugly Giants, the supermarket is a necessary chore, but if you follow the guidelines below the supermarket can become your own personal playground with added food and fizzy drinks. If you follow the steps below you will be in line for a juggernaut payday from the Holy Trinity of Toddlerdome – snacks, fun and attention. BOOM!

  1. Before even entering the supermarket, seek out the children’s rides and demand a go on whatever flashing monstrosity is at the entrance. Run screaming into the carpark if you don’t get your way.
  2. At the entrance insist on riding in a shopping trolley. Subsequently demand to get in / out of the shopping trolley every 10metres or so. The Ugly Giants love the exercise. Twats.
  3. Once inside, alternate between dawdling painfully slowly in some aisles and sprinting like a cackling loon down others. If you run into other shoppers, throw yourself to the floor and scream hysterically until they realise it was their fault. This should result in a yoghurt or muesli bar payoff.
  4. Take off all your clothes and randomly distribute them around the store. Socks, pants and soiled nappies are known as #aislemines and should be deployed near fresh produce. This is just for kicks people.
  5. Find the aisle with glass jars, crockery or high value electronics and insist on spontaneous and robust play with all items. NB dropping plates on the aisle floor and then screaming hysterically will result in a snack payday.
  6. Your role is “The Confuseriser”. Create Maximum Confusion by offloading items that the Ugly Giant puts into the trolley and uploading other unwanted items. Not only is this great fun, but it could also lead to a placating bag of Minstrels. Every little helps, my supermarket warriors.
  7. Make it your priority to find the pastry, cake and bread aisle. Quickly stuff your cheeks with whatever comes to hand. Teeth marks count as possession in the cake aisle, so a half eaten croissant is effectively yours. Bite everything until you are stopped. THE PASTRIES ARE YOURS!
  8. Situational awareness is key in our struggle, comrades, so be sure to make a note of the aisles where the yoghurt and cheerio’s are kept. You will need this information for the POWERPLAY.
  9. The powerplay approaches. Prepare for the powerplay by getting properly lost.
  10. Next find a security guard and put on your best Lost Child Look – tear streaked eyes, finger in mouth, lispy, half formed words….you know the drill comrades, we are talking CHARM OFFENSIVE, defcom one.
  11. Once taken to the customer services desk, all stars are now aligned for the powerplay. As soon as staff backs are turned, grab the intercom and shout the following words “This is a customer announcement: All Gin is now three for one in aisle seventeen. I repeat, THREE FOR ONE ON GIN”. 
  12. In the resulting madness, find your way back to the Cheerios and yoghurts and GO. NUTS. You should be able to do a couple of packs before you are busted.
  13. If you and your Ugly Giant have not yet been arrested, congratulations, you are still in the game. So insist on helping* at the checkout. If denied, find a pensioner and wedge your head between their legs whilst screaming “IT’S SO DARK! I CANT BREATHE!” until security is called to break up the #pensionerwedgie
  14. Make a loud beeping noise every time the till operator scans an item. Carry on BEEPING LOUDLY. For ever. Or as long as it takes to get a chocolate profiterole.
  15. On the way out, carefully place cigarettes, batteries and alcohol miniatures in your Ugly Giant’s pockets and then alert a security guard. Again, not for snacks people, this is just for fun.
  16. At the exit, find the children’s rides and stage a sit in. HOLD. YOUR. NERVE. You know it and the Ugly Giants know it – they cannot leave without you. BOOM! Before you know it you will be riding off into the Cheerio and yoghurt coated sunset with Postman Pat and his black and white cat as accomplices.

*helping broadly defined as – “eat all consumables”



Why men matter (and other reflections on gender equality)

Many reports and studies show that there is increasing equality between parents in terms of traditional parenting roles and responsibilities;

For example British men are spending more time on domestic work than their forefathers (an increase from 90 minutes per day in the 1960s to 150 minutes per day by 2004), are taking increased responsibility for caring for their children (from 15 minutes to 2 hours per working day between 1975 and 1997, an 800% increase) and are increasingly becoming the parent with sole responsibility for childcare during the working week (21% of fathers of under-fives are solely responsible for childcare at some point during the working week)

While there is still some way to go before we can begin talking about true equity and equality between the sexes, these are positive trends.

And yet public media is unfortunately still very much geared to reinforcing the traditional “doofus father” stereotype – the blundering, largely absent, beer and sports obsessed icons of yesteryear, petrified to change a nappy, incompetent at meal times, useless around the house, and generally setting a bad example to their children.

And to compound this stereotype, society is also not currently particularly geared to accepting the change in the zeitgeist which the statistics suggest is happening,

Whether it is detail such as the fact that nappy change facilities are still largely positioned only in female public toilets; that there is still poor or non-existent pre-and post natal support for fathers; that marketing and advertising for baby products is still geared towards women.

Or more at the macro level like for example the fact that until recently there has been dreadful inequality between paternity and maternity leave entitlements, it is little wonder that men may feel intimidated by impending fatherhood.

Traditional notions of masculinity still pervade a man’s everyday life too. One only has to see the incredibly damaging four “rules of masculinity” pioneered by 1970s American psychologist Robert Brannon, to understand how many fathers have been coded to act.

  1. No sissy stuff – reject all that is associated with femininity
  2. Be a big wheel – wealth, power and status define your success as a man
  3. Be a sturdy oak – reliable and strong in a crisis
  4. Give ‘em hell – men are associated with risk, daring and aggression

These notions are damaging because they are divisive. They perpetuate notions that it is somehow emasculating to let your female partner go out to work while you look after the children at home.

Even though the proportion is at a historical low (and despite all the positive advances mentioned above) a recent study revealed that nearly one in five British men still believe that it is the woman’s role to stay at home and look after the children. Those one in five constitute an important critical mass, and one which needs to be addressed if a tipping point for societal change is to be reached.

For some families it no longer makes as much economic sense to automatically designate the father as a breadwinner because according to a number of studies the gender pay gap has all but disappeared in low income families and findings by the National Equality Panel in 2010[i] found that the earnings gap is continuing to narrow.

And this trend is likely to continue across all demographics as young girls / women now outstrip boys / men not only in school participation, graduation and results but also in further education and training.

So going forward, men in the UK are likely to have much more of a role in bringing up their children than their fathers, or their fathers father’s, ever did. And new research shows that this is perhaps no bad thing.

Researchers and child experts are realising that there are incredible benefits related to this societal shift. Research[ii] shows that infants of highly involved fathers have higher cognitive functioning, are better problem solvers as toddlers and have higher IQs by age three.

As well as better cognitive functioning, infants of highly involved fathers show better social and emotional development and well-being. And if that is not enough, involved fathers lead to less disruptive behaviour, less depression, less sadness, less lying and substance abuse and a myriad of other negative development outcomes in their children[iii]. And when men participate fairly in the home, research shows that everyone is happier and healthier.

What this boils down to is the need for gender equality and men can be important agents of change in this regard. An excellent recent report from the Government Equalities Office[iv] (which dad blogger John Adams – @dadbloguk – contributed to) points out some of the challenges that face individuals, organisations and societies when pursuing equality.

But the report argues that the key thing is to ensure that male voices are included in dialogue about gender and that actually, in doing so, amazing opportunities may arise. Many men will have much to gain through gender equality that allows for new ways of working and living for both men and women to flourish.

As UN Under Secretary General Ban Ki Moon points out, the evidence is clear

“Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better. Peace agreements that include women are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support. The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all”

This all strikes a very resonant personal chord with me. I have recently cut down to a four day working week in order to spend more time with my family. It initially wasn’t easy, and I had to have a number of tough conversations with my manager, my colleagues, my wife and most importantly, with my ego.

But it very quickly became a conversation about opportunities. My reduction in work hours, provided my wife with an opportunity to pursue a more challenging career and I got some all-important time off to be a better father and better husband.

The important thing to conclude is that new shifts towards gender equality are exciting and will benefit organisations, individuals and ultimately society. There is still a long way to go however, before a true tipping point can be reached.

However through modelling opportunities presented by pro-equality governmental and organisational policy, and continued dialogue around gender equality and the roles of men and women in society, there is no reason why a more equal vision of society cannot be achieved in our lifetime.


[i] Report of the National Equality Panel; Executive Summary, January 2010

[ii] See for example “The effects of father involvement: a summary of research evidence” Father Involvement Initiative, fall 2002

[iii] See for example this comprehensive conclusion of the impact of the father on their “children’s learning and achievement” Fatherhood Institute, May 2013

[iv]Men as Change Agents for Gender Equality”, Government Equalities Office, June 2014

The Toddler Resistance Movement Guide to the School Run

The Toddler Resistance Movement Guide to the School Run

Latest update from the front lines comrades – it’s September and that means school has started. Now we all know school is great – tonnes of snacks, loads of shouting and running about and the mud pie kitchen. Oh yes, the mud pie kitchen! I mean, what’s not to like?!

But we all know that we can’t let on that we like school too much. We are a Resistance Movement after all, and we can’t resist something if we outwardly show the Ugly Giants that we like it. You feel me? So here’s the deal. Follow these instructions and resist, my schooled chums, resist!

1/. Wake up late and refuse to get out of bed until all your favourite clothes are laid out on the floor for you. Preferably in the shape of Olaf from Frozen.

2/. Swap out your pants / knickers at least sixty seven times. It’s an autumnal underwear palette you are after. Refuse the monochrome look, it’s so last year.

3/. Stuff your school jumper down the back of the sofa. This is an important plant that you can call upon later (see 15 below).

4/. Refuse to wear socks. Hold out for a multi-vitamin. Force the Ugly Giants to play their trump card early.

5/. Once you have the multi-vitamin, demand, in increasing levels of volume, to wear socks. Insist on putting socks on yourself. Scream at anyone who breaches your 5 metre perimeter until you have satisfactorily aligned your socks with your chi, any nearby ley lines and the eight planets of the solar system.

6/. At breakfast scream for Cheerio’s. A resistance movement cannot be sustained on an empty stomach and these little sugary O’s are perfect marching fodder. Half way through your bowl of sugary, salty breakfast cereal, stop and demand a fried egg on toast or anything else that requires the Ugly Giants to break open the cooking gear. Sprinkle Cheerio’s on the floor until you get what you want.

7/. You are holding out for an important Verbal Signal of Weakness (VSoW) from the Ugly Giants so procrastinate as much as you can. Use these precious minutes to discover a brand new hobby (such as dust inspecting or cognitive complexity theory), ask some important questions and demand answers (e.g. “why are big things big?” or a variation “How can big things be so big?”) or if you have a younger brother or sister simply hide him / her in a cupboard until the Ugly Giants are about to call the Police.

8/. If you have done everything right my learned friends you are probably nearing the point of VSoW so adjust your socks. The Toddler Resistance Movement demands sartorial perfection so get it right. Twenty minutes of committed sock fiddling should just about do it. Listen out for the Ugly Giant’s VSoW.

9/. “Come ON, we’re REALLY late”. There it is! BOOM! You’ve done it. The VSoW. The reveal. The Ugly Giants are now putty in your hands. You can hold out for pretty much any type of bribery. Whatever you want from the snack tin, it’s yours my fellow schoolers.

10/. They are weak. They are vulnerable. Now is the time to hit them with the Holy Trinity. Tell them you don’t want to go to school, you want to change your socks and that you are so tired that you need one of the Ugly Giants to give you a piggy back from the breakfast table to the front door. That should get you an oat bar, at the least.

11/. When brushing your teeth, the Ugly Giants will shout “BRUSH, DON’T CHEW”. They don’t really mean it. Chew, like your life depends on it.

12/. Before leaving the house, demand the micro scooter. Demand every single piece of safety kit and clothing to go with it.

13/. Take off the safety kit and clothing. It’s clashing with your autumnal palette.

14/. On the walk to school, stop off and talk to cats, pick flowers and inspect beetles. Feed the flowers to the beetles and feed the beetles to the cats. Try and eat the cats yourself.

15/. At the school gates make one last stand. Ask difficult questions, ask for your jumper (which is stuffed down the back of the sofa. BOOM! Payload!) or adjust your socks. Anything to avoid actual school.

16/. If you have followed all the steps above you should be entering the school just as the gates to your classroom are locked. This will cause the Ugly Giants an embarrassing trip to School Admin to plead their case and get the gates unlocked.
If you have achieved this then congratulations, YOU ARE THE RESISTANCE!