Monthly Archives: August 2012

All about trying to get rid of my huge disgusting verruca

This post contains verruca pictures and is probably NSFW. It’s certainly not safe for looking at when you’re eating your dinner anyway.

But I asked what you wanted, and what you wanted was verruca. So here goes.

The backstory

I’ve had a verruca for about two years. For ages it was tiny and I didn’t take much notice of it. Then it started to get bigger, and really sore. Eventually I went to the doctors, and when he saw it, he made that sucking-air-through-their-teeth noise that plasterers make before telling you it’s going to cost thousands to fix your ceiling.

He said, ‘That must really hurt, like walking on a pebble.’ (I should point out, the verruca is right on the ball of my foot. Where all your weight goes.) I’m afraid it didn’t occur to me to photograph the verruca at this point, so you’ll just have to imagine it.

He continued, ‘That’s really a nasty-looking verruca.’ He pointed to another tiny verruca I hadn’t even noticed. He said, ‘That’s a good size for a verruca. Whereas this one…’ Then he made that noise again.

These are not things you want to hear from your doctor. I thought, ‘But I’m supposed to be walking the River Trent, from one end to the other, in five months time. It’s 185 miles! I can’t walk them like this! I thought they’d be able to fix it. Bugger.’

He also told me the NHS don’t treat verrucas any more. Unless you’re pregnant. And getting pregnant specially seemed a bit excessive. He suggested I saw a chiropodist privately.

At this point the verruca was painful to walk on all the time, unless I was wearing my walking boots (which are heavily padded and I guess take the weight off that bit of your foot). Even in walking boots my foot would be painful after walking a mile or so. There was no way I could walk ten miles a day.

I decided I was desperate and phoned a private chiropodist, but it turned out she’s off work long-term with a bad back and didn’t know of any other chiropodists in the area. She said a lot of the medical treatments like liquid nitrogen and salicylic acid cause more problems than they solve. Then she said something I really wasn’t expecting.

She suggested I try sticking gaffer tape on it. I thought, ‘What am I? A piece of audio equipment with a loose connection?’ But out loud I said, ‘Gaffer tape?!’

She said, ‘No-one knows why it works. But covering it with gaffer tape seems to make them go away, for some people.’ So I googled, discovered she wasn’t just having a laugh and I tried it.

Getting rid of verrucas, the gaffer tape method

My tips:

The gaffer tape doesn’t stay on very well. The internet said use a piece that just covers the verruca, but when I did that, it came off straight away.

Then I tried using huge bits of gaffer tape, and going a bit round the sides of my foot. It’s lucky my boyfriend is a sound engineer and is therefore attracted to things with gaffer tape stuck on them.

A verruca-y foot with gaffer tape on it

The other side (i.e. top) of the foot, showing gaffer tape attractively poking between the toes...

Finally I came up with the plan of using a matchbox sized piece of gaffer tape, sticking round the edges with surgical tape to hold it on. (The stuff that’s designed to hold bandages on, that looks like white fabricy/papery sellotape. It’s a couple of pounds from the chemists.) This worked best.

A neater way of covering a verruca with gaffer tape. A square of gaffer tape, held on with surgical tape.


The very first attempt with the gaffer tape, after about three days, I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer and took the gaffer tape off to look underneath. To my total amazement, the whole top of the verruca came off (it was stuck to the gaffer tape), leaving a kind of hole in my foot, with powdery dead cells in it.

This was a good result. But it was totally disgusting. Here’s a picture.

The sole of my foot with a verruca, whose top has come off so now there's a verruca-y hole. It's pretty disgusting.

You can see the little one above it.

I eventually decided I should try to get as much of the disgusting powdery dead verruca out of the hole as possible. I picked it out with my finger as much as I could bear to. But it was the most disturbing thing I’ve ever done. I WAS PUTTING MY FINGER INTO A HOLE IN MY BODY THAT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THERE AT ALL AND PICKING OUT DEAD ALIEN CELLS.

Ross made me wash my hands three times before he’d even touch me after that.

I had this hopeful idea that the whole thing was dead, and once the powdery stuff came out, it would just be my foot underneath and it could all get better.

Unfortunately, the verruca was a bit too big for that. I should explain, that by this point, my whole foot around it was really hard, and sore and achey. There was really built up dead skin surrounding it too – I guess the foot’s attempt to cushion the verruca and stop it causing so much pain.

I put more gaffer tape on and went on with the treatment. Every few days I would take it off and wash and dry the foot and then let it air for a few hours or overnight. I’d have a morbid look at it and you could see (once the powdery stuff was gone) that there was still definitely verruca there.

Sometimes it seemed as if the verruca was growing to fill the hole again, but I think it was more that some of the surrounding dead skin was coming away and the swelling going down, to the current size of the verruca. I guess less cushioning was needed now.

Here’s the verruca after a couple of weeks. It kind of looks worse,  but that’s partly the dead skin around it all coming away.

Flaky disgusting verruca hole

I kept photographing it every time I changed the gaffer tape – out of scientific curiosity – but you probably don’t need to see all the pictures.

After maybe a month it seemed like we weren’t getting any more progress. And I still had a pretty big verruca. So I did a lot of googling for other remedies.

Here’s some verruca treatment links that had quite a bit of discussion. I decided to try various suggested remedies. What follows is an account of how I got on, along with my scientific assessment of most of the remedies.–8283

Getting rid of verrucas, the visualisation method

Several people talked about just wishing the verruca away and it going. Well, my scientist head said, ‘Maybe that was just a coincidence. What about all the people who wished it away and it didn’t go?’

But my scientist head also knows that the mind/brain and immune system are totally interconnected and that science has no idea why verrucas go sometimes and not others. It does seem like sooner or later your body decides to get rid of the verruca – or works out how to get rid of it. So why couldn’t your thoughts influence that?

So I tried:

Imagining little soldiers in my body, cutting the verruca’s supply lines with big scissors.

Talking to my foot (yes, I felt a bit silly) and telling it what a brave little foot it was and that we’d defeat the verruca together.

Massaging my foot. I realised that I’d been kind of avoiding the whole front part of that foot as much as possible, like it wasn’t part of me any more. I decided to reclaim my foot! If nothing else, this helped a bit with the achy soreness in that part of the foot.

I’ve no idea (and no way of knowing) whether any of these approaches worked really. As with so many things though, I think psychologically, the sense that there is something useful you can do (even if it doesn’t really make a difference), is good for your morale. And actually, immune system functioning is highly influenced by how you feel. So it’s worth a shot, if nothing else.

Getting rid of verrucas, the most disgusting method

(seriously, don’t read this if you’re squeamish)

More than one internet commentator mentioned an old wives tale that eating a bit of your verruca worked. Yes, I thought it sounded minging. But, again, my science head told me that,

a) Old wives tales often do work, that’s why they got passed on for so long. It’s called empiricism…

b) That there are antigen presenting cells in the walls of your stomach. Their job (if you’ll forgive my imperfectly-remembered undergraduate immunology) is to check the stuff in your stomach for any dangerous viruses or bacteria. And if they find any, to show them to other cells and get them to make antibodies to attack them.

So it made perfect logical sense to me that eating a bit of your verruca – with the cells full of verruca virus – would make your body start noticing it should be attacking it. So I did it. Only a tiny bit. And yes it was horrible to think about. But if you tried not to think about it, it was basically like eating a bit of fingernail.

This is another thing I don’t really have a way of saying if it worked or not, cos I was trying lots of different things at once. If I’d had lots of feet with identical verrucas, I could have done a randomised control trial. But I just have two feet, and one giant verruca and I just wanted to get rid of the horrible thing.

I’m afraid my desire to be rid of the verruca, especially in time for walking the whole of the River Trent on one of said feet, was greater than my commitment to the furtherance of scientific knowledge.

Getting rid of verrucas, the tea tree oil method

Several people online seemed to think that putting tea tree oil on the verruca would get rid of it, ‘in a week’. I think those people had smaller verrucas than me.

After the gaffer tape didn’t really seem to have much effect any more, I tried adding tea tree oil. I think it did help. Definitely for the first week or so, it did more dying and going powdery. Particularly (it seemed) if I left it open, instead of also covering it with gaffer tape.

Getting rid of verrucas, the nail varnish method

I was very sceptical about this. Someone online claimed it was because it stopped UV light getting to the verruca. But it did its most ferocious growing in the winter, I don’t think my verruca was very UV light dependent.

A friend of mine said she’d heard it was about cutting off its oxygen. Now that made sense to me. The verruca is a pretty undifferentiated mass of cells – it doesn’t have your blood vessels delivering oxygen like your legit cells do. So I assumed it’s partly dependent on oxygen diffusing in from outside your body. If you can cut off (or reduce) its oxygen supply, that will at the very least stress the verruca-infected cells, and make them more vulnerable to your immune system.

So, I put nail varnish on the big one, and also on the little one the doctor mentioned, which I’d mostly been ignoring. The little one was gone in about a fortnight. It doesn’t seem as effective on the big one, but maybe that’s just cos there’s so much to get rid of.

Getting rid of verrucas, the banana-skin method

As bananas have loads of interesting biochemically-active stuff in them I was prepared to give this a go. Particularly as they turn brown in air, so I assume they are reducing (i.e. they like sticking to oxygen). This fitted with the oxygen theory. So I tried it.

The internet said to take a small piece of banana skin and put it inner side onto the verruca. Then cover it with a plaster. Hedging my bets, I went for gaffer tape over the banana skin, and then the surgical tape. I thought it would be uncomfy, but actually, banana skins are pretty squashy, and you can happily walk around with a bit strapped to your foot.

I have to say I think this worked too. After a week of banana skin the verruca was noticeably smaller. It’s also a handy reminder to eat more bananas, and bananas are good for you, so that’s a good thing…

But my impression is that all of these methods had less effect as time wore on. So my advice would be to try them one after another. And don’t wait until your verruca is so big it makes the doctor gasp before you start.

I’ve still got a verruca, but it’s a manageable size now and I can easily walk ten or so miles a day on it, without any apparent ill-effects. So, in the race between looming Trent walk and verruca, it seems I have just about won. Thank god.

A much smaller verruca

A verruca, yesterday

However, I’ll keep you posted as the walk goes on.

Categories: News | 185 Comments

What would YOU like us to post about?

Those of you who know me from my work on I’m a Scientist will remember me constantly banging on about the importance of consulting your intended audience. I mean, it’s not rocket science – if you want to know what people want, just ask them!

With that in mind, and because I have notes for loads of blogposts I intend to write for Tales from the River, but not enough time to write them all, I’m asking you.

Categories: General | 2 Comments

Sailing Along the Beautiful River, a song

Dad’s written another river-related song (you can’t stop him at the moment, which supports one of my theories about creativity – that constraints, or requirements are a great spur to creating things. I’ve noticed that if you invite people to a fancy dress party with no theme, less than half the people will come dressed up. But if you say, ‘Come dressed as an imaginary super-hero’, then most people will dress up. The spec gives people ideas and gets them thinking. But I digress…).

This one’s not historical, but is more a light-hearted love song, with a swing jazz feel. Hope you enjoy it!


Categories: Songs | 1 Comment

The final poster design

Here’s the final poster design. I think Iain’s done a great job. A3 versions will be sent out to all venues. Hope you all like it!

A slightly fairytale looking drawing of a river scene, with text 'Tales from the River A storytelling journey along the River Trent, from the source to the sea'

Categories: General | 1 Comment

Newark on Trent in 1942

This is a lovely film from the British Council’s archive, called ‘Market Town’. I guess it was supposed to show people what life in Britain was like. It was filmed in Newark on Trent in 1942. Although Newark isn’t quite a typical market town. I remember being taken there on a geography field trip when I was at school, and told it was the largest market square in Britain.

There’s a great segment showing you a map of the river, how the road ran through the river valley, and why this made it a natural place for a town to grow up. I also like the man herding sheep on his bicycle (wearing a suit) and how everyone’s wearing hats:-). And the clipped vowels of the voiceover, as the man describes, ‘the country people’ as if they are an alien species…

Categories: General | 2 Comments

Tales of the Trent, a song

Dad’s now finished his latest Trent-related song, and here it is. It’s now called Tales of the Trent.

It’s a slightly tinny recording, just done on his computer, but I do think he’s got an amazing voice. (I may be biased, of course).

The words have changed slightly since he sent me the lyrics I posted the other day. But it’s still a journey along the Trent, taking in: the source near Biddulph, Burslem and its potteries, Burton and its famous ale, murders at Nottingham Castle, Newark Castle and the death of King John, and King Canute trying to turn the tide at Gainsborough.

It’s definitely a river with a lot of stories to tell…

Categories: Songs | 4 Comments

The Queen of the Midlands Rolls On

Dad’s been busy writing another River Trent song. It’s a historical journey along the River Trent. He hasn’t done a recording of it yet that he’s happy with (tireless on your behalf, dear readers, I shall keep nagging him). But here’s the lyrics:-

From Biddulph in Staffordshire she traces her birth
And through her long history men knew of her worth
The Celts and the Romans are long lost and gone
But the Queen of the Midlands rolls on, rolls on.
Yes the Queen of the Midlands rolls on.

Our first call is Burslem of potteries fame.
Birthplace of fine Wedgewood that still bears his name.
They shipped it all over. It sold by the ton.
While the Queen of the Midlands rolled on, rolled on; yes the Queen…….

Let’s pause now at Burton the home of good beer
The best ale in England from all that I hear.
They also make Marmite, so tasty and strong.
As the Queen of the Midlands rolls on, rolls on; yes the Queen…….

When she flows through Nottingham fine tales she might tell,
Concerning bold Mortimer and fair Isabelle.
He murdered the husband, but died by the son,
While the Queen of the Midlands rolled on, rolled on; yes the Queen…….

At Newark a castle stands, where she wandered past,
As a great one of England was breathing his last.
They say that twas peaches killed greedy King John
As the Queen of the Midlands rolled on, rolled on; yes the Queen…….

And so then to Gainsborough where Great Canute tried
With vain exhortations to turn back the tide.
They thought him so special but she proved them wrong
For the Queen of the Midlands rolled on, rolled on; yes the Queen…….

So Gentles you’ve listened to my Tales of the Trent.
If they’ve entertained you my time was well spent.
I’ll bid you farewell now and finish my song
While the Queen of the Midlands rolls on, rolls on,
Yes the Queen of the Midlands rolls on.

© 2012 Dave Collins, Nottingham UK

Categories: Songs | 4 Comments

What is the point of public engagement?

I’ve spent many years working in public engagement with science. (For readers who are normal people, this is pretty much a high-falutin’ way of saying ‘getting scientists talking to other people’). People who work in public engagement are often thinky-talky kind of people, so there’s been a lot of conversations over the years about what public engagement is, and why we do it.

When people talk about WHY we do public engagement, they often talk about democracy and accountability, and I think that’s hugely important. They talk about some sorts of public engagement improving the science, because scientists are exposed to other stakeholders and ‘experts’. I think that’s important too.

But there’s something else I think is important, that we don’t talk about so much. I think public engagement is a chance for ideas to have sex.

I went travelling in China a few years ago. A guide at a museum in Xi’an, the ancient capital, pointed out the tri-colour glaze pottery from the Tang era (618-907 CE).

Tang dynasty tri-colour glazed plate with incised fishes swimming in underwater foliage

Photo credit VK Cheong

Before then Chinese potters only knew how to make two colours. Decorating pots with three colours was ground-breaking. Seeing these pots for the first time must have been a bit like seeing your first technicolour film.

The guide explained how tri-colour glaze came about. A wave of Persian emigrees in the 7th Century brought the secret of how to make a blue glaze. The Xi’an potters added that to the colours they could already make, and incorporated into it their art. Thus creating the golden age of Chinese pottery. In fact the Tang dynasty (influenced perhaps by the wave of immigrants from another advanced civilization) is generally regarded as a high point in Chinese culture.

New ideas don’t come from nowhere. They come from sticking together bits of old ideas in new and interesting ways.

The worst thing you can do for creativity and innovation is hang out with people just like yourself, who know the same things you do. Unfortunately, for various reasons, a lot of the time that’s what people do.

To my mind, a big part of the value of public engagement is in this mixing up of the ideas gene pool. You don’t only get that from scientists talking to ‘the public’ (whoever that is) of course. They can be talking to scientists in other fields, or other kinds of experts. Get chemists talking to chefs and who knows what can come out of it?

It can be doctors talking to historians. It can be policy-makers talking to grannies. It can be magicians talking to traffic planners as far as I’m concerned. In fact, maybe the more random the pairing the better. The key thing, for creativity, is getting people talking to people they wouldn’t normally talk to.

But let’s get real. It’s not quite as simple as just shoving the disparate together. You can’t just plunk a load of graffiti artists in a room with a bunch of actuaries and think they’ll get on like a house on fire. People need to find some sort of common ground. And they need to approach it open to the idea they could learn something interesting from each other.

So how do you make that happen? Well, to be truthful, I don’t know. But Tales from the River is an experiment in that direction. I think stories are a great way for people to connect on a human level. Everyone has a story. Everyone can relate to them. Humans are story-making animals.

We’re going to tell people stories, get them thinking in that playful, imaginative, mythic space. Then get them telling each other their stories – from folk tales, to personal reminiscences. Then we’re going to see what happens.

At the very least, we’ll entertain people for a couple of hours. And that in itself is not to be sniffed at.

And maybe some people will go away and have ideas they wouldn’t have otherwise. I don’t mean for curing cancer or ending war (although that would be nice). Maybe it’ll just help them understand why their sister is pissed off with them. Or give them an idea of a book to read, that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Or a different place to go on holiday.

But new ideas are good, they jog you out of your rut, help you see things differently, help you solve problems. There must be a million ways of getting people talking and their ideas shagging, that I don’t know about. If you know about good ones, then I’d love to hear them…

Categories: Thinking | 4 Comments

Work-in-progress – the poster

One of the things I like about blogging projects like this is that you don’t need to pretend to be all finished and polished – you get to show what goes on behind the curtain. So although he’s still working on the design, here’s the drawing my talented friend Iain Robinson has done for the poster.

A somewhat '60s, somewhat fairytale-looking picture of a river scene, with text, 'Tales from the River.  A storytelling journey along the River Trent, from the source to the sea. A performance, with a chance to a chat afterwards, because everybody has a story...'

I absolutely love it. What do you think? Any suggestions?

Categories: News | 1 Comment

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