Saturday, 14 November 2020

Covid Nose: can we all still smell?, plus a lockdown medley

Brandon Gregory [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Covid Nose

The other week one of the tenants in the house next door popped his head over the garden wall - rather too close(!), looking back, and announced that he had just had a Covid test delivered, as he was suffering from flu-like symptoms, and had lost his sense of smell. I dived back inside my house sharpish, hoping that the virus wouldn't be able to leach through the wall, like the occasional whiff of weed. I never did find out if he had the illness or not, but the exchange got me thinking about this quite distinctive symptom of Coronavirus, present apparently in about 60% of cases. From ENT UK:

"Post-viral anosmia is one of the leading causes of loss of sense of smell in adults, accounting for up to 40% cases of anosmia. Viruses that give rise to the common cold are well known to cause post-infectious loss, and over 200 different viruses are known to cause upper respiratory tract infections. Previously described coronaviruses are thought to account for 10- 15% cases. It is therefore perhaps no surprise that the novel COVID-19 virus would also cause anosmia in infected patients."

The phenomenon is more common in women than men apparently, and can sometimes even be the only symptom of Covid. I know of two other young people and someone of my own age to whom that happened when they fell ill with the virus, and in all three cases they recovered their sense of smell after some weeks. From what I have read to date, I don't think the anosmia is irreversible, but obviously this is a very individual disease, so there may be exceptions to the rule. I thought to mention the matter, as losing one's sense of smell is such a blow for a perfume lover, and I wondered if anyone else had had this experience. 

NIAID [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Reading more, and judging a book by its cover

According to the little black notebook I keep for this purpose, in 2019 I read a paltry 12 books in the whole year, or one a month on average, while so far in 2020 I am up to 21 books, with seven weeks of the year still to go. Two were admittedly slimmish volumes of poetry, and one an even slimmer self-help-type book - Derren Brown's 'A Little Happier', which I highly recommend by the way - but many were in the 300 page range, with a few doorstopper thrillers half as long again.

The other day I felt moved to post an 'unbook review' of a recent read on Facebook, 'Everything Under' by Daisy Johnson. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2018, which didn't sway me either way, for the winners often write works I find as impenetrable as their names unpronounceable, and having now read 'Everything Under', I find the accolade frankly baffling. Yes, I have to confess that I picked the book out in a charity shop purely on account of its beautiful retro cover.  

"Now I am as liberal as they come, but 'Everything Under' proved to be an outlandish case of minority bingo. The story featured not one but two cross-dressers, one of them living in a shed, the other a child murderer with a limp, learning difficulties, two different identities, and an unfortunate start in life in a wheelie bin. There is also a bisexual woman with Alzheimer's, incestuous tendencies, and a surprise ability to do handstands, a number of grumpy fishermen, a floating female butcher, and a peripatetic river monster called The Bonak. None of which is a spoiler. I should perhaps have spotted the two reviews which both described the book as 'unsettling'."

What the cat hasn't dragged far!

At the start of this month, I received a tip off from my former lodger about a study being conducted by Derby University, amusingly entitled: 'What the cat dragged in'. They were appealing for feline volunteers, so I enrolled Truffle immediately. I also put her forward for a camera and/or GPS experiment, about which Truffle would be appalled if she knew, as she is the kind of cat who sloughs off a collar minutes after it has been forced on her. The study requires me to upload her prey stats (dead and alive) every month, and bone up on the difference between a mouse, a shrew and a vole, using a handy illustrated pdf they have supplied. Not sure what I am meant to do if Truffle only leaves me a spleen or a tail, as has been known. I am also mindful that her kill rate is massively down since the Covid crisis - to almost nothing in fact. It makes me suspect that much of her hunting in the last couple of years was attention-seeking behaviour, for there was a steady procession of Airbnb guests over that period, and she may have felt left out. By contrast, I have only been to France since Covid struck, and the cat has had me around far more than she is used to. That is not necessarily a wholly positive thing, mind, for she seems to have switched to hunting me, and has an annoying habit of biting my arm at the drop of a hat.

Truffle may also have found another outlet for her attention-seeking tendencies, namely crashing Zoom calls!

Photo courtesy of Sarah Rayne

Remembering The Non-Blonde

Facebook reminded me this week that Gaia Fishler, aka The Non-Blonde, who died suddenly in late November last year, would have been 50 the other day. A Non-Birthday, if you will, and how poignant that Gaia didn't even make that modest middle-aged milestone. I have a soft spot for her, not least because of her great work caring for all those cats, our shared love of MAC Taupe Satin eyeshadow, and the fact that when I was starting out with Bonkers, Gaia was possibly the first 'senior blogger' to add me to her blog roll, and give me that bit of a leg up through her endorsement.

Gaia and Lizzy via her blog

My ongoing Olive Oyl transformation

Okay, now I don't mean to overplay this, but I have been inspired by fellow blogger, born again DJ, and all-round good egg Val The Cookie Queen to carry on using the piece of gym equipment I inherited a while back from ex-Mr Bonkers - to whom I had originally given it 20 years ago! - and have been working out more on than off since March, with noticeable results. My thighs are somewhat more solid (though obviously not up to Val's steel pylon standard  ;) ), instead of being a flaccid mass flanked by a jodhpur flap. I also have discernible bulges on my shoulders and upper arms, although my underarms are still a bit batwing-y, and I hope to find more exercises to specifically target those areas. 

'But I would walk 10,000 steps'

And now that we are in fullish lockdown again, one of the few things we still can do apart from grocery shopping is go for a walk with one friend. I have been doing quite a lot of long walks in and around Stafford, both on my own and accompanied by a series of singletons seeking company. The not being able to be inside other people's homes is a mighty inconvenience though. For yesterday after a particularly long walk on the local marshes (18,200 steps!), my companion went into her house to warm me up some soup, which I proceeded to stand and drink on the pavement outside her house(!). But it is what it is, and I do have the lockdown to thank for the fact that I have been devoting a lot more time to exercise indoors and out, not least for its mental health benefits, which are considerable.

'Chase View'

Knitting for England

I have no comparative statistics on my knitting output in 2019 versus this year, but I can say with confidence that 2020 will have massively dwarfed it. ;) I have been knitting non-stop in fact, and find the action of the needles meditative and calming. This year I have added a couple of new categories to my repertoire, namely bookmarks and ear warmers. Yesterday I had a flask of tea on the allotments with the friend known as Crafty Kate, and she went home with this pale cream and beige number, which she thought nicely wintery in its colour scheme. "For when you don't want your whole head to be hot", she went on to explain. I may upload an album of photos on Facebook of my latest projects sometime soon and link to it on the blog, in case anyone who is not a knitter themselves fancies picking up any handmade items for themselves or as Christmas presents.

I would be most interested to learn how everyone is doing in terms of dodging the virus - or not! - and also how your life has changed due to the pandemic, and what coping strategies you are deploying to get through this 'unprecedented' time.


Tara said...

I'm really happy you're managing to read so much more this year V. Even if that last one was a dead loss. I loved the Derren Brown book too.

I do admire the changes you've seen from all that working out. HIT did nothing for me but jogging at a snail's pace three times a week has shifted half a stone at least. Still a stone heavier than I'd like. I wish we had some scenic walks round here. It is good you are allowed to walk with a friend this time round. Last weekend I went to the park and there were lots of friends walking with takeaway coffees in hand.

Oh I forgot you main question. My friend is recovering from Covid and it did affect her sense of smell. I need to check with her but I think it's gradually coming back. I does semm to be one the major symptoms.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

That is interesting about your friend. Let's hope people's sense of smell does always come back.

Glad you enjoyed the Derren Brown book too - am thinking of reading it all over again and making notes - it was very short after all.

Good on you for jogging so regularly. I would quite fancy doing that but the osteopath doesn't want me to still, with my pelvis not being right. And yes, the takeaway flask or cup of coffee is an increasingly common sight in public spaces, as even friends' gardens are off-limits.

Old Herbaceous said...

My young adult daughter had COVID in October and lost her sense of smell for a bit. Luckily, it came back in less than two weeks and she seems fully recovered. She did say it was really weird not to be able to smell things for several days. I'm finding it very hard to stay active enough these days, working from home, and I really need to motivate myself to find some form of exercise I'll actually do.

Tara said...

Maybe consider getting the full length version of Happy to get more from it. Although the shortened version is better for taking notes.

Vanessa said...

Hi Old Herbaceous,

Thanks for sharing your daughter's experience and I am glad she is now better. I am sure it was a strange experience not to be able to smell things - was her taste also affected? I don't know to what extent the two symptoms go hand in hand.

When I work, though it has been a while, it is also from home, so I sympathise about the difficulty of fitting in exercise as well. It is so easy to crack on and find that not only it is dark already, but also 11 o'clock at night!

Vanessa said...

Thanks, Tara, I had been mulling over that very thing...;)

AustralianPerfumeJunkies said...

Hey there Vanessa,
WOW! I love that you are walking and working out, getting to see people (albeit only in the great outdoors) and knitting up a storm.
My own book reading has been abysmal this year. Everything has seemed like such a hard slog. Even things I've read 20+ times and loved so much have started to pall. Fingers crossed for my groove back in 2021.
We are thoroughly domestic here and though we have missed some fabulous travel adventures it has also been nice to just hang out here together in Sydney and surrounds with friends.
I've nearly depleted my years and years of collected postcards. It has been fun sending them out into the world and hopefully brightening some friends days. Even seeing them to write on brought back a wealth of memories and forgotten lived history. Poor Jin got regaled with stories from as far back as the 1980s, humorous, interesting, scandalous only to me.
Stay well,
Portia xx

Anonymous said...

A silver lining about working from home is that I've been taking mid-day walks around my neighbourhood. In other exercise, in addition to daily hoolah-hooping, this month I'm adding exercise videos to see whether that makes a difference.

Have been reading a fair amount, doing some cross-stitch and sometimes taking pictures on my walks. Currently mainly phoning friends as it's stay-at-home time again...AnnieA

Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

Here's to you rediscovering your reading mojo next year if not before. ;) I could tell on Instagram that you are having a pretty social time in Oz - in indoor settings, even, you lucky things!

Your postcards have brightened up my post in recent years, which as you know is dominated by bank statements, bills, and pizza leaflets. With luck normal travelling will resume before too long...

Ines said...

How nice to remember Gaia's non-birthday. She was very welcoming to me as well when I started my blog Last year took away some great bloggers. :(
Come to think of it, last year wasn't that much better for me than this one.
As for reading, sometimes I feel that part of my life is over. :D I read so little these days, my concentration sucks after 8hours of work and mostly when I read, it's about astrology and yoga. Only when one of my favorite authors writes something, do I give it time.

Vanessa said...

Hi AnnieA,

Interesting to hear how the pandemic is playing out in your neck of the woods, and am glad you have found nice things to do, including a lot of exercise by the sound of it. Very impressed with both the hoolah-hooping and the cross-stitch, both of which take considerable levels of skill!

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

Yes, I am not surprised Gaia was welcoming to you too - you and Pat Borow of Olfactarama were two other key bloggers I connected with soon after starting. Funny to think how many other personalities were around back then who just disappeared over the years. And a few sadly died, as you say. ;(

I went through phases of barely reading at all for similar reasons to you, and you may find the urge comes back when you have more free day!

Undina said...

Before I answer your questions, I have a suggestion! I think you’re packing too much into a single post! And while it is quite entertaining to read, it’s almost impossible to comment on/discuss all the topics you cover (had poor Truffle known how little attention from your readers she got, she would have gone on a killing spree ;) ). So, the suggestion would be: split these posts in two (or three) but post slightly more often.

The closest I know anyone who got “the virus” is a friend of a friend. And I’m not aware of their symptoms. But after dying or having complications as a result of the illness, loosing a sense of smell scares me the most. I feel miserably when I cannot wear perfumes.

The epidemic hasn’t affected me much: I work a lot (more than I’d like to), don’t exercise enough (though, we try to at least walk during the week), and I still don’t have time or desire to read. I have a desire to have a desire to read. And I bought a couple of books that I plan to read. We’ll see how it goes.

I should exercise more. Definitely. You should keep telling about your successes in it, and with Tara’s reading posts, I hope to get into a better shape and to start reading again :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Shorter posts are a good suggestion! And something I had been considering for a while. Thanks for suggesting it.

I love your comment about having "a desire to have a desire to read" - that is priceless, and I hope the urge comes over you soon, so you can rediscover that pleasure.

I feel more galvanised than ever to exercise, I'll be honest, partly thanks to a great book I read (Exercised by Daniel Lieberman - highly recommended), and partly following the results of my MRI (for my tinnitus, but they cover the whole brain, not just the ear). Although the doctor didn't seem too fazed about the 'mild thickening' of some smaller blood vessels she detected in the scan, it feels like a warning shot over my bows, as you can't reverse such things, just slow down their progress. I am also going to try to cut down on saturated fat, and get more sleep if I possibly can, nothwithstanding the tinnitus(!). So yes, exercise is good in so many ways, but I must admit to having been a fitful fitness enthusiast most of my life.