i have just recovered from this strange and little known ailment – labyrinthitis or vestibular neuronitis or in simpler terms  – vertigo.   my first ‘attack’ was a sensation of nausea and dizziness when i got out of the car, but put it down to car sickness and heat; but after the second spell, which happened very early in the morning, when i awoke and saw the whole room spinning, i realised that it was labyrinthitis;  robert had suffered from this very thing for a couple of days a few years ago, but he was bed ridden for 2 days and as it was due to an ear infection, it was quickly solved with anti biotics – nor did he  suffer any more attacks, just seemed to be an isolated episode.  mine on the other hand, seem to occur every few days, and each attack seemed to get worse, until after a couple of weeks they became even more frequent but less severe.  none the less the attacks render you incapable of being able to concentrate on everyday tasks, the feeling of spinning and nausea made you feel as though you are constantly on a boat and not at all in the real world – very disconcerting as you have no idea when they are about to happen.  i think that i went to the GP 3 times, totally anxious and unsettled, my whole life felt totally upset and out of control – which then led to panic attacks during the night, all totally out of my usual character.   one doctor tried some head movement to rebalance the crystals in your middle ear that apparently get dislodged during this ailment, but this didn’t seem to help me, and unfortunately they dont recommend you to any specialist until after 6 weeks, as this appears to be the normal recovery time.  i noticed that the ‘attacks’ were spurned by travel, seeing vehicles pass by, trips to supermarket, big open spaces like art galleries and even sitting in restaurants  – its to do with your eyes having to scan from left to right, or up and down and your brain gets confused and can’t remember what to focus on.  its like being on a boat with extreme sickness;  you lose your appetite and hence i am sure that not being to eat properly is also another factor as to why you get weaker. you are not able to drive or use machinery either.   i can’t explain how unsettling this is and not only did it hinder my daily work and routine, but also pushed me emotionally into a cycle of depression and anxiety.   in fact, i realise now that the illness was maybe 50% the problem and the emotions caused the rest of the disruption.  it was only when i mentioned this to girlfriends that i realised that quite a few of my friends had suffered from this and on their advice i went to see a Dr Marousa Pavlou at the hearing and balance centre, who totally reassured me that this was only temporary and could be helped with exercises to retrain your brain.  so after just 2 visits and about 4 weeks of exercises, it really has helped to clear the strange ailment.  who knows whether it would have gone without the exercises?

i thought i would write about my experience in the hope to help others who may suffer it and be as anxious as myself – i had to learn about it all through the internet and through friends of friends, but this can just confuse you all the more.  what did help me was lots of meditation methods, slow deep breathing, restorative yoga – thank goodness that triyoga is only around the corner, acupuncture with my amazing friend Sarah Withers and accepting that some days you just can’t do much;  you can take travel sick tablets to get you through the bad patches,  but i only did this twice, when  i had to get on an aeroplane;  the doctors prescribe you some anti sickness tablets too, but this doesn’t help cure the problem, only relieve you temporarily.   wearing travel bands on public transport  seemed to help too.  anyhow, i am pleased to report that it did subside within 2 months, which was long enough for me, but i have heard some of my friends say that other friends they know have it permanently which must be devastating.  so i encourage you to get to see a specialist therapist in balance to give you the correct exercises, it really did help – not just physically but it was mentally reassuring too.  you can get the  exercises on the internet, but the therapist chooses specific exercises that are apt for your personal condition.  anyhow all i can say its a wonderful relief to be able to visit a supermarket, cafe or art gallery and get in my car once again without the fear of suddenly feeling sick and dizzy!

learning spanish

have you thought about learning a language?  there is a fantastic school in the town of Vejer  de la Fronterra where you can either do group classes for a few hours each day, or have individual classes.  La Janda will also help you find cheap accomodation with a family, so its perfect for teenagers wanting to brush up on their spanish or students wanting to learn intensively for a month.  there is also a 2 week course in july and august which combines spanish and flamenco dance – and even courses with horse riding lessons and yoga!  i am here with Maude doing a weeks spanish course to improve my confidence in speaking – i seem to have spent the last few years writing emails in spanish to just builders and although i try not to use online translation, my vocabulary has just become one track house stuff.  Maude is doing a beginners course with another young girl, which is really getting her ready for her university course of modern languages.

each time we come to spain – things change – this time is no exception.  we recently saw the rise of a new multi storey car park – which as awful as it sounds, is much needed in an old narrow town 2 km up a mountain – as you can imagine when everybody comes to town for dinner on an evening, parking can be difficult.  but  vejer is definitely becoming a food destination – lots of restaurants especially opening for the summer months – too many to try;  when we arrived 18 years ago, there were a handful of restaurants, which fortunately have still managed to survive, although they have slightly modernised themselves.  fortunately what seems to happen is that the good ones survive and the others close during the winter months.

andalucia house vejer



I went to see this documentary film last night;  its a wonderfully moving tribute to the designer – emotional and very interesting it follows the rise of the designer Alexander McQueen and proves what a creative inspirational mind he had.  I remember seeing the show ‘savage beauty’ and thinking how beautiful the clothes were, each one an art piece.   the film follows its thread through his collections, which are all art pieces – the stories, the themes – all show an eclectic brilliant mind.

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artist residence

I can’t believe that it was my first time to Oxford – of course I have stayed in numerous country hotels around the area, but it was the first time I had properly walked around the city.   we spent a night in the lovely pub/hotel ‘artist residence’, just outside of Oxford.  it really is a break, as there is nothing in the village, but the stable room that we had was lovely and airy and very comfortable and dinner very good and not over expensive.   apparently there are sister hotels in Brighton, Penzance and Pimlico.

we booked tickets at the Ashmolean Museum to see the America’s cool modernism exhibition- what a lovely museum.  if you don’t see the main exhibition, its actually free to get in, and there is a lovely collection of Japanese and Chinese art and pottery.  we ate lunch in the rooftop restaurant – very good quality and again affordable.  nice if you can book a terrace table in the warm weather.  another friend had recommended Turl street kitchen, but it was very busy, so you probably need to reserve in advance.

there are a lot of the brands that you see on all high streets, but there are also a few independent shops.  I loved the shop ‘objects of use’, selling lovely stationary, homewares and gifts – a bit like labour and wait and choosing keeping on Columbia road.

sometimes just one night away in a hotel is all you need to rejuvenate not only yourself, but I do feel its great for your marriage – there is definitely something romantic about staying in nice hotels by yourself.

Japanese restaurants

its funny, you ask my girls where they want to go for birthday dinner and Japanese always comes up high. so i am always on the look out for japanese restaurants;  i asked my japanese girlfriend for her tips, she came up with a few that i didnt know about.  yuki has brilliant taste, hates to waste money, so i would take her recommendations really seriously.

there is the famous noodle place in Frith Street called KOYA –  great noodles and casual but a nice environment and unfortunately very popular, so you have to queue, or go early as they dont take any bookings.

a very good but upmarket  one is called DINING. the chef used to work at NOBU and food is modern clean Japanese, bit of fusion, but i think its very expensive and only for special occasions.  haven’t managed to get there myself.
another nice one that is typical japanese is Cocoro which is pleasant and moderately priced – again this is on my list to visit.
from my own experience, kulu kulu is a real japanese version of yo sushi – authentic, great tasting sushi that goes round on a conveyor belt, and inexpensive.  its a lunchtime or quick eating place, rather than a sit down entertaining meal.  i love it though – you can be in and out in half an hour. shimogano is a decent traditional japanese restaurant in camden – look out for the special lunch each day which offers good value.  jin kichi in hampstead is also a restaurant that is consistently good.

yuki introduced me to another Japanese restaurant – okan in brixton village – with its unusal speciality of Japanese pancake – think tortilla/frittata it was a pleasant change to the usual Japanese food. The crispy tofu salad was delicious.  they also have a ramen restaurant on coldharbour lane, which is very tasty.

my all time favourite for taste and value is asakusa, which happens to be round the corner from where i live – its not modern, or posh, nor atmospheric,  just typical japanese cafe with outdated interior, but the food is usually very good.  try and ask for a table upstairs if you reserve – the sushi can take a while as they are always busy, but it is worth waiting for.   it is also very inexpensive and you will always see japanese families there.

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