Announcement: Tales from the Tweed

We are absolutely delighted to announce a new project, partly funded by The Scottish Government’s Talking Science grant scheme.

Tales from the Tweed will take place in September 2013. We will walk from one end of the River Tweed to the other, putting on storytelling events in communities along the way. Each event will involve a range of academic experts – including historians, geologists, ecologists, geographers and more – as well as other professionals who work on the Tweed or in the Tweed valley.

Audience members will also share their own stories of life along the Tweed. This will be a great opportunity for different groups to get together and hear each other’s stories. It’s an experiment in landscape-based public engagement and dialogue. God bless the Scottish Government for their exemplary vision and foresight in partly funding it:-).

This project is a partnership between Bright Club Scotland, the Edinburgh Beltane Public Engagement Network and the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

More information will be online in the next few days. If you would like to be involved (as a participant, talking about your work, as a venue, hosting an event, or as a sponsor) then please get in touch.

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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.

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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?

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Press Release: Tales from the River Trent

One Nottingham family is hoping for an Indian Summer, as they’ll be spending most of September outside. Sophia Collins and Ross Winter will walk from one end of the Trent to the other, as part of a project celebrating the river through a mixture of stories and music.

Beginning at Biddulph Moor, Staffs on 1st September and ending at Trent Falls, Lincs on 21st Sept, Sophia and Ross will walk ten miles a day, taking in 19 places along the route, including Stoke on Trent, Burton on Trent, Nottingham and Newark. At each stop, the team will put on a performance of music and storytelling, and then invite the audience to share their own stories. “No-one will have to get up on stage unless they want to, they’ll just be talking in small groups.” says Sophia. “But everyone has a story.” They will also receive support from Sophia’s mum Tricia (former mayor of Gedling, Notts) and her dad Dave, a well-regarded local singer-songwriter, who’ll join them for some of the performances.

They still have room in their schedule for more events, and anyone who’d like to host one should get in touch. Sophia says: “We’ll be doing lots of schools, community centres and pubs, but also we’re up for performing in fields, factories, on buses… As long as there’s somewhere for people to sit, and enough quiet for people to talk, we’re happy.”


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