Ivy

I suppose I should have realised that there might have been a bit of an issue when I bought the house.  The clue is in the street name after all: Ivyhouse Road.  Oh yes, there was ivy there at the bottom of the garden when I moved in, but not too much. I was able to keep it pretty much under control.  Until a couple of years ago.  That’s when I decided to try to get rid of the ivy in my garden.

I kid you not, it is like a Triffid.  It’s almost as if it sees you cutting it down and thinks, Ok, I’ll get you, I’ll just sprout over here, you won’t beat me.  It embeds itself in brickwork and concrete and clings for dear life.  It overtakes the other plants, blocking the light from them.  Admittedly, it doesn’t help that two of my neighbours don’t do anything to keep their ivy under control, but I still think the ivy is taking it personally, so now, I am a woman on a mission.  And, thanks to my brother and his lovely wife, Alison, making some headway.

Who is Ivy?

 When Alison and I were in the garden this week, we were intrigued by the size of the leaves on some of the ivy, it didn’t look like the normal sort of stuff you see climbing up the sides of buildings.  (By the way, I hate that.  The stuff is full of insects that love to bite me, even in December, and it makes me sneeze.  It even made Alison sneeze.)  I’m no expert but I think it may be that this one is the adult form of ivy, as the adult and juvenile forms of the plants differ.

Ivy leaves

The genus is Hedera, and there are about 15 different species within the genus (I’m a bit vague about it because plants have a habit of mutating and Hedera is a fast growing plant.  Strangely enough, poison ivy is not true ivy, it’s a different genus altogether, Toxicodendron radicans, is native to North America, has leaves that grow in groups of three with a pointed tip and grows clusters of white berries.

The ivy that we see in this country mostly is Hedera helix, also known as common ivy or English ivy.  According to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, it is prized for its ability to thrive in the shade.  Hmm, mine seems to thrive in full sunlight…. Apparently, people like it because it covers unsightly walls, and so on, and the berries are loved by blackbirds.  Sorry birdies, I’ll forego seeing you in the garden for a while.  Or you can eat the holly or pyracantha berries instead, I’m sure they taste even better.  Ivy can cause skin irritation and minor allergies, as I know only too well.  As an aside, the Kew Gardens also suggest that it should be “clipped” alternate years to stop it from getting too heavy.

Ivy stems in next doors’ garden

There are other species of ivy that colonise pretty much everywhere in the world from Algeria to the Himalayas.  In fact, the only places they don’t seem to grow are the arctic regions.

How do you get rid of it?

 Not as easily as you might hope.  It’s hard work.  You have to cut and pull.  As in cut the ivy growing on the wall/tree/fence, pulling off the ivy as you go.  The easiest way is to cut in a couple of different places to make it easier for yourself.  When you are trying to get rid of ground cover ivy, you can, apparently, roll it up in sections.

The cleared area, you can see the ivy from next door pushing at my fence

The prescribed wisdom for killing it off seems to be white vinegar (it’s more acidic than malt vinegar.)  Apply it to the roots after you’ve cut down and pulled up as much as you can.  Applying it to the leaves isn’t always successful because the leaves are waxy which makes is harder for it to penetrate.  I’ve liberally applied some salt around the roots too (another good weed-killer, I’ve read, is white vinegar, a handful of salt and a liberal dash of washing up liquid, all mixed in water.  It’s worth a try.)  I added the salt to the root area because it effectively makes the plant die of thirst.  You do remember osmosis from your school days, don’t you?

Theoretically, once you’ve cleared the lower down ivy, the stuff above shoulder height should die off, so I will update you in a few months.  In the meantime, I’m awaiting my delivery of my job lot of vinegar…

 

© Susan Shirley 2016

 

 

Jane Austen

I was watching the film Sense and Sensibility again the other day.  The book behind the film was written by Jane Austen, one of my favourite authors; I’ve read all of her novels.  I’m not normally a lover of the romance, but hers are not just romances, they are far more.  Jane had a wit that few have matched.  She seems to me to have been a bit like the Agatha Christie character Miss Marple; someone who critically observed what was going on around her – much easier without the distractions of mobile ‘phones and computer games.  I suppose we would call it people watching nowadays.  Whatever we call it, she critically observed the society of her day and wrote about.  I like her so much, I attended a lecture about her work back in the summer, and bought a book called The Jane Austen Writer’s Club by Rebecca Smith, one of her great nieces.

The heroines, taken from various films.
The heroines, taken from various films.

Scholars say that she had a natural talent for speech and listening to the way that people spoke, which is evident from reading her work.

           “I have sometimes thought,” said Catherine, doubtingly, “whether ladies do write s much better letters than gentlemen!  That is – I should not think the superiority was always on our side.”

           “As far as I have had opportunity of judging, it appears to me that the usual style of letter-writing among women is faultless, except in three particulars.”

           “And what are they?

           “A general deficiency of subject, a total inattention to stops and a very frequent ignorance of grammar.”

 From Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen

There is an honesty in the stories that made me wonder how an 18th century spinster could know so much, and I wanted to learn more.

Jane was born on 16 December 1775. She was the youngest of eight children – six brothers and one sister.  Her father was a clergyman.  Jane’s father died when she was aged 30, which meant that she and her sister, Cassandra, moved house several times and struggled a bit financially.  Quite a bit, to be honest.  They basically relied on handouts from the family and whatever they could make in other ways – one being Jane’s writing.  I think there was a touch of autobiography in many of her novels – most of her heroines had a bit of a financial constraint on them.

Jane started to write in her teens, even as a child she’d written plays for the entertainment of her siblings.  She was encouraged to read and this is clearly where her loves of books arose.  Her first novel was Love and Friendship.  It was written as a series of love letters, although in true Austen style, it was something of a parody.  Remember, there were no mobile ‘phones in those days, and people really did send love letters.  Love and Friendship is classed as one of the Juvenilia Stories.

With the help of one of her brother’s, Jane started publishing her work when she was in her 30s.  Hard for us, I know, but we have to remember that it was “not the done thing” for women to have jobs in those days, unless it was something like a governess or companion  – George Eliot, who was born a couple of years after Jane’s death, was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans.

Sense and Sensibility came first, followed by Pride and Prejudice which, I think, was Jane’s favourite.  These were followed by Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.  Sanditon was unfinished when she died.  Some say the same of Lady Susan, also classed by some as one of the Juvenilia Stories, and unfinished, although I have always thought it stood alone, and seems very complete to me.  If you haven’t read it, I recommend it.  It’s another book written as a series of letters, very effective.

Jane became ill in her 40s.  It is widely thought the she suffered from Addison’s disease, a condition in which the adrenal glands don’t make enough of a hormone called cortisol, one of the stress hormones, also used in the regulation of some major bodily functions.  It leaves the body open to other conditions, and, in Jane’s case, there is some evidence that she may actually have had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, perhaps as a result of Addison’s.

I have often thought – and said – that were she to live today, Jane would have been a writer and a coach.  She had a very clear philosophy, evident in her letters (most of those remaining were written to her sister) – whatever you want to do, just get on and do it.  For an 18th century woman, this was very forward thinking.

Why didn’t she marry?

 When I first read her books, I thought that Jane must have been the subject of unrequited love somewhere along the way, and, it seems that was the case.  When she was 20, she met a chap called Tom Lefroy (sounds a bit like a George Clooney character).  It seems they had a bit of a dalliance, but he had no money, nor did she, so that ended as quickly as it began.  Jane had subsequent offers of marriage but refused them all.  I like to think that she was still holding a candle for him.  In fact, she probably was, if she turned down subsequent offers.  She and her sister could have lived far more comfortably had one of them been married.  So now I know how she knew so much!

Whatever your views on her novels, consider this: Jane wrote without a typewriter or laptop.  All her novels were written by hand.

Jane Austen personal quotes

 These are some of my favourite of Jane’s personal quotes, taken from http://www.janeausten.org/jane-austen-quotes.asp

“Wisdom is better than wit, and in the long tune will certainly have the laugh on her side.”

 “Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor.  Which is one very strong argument in favour of matrimony.”

 “One man’s style must not be the rule of another’s.”

 “Every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies.”

 “Business, you know, may bring you money, but friendship hardly ever does.”

 “An artist cannot do anything slovenly.”

 

© Susan Shirley 2016

 

 

Hypnotherapy

I first qualified as a hypnotherapist over ten years ago, and re-qualified earlier this year. I am now, officially, a Master hypnotherapist. What is she going on about? I hear you say.

Wikipedia defines hypnotherapy as “an alternative curative healing method that is used to create subconscious change in a patient in the form of new responses, thoughts, attitudes, behaviours or feelings. It is undertaken with a subject in hypnosis.” I suppose a psychiatrist would talk about a patient; I would refer to them as a client.

Before you start thinking that I get people running around barking like dogs, or similar, please understand that it is not possible to get people to do anything under hypnosis that they would do otherwise. Those people that behave like that do so because they want to.  With the exception of George Estabrooks, who, arguably, practised mind control in some circumstances, rather than hypnotherapy.

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I think it’s fair to say that no-one really knows where hypnosis originated – somewhere in India or Ancient Egypt probably. From a Western point of view, we can probably trace it back to the eighteenth century, when Franz Mesmer developed a consistent system with which to hypnotise people. Mesmer was a bit of a showman, and liked to dress up in a cloak, link groups of people together with a rope and play ethereal music. No surprise that hypnosis got a bad a name.

In the nineteenth century, two Scottish surgeons, James Braid and James Esdaile, recognised the benefits of using hypnotherapy prior to surgery and were amongst the first doctors to have hypnosis accepted by their peers. Hypnotherapy didn’t really make it into the mainstream though, at least, not until the First World War. The large number of British soldiers who suffered from what was then called Shell Shock (and would probably have been called PTSD now) required a different approach. A psychiatrist named J A Hadfield developed what he called “hypnoanalysis.” Sadly, it fell from favour at the end of the war in the UK, however, a number of doctors and dentists in the States continued with its use.

The man known as the world’s greatest hypnotherapist was Milton Erickson, an American psychiatrist, was one of these. He specialised in using what are generally known as “persuasive language patterns” to induce trance in his patients. It wasn’t until 1955 that hypnosis was endorsed by the BMA for use in the UK, although now it is possible to find medics who use it alongside more conventional therapies.

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Uses of Hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy is probably most commonly used for weight loss and to stop smoking, but it can used for pain control, overcoming fears and phobias, stress management, insomnia and overcoming bad habits. It’s been shown to have success in treating a number of other conditions, including:

Cancer-related pain

Indigestion

Tinnitus

Acne, eczema, and psoriasis

Fibromyalgia

Tension headaches

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If you are interested in hypnotherapy treatments, please feel free to contact me.

© Susan Shirley 2016