Sunday, 23 December 2012

Getting away from it all in Norfolk

It seemed like ages since our last holiday, our trip to Iceland (you can read about that here), we'd both had a rough few months, plagued with illness and too much work, and so were in desperate need of a week away. We wanted somewhere away from the hubbub of modern life, where we could relax, curl up in front of a fire, read books and go out for a walk when we fancied. We decided on North Norfolk and found a cottage with some availability for the week in mid November when we both felt that work could manage without us.

We left home late morning and made the mistake of following the satnav, rather than common sense. After a journey along the M4, round the M25, up A roads and ending in crawling up unlit single carriageway roads in the dark for hours on end, we were very glad to arrive at around 6pm. As it was so dark, we struggled to find the cottage and then had difficulty finding the house where we had to pick the key up from. We managed to find house names with the light from our mobile phones and were soon unpacking the car and getting settled in.

The cottage instantly felt both cosy and luxurious as it had heated floors, a welcoming sofa, huge bed with cushions and a drench shower. We'd brought some food from home and were happy just to heat that up and settle down for the evening. 

Andrew is known for forgetting something nearly everytime we have a week away from home in the UK. First time it was socks, then pants. This time it was pyjamas. At least that meant we had something to do the next day, King's Lynn it was, to see what their M&S could offer him in the way of night attire!

Luckily our trip to King's Lynn was succesful, we parked easily, found M&S, purchased the necessary nightwear and then headed to Sainsbury's to stock up on food for the week. After stopping off for coffee, we headed back to the cottage to put our feet up.

Andrew loves steam trains, so when I read about the North Norfolk Railway, I knew it was something we had to do whilst we were in the area. As we were well out of season, it wasn't running every day, but as the weather forecast for the next day was good and the trains running, we made plans to do that as our Sunday activity.

We got up and drove to Holt (only about 15 minutes from where we staying) to get the train. Andrew headed off to take photos, whilst I grabbed a seat inside, he joined me just as the whistle blew to announce our departure. The journey to Sheringham didn't take long and the views from the window kept us entertained. On arrival, we headed down to the sea front and had a bracing walk, before the wind forced us away from the front. We made our way to the model boat lake where Andrew had spent many an hour in his childhood, as his great Aunt had a holiday flat there, which the family used to stay in. We decided to do a couple of geocaches whilst we were in the area, and so walked up to the cliffs beside the golf club. After taking in the view, we returned to the town, had some lunch and explored a little more, before taking the train back to Holt.


On the Monday, we finally did what we had planned for the week; very little. We relaxed, tried out the cottage's collection of boardgames, watched television and read books. It was good not to feel guilty about doing nothing!

That said, by the next day, we felt we needed to get some air and decided to go out and do a few geocaches. We found a circular set of twelve caches around the village of Mileham and set out to do them. It was a lovely day out, we bumped into some friendly locals, both four legged and two legged, took in some fresh air and got some exercise into the bargain. The sunset on the way back to the car was breath-taking.

On Wednesday, we decided to take a trip into Norfolk, for a wander round the shops. Whilst there we stopped off at the cinema to see Skyfall. We both really enjoyed it as we rarely get round to going to the cinema at home. By the time we came to head home the fog had rolled in. With the roads being unlit and mostly without cats eyes, the drive home was pretty nerve-wracking. I was very glad that we got back without incident.

By Thursday, we felt like we should be making the most of the fresh air and so ventured out geocaching again. I've blogged about our day here. It was fab, we had a really good walk around Castle Acre which was a lovely village, even if we did get rather muddy!

We got up early on the Friday to head home, this time over-ruling the satnav and avoiding the M25! We'd had a great week away and it set us up for the last six weeks of work for the year.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

My first brace adjustment appointment

With the exception of the first few days, when I was regularly counting what percentage of my treatment time had passed, the time between having my brace fitted and my first adjustment appointment seems to have flown by.

Once the first ten days had passed I reached the point where, generally, I'm not aware of my braces. Some foods are difficult to eat and I'm keen to rinse my mouth out after eating, so I don't have food visibly stuck to my teeth, but generally it's been a fairly easy journey so far. I have one molar with a pointy edge, which can cause me some issues by banging on the bracket on my lower molar, but that's normally only for a day once every ten days or so, my teeth seem to learn quite quickly and shuffle so they're no longer knocking together.

I've not suffered anything like as much with mouth ulcers as I expected to. I wore wax virtually constantly on one back bracket as the wire was catching my cheek, I had one ulcer on the other side of my mouth next to the back bracket, and a couple on my bottom lip. However, Bonjela Complete Plus seems to be a magic fix. I apply it once and by the time it wears off, my mouth seems okay.

I've also had little reaction to my braces. I'd told some of my colleagues in advance, but when I turned up to work wearing them for the first time, they couldn't see them unless I bared my teeth. I guess they were expecting something much more noticable. I've had a couple of clients clearly spot there was something different about my mouth and I catch them looking at my mouth whenever I look away, but, apart from friends and family, no-one has mentioned them. I've been in a shop or the hairdresser a couple of times and been served by another brace wearer, but again, it goes unmentioned. I'm glad I didn't go for the more expensive option of hidden lingual braces, when no-one seems to comment on my ceramic ones which are on full display!

Anyway, my adjustment appointment was six weeks to the day after my brace was fitted. I'd been hoping that my bite would be corrected by this appointment, but it seems I was slightly over optimistic. My right upper incisor has managed to come over hte top of my lower tooth, but the left incisor is still tucked behind.

The appointment itself took about quarter of an hour. We started by talking about how things had gone, and what changes I was aware of. The orthodontist had my initial pictures on a screen so he could compare the 'then' and 'now'. He was pleased that they were moving so quickly and that half of my crossbite had been rectified. He was confident that the other side would also be resolved by my next appointment. I then had my wires, powerchains and ligatures changed. It was a little uncomfortable, with just one tooth that was a bit sore when he changed things over. He was keen to straighten out my two lower central incisors as I was clearly struggling to clean in between those, he gave them a good clean for me whilst my wires were off and hoped that they would be straight by the next appointment to make cleaning easier. It was nice to leave with clean, white wires and ligatures again. I'd not been too careful about what I ate, and seemed to have mostly got away with it, but the curry I'd had on one occasion had certainly left its mark on my ligatures!

My teeth are already looking much straighter, it's nice to be able to track the changes, and once my bite is corrected, it'll be a case of more minor adjustments to get them looking right cosmetically. Roll on my next appointment in six weeks when my crossbite should be a thing of the past!

Click here to read about my initial brace fitting appointment 

Click here to read about my next adjustment and see my progress

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Geocaching - what it's all about

 Until last Christmas I'd heard of geocaching, but didn't know anything about it. That changed when Andrew's aunt started looking for local caches when we were both at his parents. She explained the basics, that there's a site that lists all of the caches and it's basically a treasure hunt. I really couldn't see the point or overall aim, but accepted it. Being a bit of a Googleaholic, I decided to look into it and ended up at the website. I entered my postcode and was suprised to find there were a number of caches within a mile of our house. My interest was piqued at that point. 

The following day we were at my parents and needed to get away from the roaring wood burner and out for some air. Again, I looked at the website and was surprised to find some caches in the nearby town. We printed out the relevant pages from the website and off we went. We were plagued by two problems; we used our iPhones as GPS devices, which we struggled with due to patchy 3G reception in the countryside, and were relying on torches on our phones and street lights to be able to see. We'd picked a multi-cache for our first cache and visited various points around the town, such as historical plaques and gravestones, picking up digits which we then used to come up with the location of the actual cache. As luck would have it, this was out of town and we were thwarted by both lack of 3G reception and light. We decided that stumbling around a field at night wasn't the smartest idea and gave up for the night. We returned the following morning on our way home. Due to the patchy 3G reception and inexperience, we struggled a bit to find the final location, but did so after half an hour or so. After digging around in undergrowth we found the box we'd been searching for and signed the log book. We were hooked.

We did a few more caches in the same way, before deciding we were sold on the idea enough to get a GPS unit. After much research, we got a Garmin Oregon 450 which came with UK Ordnance Survey maps. It also came with a month's complementary premium membership for the Geocaching website. This meant we could effortlessly export all caches meeting certain criteria to the unit. No more need for bits of paper.

I know initially I really didn't understand the point. With hindsight, the best thing is that it's a great excuse to get outside. We've been to Iceland, Jersey and Norfolk this year and visited places that we'd never have been to, if it hadn't been for the fact that there were caches hidden there. I was always a bit of a reluctant walker, but tell me there are caches on a footpath and I'll be pulling my walking boots on. As people ask me what it's all about, I thought I'd do a blog about a series of caches we did when we were in Norfolk recently.

We picked a set of sixteen caches about 15 miles away from where we were staying and headed over to the recommended parking spot. As all the caches were already on the GPS unit, it was a simple case of turning it on and seeing which way to head.

The blue pin in the last photograph shows the location of the first cache, and the arrow the direction of the GPS unit is pointing in, so it's usually a case of heading the way the unit tells you to go, as long as that means you're keeping to roads and footpaths. The route took us past the castle and out to a hedgerow, where we found the cache tucked away. All cache containers have a log of some description which you need to sign to show you've been there. The bigger containers contain swaps, and you'll sometimes find a trackable. This is a travel bug or geocoin. They all have tracking number and the aim is for them to move from cache to cache, picking up mileage along the way, and hopefully meet their overall aim. This first cache container housed a travel bug which wanted to get back to Germany, we picked it up and took it with us to help it on its way.

The route to the next cache look us along a country road and over to a field entrance where we found the next cache tucked in a tree. Again, this contained a travel bug, so we picked it up to take it across the country with us.

  We followed the road down past a stream and over to a ford which overlooked the fields, church and priory ruins. There was a bench next to the ford which a local resident was sitting on, enjoying the view with his dog. As Geocaching terminology would put it, you shouldn't give anything away to 'muggles' so we exchanged pleasantries with him, before using taking photos as cover for investigating the wall behind him where the cache was hidden. We found the spot quickly and extracted the cache and signed the log book.

We headed across a muddy field towards the priory. The next cache was a small canister, which had been hung from a hook set into the tree. It took us a while to locate, but then we signed the log and moved on.

We carried on around the priory and back onto the road. The next cache was right next to where a group of workmen had parked up in their van. We waited until they'd got to work, clearing the roof of a nearby building and then darted into the tree which the GPS suggested the cache was hidden in. Luckily we found it quickly, without them wondering what we were up to! The container again contained a travel bug which we picked up and took with us.

The walk then took us up past the church, the cache was well hidden, tucked into a road sign but we found it, signed the log and returned it to its hidey hole. I couldn't find my pen at this point, so Andrew patiently went back to find where I'd dropped it whilst I signed the log with a pencil I was carrying.

The route took us around the town and out towards the outskirts, where the next cache was also tucked in a sign. Unfortunately the log was so wet that we couldn't unroll it, let alone sign it. Hopefully the cache holder will be able to replace it soon.

The route headed out down a footpath passing fields, and surrounded by trees displaying Autumn colours. We found the next cache tucked in a stack of sticks.

We carried on up the path enjoying the countryside and headed out onto the road at the end. The next cache was again tucked into a sign, but in a more original manner. The batteries in our GPS had been complaining for some time, so we took the opportunity to put new ones in and recalibrate the compass before heading on our way again.

We continued up the road before branching off onto the footpath. The next cache was hidden in the hedgerow, tucked into a tree, and was difficult to get to through the undergrowth, which is why Andrew's crouching in a hedgerow!

From this cache, we headed across a tree plantation and crossed a road before heading up a path which skirted a piggery. The next cache was again tucked in a tree.

We walked two sides of the pig farm before reaching the next cache location. We found the cache holder, an ornamental mushroom, tucked into a tree but unfortunatley the log was nowhere to be found.

We headed out of the footpath and would have walked down the farm track but it was flooded and very muddy. Our walking boots weren't up to it, so we skirted the neighbouring field instead. The next cache was hidden against a tree and was a quick find.

We headed down the track and out onto the road. We were relieved to be off the muddy track, but after a sunny day, the evening mist seemed to be rolling in, so we quickened our pace. The cache was just outside the church yard, we searched for about quarter of an hour before finding it tucked into an ivy covered tree.

The route took us along a main road and then headed back down to the village. Unfortunately the penultimate cache in the series defeated us. We knew what we were looking for, but couldn't find it anywhere. We looked for about twenty minutes before giving up as the light was fading and we didn't want to have to drive back in the dark, given the misty weather. We continued up the road and across a footpath. The final cache was tucked away in a tree stump. We also found a final travel bug to take home with us.

From this point we carried on down the footpath and found ourselves back at the car after a good 6 mile walk around the area.

The final part of the process is to log all of our visits and finds onto the Geocaching website when we got home, which again is a fairly straight forward process. We've now found 159 caches which isn't bad seeing as 12 months ago I had no idea what geocaching was all about!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Brace fitting day

I'd put this back once to give my extraction more time to heal, but by Wednesday I felt I was as ready as I'd ever be. The first step was to see the hygienist for a thorough clean, I'd seen the same hygienist about six months earlier and had a fairly traumatic time as I'd not had a scale and polish from my dentist for a couple of years, partly due to him having less high standards, and partly due to his nurse being off sick. Still carrying the memories of my previous visit, it's fair to say I wasn't looking forward to this part of the day. I needn't have worried, she commented that I'd obviously got to grips with using the TePes, as I had no plaque at gum level. She still scraped away for twenty minutes or so, but I didn't bleed or flinch at all, so I put that down as a success!

The next step was to warn me about what I shouldn't eat. As I'd be having ceramic braces, curry is a bad idea as it stains the braces, so best left for the days before an adjustment. Similarly, crusty bread, apples and raw carrots plus other hard food can knock a bracket off the tooth and so should be avoided. Fizzy drinks are bad as the bubbles are a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, and similarly sweet food should be limited. She then ran me through the approach I'd need to take to cleaning once I had my brace. I'd need to take care of my gums, so I'd need to keep using the Tepes and angle the toothbrush down against the gums when cleaning. I also had to use a special brush to get in an around the brackets. She showed me both manual and electric toothbrush versions so I knew what I needed. I'd also need to use mouthwash, but not at the same time as cleaning my teeth. If I'm unable to clean my teeth after eating, I should carry some mouthwash with me, so I can use that instead. Most importantly, I need to pick one part of the day when I can spend some time giving my teeth a really good clean. The bacteria which forms plaque takes 24 hours to form, so as long as I clean really well once a day, I should be okay. It all sounded fine to me.

I then returned to the waiting room and waited to be called through by the orthodontist. I wasn't waiting long, he called me through and asked if I had any questions. My only query was about mouth ulcers. I normally use Corsodyl for a few days if I get one, and that clears it up, however, I knew that it might stain my braces. He agreed that long term use would stain both my braces and tongue, but using it for a couple of days shouldn't be an issue. I could also get topical anesthetic gel, which would take the pain away whilst they healed. He also mentioned that they'd give me some wax which I could apply to any parts of the brace which were rubbing to cut down on any discomfort.

We then moved onto the main event. He told me it wouldn't hurt at all and would take about half an hour. He started with my back molars, the process for each tooth was the same: apply some acid to remove the top few microns of enamel so that the bracket would stick, wash it off thoroughly, then apply the glue, apply the bracket and wipe off any glue overspill, then use a blue light pen to dry the glue. After doing the molars, he put in lip retractors and an appliance to stop me from supposedly needing to swallow (it didn't!) and then did all of my front teeth. The only painful moment was when he rested his finger in the socket of the extraction I'd had a couple of weeks previously! The process for the front teeth was only different as the brackets were pre glued. Once all the brackets were in place, he fixed the archwire at the bottom, adding power chains at the sides to close my two extraction gaps. Apparently these are normally only fitted at the end of treatment, but he was keen to fix my crossbite as soon as he could. Once the archwire was also fixed to my top jaw it was all done. I had a good rinse out and went to look in the mirror. My teeth felt huge with brackets on the outsides and I struggled to close my lips over them. When I smiled, I ended up with my lips stuck around the edges, not a good look! He warned me that my teeth would be uncomfortable for a few days whilst I got used to my braces and that he'd see me in six weeks for my first adjustment. By that time, hopefully my crossbite would be resolved. I was sent home with a selection of items to help me through the first few weeks.

When I got home I wasn't in any pain and so thought I should eat before that changed as I hadn't had any breakfast. I had a sandwich which was messy, as it got caught up in my brackets, but a good clean removed all the bits. The pain started about five hours afterwards, with my teeth aching when any pressure was applied, but a couple of painkillers took the pain away. I stuck to soup for the first couple of days but now, three days on I'm starting to use my front teeth to bite softer food and can chew carefully with my molars on one side. Hopefully the worst is over for now! I've also had problems with two of the brackets on my molars catching my cheek and one of the brackets on my front teeth rubbing against the inside of my lip when I speak. Luckily applying a bit of wax to the problem brackets seems to have prevented any mouth ulcers so far, fingers crossed it stays that way. I'm still slurring a bit when I talk, as my mouth is a different shape to that I'm used to, but at least I'm smiling less awkwardly.

So that I can keep a track on progress, I thought I'd take photos following every visit. The first picture was taken at my consultation appointment six weeks ago and shows my crossbite. The second picture was taken on the day I had my braces fitted. In my mind I thought I'd end up with really wiggly wires, so feel I've got off quite lightly! I'm already looking forward to going back in six weeks so I can compare progress. 

If you're considering braces and have any questions, just ask and I'll try to help!