Some Bright Spells
Copyright © Juliette Wills 2013
All rights reserved.
This book is dedicated to Mum and Dad, or as they are more affectionately known – Dum
You’re ridiculously amazing parents, but you know that already. Your support is
commendable because I know I drive you nuts. Without homemade apple pies and dad’s loose
change for parrot boots and plane tickets and donkey shirts and socks with cat faces on and all
the stuff which keeps me going, I wouldn’t be here today. I’ve only ever wanted to make you
proud. I love you.
To you, dear reader: thank you for buying this book. I hope it makes you laugh and cry in all
the right places. In case you’re wondering, the chapter headings are all songs which work
with the story. You could look them up on YouTube as you read. That’s right - it’s a book with
a soundtrack. Mentals!
Big thanks to Gautier Golab, Karl Thorne and Lyn Padbury
for the cover design.
by Damon Hill OBE, 1996 Formula One World Champion
Juliette is a very special person. I found that out when she worked
with the mechanics on my Formula One car. People really liked her, and she had real
talent. Her enthusiasm was boundless, and she had us all in stitches. None of us had any idea
that she was so unwell.
Formula One is exciting and glamorous, but ultimately places too much emphasis on all
the wrong things. Juliette wasn’t interested in the glitz and the glamour. I’d come in and find
her covered in engine oil, cleaning my car or fetching nuts and bolts for the mechanics in the
garage when she was supposed to be in a press conference.
Her harrowing story of her fight with chronic, crippling illness is told with brutal honesty.
Only a person as brave and talented as Juliette could share such an emotionally and physically
painful journey with such deft ironic subtlety. I was left stunned and saddened by her
experience, but inspired by her spirit as I was when I met her. I only had a sense back then that
Juliette was special; after reading her story, I now have no doubts. Her book is a reminder that
we take so much for granted, and that we live by the grace of God.
Nine hours have passed since I was brought into the operating theatre. As I jolt back to life
as if waking suddenly from a nightmare I’m convinced that I have been asleep for only a split
second. I try to open my eyes but something is pressing on them, a sensation so strange and
disquieting that I begin to panic. My chest tightens. I can’t draw breath. Then it comes: the pain
hits me instantaneously, burning its way around my body like a raging fire.
I try to move my fingers but nothing happens. I lay rigid, my eyes forced shut, the taste of
copper rising in the back of my throat. Gradually the ‘beep, beep, beep’ of a machine
somewhere to my left becomes more rapid and it is then that the muffled sound of distant
conversation stops abruptly. Someone is leaning over me; I can feel fingers brushing against
my cheekbones and the weight is suddenly gone from my eyes.
Somebody puts something over my face; they are telling me to breathe slowly and then
I’m being turned to my left, a flurry of hands pushing into my back, the pain moving with me,
worse now as it spills from my stomach and gathers under my rib cage like molten lava
pouring down the side of a volcano; a burning, stabbing pain which to this day I am still
unable to describe without it seeming as though it was, in some way, bearable. I’m going to
die, I think, the pain so excruciating and my chest so tight I wonder if I’m about to have a
When I wake up the pain has dulled slightly. I open my eyes.
I am still shaking. A shiny silver blanket is draped over me, the nurse tucking it around my
neck and over my feet, gently placing my hands by my sides so that they too are covered.
‘It’s OK, sweetheart,’ she whispers as she leans over my chest, ‘the epidural wasn’t in
right, that’s why it hurt so much.’
She pats my hand under the blanket. I glance to where the voice is coming from and see the
clock high up on the wall. It’s 9.03pm. My thoughts turn to where my parents are. I’m
screaming for my mum; in reality it’s the faintest of whispers. Nobody can hear me. The
oxygen mask blocks my words and my breath simply clings to the plastic in front of my face
before disappearing like a passing cloud. My eyes are heavy again and as I let them close I
feel the pain subside. I take a breath, the cold oxygen hitting the back of my throat, and I let
myself drift away, this time not sure if I will wake up again.
Had I known what was coming, I wouldn’t have wanted to.
‘RACE WITH THE DEVIL’
I’m in France, somewhere south of Paris but I’ve no idea where as I’ve been asleep for two
and a half hours. Uncurling from my foetal position in the bunk above the front of the truck I
edge down the steps to the cab to find the sun blazing through the window, the motorway
stretching out ahead as far as I can see.
‘We’re halfway there,’ says the driver, turning to me with a grin, ‘but you slept through the
Eiffel Tower and if you’re about to tell me that you need a wee, too bad. You’ll have to hang
on unless you want to go in the bushes.’ I scan the horizon in a panic as my brain processes
the words ‘wee’ followed by ‘hang on’. There is nothing but concrete for miles.
‘But there aren’t any bushes,’ I reply.
‘Exactly,’ he laughs.
What started off as a drunken idea - albeit a good one - was now a reality. I was on my way
to Magny-Cours for the French Formula One Grand Prix, covering the race for men's
magazine Loaded. The idea was that I’d travel to France with the B&H Jordan racing team to
help out in the garage for a week and generally make a nuisance of myself in front of
Formula One World Champion Damon Hill. It was the best idea I'd ever had, and fortunately
Loaded’s editor, Tim Southwell, and racing boss Eddie Jordan agreed.
Two bright yellow, gargantuan 40-tonne trucks, two drivers in each who doubled up as
electricians, plumbers, mechanics and pit stop men, and a few million pounds worth of F1
racing cars and little old me took off from the Oxfordshire countryside bang on 10am. It was
June 21, 1999, and in retrospect I can see why God deemed it the longest day of the year. As
we turned off towards Dover, practically going right past mum and dad’s house where I'd set
off from four hours earlier, I rang Mum.
‘I’m waving at you! We’ve just gone past the A224. Can you see us? As if I’m in a massive
yellow truck with Damon Hill's car in the back, eating crisps and going to France and getting
paid for it!’
‘As if indeed,’ laughed Mum, ‘they could have come and picked you up on the way! Be
good, be careful, don’t annoy Damon Hill or get run over, and have a great time.’
After the drive to Dover, a distinctly wobbly and vomit-inducing ferry ride to Calais,
driving a bit further, staying up too late and drinking far too much in a town I didn’t even
know the name of and a minute’s sleep in some hotel, we’re up again at 7am to resume the
journey, and are due at the circuit in Magny-Cours mid-afternoon.
‘The first job,’ says Dave as we pull in to the circuit behind the guys in the other truck, ‘is
to clean the trucks.’
‘What, after a cup of tea?’ I croak hopefully, but nobody’s listening. There’s only one thing
for it so I grab a bucket and broom thing and climb up the ladder onto the roof of the truck
and get cleaning. I find myself enjoying it, despite the sweltering 30 degree heat, newly
discovered vertigo and hangover. After dinner at the hotel we retire to the terrace for a drink,
and are delighted to see that we have a dual carriageway out the front and miles of flat, cowfilled fields round the back. I’ve never been one for watching lorries thundering by so I head
off to bed. As luck would have it my room faces the road. I go to bed with socks on my ears to
drown out the noise. I look like a 12-year-old girl dressed for a last-minute fancy dress party
as a poor imitation of Snoopy.
Wednesday, 8am, four days before the race, and we’re back at the circuit unloading 40 sets
of wheels, three cars, enough spares to build three whole new cars, and just about everything
else including napkins for the motor home, industrial water bottles and a pile of other things
made out of metal. By 10am it’s so hot that the cup of tea I’ve just made myself is getting
hotter, not colder, the longer I leave it. I wander out onto the circuit to see what I can do.
‘What can I do?’ I ask the mechanics. My answer came in the form of a ratchet thrust into
‘What’s this?’ I ask, turning it over in my hands. ‘Is it to tighten old roller-skates? Or are
we putting some pictures up?’ My questions were answered over the next two hours which
were spent drilling into concrete and making up the support frames on which the car ’s
bodywork rests during engine tinkering, before helping build the pit perches which line the
pit wall. Team boss Eddie Jordan and chief engineers watch the race on TV screens from
here, and these things have to be put up from scratch for every race.
I break three nails and acquire two raging blood blisters, but the perches are up, and what’s
more, when I shove them a bit, they don’t fall down. I pick up the temperature gun and point it
at the track. It’s a whopping 42 degrees and I’m exhausted already. I point it at my forehead,
and it registers 43 degrees.
‘Shouldn’t I be in hospital?’ I say to Dave, slightly worried that I might spontaneously
combust at any given moment. I’d been feeling a bit off-colour before the trip but I just put it
down to working too hard.
I’d felt under the weather ever since I had glandular fever just before and during all my
GCSE exams - good timing - but looking back, I should have realised that this was different.
I’d struggle to get to sleep, and when I did, I’d wake in a cold sweat, absolutely drenched, and
felt as though I were glued to the bed. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t have time to
think about it. I hadn’t lost weight, I couldn’t feel any unexplained lumps anywhere, and so I
carried on, putting the tiredness down to all the excitement of the job.
We leave the circuit at 6.30pm in the back of a delivery van. I ring my dad and tell him I’ve
drilled concrete and am best friends with a ratchet. He laughs and says I’ve had too much sun
but I bet he asks me to build a conservatory or something when I get home. After dinner at the
hotel, I shower and go to bed. I can’t sleep. It’s 3.24am when I last look at the clock, and then
the next thing I know, the alarm is going off. I’ve had two hours of sleep. I do not feel, nor
look, very good. I walk downstairs to meet the mechanics with a face like an old paper bag. I
haven’t even opened my eyes properly.
‘You look rough,’ says Ged, one of the truck drivers. ‘You should get some sleep.’
‘Yeah, you’d think...’ I reply, sticking two fingers up at him. He laughs, and opens the door
to the minibus, ruffling my hair.
‘You’ll be alright,’ he jokes, ‘You can sleep next week.’ Inside the B&H Jordan garage half
an hour later I ask if I can touch one of the cars.
‘You can sit in it if you want,’ shrugs one of the mechanics.
I climb carefully into Damon Hill’s car and stretch my legs out. The seatbelts are on and
although I’m a bit small to see very well, this has got to be the most exciting five minutes of
I’d dreamed about seeing a Formula One car up close but I’d never imagined I’d sit in one,
let alone Damon’s. Sadly I can’t sit there all day and it’s time to go and do something more
useful, like make myself a cup of tea and find somewhere out of the way to sit down and write
some notes about, uh, making tea. At 7.30am we all go over to the paddock to have a proper
cooked breakfast before the mechanics get on with the rest of the morning’s work. I busy
myself by peering into the Ferrari garage until I’m told to move away. Later that afternoon, I
spot Michael Schumacher and get all excited. The drivers arrive after the team has set up, and
now it felt like something was really going on. I was as excited as I was exhausted. We arrive
back at the hotel at 9.30pm. That night I went to the toilet just before bed and was pretty
surprised, if not somewhat horrified, to see blood in the toilet bowl. I flushed the chain,
thought I’d better check it out with a doctor when I got home and climbed into bed. This time I
fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Having been so careful in the garage yesterday, I tentatively ask if I can polish ‘just a little
bit’ of the spare car. I’m given a can of polish and a cloth and told I can clean all three if I like.
I am so excited my hands are shaking and I spray polish straight in my hair. I’m polishing
Formula One cars! I want to tell everyone. I tell them. They smile politely. People stop by the
garage and point. Damon Hill stops by the garage and points. I point back, thinking, ‘It’s
Damon Hill, and he’s pointing at me!’
I introduce myself, and he says, smiling, ‘Loaded magazine? Really? What do you know
about F1, then?’
‘I know it’s well exhausting, the food’s great and all these people spend hours building
your car and I’ll spend ages polishing it only for you to drive it around the track a few times
and crash it or at the very least get it all dirty again.’ He looks surprised by my answer, and
then shakes my hand. ‘Well, you’ve got it about right. Nice to meet you, Juliette... I think.’ He
laughs, takes off his cap and runs his hand through his hair then turns back.
‘Are you sure you’re supposed to be in the garage?’ he asks, head cocked to one side.
‘Well, probably not, but do you want your car cleaned or not?’ I say, holding up the can of
‘OK, keep cleaning. You’re doing a splendid job,’ he says, somewhat bemused, leaving for
his swanky hotel while the rest of us slummed it in the French version of the Travelodge.
At 11am the session starts and the track temperature is recorded at 40 degrees. The cars
come in after the first lap and the tyres are already melting. I keep out of the way, writing up
my notes just outside the garage, sitting on a tyre. We have lunch, I pick dropped nuts and
bolts up for mechanics and hold them aloft each time someone says, ‘Where did that nut go?’
and write a bit more. I also wander off to see if I can spot Ferrari’s Eddie Irvine, because I
fancy him like nobody’s business. At least that’s what I was planning on doing, but at 8.30pm
I’m woken up by Ged with a poke in the tummy. I’m asleep, flat on my back, on top of the tyre
trolley, behind the truck. I find myself given something to do.
‘If you really want to help,’ says one of the mechanics, ‘Grab these bits on this list from
the back of the truck and make a new exhaust. That should keep you quiet.’
‘Uh, OK,’ I say, thinking it would have been much more sensible to have asked me to make
a cup of tea for everyone instead. I’m in the back of the truck, wrestling with nuts, bolts and
some pipe thing. I’m just getting the hang of it when guess who pops in? Yep, Damon himself.
‘Er, hello again,’ he says, climbing up the steps to the truck, scratching his head and
looking somewhat perplexed, ‘what’s going on here?’
I explain myself. ‘I’m making you a new exhaust,’ I answer, smiling like a lunatic and
holding my hands out, showing him the bits and bobs I’ve been told to make it with. I don’t
know what else to say because this is only the second time I’ve met him, so I just smile a bit
more, exhaust in one hand, bits and bobs in the other. He looks quite confused, possibly more
concerned than the first time we met, shrugs his shoulders and walks away.
I finish the exhaust and take it to the mechanics. A little nut falls out along the way but I’m
sure it’s not important. Again, we arrive back at the hotel late, have dinner, and go to bed. It’s
1.15am by the time I get into my pyjamas and I don’t know how much more of this I can
actually take. If I could just sleep all day on Saturday, I think I’d be OK.
At 6.30am on Saturday, the day when the drivers do their qualifying laps, we’re already at
the circuit. I’m absolutely wiped out, and I look as dreadful as I feel. I head off to find Ged to
get the keys to the truck. I think it’s mad that anyone would give me keys to a Formula One
truck, because I lose keys all the time. But then Ged isn’t my mum, so he doesn’t know that. I
manage to sneak a nap in the bunk and even stay snoozing through the deafening noise of the
engines roaring only a few feet away. The rain is coming down and the next thing I know, all
hell breaks loose and as I fall out of the truck from a great height to see what's going on, the
other truckie, Dave, shouts, ‘He’s having trouble,’ and another voice shouted in a high-pitched
panic, ‘Damon’s coming in, he’s in!’
I get out of the way just in time. Damon’s car is abandoned outside the garage. Much head
shaking and brow wiping is going on. The ITV television crew is clamouring for news. I ask
Ged what went wrong whilst holding my eyelids open so that it appears as though I am awake.
‘It looks like the exhaust split,’ he says, rushing past me with a bit of burnt car. Hang on,
that was what I made last night. It is at this point that I make myself scarce. I breathe a sigh of
relief five minutes later when Ged tells me that it wasn’t my fault as my exhaust never made it
onto the car in the end because it was so rubbish it fell apart as soon as the engineer picked it
up. I almost replied with the line that ‘It can’t have been as rubbish as this one, it just blew up!’
but decided to bite my tongue for once.
The press were practically beating the door of the motor home down to talk to Damon
after the incident, and I was supposed to have 15 minutes with him. He would be starting the
race right at the back. Not really what you want. And not really what I wanted, either – I mean,
how much of a mood would he be in and I’m supposed to interview him. Gah! I wasn’t sure
what to ask him, other than, ‘Would you like me to make the exhausts from now on after that
other one broke?’
The door to the motor home opens and Jordan’s PR girl gives me the nod. ‘You’ve got 15
minutes, Juliette,’ she says, ushering me in. ‘Deal,’ I say, thinking, ‘I’ll be lucky if I can keep
him talking for 15 seconds the mood he’ll be in.’
I sat down. Damon had his head in his hands. There was a slice of chocolate cake on a plate
in front of him. Mental note to write down thing about cake, I thought.
‘Uh, eeek, that was a bit shit,’ I said. ‘It was exactly that,’ said Damon, with a face like
thunder. ‘And it was the exhaust, was it not, which caused it?’ He looked right at me, and I
swear to God I was back in school again but this time, it was a gazillion times worse. ‘Hang
on. You can’t get me on this. My exhaust was rubbish. Ged told me that. They used someone
else’s. So mine might have been alright with a bit of Sellotape round it. You can’t blame me.
Maybe a pigeon or something got stuck in it. Or maybe one of the other drivers put a potato
up it. Did you think about that?’ I said, wondering if he was going to eat the cake or not,
because if he didn’t want it, I’d have it. He had the grace to laugh. ‘You really are quite mad,’
he said, shaking his head. ‘But that’s good. What do you want to ask me?’
I switched on my tape recorder. ‘Hang on, let’s get this on the move and then I can read
you my list of questions,’ I said. Nothing happened. The tape didn’t turn. I was horrified. ‘My
bloody tape recorder isn’t working,’ I said. ‘How stupid is that?’ ‘Very,’ said Damon. ‘You’ll
have to make it all up.’ ‘Nothing new there, then,’ I joked.
I didn't take notes, but told him I'd remember what he said. He teased me a bit more about
the exhaust I'd made; I told him he needed to drive faster or let me have a go while he put the
kettle on. We talked about dinosaurs, football and cakes. After 20 minutes, his PR knocked on
the door. ‘You’ve had 20 minutes, Juliette, that’s it.’
I smiled and said, ‘OK, coming’ and went to put my pen down. Damon decided against it.
‘She can stay a bit longer, we’re talking about dinosaurs,’ he said, ‘And it’s more fun than
talking about Formula One to that lot,’ he said, gesturing to the huddle middle-aged male
journalists out front.
We continued our chat, even bringing up lawn mowers.
‘You could race them when you’re old,’ I suggested, helpfully. Sometimes we talked about
racing. I was in there an hour. I found him to be an extremely likeable, funny and highly
Damon later announced that he was quitting Formula One. Blimey! I hoped it wasn’t
because of my interview. Or my exhaust. We leave the circuit at 12.25am. I lie awake worrying
about the cars, the rain and before I know it, the alarm is going off. It’s 5.30am. I’m starting to
feel quite ill. I almost ring Mum to tell her how awful I feel but don’t want to worry her, and
besides, I’ve got to meet the mechanics in reception in five minutes and I’m still in my ruddy
‘IT AIN’T RIGHT’
PAUL ANSELL’S NUMBER NINE
‘Ulcerative colitis,’ said the consultant, leaning back in his chair and folding his hands
across his chest, ‘is a debilitating and chronic form of inflammatory bowel disease. The
bowel becomes enlarged - inflamed, if you like - and ulcers form along the walls of the large
intestine, resulting in bleeding and mucus from the back passage. The disease can affect the
rectum, part of the colon and rectum, or the entire bowel from end to end, in which case the
disease is referred to as Pan-Colitis. Unfortunately, your entire bowel is affected. I will put
you on a course of anti-inflammatory tablets and steroid tablets. You are to take two of the
anti-inflammatory tablets three times a day with food, and six of the steroids in the morning.
There is no cure for colitis, I'm afraid. All we can do is try to calm the inflammation. I have to
tell you that this is a disease which often gets worse, rather than better. Do you have any
I was stunned. The word ‘steroids’ danced in front of my eyes.
‘Don’t steroids make you fat? And depressed? And hairy?’ I asked, wiping away a tear.
‘Only in high doses,’ he replied, matter-of-factly.
‘I don’t want to end up like Fatima Whitbread,’ I muttered, ‘especially since I can’t even
throw javelins. Is there anything I can do to help? Change my diet, try alternative medicine?
Stupid Chinese herbal teas? What about an exorcism?’
At the last suggestion he doesn’t even laugh a bit, just raises his eyebrows and says,
‘There’s nothing you can do. I wouldn’t advise that you meddle in alternative medicine,
Chinese or homeopathic. Just take the steroids and the anti-inflammatory tablets as directed
and I will see you in three months.’
‘But why have I got it? What causes it?’ I bleated, wishing Mum had come in with me like
she’d asked to. Ever the independent one, I had gone in on my own thinking I must have eaten
a pin which had become lodged in my bottom, something daft like that.
‘There’s no known reason and no cure,’ said the consultant, stacking my file back in a
drawer by his feet. ‘It can be hereditary, it could be caused by a parasite in the gut, it could be
any number of things, but we don’t know what causes it. What do you do for work?’
I tell him I’m a freelance journalist. He raises those eyebrows again.
‘Perhaps you’re stressed. It’s quite a stressful job, isn’t it?’
‘It is, but it’s good fun, too. And I can’t just stop doing it,’ I say, holding my hands in the
air and pulling a ‘don’t think I’m giving up my career just because my bottom keeps bleeding’
face. With that, he pushed back his chair, nodded at me as if to indicate my time was up and I
walked somewhat bewildered out of the door into the waiting room where Mum was sitting
reading the newspaper.
‘Well? Are you alright?’ she said, a half smile on her face as she folded the newspaper in
half on her lap and took off her glasses.
‘Not really,’ I said, ‘I’ve got ulcerative colitis. It’s bowel disease. I’m not going to get
better and they’ve put me on steroids.’ I walked to the door in a daze.
‘We’ll have to put more money in the meter if we don’t get back to the car,’ I said. Mum
picked up her handbag and walked over to me. She was as white as a sheet.
‘Did he really say there was nothing you could do?’ she asked.
‘So he says. We’d better hurry up. We don't want to waste another 50p.’ I've always been
practical if nothing else.
That night, when dad came home from work, we sat down and read the leaflets I’d been
given. I told him about the drugs I had to take, and that I’d asked the consultant if I should
change my diet or try a natural approach to controlling the inflammation.
‘So he didn’t even ask you what you ate?’ asked dad, somewhat surprised. ‘You might be
living off curry powder and worms for all he knows. Surely what you eat must make a
‘That’s what you’d have thought,’ I replied, shaking my head, ‘I mean, you are what you
eat, apparently. But I haven’t been eating ulcers so I don’t know where they’ve come from.’
Oh, how we laughed.
One morning my younger brother Jonathan came into the kitchen as I was counting out my
tablets for the day. He was in the midst of his A-levels and would stay up until 4am ‘revising’,
i.e. playing PlayStation with a book open in front of him which would inadvertently be
obscured by a packet of Jaffa Cakes.
‘Is that a week’s worth?’ he asked, yawning and taking a pint of milk out of the fridge.
‘I’m dealing Ecstasy pills,’ I replied, ‘didn’t you know? Dad forced me into it to pay off
his gambling debts.’ This was a joke. I counted out the pills. With six Asacol (the antiinflammatory drug) and six Prednisolone (the steroids) I took the following supplements:
Glucosamine Sulphate (to counteract the damaging effects of the steroids on my bones),
Vitamin C (citrus fruits and juices upset my stomach), Vitamin D & Calcium (again, to
support my bones), Vitamin E (to keep my complexion healthy - if only), Vitamin B (to keep
my energy levels up), Zinc (to be honest, I can't even remember what this is for), Iron
(because I don't eat red meat very often and am slightly anaemic), Acidophillis (for healthy
gut bacteria), Cod Liver Oil (for what, I couldn’t remember).
In all, each morning I took 16 tablets, then at lunchtime and with my dinner, another two
Asacol. I was sure I rattled when I walked. The vitamins cost me a fortune but I wanted to do
everything I could to help my body fight this horrible disease. I cut out wheat and dairy
products, which was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, convinced that gluten and lactose
weren’t an intestines best friends. Back then there was no glut of internet advice but I just went
on my instincts, thinking that they might be causing some of the irritation. I would have
swapped my cat for a slice of hot, buttered toast and a cup of tea if asked.
I didn’t realise how much of our average diet contains dairy products or wheat until I read
the labels on everything before I bought it. No more Weetabix. In came porridge oats and
cornflakes with soya milk. It was just about bearable with a teaspoon of honey. Out went toast,
sandwiches, pasta, cheese, milk, chocolate, cakes, biscuit, ice cream and just about everything
else which was nice to eat. For a couple of weeks, until I got hold of a wheat and dairy free
cookbook, I was stuck. Salad is not an option in February. Jacket potatoes took over my
lunchtime. How exciting, I thought, I could have beans or tuna. Or tuna or beans! Great. In
came herbal and fruit teas, which I hate because they taste like bubble bath, and I excluded
coffee completely because I couldn't bear to take it black. I wanted to be able to drink black
coffee so I could use the ‘I like my coffee strong and black, like my men’ line in a restaurant. I
actually preferred it weak and pale, which is more in line with the men I met. Anyway, for a
few weeks I even cut out fish-fingers because of the breadcrumbs.
And despite cutting out everything which is meant to be bad for you, I didn’t even lose any
weight, but after three weeks I began to feel better. I didn't feel bloated after dinner, I slept a bit
better and more importantly, when I went to the loo, I wasn’t passing as much blood.
On the rare occasion that I went out for dinner, I’d have to pick restaurants carefully, often
ringing them before I left home to check that there was something on the menu I could eat. I
attended a football match one night as a guest of the team’s sponsor, as I was the sports writer
for Loaded which entitled me not only to a free padded seat in the stands to watch West Ham
but also to a three-course meal.
At the table, I studied the menu in despair. The starter was cream of leek and potato soup.
The word ‘cream’ was the clue that there’d be cream in that. Can’t have it. With a bread roll.
Nor that. Moving on to the main course, there was a choice of three - chicken korma and rice.
Can’t eat the korma because of the cream and yoghurt. Vegetable lasagne, the staple token
veggie dish, which happens to consist of wheat, milk and cheese. The final option was steak
and kidney pie. Ugh. Apart from the fact that I’d rather cut off my right hand and fry it than eat
a kidney, even my own, the pie, of course, is made from flour which is derived from wheat.
For dessert: ice-cream (clearly not) or cheese and biscuits (aaagh!). In short, there wasn’t one
single dish I could eat on the whole menu. I banged my head on the table, causing the cutlery
to fall to the floor, not to mention drawing bemused looks from fellow diners. I told the PR
man what was wrong.
‘I’m not being difficult on purpose,’ I explained, ‘I just can’t eat anything on the menu.’
‘Nothing at all?’ he asked, trying to help. ‘Not a sausage. Particularly not a sausage,’ I
replied, sighing. ‘But that’s because they’re made of pigs’ lips and bums, not because they’re
made of wheat.’ He called one of the waitresses over and I explained that I was intolerant to
wheat and dairy products and could they just serve me some rice with the vegetables which
came with the steak and kidney pudding?
She looked at me as if I’d asked her to hand over her purse and get down on the floor.
‘Can’t you have the lasagne if you don’t eat meat?’ she said, leaning over me and jabbing
at the menu. ‘It’s not that I don’t eat meat, although I don’t eat some meat, it’s that I’m allergic
to wheat and dairy,’ I said, thinking that perhaps if she thought I would have a fit or explode if
I did eat one of their dishes, she might understand.
‘Can’t you have the cheese and biscuits and the soup? There ain’t no meat in that.’ I let my
head flop back down on the table, sending bread rolls into the air. ‘Forget it,’ I said, ‘it doesn't
matter.’ Dom, the PR guy, remained unfazed. ‘Isn’t there anything in the kitchen she can eat?
‘What about egg on toast?’ he said. I interrupted him. ‘Uh, without the toast.’
Eventually, the waitress said she’d see if they could knock me up some rice with vegetables
or plain chicken. I apologised to everyone within ear shot. ‘Don't worry about it,’ said the man
next to me, brightly. ‘I know what it’s like – I can’t eat hazelnuts!’
The waitress waddled off to the kitchen. ‘She thinks she’s in a f*cking proper restaurant,
she does,’ she said to the girl behind the bar, who shot me the kind of look reserved for
convicted paedophiles. In the end I got fish and chips, much to the annoyance of everyone else
with their soggy pies and bland lasagne. I took off the batter - duh, wheat - and allowed myself
a little chuckle.
But while the symptoms of UC were slowly improving, things were going disastrously
My face was definitely becoming rounder, one of the first noticeable side effects of the
Prednisolone: my skin, usually so clear, began to itch and red patches appeared on my arms
and face. I had spots, for the first time in 10 years. I'd always suffered from terrible mood
swings around my period but now I felt as though I had permanent PMT. I also had ulcers in
my mouth and my eyes became so dry the lids became inflamed and I couldn’t tolerate
wearing my contact lenses. To top it all off, I was suffering from horrendous night sweats
where I’d wake up drenched in cold sweat and sometimes had to change the sheets and take a
shower in the middle of the night, which was really convenient.
I was used to feeling a bit rotten, but this was more than a bit. A year earlier I’d had laser
treatment for endometriosis, a condition in which the lining of the womb grows outside of the
womb - nice - and attaches itself to various internal organs and muscles. For four years I was
in agony for two or three days each month. The lining had attached itself to my bowel, the
muscles around my spine and my ovaries, and whenever I had a cramp from my womb
shedding its lining, wherever the tissue had attached itself also cramped. It was terrible, but I
was finally operated on in 1998 and able to go to work and go out during my period instead
of staying in bed with a hot water bottle stuck to my tummy, downing painkillers like they
were going out of fashion. The summer before that, I’d had pre-cancerous cells removed
from my cervix, also by laser. I was getting a bit fed up with popping in and out of hospital
and having my stomach poked. Oh, and I’d had major heart surgery at four years old for a
hole in my heart and you’d think that might have been enough.
I became depressed and aggressive, snapping at my friends and family and bursting into
tears over daft things, although now I think about it, crying because I couldn’t have apple pie
and ice-cream seems perfectly rational.
One Friday night I went to a Loaded party - never the quietest of nights out, to say the least,
and drank a couple of vodka tonics. Halfway through my third, I suddenly went berserk and
almost started a fight like someone on the Jerry Springer show. I wasn't aware of what was
going on at all. I thought somebody had spiked my drink. I felt a surge of adrenalin rush
through my body; I thought I could take on the world. My head hurt. I felt sick, and my friend
Charlie took me back to her flat. Within minutes I was fast asleep. When I woke up the next
morning, I had no recollection of the latter part of the evening. I was mortified when she told
me what had happened. I realised it must have been a reaction to the steroids.
‘I went bananas,’ I told Mum the next day. ‘Like Hulk after he had too much Gamma.
Although my clothes didn’t burst and I don’t remember pushing cars over or rescuing
bewildered lady scientists from laboratory fires, but I might have done. Better get this
morning’s papers and have a look!’
I was living at home with my parents in Orpington, Kent, which for some people might
sound a bit weird. After all, I was 27 years-old and as far as I was aware, not suffering from
any mental illness (although Mum would say that was debatable) which prevented me from
living on my own. I had a good reason - I was saving up to buy my own place, and I had left
home before. ‘Several times,’ as Dad would say, raising his eyebrows.
My early experiences of ‘leaving home’ consisted of a huge tantrum, then a walk down the
garden path, half way down the road (or up it, just to mix things up a bit) and sitting on the
pavement, sulking. I had a happy home, but I wasn’t a very happy child. Mum and Dad were
great parents and I have only good memories of being little – such as Mum and her mum
taking me to the village shops to choose some sweets before feeding the ducks and playing on
the swings, or Mum brushing my blonde hair in front of the fire after a nice bath.
Dad, despite suffering with a slipped disc and arthritis, would give me ‘Juliette-Eating
Camel’ rides around the living room, which meant him crawling on all fours chasing me,
then me riding on his back, squealing, ‘Faster, camel, faster!’ I had great birthday parties
where he’d wear his Incredible Hulk T-shirt and chase all my friends around the garden,
scaring them half to death. Up until I went to secondary school, I used to ride my bike or go
on my skateboard to meet him halfway home from work. I only had to cross one (very safe)
road and I’d wait at the bottom of the hill for him to come around the corner from his train.
When my brother was born, I used to take him with me. Even our cat, Whizzy, used to come
with us sometimes. We were always incredibly close and although we didn’t have much
money back then, I really didn’t want for anything. I had all the love and attention I could have
Outside of home, things were a bit different. I didn’t like nursery, didn’t like mixing with
other children and really didn’t like being told what to do. By the time secondary school came
around, I was absolutely insistent that I wouldn’t go to the all-girls’ school in a neighbouring
village, because ‘it will be full of girls, and girls don’t like football and are mean to each
other.’ A pretty good insight for a 10-year-old, no?
Mum insisted that we went to the open day. Despite the head teacher saying, ‘Even though
it’s out of your catchment area, we’d be happy to take Juliette if she passes the test’, I insisted
that I wouldn’t go.
My parents looked at each other and said, ‘You’ve got to go to school somewhere!’ and I
said, ‘Can I go to the all-boys’ school instead?’
In the end, Dad wrote a letter to whoever decides where you get to go to school and said I
was too clever for the rough school and wanted to join Coopers, a mixed school in the same
posh village as the girls’ school, but with boys in it. I don’t think that’s what dad wrote,
exactly, but he did a good job at persuading them to take me.
My brain worked reasonably well with certain subjects - English, French, German, but not
with maths and science. Halfway through revising for my GCSE exams I came down with
glandular fever. Subsequently, I did next to no revision as I was so ill and dosed up on
Solpadeine and Lucozade for the exams. Mum waited outside in the car to take me back home
to bed as soon as I’d finished each exam. My results were disappointing but no worse than
expected - no A’s but a good spattering of B’s and C’s and a hysterically funny F for maths. I
think it stood for ‘fuckwit’.
Mum and Dad wanted me to stay on another year at school to re-take my maths GCSE; I
said I’d rather burn myself with cigarettes. The argument was that I wouldn’t get a job without
a pass in maths, and my typically petulant answer was that I didn’t want a job where I needed a
pass in maths. I developed a phobia about anything to do with numbers and even now can’t
write phone numbers down properly when they’re read out to me.
I went to the local college to study for a Private Secretary’s Certificate, a two-year-course
squashed into nine months. It was full time, 9am-5pm which was a shock as I thought I’d get to
sit around in the canteen eating doughnuts and learning to smoke all day. I learnt shorthand
(well, how to write it but not once how to read it back correctly), how to type quickly and how
to decide where to put pot plants in a prospective boss’s office. It was 1989, not 1949, so I was
quite surprised at the old fashioned teachings of it all and promptly didn’t listen very much. I
still passed ‘with distinction’, which is hilarious because I went on to be the worst secretary
I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with my life other than stroke tigers or stalk
footballers. Mum had talked me into it as ‘it’s always useful to be able to type’ and as always,
she was right, despite the sentence sounding like it had come out of a World War II booklet
for young ladies.
My first job was as a secretary at The Mirror Group on The Daily Mirror newspaper when
Robert Maxwell was in charge. It was an extremely high pressured environment, my first time
in London, and I hated it within five minutes of starting. I had very little to do all day and then
at 5pm someone else’s boss - the advertising director - would dismiss his secretary and pile a
load of work on my desk. I never really understood that but it stank. I wasn’t getting home
until 8pm, so it was a long, unproductive and very dull day. I wasn’t learning anything other
than how slow clock hands move when you do nothing but stare at them all day. I was just
being shouted at which was tantamount to abuse.
One day, when Robert Maxwell called to speak to my boss who was out of the office, he
called me a ‘useless little cow’ because I couldn’t get my boss on the phone - ‘because, Mr
Maxwell, he’s not bloody here!’ and slammed the phone down on me. I was a bit of a Goth
back then, all long black skirts with horrible fringe bits hanging off and 12-hole black Doc
Marten boots, and believed in witchcraft, so I put a little curse on him after lunch. Just after I
left The Mirror Group two months later, he ‘fell’ off his yacht and drowned. His death made
front page news. On his own newspaper. Ah, the irony.
By the age of 18 I’d been through another two secretarial jobs and finally settled on a great
job in an international advertising agency.
I absolutely loved the job, and even the commute was easy. A long, nasty walk through
industrial estates and alley ways to get to the station, but a mere 25 minutes on the train to
Victoria, and a little stroll around the corner to the office, which was in one of those fancy big
squares made up of beautiful Regency properties. I made a lot of friends – all a good few
years older than me, and settled in quickly. I still felt, however, that I needed more out of life.
After six months there I left home to move into a flat share with a good friend from work, a
mad German girl called Susanne who only ever ate peas for dinner.
Susanne lived in Manor House, a horrible, run-down area of North London. There were
more tower blocks than you could shake a stick at and it was the sort of place where you
wouldn’t want to walk anywhere on your own after dark. Or, if you’re me, before dark.
It did, however, have one draw. It was only a couple of miles from Tottenham Hotspur
Football Club, the team I had supported since birth. Although the whole area was nasty, I felt a
strange kind of security and familiarity as I’d been travelling to my team’s ground, White
Hart Lane since, I was 14.
Dad had always worked six days a week, Monday to Saturday, so we went to midweek
games as often as we could. Dad and I were either completely enraptured by each other ’s
company, or we couldn’t bear to be in the same room. It was mad. At football, however, we
just bonded like crazy and from there on in, dad would take me whenever he could. I think I
was the son he never had, at least until he actually had one.
After six months of living in the house, shared also by the landlord (a real creep of a man
who ate potatoes straight from the tin and regularly got caught spying on Susanne or me
through the keyhole in the bathroom. Nice.) I’d had enough. I also missed our cat so much I
couldn’t bear it any longer. I wanted to save some money instead of throwing it away on rent
Author Juliette Wills Isbn 9781492337799 File size 3.23MB Year 2013 Pages 270 Language English File format PDF Category Fitness Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare I inadvertently introduced Victoria and David Beckham, stupidly turned down a date with a top Premiership footballer, talked to singing sensation Barry White about fish fingers and had a cup of tea with Darth Vader. I made an exhaust for Damon Hill’s F1 car, fell in love in Las Vegas and travelled around America with a complete stranger. I married a Frenchman I barely knew and Ive had my guts yanked out and my heart sewn up. Beat that! In 1999, Juliette Wills had a bright future as a journalist and broadcaster. One minute shed be in Melbourne or Monaco covering the Grand Prix, the next interviewing footballers and pop stars. Shed just moved to the seaside, made friends with a seagull (yes, really) and spent her weekends dancing in rockabilly clubs in London. Just a year later she was suddenly struck down by two debilitating, incurable illnesses: ankylosing spondylitis and ulcerative colitis. After undergoing traumatic, life-saving surgery and in so much pain she was unable to walk, Juliette lost everything – her career, her relationship and finally, her independence. Over the next decade Juliette refused to let her conditions defeat her, pushing herself to live as full a life as possible despite being in constant pain. Since then Juliette has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and more recently, Crohn’s disease, the news of which has left Juliette and her family utterly devastated. Mostly Cloudy With Some Bright Spells is an incredible story of determination, acceptance, love – and above all else – hope. Somehow Juliette has turned her unique experiences and adventures into an inspiring, brutally honest and often hilarious story you wont want to put down. Download (3.23MB) The Ultimate Guide to Vintage Star Wars Action Figures, 1977-1985 Healing Herbal Teas You Can Draw Star Wars The Big Bang Theory Und Die Philosophie: Stein, Papier, Schere, Aristoteles, Locke Sleekify! The Supercharged No-Weights Workout to Sculpt and Tighten Your Body in 28 Days! Load more posts