Of Hives and Archives…

The following was a draft I wrote about two months ago. The Stuarts in 100 Facts is currently being edited and Steel and Lace is out for sale, so I now have a brief window of time before I begin to focus on A Year in Stuart Britain. I’m spending time with my family in the United States and am really enjoying the time off. I have to say I was mentally exhausted by the time I finished my latest writing period. Miraculously, I no longer have the hives I will mention below although I now have something altogether more life-changing on my mind…

I’m not going to lie and say the past few months have been easy and fun because they were very trying for many reasons. The most irritating aspect of my life in recent months has been the fact that I suddenly broke out in horrendous hives in early March, and they continued for four months. I have been in and out of the GP’s office and have seen two pharmacists, three nurses, and three doctors and none of them have been able to help me. According to them, I can’t see an allergist because that isn’t part of the NHS and would have to do this privately. Needless to say, I am rather critical of the NHS at the moment.

COLLIER, Edwart Vanitas Still-Life 1662 Oil on canvas, 98 x 130 cm Private collection via Web Gallery of Art

Vanitas Still-Life
Oil on canvas, 98 x 130 cm
Private collection via Web Gallery of Art

I’ve spent a good deal of time in various archives and libraries, and at one point I became very concerned because my initial hive outbreak came during the night following an intense ten-hour research session at the National Archives. Was I having an allergic reaction to the old documents? I’ve heard of people sneezing after going through old papers, but hives? Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. So, what was the cause?

I did the elimination diet and it proved it wasn’t food-related. I’d have no dairy for a couple of days, then no gluten, no soy, no egg, no meat, no nuts, but the hives were still there. As no professional was taking it seriously (except giving me an Epi-Pen prescription, though they didn’t explain how to use it), I had to keep a chart of everything I touched: cotton, lycra, and the hives came with no rhyme or reason. It’s enough to drive a person mad. My mother-in-law even suggested it was our cat Blackie, but this I couldn’t accept because we’ve had Blackie for seven years without any problems. Anyway, I didn’t let Blackie sleep near me but still the hives came. What it appears to be is stress-related, which is strange because I have always been a rather nervous person but never had hives until this year. Now that the hives have gone, I can see that the initial session of work at the archives may have triggered this reaction because I suddenly became subconciously concerned and overwhelmed. The day after I submitted my manuscript to my publisher, the hives vanished. It is now obvious to me that what I have to try to do is relax more by finding some way of releasing stress.

I work from home, but I can’t work in my office because of Problem No. 2: loud neighbours. Now, I’ve tried to ignore it, I’ve tried to play music so I can’t hear them, but the walls in our Victorian rowhouse are very thin so I end up hearing everything they do. There has been constant hammering, drilling, etc because of the DIY they’ve been doing, but on top of that, I hear shrieks and giggles (their baby is least loud of the lot). Now, if you are a writer or researcher, it becomes very, very difficult to work with this sort of environment. I grew up knowing that it was inconsiderate (and simply wrong) to make noise between 9pm-9am, but I’ve heard drilling and hammering at 10:30pm or even midnight, and sometimes an electric tool was on a 6:30am. I’ve tried noise-cancelling earphones but I wear glasses so they end up hurting my ears, so I had to stop using them. My husband’s spoken about the situation, but it’s still bad. We’ve attempted to soundproof our bedroom by moving our wardrobes against their wall, and this muffles the sound but I can still hear all of their conversations. Windsor has been a wonderful place to live, but a writer needs peace and quiet in order to work efficiently. Staying with my mother has shown me how troublesome our living situation is back home. She has the same kind of house, but her neighbours are very considerate and quiet.

Anyway, it’s been very good to step away from the computer and books and archives for a while and get back to being me. I think we all need to do that sometimes.

So, if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t written anything on this site in over a month, now you know what’s been going on. I hope you’re all well. Best regards (as always!), Andrea x

MIERIS, Frans van, the Elder Woman Writing a Letter 1680 Oil on panel, 25 x 20 cm Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam Web Gallery of Art

Hear ye! 6 thoughts — so far — on “Of Hives and Archives…”:

  1. Sarah Johnson

    I think hives and allergies are different problems … when you approach deadlines in future perhaps some super vitamins, yoga, regular hours and sleep will help? And have you tried writing at the library? I have my research notes on one notebook and my written chapters on another, so while it takes a while to get set up, I’m pretty self-contained … and if I need a reference book, I’m in a good spot to find it. I do miss my coffee tho. Anyways, stay well and come home to Windsor. (Pretend it’s Nell Gwynn next door.)

    1. Andrea Zuvich Post author

      Hi Sarah, great tips but I’ve done all of those to no avail. I tried to work at the local libraries, but as I’ve written before, many libraries in the UK now do not maintain library etiquette rules and so it’s sometimes impossible to do any work in them nowadays. We’ll see, my husband’s contract is over so he’s getting offers to work in several different areas. I sure hope we can have more luck with our neighbours next time around! Thanks again!

  2. Valerie Herzig

    Hi Andrea!

    I wondered what had happened (missed your blog-posts) and am glad to hear that your hives have retreated (permanently I hope). Someone in our town has a similar neighbor-noise-situation and is hiring a Mariachi band to play a long evening set – but I don’t suppose you have many Mariachi bands for hire in Great Britain 😉 …

  3. Ameliorated

    Might I suggest a white noise machine? Not great for banging, but awesome for voices, traffic and other noise like that. I have noisy neighbors, too. And funnily enough, just got myself some hives for the first time in my life. I think totally from noise-related stress.
    Good luck with everything!


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