The Italian Job – Travelling with IBD & Ankylosing Spondylitis. Gah!

Cover JpegTo buy the paperback version of my book, click here

To buy the Kindle version of my book, click here

I have decided that I write too much. Not generally, as in my shopping lists are concise and Facebook statuses have been known to stop at one sentence, but I mean on here. Gautier always tells me ‘People don’t want to read a lot when they’re looking at a blog on their phone or iPad’. I rubbished his suggestion of making my posts shorter, and kept typing. I write stream-of-consciousness babble; I always have done, even when I was getting paid to write. Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t, but there’s no filter. It just pours straight out, and I type as fast as I think, so it all gets on the page.

You’ll see that I’ve already wasted a good 30 seconds of your time explaining all that; I clearly don’t listen, do I?

So, in a bid to stave off boredom if you’re reading this on your iPhone, on a train, and you only have one stop to go and won’t get to finish it before you get off said train, here’s this month’s update, and by my standards, it’s almost in a nutshell:

I managed to tick two things off my bucket list:
1. I wanted a major hair colour change. I wanted to look like an apricot. Actually, I wanted apricot coloured hair, I didn’t want to look like an actual apricot. That would be well stupid. I’ve dyed my hair since I was 17 years-old. I’ve had grey hairs since I was 19, and then white hair appeared after my spell of post-traumatic depression in hospital in 2001. As a teenager I dyed it varying shades of red and plum, then I went chocolate brown, and in 2001 I dyed it to match how I felt – dark. Blue-black. I loved it for many years, but then I just started to look washed out. In 2008 I dyed it red, and have been various shades of it ever since. So, my dear friend Amy (she’s a proper hairdresser, don’t worry) came over a couple of months back and bleached the crap out of it for a few minutes, turned it fluorescent yellow with white roots (alarming) and then slapped something called a toner on it to make it look less like the yellow of a road bollard and more like the orange of a belisha beacon.

The verdict? I love it. Everyone loves it. Even complete strangers compliment me on it. I wish I’d done it years ago. Better late than never, though, right? Funnily enough, it’s the exact same colour now as it was when I was two years-old. Bucket list WIN.

2. I took said new head to a place I’d always wanted to visit. That place was Venice. I’d wanted to go for as long as I can remember, but Gautier and I couldn’t afford to go (unless we just walked around the city for days on end and didn’t actually stay in a hotel). I’ve always been so sad that we didn’t have a honeymoon, and double sad that the honeymoon we never had wasn’t in Venice. That makes no sense, yet somehow it does. So instead of going on holiday in the South of France with Gautier’s mum and step dad, which is what we do every summer (not too shabby), Gautier’s mum said, ‘Shall we go to Venice?’

She is not silly. She knew how much I wanted to go. She also wanted to go, obviously. Loads. She also knew how much I wanted to not have Crohn’s Disease (on that note, I am still waiting to find out whether I have it or not. Yes, still. Yes, seven months on. I know, I know…)

So courtesy of my very generous in-laws, Gautier and I made it to Venice. Boom!

And do you know what? It was even more spectacular than I had imagined. I kept gasping at every turn, exclaiming ‘OHMYGODLOOK!’ every five seconds, sometimes more frequently than that.

The food was divine. The weather was glorious. I discovered a new drink – the Venetian spritz, and very nice it was, too. I also discovered a whole new level of exhaustion (by the time we got back to the apartment I could barely move, and on two occasions actually full-on cried in the bath) and wished I’d brought a cushion with me from the apartment every time we went outside. I have ankylosing spondylitis, and whenever I sit on a wooden or metal chair even for two minutes, I want to cry. I sometimes do. Even if I didn’t have spinal disease, why on earth do people design chairs which you don’t want to sit on? Metal or wood, I don’t care which, I hate them. I don’t ask for much in life, just a bit of padding on a flipping seat. I had to sit down every few minutes because my legs kept going wobbly (a fibromyalgia flare-up, haven’t had one for almost a year so shows  how tired I was ), then couldn’t bear to be seated because the chairs were so uncomfortable. Honestly, I can’t win. I also can’t complain, because that would be a load of rubbish for everyone else, so I tend to grimace and drink my Perrier and smile and eat painkillers.

Sometimes the toilets left a lot to be desired, too (hole in the ground, anyone?). I mean, who decided that women were able to pee standing up, for one, and for two, how does anyone with IBD manage? In short, you don’t. The times I walked into a toilet only to come straight out shaking my head furiously and gesturing that we try somewhere else… on that basis, I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re in the throes of an IBD flare-up. So as incredible a trip as it was, it was the hardest, physically, that I’ve ever done. The heat left my stomach so bloated I couldn’t get half my clothes done up and wore the same dress three days in a row (I washed it, don’t worry). My swollen ankles and giant, puffed up feet left a lot to be desired, too.

I spent the entire four days saying to Gautier, ‘Pretend this is our honeymoon, just for a minute, pleeeease’ until he said, ‘Shut up, monkey!’ and I made sulk face for half an hour.

All I can say is despite the terrible pain, the tears, the discomfort, the terrible pain (did I mention that?), the bloating, the nightmare chairs and nightmare toilets, the exhaustion and all of that… well, I felt nothing but blessed to be able to fulfill a lifelong dream. I’d finally made it to the most beautiful place on earth, with the love of my life and I couldn’t have been happier if I’d been there with Tom Cruise.*


Yes, this is actually REAL
Yes, this is actually REAL
Just ridiculous. How is this an actual place?
Donkeys and new hair in Venice. Boom!
Donkeys and new hair in Venice. Boom!
I love this husband, I do. Fortunately he happens to be mine
I love this husband, I do. Fortunately he happens to be mine
Venetian lampposts are the nuts!
Venetian lampposts are the nuts!
Even the signs... *sigh*
Even the signs… *sigh*