Posted in Family, Type 1 diabetes

On Brunel, Bears, Birthdays and Banting (oh, and Type 1 Diabetes)

A post about my first official talk as a volunteer speaker for JDRF

JDRF logo and URLEarlier this year I trained as an official volunteer speaker for the JDRF, the leading charitable fundraiser for research into a cure for Type 1 diabetes, which affects both my husband and our daughter. The training day was held at the the London headquarters of the UK branch of this global charity, bringing together dozens of volunteers whose lives had been affected in some way by this incurable, serious disease. We had an uplifting, inevitably emotional day sharing our experiences as we practised our talks. For some participants, it was the first time they’d ever talked publicly about their illness (or their child’s, depending on who had it).

Once trained, we’re obliged to do at least three talks per year, which is fine by me, and I was excited to receive my first assignment, to speak to Morning Break, a group for toddlers and their carers, in Nailsea, south of Bristol. Continue reading “On Brunel, Bears, Birthdays and Banting (oh, and Type 1 Diabetes)”

Posted in Family

Celebration Time

A post celebrating wedding anniversaries and other special occasions – with tips on how to pick a date for your wedding

Cover of April Tetbury Advertiser
The closest I’ll ever get to being a cover girl – my column being billed on the front page of the Tetbury Advertiser

Writing this month’s column for the Tetbury Advertiser in the run-up to my parents’ 62nd wedding anniversary, I’ve been thinking about how we choose and mark the days we wish to celebrate.

How to Choose a Special Day

My parents’ choice of wedding date has always struck me as the romantic ideal: 21st March, the first day of spring, subtler and wiser than Valentine’s Day. If a Valentine’s marriage ends in divorce, that day is forever blighted with a reminder of rejection.

For some events we must take pot-luck. My brother had the good fortune to be born on Midsummer’s Day – surely the perfect birthday, half way between two Christmases – whereas my sister’s Trafalgar Day birthday was fitting for the first-born of my father, then serving in the Royal Navy. Continue reading “Celebration Time”

Posted in Family, Type 1 diabetes

An Open Letter to Jamie Oliver Suggesting What He Should Have Said About Sugar and Diabetes

New post in response to ill-informed and offensive PR piece by Jamie Oliver, influential chef and campaigner for healthy food


An Open Letter to Jamie Oliver, Top Chef, Food Writer and Campaigner for Healthy Eating

Dear Jamie

On my Facebook timeline this morning, a friend whose child, like mine, has Type 1 diabetes, alerted me to this provocative photo of you on your own Facebook page, as part of your campaign to encourage children to drink water instead of colas and other sugary drinks:

Jamie Oliver in front of a can of cola misleadingly labelled "Diabetes"

Now, I have a lot of respect for you, because instead of coasting on your high income and national treasure status, you have stuck your neck out with a substantial and controversial campaign to encourage families and schoolchildren in particular to embrace a healthier diet. When I say controversial, most of what have said in your campaigns is a no-brainer to anyone who is not a hardened McDonald’s addict: avoid processed food, eat a balanced diet, turn your back on fast food. (Some misguided parents continue to shove BigMacs through school railings to kids averse to trying your lovingly prepared, home-cooked school lunches, for fear of the unknown.)

But Jamie, you – or at least your publicists – really should know better than to make the schoolboy error indicated by your photo. You may be self-made, but you surely have some qualified dieticians as part of your team. And as any dietician will tell you: drinking Coke instead of water does not cause Type One diabetes.

Let me expand upon that statement.

Contracting Type 1 Diabetes has nothing to do with diet. It is an incurable immune disorder that affects people at random through no fault of their own. The part of the body responsible for producing insulin – the hormone that enables your body to process sugar (and all carbohydrates) – stops working. Extensive research is trying to identify what triggers this malfunction, but it is definitely not consumption of sugary drinks such as the brand your photo clearly alludes to.

I should know: my daughter had never touched a drop of Coca Cola before she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 3.  My husband, diagnosed in his late 40s, can’t bear the stuff.

What I think you really meant and needed to say is this:

“Drinking sugary drinks, if done without being part of a controlled, balanced and healthy diet, increases the chances of becoming obese. Obesity carries increased risk of disorders which include TYPE 2 diabetes which is a completely different condition to TYPE 1 diabetes. Therefore it is wise to discourage drinking sugary drinks if you wish to avoid increased risk of obesity and its complications, of which there are many more, besides Type 2 diabetes. Sugary drinks are not great for your teeth either, due to the acid content, and fruit juices, though perceived as the healthy option, are also packed with sugar, causing unhelpful blood sugar spikes and a roller-coaster of energy levels.”

What you should also say is:

“I apologise to those with Type 1 diabetes for my error, which is likely to have added to the burden you carry daily of having to live with a serious condition requiring multiple daily blood tests and insulin injections to keep you alive.”

You might also like to say (because you are very influential for the excellent work you have done in schools to date):

“Please, guys, do not confuse Type 1 with Type 2 , and do not accuse anyone of bringing this horrible illness on themselves by eating too much sugar. Please do not bully them or abuse them when they test their blood or take their insulin – they need to do this many times every day simply to stay alive. Please be supportive to them and watchful – and if they suffer a hypo (which means they do not have enough sugar in their blood – a condition that can potentially kill them), make them drink a sugary drink such as full-sugar Coca-Cola which is the fastest way to restore their blood sugar imbalance to a safe level. If they cannot drink it because they have fallen unconscious, immediately call the emergency services who will save their lives another way. Yes, sometimes sugary drinks will save lives, not threaten them. Don’t make the mistake that I did, and you may well one day be a lifesaver yourself.”

With the facts set straight in this way, Jamie, your campaign to encourage children to drink water – the first choice now of many children, thanks to campaigners such as yourself – will have much more credibility and will garner much more support, including from those with diabetes of all kinds.

Thank you for listening, and please continue the fine job you are doing to raise standards in cooking and eating, for the benefit of present and future generations everywhere.

With best wishes

Debbie Young

English mother and wife, lover of home-made healthy food, and carer for two precious people whose lives have been turned upside down by a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes through no fault of their own

Author of Coming to Terms With Type 1 Diabetes, “a lovely uplifting little book, full of insight, wit, and practical know-how” (Dr Carol Cooper, President of the Guild of Health Writers)

Cover front page only


Posted in Family, Personal life

It’s Show Time! (Hawkesbury Horticultural Show, that is…)

This post was written for this month’s edition of the Hawkesbury Parish News, in anticipation of the Village Show at the end of this month. Looking back at the photos of our float last year, I am wishing hard that we’ll have such blue skies for this year’s show!

Photo of Pandamonium float with children dressed as pandas
Our float for last year’s Show (I was the Chinese Ambassador, Gordon was the Scottish zookeeper)

Close up of panda reading "Panda Baby Names" bookI hadn’t lived in Hawkesbury Upton very long before I realised the importance of the annual Horticultural Show in the village calendar. Since I moved here in 1991, I haven’t missed a single Show, and I always arrange my summer holidays to make sure I’m back in time to prepare for it.

I’ve put plenty of entries into the Show over the years and won a handful of prizes in categories as diverse as crochet, hen’s eggs, jam, wine and – my favourite prize of all – the oddly-shaped vegetable (sadly no longer in the schedule).

I’ve been on many floats, from Youth Club’s Global Warming in the 1990s (Arctic scene at one end, tropical island at the other) and St Trinian’s, to more recently The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe with After-School Club, and Edinburgh Zoo’s Giant Pandas with my daughter and her friends last year.

Close up of children in Pandamonium float

It’s always exciting to win a prize, even third in a category in which there are only two other entries, but you don’t need to win prizes to enjoy the Village Show. The most satisfaction comes simply from feeling like you’re part of a huge, traditional act of community.

It’s also rewarding to serve on the Committee, which I did for 13 years. I’ll never forget seeing at one meeting an elderly judge demonstrate his set of brass shallot-measuring rings, as used by his father before him. The Hawkesbury Show is living history.

But the most unexpected buzz relating to the show struck me only recently, when, at my daughter’s 11th birthday party, I was chatting to her friends’ mums in our garden. One of them, relatively new to the village, was taking photos of the children’s antics.

“You ought to enter that into the Village Show,” I remarked, admiring a particularly good one.

“Spoken like a true Hawkesbury villager!” said another mum, whose family has been in Hawkesbury for generations.

23 years after moving here, I’ve finally arrived.

Happy Show Day, everyone!

The 2014 Show will take place on Saturday 30th August. For more information, visit its website:

Pandomonium float seen from other side showing sign saying "all the way from Edinburgh"


Posted in Family, Type 1 diabetes, Writing

Sharing the Love of Books on BBC Radio Gloucestershire

A post about my most recent appearance on BBC Radio Gloucestershire, including a link to enable you to hear the show if you missed it

Debbie Young at BBC Radio Glos studio
Photo credit: BBC Radio Glos receptionist!

“Every Saturday we like to talk live to an interesting guest between 1pm and 2pm” said an email from BBC Radio Gloucestershire that popped up in my inbox last Thursday, inviting me to appear on Manpreet Mellhi’s show last weekend.

I’ve blogged previously about my appearance on this regional BBC radio programme, and it’s always been a pleasure to be asked.The presenters are pleasant, genuine and passionate about the local community, and the station is highly regarded.

My answer to this latest invitation had of course to be “yes please!”

And so it came about that late morning saw me heading north in my car, through glorious sunny Cotswold lanes, with my satnav pointed in the direction of the Gloucester city centre studio, having spent part of Friday mulling over the stimulating list of questions sent in advance by the programme’s researchers. Pet hates, personal philosophy, favourite place in Gloucstershire – answers to all of these and more were requested, to help Manpreet, whom I’d never met before, prepare for our live on-air chat.

A Technical Hitch

So far, so good – until, with five minutes to spare, and a couple of minutes way from the BBC studios, my satnav switched itself off without warning, leaving me floundering as to which way I should be heading. Naturally, this had to be right at the point where one-way systems and the no-stopping zones kicked in, making it tricky to pull over and solve the problem.

Making split-second decisions, I veered off into the first side-street I could find with a safe place to stop and to give my satnav a firm rebuke. Using about the only technical piece of knowledge that I have about motoring, I realised that the problem was a blown fuse in the cigar lighter, into which the satnav lead is plugged. Fortunately, the only repair I’m capable of making to a car is to change a fuse, and I happened to have a couple of suitable sized fuses in the glove compartment. (Just as well there were a couple, as the first one blew straight away too.) Trying not to look at the clock, I plugged in the second replacement fuse, snapped the cover back on the fuse box, and fired up the satnav again. I reached the studio seconds before I was due to arrive, heart pounding, adrenalin still flowing.

Luckily for me, I was welcomed by a calm and sympathetic member of staff who plied me with a much-needed glass of water in the waiting area while the on-the-hour news report ran its course, and one of the station’s reporters, Joanna Durrant, stopped to catch up on each other’s news. (By chance, she’d been reporting that morning on a farming issue from a field near the village in which I live!)

“On Air”

Then I was welcomed by Manpreet herself into the cool, air-conditioned, sound-proofed studios, where all was calm. I started my interview with a big smile, triggered by the introductory music they’d chosen for me: the theme from “Murder, She Wrote”!

Cover of "Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabte
Now out in ebook – paperback to be published later this year

Manpreet is an avid reader and we had a wide-ranging chat about books and the nature of reading, about favourite childhood books and the importance of also reading outside your comfort zone. While we had heaps in common – including a deep respect for the wisdom of independent bookshop staff – there were also new things to share. She was particularly taken by the idea of flash fiction, which she’d not come across before, and in how self-publishing is democratising the publishing process for authors. Manpreet also took an interest in my book about Type 1 diabetes, and I appreciated the opportunity to raise her listeners’ awareness of what it is and how it affects everyday life for those with the misfortune to contract it (like my husband and our daughter).

And We’re Clear…

As ever, I was impressed by how simple these professionals make it look to guide lively, wide-ranging conversations, within very precise time constraints, interspersing scheduled interruptions such as time checks, weather reports, news bulletins and alerts for later programmes – all while talking naturally and with as much warmth as if you were just sharing a cup of coffee with an old friend. By the end of our appointed hour – just the middle hour of Manpreet’s three-hour broadcast marathon – I was exhausted! But I left the studio with a smile and a skip back out into the sunshine, and when my satnav went haywire again on the way home, I didn’t care – I just enjoyed the scenic journey home in the sunshine, feeling grateful as ever to live in such a wonderful part of the country, served by our fine national broadcasting station.


Listen To The Interview Here

UK residents may catch the programme on the BBC’s iPlayer catch-up service till the end of this Friday, but thanks to kind help of the station’s staff, I am also able to share the broadcast with you here via an .MP3 file, preserved here for posterity.

Thanks again to Manpreet, Zoe, Gemma, Joanna and team for their hospitality and help, and to BBC Radio Gloucestershire for their kind permission to share the recording via my website.