Anaphylaxis and eating out

Okay, I’ve been asked to suggest how you can make eating out a pleasure and not a fearful experience if you have a food allergy. Or at least not make it a completely scary situation…

These are just suggestions and only eat out if you feel comfortable. That is the biggest thing… You need to trust the restaurant!

  1. Ring. Book the table and mention the allergy. It doesn’t matter if you think the restaurant will be empty – ring. You need to find out if the restaurant is worried about your allergy. What you are looking for is concern but not fear. And definitely not a careless attitude. So judge them… There are plenty of places you can eat out.
    If you are going to a cafe then find someone to talk to. Watch their reaction. If they do not make you feel confident don’t eat there.
  2. Turn up and see what happens. In the best places the waiter/waitress will bring up your allergy. They will seat you in a place where you are easily seen from the desk or reception (I don’t know why but this is always the case with good restaurants and cafes). In the places I visit a lot the owner will be there to say hello and let you know that they understand what is wrong and the chef is aware.
  3. The menu. Watch for those hidden food allergies! Take mine – tree nuts. Now I visited one place and they said that the chocolate fondant dessert had no nuts. I thought it was odd because all commercial chocolate contains nuts or is manufactured in a nut environment. But I ordered it, trusting the restaurant. Oops…
    I should have trusted my own intuition… Don’t ignore what you know! You are the best person to know about your allergy. (The reaction was only a trace one so I just swelled – no anaphylaxis – thank goodness).
  4. All restaurants and cafes in the UK have to provide an allergy book. That can be a file or a piece of paper, but it has to be there. If it isn’t then they are breaking the law. Check it!
    Note – this can be obtained from anywhere food is manufactured including supermarkets. The bakery will have one and the pizza place. Ask for it and check it!
    If the place doesn’t then they do not know what is in the food! The recipe may not have nut in it, like the chocolate fondant, but the chocolate used did, That is where the allergy book comes into its own.
    One good thing is that most chain restaurants will have them. They are a standard piece of kit for them.
  5. If you can see the kitchen watch the chef work. How does he clean his station? Does he? Think about cross contamination.

But most importantly do not eat there if you don’t feel confident. And if you are unsure about an ingredient, like I was worried about Baileys in a liqueur coffee, Google it! The wonder of the internet is your friend. Oh, and in case you were wondering Baileys does not contain any tree nuts.

Please don’t think that by following these rules you will be safe. Out of the last eight places I have eaten I have reacted twice. Both times it was a slight reaction, but they were there. So be safe and always carry your medication and epi-pens. It’s a good idea as well to make sure that the person you are with knows where your medication is (I keep mine in a bright red pencil case) and how to use them.

Autumn is here and I’m playing Russian roulette

I can tell autumn is here because the leaves are changing. They are turning from green to brown and red. Falling to the ground they are creating that carpet I used to love as a child, the one that you can walk through and hear. That crunch and crackle that would echo around the pavement as I walked to school.

Now, just the simple sound can transport me back to those days. That and the silvering of the grass. When you get up early and look across the fields and the grass has such a heavy dew that it shines silver in the sun. Those are my autumn days.

In the past though I would have walked and I’d not have felt fear. My own fragile form would not have entered my mind. Yet, now, it fills me with worry. You see I’m not as strong as I think I am. I wish I were and I am trying to get there.

But sometimes I slip…

I push myself beyond what I can do. I mean I ought to do more, other people do…

When I was a child my mum was told that I ought to be kept in an almost sterile environment. I was allergic to dust, animals, birds, wool, flowers, trees, grass… Basically life. My mum took this in her stride and refused.

Instead I was introduced to the world slowly. I was allowed to work at a dog kennels. I had rabbits and cats and a dog. I was allowed to live. And yes, I used to have an inhaler to help me at the worst times, but I acclimatised.

So that by the time I hit adulthood I was able to do what I wanted without too much of a reaction. Then I hit my early thirties. I started to nap too much. I had a hormone imbalance. I lost weight and it helped but still I slept.

I was given a barrage of tests. I was told I was allergic, but there was something else.

“We don’t know what it is,” the doctor had said. “But it is as if your body is combating the flu everyday.”

That was why I slept.

Just over a year ago I ate a handful of nuts and stopped breathing. Instant anaphylaxis… There is was a tree nut allergy.

No more nuts, which meant no more chocolate or fresh bread… And then I started to react to palm oil… Do you know that stuff is in everything? So my diet became more restricted. Take today as an example – I have had to make a batch of digestive biscuits because I can’t eat bought ones… My diet has become difficult.

But, and this is huge, I don’t nap in the day. I am not so tired that I wobble just walking from my bedroom to the kitchen. I’m good.

Except that sometimes I get a reaction. Sometimes I eat out and the restaurant or bar isn’t as vigilant as I hoped it would be. So far it has been only traces. I swell up around my throat and chin. My tongue gets cut on my own teeth as it gets too big, but I don’t stop breathing. I take the pills and wait for forty eight hours for the all clear.

I can react up to forty eight hours after I’ve had a reaction.

But it is as if someone has flipped a switch. I am back to that girl who needed to nap. I can feel the tiredness slip over me like a familiar blanket. And I hate it. And I refuse to give in. Instead, I carry on. And that is where I slip up.

You see, I’m not that strong. I try to be, but I’m not. So as I push through everything and my body and immune system wavers.

What happens? Well, I find myself full of cold, or tonsillitis or something. I’m not looking for pity, but I am trying to find my own limits. What is too much? When can I stop before I push myself into an illness?

I know I will work it out. And hopefully before I get another cold, because I hate them. And yes, I am sitting here in the dark unable to sleep because I have a cold. I pushed myself too hard… Why can I never find my own limits?

I wish I could explain to the places I eat that for me their place of business is a game of Russian roulette. That their tired smile and glance at the ingredients list is not enough. I could die… I want them to take heed and do it carefully. To tell the chef and for him to worry. Some places are wonderful. In those places the owner will come to the table and reassure me that everything will be fine. That the chef knows and is cooking everything separately. But it is those places who do not care…

Ah… you say, it’s the cheaper places…

Except is isn’t. Some of the worst are the most expensive. It is almost as if they feel the places ego will keep them safe. That I won’t die because it would be unheard of.

Every year there are 20 deaths from anaphylaxis in the UK (from NHS data)… not all are food allergies. But I have no wish to be one of those 20.

Why not stop eating out?

Really? Is that what I must do? Become a hermit or sit and watch others? No, that is something I refuse. And anyway for every bad restaurant there are five good ones. I just have to play a little roulette. I like to eat out… I love to laugh with friends over a good meal… And I don’t want to give it up.

So if you have a food allergy and want to know where to eat locally let me know and I’ll tell you where I felt safe. Until then I’m going to give myself a break and let my body recover from the last ‘trace’ reaction… And the cold that has happened because of the stress.

I have joined a guild…

I joined a guild… #art #illustration #eroticart

Kat's Art

The thought of a guild brings to mind Terry Pratchett and walking luggage… How could I not join?

Okay, I did um and ah over it. I mean, I’ve not heard of it, but as I dug deeper I realised that the benefits outweighed the risks, until I finally clicked on ‘join’.

So there we are… I am now a member of the Guild of Erotic Artists… I’m going to have far more opportunity to exhibit so I will keep you updated on what I’m up to. But until I do here is my guild page.


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An Interesting Night…

It started with my laptop saying that there was a problem with my cloud. The same cloud that was holding my new book safe.

I think panic set in and I froze. It was a good job as well, as the computer created a window asking if I wanted to upload the ‘new’ version of my book. I’d only just opened it. There was no ‘new’ version. There was only the one I had been working on in the workshop. *(The laptop usually is for working in the house.)*

So what was the new version?

I had a look.

It wasn’t new. It was old. As in 5000 words old. It was trying to rewrite my book with the old version.

I must admit I went cold all over. Then it crashed.

Had it rewritten my book? Had I just destroyed 3 days work?

My heart was in my mouth as I started the laptop up again. It was like deja vu. It went through the whole process again.

I put the damn thing away and got in the car. I’m now the proud owner of a cheap laptop. It may just save my book.

The moral of the story?

Don’t buy a second hand laptop unless you know what you are doing.

The new one has a years guarantee and I’m happy. It will at least not corrupt anything in the cloud. And the book is safe. Now I just have to see if the little laptop can be fixed and sell it on…

If it’s possible.

Body Dysmorphia…

I have it. I guess it stems from when I really was the size of half a car… Now I’m a slender reed in comparison but I still see that me; the one that turned sideways to get through doors and had to squeeze into car seats. The me that dreaded going to garden parties because those plastic chairs were never big enough, and it was truly humiliating to have someone fetch a dining room chair.

That is the me that I still see when I look in the mirror. I suppose it can be funny. Hell, I’ve laughed at myself… Leaving too much space in restaurants, or thinking that I couldn’t get in the car in a parking space. Waiting for people to walk through a set of double doors because you are uncertain that you will fit alongside. Every time I’ve shaken my head and shrugged. A smile on my face.

But I hadn’t realised just how bad it had got… Until today.

You see at the end of the month I am off out to a club and I have decided to steampunk it! I will be going in a leather corset, victorian dress (much much shorter) and flouncy blouse. All very cool, and as I have fabric and a little skill, I thought I’d make it.

So today I cut out the corset. I cut the size I knew I had to because I’m a big girl.

Only problem is that I now have a partially made corset that it a full six inches too big…

Six inches…

That’s not a small difference. That’s a massive one.

So tomorrow I will start taking in my corset in order to make for my size… In fact to make sure the lacing show I will have to lose 7 inches…

Yeah, I think I have body dysmorphia. It seems I believe I’m about six to seven inches larger than I am… Now I just have to make my head realise that my body is smaller.

Open for commissions

Yep… I’m opening the books. So if you fancy a portrait, pet portrait or family portrait as a pencil drawing – get in touch.


A5 (14×21 cm) = £42 + £12.15 postage to the UK (£19 to the US)
A4 (21x30cm) = £75 + £12.15 postage to the UK (£19 to the US)
A3 (30x42cm) = £107 + £25 postage to the UK (£39 to the US)


RS Thomas


Galleries are full…

I have barely been in over the last few days. Between putting up exhibitions and seeing friends I have driven over 400 miles and since Friday I’ve been on the road. Now, after a session in the gym, I am tired. But as this is the first time I’ve managed to get in the workshop I need to work…

Just in case you are around these are the exhibitions:

Swansea 2015 A4

Aberglasney sept 2015 A4

And I’ll share my WIP for the art later. At the moment I’m about to dive into the book I’m writing. Set in the Atlantic Ocean it is about a woman who finds herself alone on a yacht… It’s getting interesting. And yes – it is a horror.