Elizabeth Day: ‘Sometimes it’s good to shut up and listen’

‘Sometimes it’s good to shut up and listen’

Dress, Rixo, from Trilogy. Sandals, Malone Souliers

I recently had a sore throat for three weeks. It wasn’t tonsillitis. Nor was it a symptom of flu. The doctor told me it was ‘a virus’, which seems to be what everyone says about any bodily function that falls out of the normal realm. (‘Oh, your arm has been chopped off? Virus, mate. Nothing you can do about it. Just wait for it to pass.’)

The side effect was that I didn’t quite lose my voice but it became distinctly quiet: it was difficult to project to my dining companion in noisy restaurants. At social gatherings, I could not be heard over background music. After a while, I contented myself with observing the proceedings and not talking.

To begin with, it was stressful not being able to take part in the cut and thrust of conversation. If I had a joke to make, no one would hear it. If someone posed a question I was able to answer, I couldn’t raise my voice enough to reply. It was like being a foreign exchange student unable to make herself understood by her host family.

But after a few days, I started to find my imposed silence relaxing. Previously, my default in a social setting had been to strike up conversation and to ensure everyone else was included. I think a lot of women have cultivated this skill – it’s a way of collaborating with others and building a community, rather than dominating the discourse with pompous certainty in the way that certain alpha males are wont to do.

With my unexplained sore throat, I was forced into the position of observer. When I was with close friends, it turned out the chatter happened quite easily without my interventions. Perhaps, I realised, I’d been inventing a role for myself all along. But when I was with people I knew less well, it was a different matter.

Uber drivers, for instance, seemed to think it was insulting that I didn’t automatically want to launch into a detailed conversation about how my day had been or how theirs had been. When I explained hoarsely that I had a sore throat, they shrugged as if I were lying. There was a time when we were allowed to get into the back of taxi-cabs and look out of the window at the passing scenery. These days, a glance out of the window is taken as an invitation by the driver to converse, as if gazing at the passing landscape is a cry for help. ‘So,’ the driver will start. ‘How has your day been?’

Silences don’t always have to be awkward 

I want to say that I’d be far happier left alone with my thoughts for 20 minutes. I have the rest of my week to talk relentlessly. But this, too, would be taken as rudeness and my Uber rating would plummet further. Instead, I’ve reverted to asking for the radio to be on and leaving a tip to assuage my entirely unnecessary guilt. A friend of mine pretends she’s in the early stages of pregnancy and that talking makes her nauseous. ‘They hate the idea that I’ll throw up in the back of their cab,’ she says. ‘It works a treat.’

I’ve never managed to do this with a straight face. But when the sore throat eventually passed, I thought about the value of silence. There is so little of it in our lives. Every café has a playlist of painfully slowed-down acoustic versions of rock classics on loop. Every train carriage is polluted by the tinny feedback of other people’s leaking headphones. Every television and radio news programme is a mad pile-up of vocal opinion. And truly? It’s knackering.

Yet the alternative – silence – is distrusted. It’s as if, in being quiet, we’re signalling our disapproval, in the same way someone doing dry January makes the rest of us feel bad for getting drunk. Maybe we need to get more comfortable with not talking. Silences don’t always have to be awkward, after all. Sometimes, you’re just looking at the view.

This week I’m…

Reading What Red Was by Rosie Price. A debut novel that examines the effect of one woman’s sexual trauma and the repression of English class. 

Wearing these hoop earrings from Mango. They go with everything without being boring. 

Walking in black mock-croc mules from Zara. I always like a heel that I can run for the tube in and wear with jeans or dress up for the evening.

 

 

LIZ JONES’S DIARY: In which I get more dating advice

LIZ JONES’S DIARY: In which I get more dating advice

‘He is blind to the fact that he’s the one who needs to change’

On the last Bank Holiday Monday, while prone in A&E having fallen off my horse, waiting for the X-rays of my ribs, my phone pinged. A text.

Ooh, who’s this?

My phone didn’t recognise the number. ‘Something understood,’ it said. And that was it.

Hmm. Now what? I checked the number: not from my ex David, so who was it? Then, after a week when I could hardly move, I get an email and this time it is indeed from David.

‘Hi. I’m stuck in France with a flat battery so while that charges I find myself with time on my hands [!]. I can honestly say that I did not see your message asking, “Where do we go from here? If anywhere.” It was not until I read your column that I realised I’d missed it. I’ve been thinking about where we go, or if we should go there, for many months.

‘I’m glad I delayed my reply, especially after reading the column about your hypnotherapy. It appears to be benefiting you. I hope that’s the case. I would love to know who you had tied in your imaginary “chair” in the visualisation session. I hope it wasn’t me. Would you like to join me for dinner and a catch-up? Any time, any place. David X’

Hmmm. Before answering, I forward it to my dating guru Hayley Quinn to be analysed. She replies: 

‘1. He begins by talking about himself and his problems.

‘2. He justifies waiting so long to reply as a benefit to you: “I’m glad I waited…”

‘3. He reads your column but doesn’t answer your message? I’d rather he were more engaged with the private than the public you.’

She adds that he is under the illusion he has no need to change. ‘Totally one-sided – even his “the hypnotherapy appears to be benefiting you” seems to be placing the necessity to change (and the viability of the relationship) with  you and your personal development. It’s subtle, though, so I’m not surprised you were kept in this attachment for so long. I’m really hoping that this can now be door shut, windows open.’

Anyway, today I’m off for more of my hypnosis treatment with Malminder Gill to encourage me to let go of past slights and be less anxious. She leads me downstairs to her treatment room. ‘Thanks for the mention in your column,’ she says. ‘Though I did get a few abusive messages on my Facebook page after it came out.’ Oh dear. An online troll had taken issue with the diagnosis of a toxic person in my life as a ‘narcissist’. I ask to read the messages but Malminder has already deleted them.

I recline on the couch. She starts to talk, beginning with a story about a woman who was afraid to leave the house in case she had a stomach upset. The rest is a blur: I either fall asleep or am under her spell. She is certain the session today will have a long-term effect; in any event, she will email me a recording of her voice, which I am to listen to twice a week before bed.

After the session I don’t feel hugely different and anyway I’m starting to wonder if I really want to join the ranks of the super-confident. I can’t stand confident people. Take this young woman, writing in Vogue: ‘I’ve just returned from my honeymoon and spent two weeks offline, catching up on my neglected reading list.’ Dear God, I imagine her poor new husband is ruing the day they tied the knot. I spent my honeymoon terrified NatWest was going to call me, saying the cheque to pay for the reception had bounced. 

I don’t think sailing, entitled, through life makes you a very nice person. You certainly don’t ever feel the need to improve. There is no self-doubt. This must be the crux of what’s wrong with David: he’s so confident in who he is, he’s blind to the fact he’s the one who needs to change. I’m doing all I can to self-improve: hearing aids so I don’t keep saying, annoyingly, ‘Eh?’ Hypnosis so I can leave the house.

I stop off at Selfridges to stock up on make-up: Chanel foundation, Laura Mercier tinted moisturiser to blot out the sun, Sisley primer and concealer to erase my past. I go to my dentist and have my teeth cleaned. I buy an oversized sweater by Navygrey. I am not going to have dinner with an arrogant a*** any time soon. Clearly I’m not. But I like to be prepared, just in case.

 

Beauty Therapy: This really is good, clean fun 

Beauty Therapy: This really is good, clean fun

Meet my new hero: the fruity cleanser that’s changing the face of skincare 

Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser

My 15-year-old niece Thea describes Drunk Elephant as ‘the coolest brand ever’. And though that may be on the superlative side, I know this beauty company has really caught people’s attention. Yes, there’s the cute name (derived from its key ingredient of marula oil – eating the fruit is said to make elephants tipsy) and the colourful packaging, but it’s more than that. Drunk Elephant represents a sea change in the business; it’s beauty zeitgeist stuff, riding into the skincare arena like a knight on a charger, championing the clean movement. For its big message is that it’s free from what it calls the ‘suspicious 6’: essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical screens, fragrance/dyes and sodium lauryl sulphate.

It’s riding into the beauty arena like a knight on a charger 

Although I hadn’t quite found my personal groove with the label, I realised this was a case of the cheese stands alone. Other than the marula oil, which is lovely but not dramatically different from others, I hadn’t come across my hero in the range: until now, with the recently launched Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser (£29, spacenk.com). Butter is the perfect name for this because it looks like a balm but feels really soft and is easy to spread over the face. It’s also lightweight and glides on with the fingertips, making it super-easy to give yourself a facial massage at the same time. Rubbing it into the skin will lift off any kind of grime, make-up or sunscreen. Add a touch of water and it turns to a light milky texture that’s easily wiped off with a warm flannel.

My new cleanser of choice, it makes my skin feel ultra-clean without being dry or leaving behind any residue. And though the name Slaai may sound like modern slang for beating the competition, it’s inspired by the Afrikaans for salad, with a dash of artistic licence as the ingredients – including blueberry, kiwi, strawberry extracts and cranberry, acai and watermelon fruit oils to comfort and moisturise skin – are found in a fruit salad rather than the green version.

It comes with a small vial of bamboo and charcoal grains for an exfoliating boost. Sprinkle a small amount into the cleanser once or twice a week to turn it into a dual-action thing of wonder.

3 more classy cleansers   

Chanel Anti-Pollution Micellar Cleansing Water (£32, chanel.com) is a very swanky but also effective and gentle make-up remover for all skin types. Ingredients are 96 per cent natural in origin and a prebiotic helps to maintain good skin health.

Formula Radiant Cleanse Cleansing Balm (£14, marksandspencer.com) is a hardworking, lightly perfumed balm that emulsifies into a milky texture. It comes with muslin cloths for removal, though personally I prefer to use a flannel.

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil (£24, harveynichols.com) has become a cult favourite. It’s formulated with antioxidant-rich olive oil, which gives a really thorough cleanse, though some will prefer to use oil as the first step of a double cleanse.

Shots of vodka, opera at dinner and unusual décor! What sort of Airbnb you get in Armenia for £20

Booking an Airbnb is a bit of a lucky dip – you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get.

I certainly didn’t expect however, after booking a £19 wooden lodge in Armenia, that the stay would come with home cooked meals, a tour of the local area, a spot of opera at the dinner table and flowing shots of vodka.

The wacky two-bedroom abode my friend Jane and I stayed in also featured some very interesting decor, with holes in the wall, a metallic spray-painted piece of foam acting as the bathroom mirror and a trippy picture of Armenian musician Sayat Nova hanging above one of the beds, which gave me nightmares.  

MailOnline Travel’s Sadie Whielocks checked into a £19 Airbnb while cycling in Armenia. The Airbnb was located in the small Armenian village of Arzakan and it features two bedrooms. Above, the bedroom artwork that gave Sadie nightmares

Sadie said a metallic spray-painted piece of foam acted as the bathroom mirror, seen above

Sadie said a metallic spray-painted piece of foam acted as the bathroom mirror, seen above 

After searching Airbnb for somewhere to stay, Sadie said she was immediately drawn to the listing for a 'charming wooden house in Arzakan', with the exterior of the lodge looking quite whimsical

After searching Airbnb for somewhere to stay, Sadie said she was immediately drawn to the listing for a ‘charming wooden house in Arzakan’, with the exterior of the lodge looking quite whimsical

We had cycled just over 25 miles (40km) from the Armenian capital of Yerevan to the small village of Arzakan and quickly checked Airbnb en route to find somewhere to stay for the night. 

I was immediately drawn to the ‘charming wooden house in Arzakan’ listing, with the exterior of the lodge looking quite whimsical. As we cycled into Arzakan we met up with our Airbnb host, Levon, and followed his car to our accommodation for the night. 

We soon realised after getting to Armenia that communication is tricky, as most people out of the main cities don’t speak English.

Thankfully, Levon had a young neighbour who was able to roughly translate and the duo directed us to the wooden house we’d be staying in. 

It was certainly an unusual cabin, with an eclectic mix of furnishings making my head spin slightly.  After dumping our cycle packs, Levon insisted we go to the main house for some tea and coffee. After a long cycle it sounded ideal and we eagerly followed.  

The Airbnb hosts provided a homecooked meal. The dining table was blanketed with a fine spread of Armenian treats, including brine string cheese, slices of spicy sausage and lavash flatbread

The Airbnb hosts provided a homecooked meal. The dining table was blanketed with a fine spread of Armenian treats, including brine string cheese, slices of spicy sausage and lavash flatbread

A plate of steamed white fish served as the main course for dinner

A plate of steamed white fish served as the main course for dinner 

The Airbnb hosts laid out a selection of Armenian sweets for tea time (seen above), with walnuts and cherries steeped in syrup, slices of chocolate cream cake and chopped fruit

The Airbnb hosts laid out a selection of Armenian sweets for tea time (seen above), with walnuts and cherries steeped in syrup, slices of chocolate cream cake and chopped fruit

Levon’s wife Eva had laid out a selection of Armenian sweets for tea time, with walnuts and cherries steeped in syrup, slices of chocolate cream cake and chopped fruit. 

Jane and I felt slightly awkward with the friendliness of our hosts and the lack of a shared language, but we tried the best we could with the help of the translator. 

A music channel played away on the TV and we directed our attention there in moments of silence. Another source of entertainment were Levon’s children, with his baby daughter softly gurgling and his toddler son excitingly flying around.

Going above and beyond, Levon then offered us a tour of the surrounding area and said that he would drive us to the neighbouring village of Bjni to see the 11th century Holy Mother of God church, but that extra would cost us 3,000 Armenian Dram (just £4.95). 

Sadie and her friend Jane seen fuelling up at breakfast before a day of cycling

Sadie and her friend Jane seen fuelling up at breakfast before a day of cycling 

Sadie said the homestay was 'unusual but certainly memorable', with wacky interiors and a friendly host. Above, one of the bedrooms

Sadie said the homestay was ‘unusual but certainly memorable’, with wacky interiors and a friendly host. Above, one of the bedrooms

The toilet at the Airbnb in Armenia

The Airbnb hosts Levon and Eva with their two young children

A view of the toilet at the quirky Airbnb (left), and the property hosts Levon and Eva with their two young children (right)

We took up the offer and drove around with him and his translator soaking up some of the local sights – including hot springs, a derelict night club and ancient fortress. 

As soon as we returned – still in our sweaty cycling gear – we were ushered back to the main house for a family-style dinner. 

It certainly seemed extravagant and we offered to do our own thing for dinner – we still had bread and peanuts in our supply packs – but Levon insisted we dine with them.

The dining table was blanketed with a fine spread of Armenian treats, including brine string cheese, slices of spicy sausage and lavash flatbread. 

A map showing where the small village of Arzakan in Armenia is located

A map showing where the small village of Arzakan in Armenia is located 

Eva then brought through a plate of steamed white fish while Levon doused our glasses with local wine and vodka.

It all felt rather bizarre but the alcohol certainly helped get everyone in good spirits and there were multiple ‘genatzts’ (the phonetic translation for cheers in Armenian) as we feasted. It also inspired Eva to serenade us with a spot of opera-style singing, which was beautiful and quite haunting. 

After dinner we rolled into our beds for the night. Luckily it was a warm night, so there was no cold seeping through the flimsy walls. 

The next morning Eva had made us breakfast, with some more of the delicious syrupy walnuts serving as fuel for the next leg of our cycle ahead.

All in all, our £19 stay at the ‘charming wooden house’ had been quite unusual but memorable to say the least.    

Woman, 54, develops eczema after having an allergic reaction to nickel in her DENTURES

Woman, 54, develops eczema on her hands and feet after suffering an allergic reaction to the nickel inside her dentures

  • Unnamed woman had previously reacted to metallic jewellery
  • Metal-allergy expert made the connection after a dermatologist missed it
  • Symptoms resolved when nickel implants were replaced with titanium ones 

A 54-year-old developed eczema on her hands and feet because of an allergic reaction to her nickel dentures.

The unnamed woman’s symptoms resolved when dentists replaced her implants with ones made of titanium, which she is not allergic to.

The woman, who had previously reacted to metallic jewellery, also had bleeding gums, as well as red patches of skin. 

A dermatologist initially prescribed her an ointment, however, when this failed to relieve her symptoms she visited a metal allergy expert.

A 54-year-old woman – who has not been named – developed eczema on her hands (pictured) as a result of an allergic reaction to the nickel implants that held her dentures in place

She also developed eczema on her feet (pictured). A patch test confirmed she is allergic to nickel, which is often used in dental work due to it being able to withstand acidic foods. However, over time, small fragments of the metal can break off and enter the bloodstream

She also developed eczema on her feet (pictured). A patch test confirmed she is allergic to nickel, which is often used in dental work due to it being able to withstand acidic foods. However, over time, small fragments of the metal can break off and enter the bloodstream

The reaction also caused the woman to endure bleeding gums (pictured)

The reaction also caused the woman to endure bleeding gums (pictured) 

WHAT IS A NICKEL ALLERGY?

Nickel allergy is a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis.

It may take repeated or prolonged exposure to items containing nickel to develop a nickel allergy.

The exact cause is unkown, but as with other allergies, it develops when your immune system views the metal as a harmful substance. 

Normally, your immune system only reacts to protect your body against bacteria, viruses or toxic substances.

Once your body has developed a reaction to a particular agent (allergen) your immune system will always be sensitive to it.

That means anytime you come into contact with nickel, your immune system will respond and produce an allergic response.

Your immune system’s sensitivity to nickel may develop after your first exposure or after repeated or prolonged exposure.  

Treatments can reduce the symptoms of nickel allergy, but once you develop it you’ll always be sensitive to the metal and need to avoid contact.

An allergic reaction usually begins within hours to days after exposure to nickel.

The reaction may last as long as two to four weeks.

The reaction tends to occur only where your skin came into contact with nickel, but sometimes may appear in other places on your body.

Nickel allergy signs and symptoms include:

– Rash or bumps on the skin

– Itching, which may be severe

– Redness or changes in skin color

– Dry patches of skin that may resemble a burn

– Blisters and draining fluid in severe cases 

Source: Mayo Clinic 

It was this specialist who made the connection between her red, itchy skin and her dental work.

The woman underwent an allergy-patch test at Tokushima University, Japan, which revealed she cannot tolerate nickel.   

Metal is often used in dental work due to it being able to withstand acidic foods, however, it does break down over time.

Small fragments can then enter the bloodstream and get absorbed into tissue elsewhere.

The woman first developed a rash on her feet when she was 45, which spread to her hands by the time she was 51.  

When she arrived at Tokushima University after ointments failed to help, a dental examination revealed she was missing several teeth. 

The woman underwent a skin-patch test for dental materials in the department for general allergens. Dr Yoshizo Matsuka led her therapy. 

The results, published in the journal Clinical Case Reports, came back as extremely positive for nickel.

Nickel’s presence in the woman’s denture implants was confirmed by extracting some of their ‘dust’ to determine their metallic make-up.

Once the nickel denture implants were removed and replaced, her symptoms improved initially.

However, she reported a relapse four months later.

An additional patch test was carried out, which confirmed she is not allergic to titanium.

The patient’s condition improved without treatment, leading the report’s authors to believe she may have come into contact with another unknown allergen.

On the back of the case report, the authors recommend dentists screen patients for allergens before starting treatment, particularly those with history of reactions to cosmetics or jewellery. 

Nickel allergy is a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis, according to the Mayo Clinic.

British Dental Association’s scientific adviser, Professor Damien Walmsley, said: ‘Nickel allergy is very common so it is unclear why this woman in Japan had implants/dentures with nickel in them in the first place.

‘Because it is such a common allergy, nickel isn’t used in dentures or implants available in the UK.’ 

Dr Emma Wedgeworth, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, said: ‘Nickel is the most common contact allergies that we see. 

‘Often this presents as an allergy to costume jewellery, watches or belt buckles. 

‘Because of its reactivity, nickel is not generally used in medical or dental implants.’

Her mouth became noticeably inflamed (pictured) before her nickel implants were replaced with titanium. A allergy test confirmed she is not allergic to the latter metal

Her mouth became noticeably inflamed (pictured) before her nickel implants were replaced with titanium. A allergy test confirmed she is not allergic to the latter metal

WHAT IS ECZEMA? 

Eczema is an inflammatory condition of the skin that leads to redness, blistering, oozing, scaling and thickening.

It usually appears in the first few months of life and affects around 10 per cent of babies.

Eczema’s cause is not fully understood but it is thought to be brought on by the skin’s barrier to the outside world not working properly, which allows irritants and allergy-inducing substances to enter.

It may be genetic due to the condition often running in families.

As well as their skin being affected, sufferers may experience insomnia and irritability.

Many factors can make eczema worse. These may include:

  • Heat, dust, soap and detergents
  • Being unwell, such as having a cold
  • Infections
  • Dry skin
  • Stress

There is no cure for eczema, however, 70 per cent of childhood sufferers no longer have the condition in their teens.

Patients should avoid known triggers for flare ups and use emollients.

Source: British Skin Foundation