I grew up in a family where making things was a way of life. My parents were from the WW2 ‘make do and mend’ generation. So in my early teens I learnt to cook, sew, darn, drill holes and fix things. This wasn’t quite as Puritan as it sounds. I used my skills in the service of my teenage passions; cooking up enormous stacks of pancakes and trays of toffee, making the skinniest jeans ever and brewing up orange wine (unfortunately the bottles exploded overnight leaving the pantry door studded with huge glass shards). One summer I painted the outside of our two story house my favorite shade of pistachio green (it was the 70s) and transformed the garden shed into a photographic dark room (except I painted the interior brilliant white not black, so my dad got a new tool shed instead).
My mum, a trained nurse, grew up in a Scottish family where Professor Kirk’s nature cure recipes were the family bible. So medicine was usually a homemade cure. As kids we learnt how to apply a bandage and disinfect a wound (also how to do hospital corners on beds), but we also made our own treatments, applying hot olive oil massages to damaged or sore body parts, bread poultices were used to pull out splinters, steam inhalations soothed lungs and homemade lemon, orange and honey drinks (my dad’s recipe had whiskey in it!) eased colds and the flu. The local doctor, a man of questionable talent (he pronounced one of the neighbors dead and then a few hours later she woke up in the morgue) was only called out in extremis.
Over the years we’ve managed some amazing medical turnarounds with these simple home remedies. This Xmas I’ve been applying honey to mum’s ulcerated feet and massaging them with hot olive oil in hopes she can walk again soon. The honey has been working better than any medical ointment in soothing the sores. My mum had a triple heart bypass in late 2013. It is not a treatment I can recommend based on mum’s results. All the drugs used (in particular the long anesthesia) damaged her already challenged kidneys, which set off a cascade of problems not least sending her blood pressure over 200 systolic. Also, the removal of leg veins for use in the bypass has resulted in compromised leg circulation. Now her feet are often purple and she gets foot ulcers which are hard to heal and so painful she can’t walk. From talking to friends, these problems are quite common in elderly women. A friend’s mum lost her toes post bypass after the circulation to her legs diminished. And a childhood friend’s mum died on the operating table when her kidneys failed during the bypass (the doctors had the cheek to tell her that the operation was a success, as her heart had taken the grafts!) So at the moment I am home and with a little love, honey and a prayer, mum might be on her feet again soon.