A novelist writes about the mind, body and soul.

The extraordinary Mr Mark Whiteley

About eighteen months ago, I wrote an article for Vogue, in which I tried out several “cutting edge” treatments, including having fat cooled off my hips, and my own blood injected into my face.  The most credible person I saw was Mr Mark Whiteley, who is the vein man. I started a treatment to  have the thread veins on my legs removed.This is what I wrote about him at the time –

Mark Whitely, pioneering consultant vascular surgeon has a reassuring, courteous manner and I feel calm when he casts his eyes over my thread veins. In 1999, Whiteley was the first to introduce “keyhole vein surgery” to the UK. His clinic in Guildford is a leading specialist centre in vein treatment and he divides his time between surgery, research and lecturing. During my initial consultation in Harley Street, I am given an ultrasound examination to see what the underlying cause of my veins is. To eradicate the small, visible thread veins, he will have to treat the feeder veins, (the hidden veins) under the skin with foam sclerotherapy. At my next appointment, he injects foam containing a liquid mixed with a gas combination directly into the veins, guided by ultrasound. The foam pushes the blood out of the veins and acts like a chemical burn on the walls of the vein to destroy them over a period of months. The injection and the sensation of “killing the veins” is a little sharp but the procedure is all over in twenty minutes. Afterwards my legs are bound with bandages and trussed up in  compression stockings which have to be worn 24/7 for two weeks. On day one, I feel depressed  but by day three, I am sort of used to sticking my legs over the bath .

What I didn’t realise is that one treatment won’t necessarily get rid of the little buggers (although after two treatments, the majority of the really ugly bruise like veins behind my knees were gone). Yesterday I went back for my third treatment (in eighteen months) and was charmed by Mr Whitely all over again,despite being worried about an odd brownish mark that has appeared under my knee and won’t seem to go, since I had the first treatment.  God knows when the man gets any rest?  He’s so in demand all over the world, to talk, and research, and operate. He kept my mind occupied as he told me about astrophysics, black holes, theories on vein research, the inability of the NHS to understand why they should operate on veins immediately.

A big downside to having the treatment is that you then have to wear surgical stockings for 14 days and nights, and it’s pretty tortuous. I thought I’d check in with you all about that procedure, as I need some encouragement and perhaps writing it down, will egg me on.

First night: Determined to carry on with my life as normal, I did my Monday night yoga session. Mr W said it would be fine as long as I didn’t get sweaty. It was pretty much OK. But during the night, the back of my knees hurt when I curled into the foetal position, (as the stockings were cutting in)  so I kept  having to stretch my legs. Then this morning was the washing challenge:  It basically means getting into the bath, and sticking my legs over it. Not too bad, but my feet already have huge dents in then from the tight tights.

I feel very lucky to have seen Mr W. New thread veins had appeared on my calf, long green veins, which are really ugly and ageing, YUK….
Location and details »

The Whiteley Clinic
1 Stirling House
Stirling Road

T: 01483 477180
Fax: 01483 477194

Location and details »

The Whiteley Clinic
at The Wimpole Clinic
4th Floor, Hannah House
11 – 16 Manchester Street
London W1U 4DJ

T: 01483 477180
Fax: 01483 477194


Acute Morning Sickness – Men! More sympathy please

When news of Kate Middleton’s acute morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum as its known in medical circles, hit the news last week, I was really annoyed by the chauvinistic remarks on my facebook page: They were along the  lines of “if she’s going into hospital for a few days for morning sickness, how long would she need for appendicitis, several months? And “I have a sickness  – I hate mornings” etc.  A few (I presume childless women joined in)  I wrote in her defence “it’s no joke.” Not that I suffered from acute morning sickness, but I know what it’s like to be so seasick that  I remember thinking, I’d rather die than go through this. There is nothing much worse than feeling so sick you can’t move.

I have two friends who have been hospitalized for hyperemesis gravidarum – neither of them ever got pregnant again. Men on the whole, don’t seem very sympathetic to the idea of women being sick in pregnancy. I remember my husband telling me that my own morning sickness was “psychological” Yes I could have murdered him.

The following is an account sent to me by email from one of my friends when I asked her to remember what had happened, during her last pregnancy. She told me the story recently and I remember her saying that her husband had to stop work to look after their two young children as she spent  about three months in and out of hospital.

I can’t quite remember at what point it started, but quite early on and quickly got bad. Bad being throwing up continuously – bile and blood and all! I think I lasted a couple of days before I went into hospital to be rehydrated, and strangely it stopped after a day or so of being there. So they discharged me and I had a few good days at home and it kicked in again, so back I went to hospital. This was the pattern for a few weeks – fine in hospital, but bad at home. I only had to get in the car to go home and I’d be sick.

I realised there must be some psychosomatic dimension (apparently for some people the colour of the walls can trigger it!) which made it twice as frustrating because I REALLY didn’t want to be in hospital. I tried staying with my sister but that didn’t work. I tried hypnosis and acupuncture, but no good. My consultant told me his experience was that it tended to happen to high-achieving control freaks, which I suppose applied to me once (still a control freak, but not now achieving much). I think a progesterone imbalance also has something to do with it, which is why it’s more common with female babies. (A future queen?)

Anyway, it dragged on and on until I ended up being just as sick in hospital as out, and they started to worry I was losing too much weight and that it was a risk to the baby (I never felt she was at risk – in the end born over 9lbs). So they put me on some hideous food drip through a tube into my chest for 2 weeks – didn’t help! By now I’d really had enough and thought I’d go mad. The anti-nausea drugs didn’t seem to do much and the food was so grim. I used to pace the corridors at night unable to sleep a wink and craving cold milk, looking and feeling a complete fright. Finally they decided to put me on a steroid called prednisilone, which they were a bit anxious about because they didn’t know if it might transfer across the placenta and affect the baby’s future growth, etc. There was a doctor at St.Thomas’s who talked them through it. And luckily it worked, hooray! So home I went, now about 5 months pregnant, and developed a horse-like appetite, got stronger and refused to go anywhere near the hospital again and Grace was born at home.

Complexion Perfection Review

The other day, depressed by winter, and feeling exhausted, I booked in for  a facial with Neena Trehan, who is the owner of  Spa fabulous Organic. She designs all her own 100% organic products. The ones she used on me smelt exquisite, (she is very fond of Frankinsence, which she discovered while working in the Middle East) and most importantly the products are free from parabens, pertro-chemicals,  sulphate,  artificial fragrances,  colours and are not tested on animals.  Her new facial is called Complexion Perfection. As well as massaging the skin with her hands and a muslin cloth, she uses a vacuum suction machine which she designed, which actually feels quite pleasant. This facial makes your skin glow and is more effective than a usual steam and mask and more relaxing than a peel or a caci facial. It brings blood to the surface, and the bags under my eyes definitely looked less dark and baggy, and the skin on my nose free from blackheads.  24 hours later, people were telling me how well I looked. Sadly it’s now, 3 days since the facial and after two late nights my skin no longer has that special glow, but it was marvellous while it lasted.  It costs £70 for 70 minutes, but will vary in price according to where you have it. Below is a photograph seconds after my facial, with a great glow. 

All About Beauty

I was really excited to be asked to review a beauty box from AllAboutBeauty: One because I love beauty products, and two because receiving a box in the post, is fun.  Once you have signed up a box is delivered once a month, with products that are sourced from around the world, and not in sample sizes but full size products.  Half the fun is not knowing what you are going to receive. The Allaboutbeauty BEAUTYBOX costs £15 (plus £2.95 P+P)which seems very reasonable. There were four products, plus a kind of oil burner – (one thing I would have appreciated would have been a description of the products in a letter format or something, as I am not quite sure how the burner works and it would be interesting to read about the Kipos cleanser, toner and face drops and the Moonlife Moisturizer.) I would have liked to know who Kipos are? Are the products new? How much do they cost? Where are the ingredients sourced etc and also how much they would have been to buy direct so that I would feel smug, knowing how much I was saving. The toner seems particularly good and really gets the London grime off, more than the toner I use at the moment. There is also a thick night cream from Dr Laranne, which is something I lack, so was extra pleased to receive – my skin dries up like an old rag in winter. The nightcream looks expensive, more than the £15 for the entire box, but I couldn’t seem to find out exactly how much when I googled it.

So if you’re thinking of subscribing to a beauty box in the post scheme, this one seems very good. The only scheme I have so far been signed up to, was receiving lacy knickers in the post once a month, for a year, from my husband, for Valentine’s Day. Lovely.

World Book Night Tonight

So far I’ve given away 17 copies of The Road by Cormac Mccarthy, in the W12 area of London. It’s World Book Night and I signed up to be a giver. I chose The Road, because when I read it about five or six years ago, I literally couldn’t put it down. Even though the subject matter is bleak , a father and his young son trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic America, desperately trying to reach the coast, it is also strangely uplifting. Only two people I have offered books to refused, one an old man, who perhaps thought I was selling him something and another a woman who works in a butcher shop who said she only likes “light reads.”  The shopkeepers in the opticians, the wine merchant, Tesco, the chemist, seemed the most pleased to receive a book.  The majority of people said they didn’t get round to reading very much. I gave away two books in the builders cafe – one to the owner and one to a man who said he wasn’t very well at the moment, but would read it when he got better. I gave one to a mother picking up children, and one to a young forlorn girl standing in a doorway, who was really pleased and surprised that the book was for free. She said she would give it to her auntie. A newsagent said she would give it to her daughter as she could only concentrate for about two lines when she reads.  I urged her to give it a go, she said she would. I also gave one to a man who was waiting in a dentist surgery and one to a mother picking up her kids, who said she hasn’t had much time to read recently.

I am not sure how many of these 17 receivers will actually finish the book, but it’s great to be able to give something away,  rather than sell something.

I will give the rest away early evening. If anyone can get to W12 and wants a copy let me know!

Losing Weight

I have now been on the Dukan Diet for about a year. I wrote this post last July, after my first few months on the diet. I had been meaning to try it for a long time, had already attempted it once without the book and failed. I then gave in and bought the book and made a real effort to follow the diet exactly. In my opinion it’s the best diet I have followed and there have been a few. I have attempted everything from the cabbage diet, to a boot camp in Devon, to having my food delivered, and I can confirm, that the Dukan is the only diet I’ve tried that keeps the weight off. But you have to work at it. The Dukan is a diet for life, and though I never reached my ideal weight with it, and would gleefully like to lose another five pounds, I know what to do, when I notice that I weigh more than I did a few days previously.  Knowing how to lose the weight and accepting that I have to follow some of the rules for life, makes me feel in control.

A couple of years ago, I went away for seven nights to a bootcamp to write an article for  a magazine, and lost 3lbs! I lost more weight the following week, when I was back home, but gradually put it all on again. There was such hard work involved  at the bootcamp, including hiking for miles on end wearing a heavy back bag, and doing military style workouts. We were given tiny amounts of food, and told to chew endlessly. I knew that it was not a regime, I would even be able to remotely follow, once I got home. The Dukan is manageable though. You don’t need to star jump and run about and hike uphill and you can eat as much as you like of the foods you are allowed. A win win situation!

One Week and Counting.

So it’s been just over a week now, that I have suddenly become a non-smoker. It’s quite an achievement and I still struggle at that six o clock moment.  I joined the NHS non smoking campaign and am really enjoying the text support I’m getting. I signed up for ‘light’ support and receive about two or three texts a day. I can’t think how many texts people receive if they want regular support, I find 3 is enough. If I crave a cigarette, I can text CRAVE, and suddenly a text will pop up in my inbox telling me to do one of the chores on my list to keep myself occupied or some other words of encouragement. There are numerous texts telling me how much I have saved by not smoking and congratulating me for my efforts. As I only smoked one or two a day, I don’t think I have made substantial savings yet, but still, it’s good to know that I am not breathing in carbon monoxide. It’s really quite great to feel supported. Yesterday a text arrived saying: Each smokefree day is an achievement so congratulate yourself every night. Each day will show how strong you are   and that’s something to be proud of. Today I got one telling me how to download a ten minute mediation if I feel stressed.

So that’s getting sorted I hope. I haven’t had to face the real test though – the one where I will have to go out to a party or something and there are PEOPLE SMOKING AND DRINKING and I just wander up to their huddled group and ask someone if I can have one. That was my downfall last time. I have decided to arm myself with chewing gum and pop one in my mouth if the urge takes over. I did resist one at my daughter’s birthday when my two girlfriends went outside to have a quick fag. I missed the camaderie, of giggling off outside to huff and puff and gossip, but was glad that I resisted.

But now I have to sort out the persistent headaches I get two weeks after the end of a menstrual cycle. I have one now, and it’s completely debilitating. I would appreciate any tips.


Smoking is evil and vile and cigarettes stink. They also kill you. I know this, we all know this, and yet some maverick, rebellious characters carry on doing it. You see huddles of them crowded outside parties, or office blocks. Sometimes they look as though they are in a secret, conspiratorial club and they are laughing. In winter they shiver and stamp their feet, which doesn’t look so much fun.

I am a smoker, who is on the brink of giving up forever.  The first time I stopped smoking, about two years ago, I was hypnotised by a woman, who gave me a CD to play afterwards.  I went to two hypnosis sessions and I listened to the tape, and  using a lot of will power, I managed to give up. Instead I ate all the children’s sweets.  After a few months, I noticed my husband had given up in sympathy, but I was slipping. I would have someone else’s cigarette at a party, but my husband wouldn’t budge. He was now a non-smoker and he hadn’t even been hypnotised

I only have one cigarette a day and I usually wait until the children go to bed. They point out that people die, they wave their hands around and grimace if they catch me out. “You’ve been smoking,” my daughter says when she smells smoke on me.  My husband tells me to go and smoke outside. Everyone hates it and me for doing it. Just this morning, I threw a pack of ten in the rubbish. Yesterday I forgot to go to my giving-up smoking appointment at the chemist. For three days before that I listened to my Georgia Foster hypnosis tape and I was fine for a few nights. My husband came back from tennis one evening and found me listening to the words, “no thank you, I am not a smoker, no thank you I am not a smoker,” being said over and over again on the hypnosis tape, which is what I am meant to say when someone offers me one.  He got the giggles and then I did and the whole thing ground to a halt.

I am going to listen to the tape again, and again, and again. I have to actually admit that I am not a smoker, because at the moment, I feel that I am hardly a smoker which is no good at all. Anyone have any tips?

The Park Club – Acton

If you want to be healthy, you do really have to do some exercise, we all know this and yet it can be really hard to commit.  I am not a gym bunny and in fact I don’t like any form of high-octane exercise. I’d rather go for a walk than  a run, or swim and sit in the steam room rather than an aerobics class and I don’t live near a lovely beach, which is just inviting me to walk down it. In fact I live between two busy London Streets, filled with noise, people and traffic.  I attempt to keep active by swimming and  going to pilates classes; sometimes I think about getting a small, well-behaved dog, which would force me to take long walks in the park.

I have been a member of various health clubs for the last twenty years, it’s a luxury but a really worthwhile one. My first club was adults only and it suited me fine at the time, as I was single and carefree. The second one I joined after getting married and having babies. The rule stated that children were allowed children in on a Wednesday afternoon to swim, which was not very satisfactory, but I kept going in a rather selfish way, because I was addicted to one particular yoga class taught by one particular teacher.  About four years ago, I gave in, wrenched myself away and joined a family friendly club – the Park Club in Acton.  I now can’t imagine my life without it.

I interviewed my children yesterday to find out what they thought about it. My daughter who is nearly 8 said she loved the cafe there, “which has nice cookies, lollipops, crisps and water for free! So you don’t have to waste time queuing when you’re hot.” They serve healthy food too, but she’s not at all interested in that. She loves their assault course, which is tucked away in one part of the 27 acres of land.  “They have giant viking boats that go really high, a giant swing, a wobbly thing you have to stand on, and a standing see-saw.” She also likes the pool (there is an indoor and outdoor one) “because you can learn to swim and have fun.” And she also added to my surprise that, “the rules are really sensible, like children are not allowed in the jacuzzi, or in the gym, because they could hurt themselves.” My ten-year old son, says he likes the fact that you can just turn up and find someone to play football with and he says, “there is brilliant coaching.” So all in all a success. It’s particularly comforting to sit on their terrace on a sunny Sunday, sipping tea, reading newspapers and not worrying that the children have met some pervert in a public park. (I kid you not, a park policeman once warned me about a man who had been arrested in our local park for spying on children behind a tree!)

I absolutely love it at the Park Club,  and it’s great in the school holidays. The children could actually spend all day there, running around, or going to a holiday camp  and they have a certain amount of freedom to roam.  I was depressed recently, when I went to see Swallow and Amazons and was once again reminded about the level of freedom kids were given in those days – 1929. The children were allowed to go to an island and camp out on their own. Who would let their children do that now? The Park Club, admittedly is not an island but it does feel like a welcome oasis in a busy, urban, sometimes scary world.

A Different Kind of Facial – Environ Active Vitamin Treatment

“What have you done?” My friend Geraldine asked. Have you given up smoking? Eating green vegetables and miso soup? Getting more sleep? Whatever it is you look really good..younger.” We were sitting at Kensington PLace, last night, sharing oysters and King Size prawns, and catching up on three months worth of news. My giving up smoking has been at best pathetic, (I was meant to give up for Lent) but have so far only managed 3 or 4 days without any cigarettes -although as Geraldine says, one cigarette a day is “negligable,” Good friend. Anyway to get back to the point I recently had an interesting Environ Facial and for about a week now, have been using some Environ Products,  – perhaps this is why I look well. Well according to my friend anyway.

You need time to commit to this facial, I’ve only had one, (Which lasted two hours including initial consultation) but you are meant to do a course of six or so. My therapist Faye, at the Skin 3 Clinic,  in Swiss Cottage, talked to me for at least half an hour prior to the facial, about my concerns. I mentioned visible pores, and didn’t bother to add ageing skin generally,  that goes without saying.  She analysed my skin  and concluded that  the Active Vitamin Facial would be best for me as it’s packed with nourishing, anti-ageing ingredients including Vitamins A and C, lactic Acid  and growth factors, which are driven deep into the lower layers of the skin using soundwaves and electronic pulses. Great for me as it’s supposed to address sun damage, dryness, uneven skin tone and scarring and stimulate collagen and improve elasticity.

The consultation with Faye included a skin analysis which was taken from a photograph of my face. The different images scanned on the computer showed where my scary looking sun damage, brown pigmentation, blemishes, capillary damage, wrinkles, scars and imperfections and congested pores are clustered. Terrifying stuff. The machine also showed me what my face would look like in 5 years time, if I don’t keep up with the treatments. Also scary!

This is not a relaxing pampering facial, but you really do feel that your skin is benefitting from proper scientific research and it was obvious that Faye really believes in and is excited about the products. We shall see what happens, if I ever go back to have my skin analysed again, perhaps those blemishes and congested pores will have miraculously vanished!

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